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IBM i Strategy: The Cooperative Game

May 30, 2017

For the past couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to talk about strategy many times. Now, this makes sense, since setting the strategy for IBM i is a big part of my job. But I’ve been able to talk about strategy more generally, and in particular, I’ve explained how my interest in strategy games has influenced the way I approach the IBM i strategy. So, today, I’m going to talk about one of the most important aspects of that influence: the Cooperative Strategy game.

Most of you have played board games or card games in your life, but the kinds of games most people have played are games like Gin Rummy, Monopoly or Sorry! Or perhaps you’ve played strategy games such as Chess, Risk or Go. All of these games have one thing in common: They are competitive games.  You play against the other players. In order for you to win, the other players have to lose. Sports are also examples of games like this. It’s what most people think of when they think of playing a game—competition.  And, of course, there is a competitive aspect to the IBM i marketplace.

But there is a whole different class of games that are very popular in gaming circles these days: cooperative games. In a cooperative game, all of the players are on the same side, and their competition is the game itself.  

ForbiddenDesert-(1).jpgFor example, there’s a game called Forbidden Desert. It’s a game I often tell people to start with when they ask about cooperative gaming. In this game, you and your friends have crashed in a desert and you have to find all the pieces of your airship, reconstruct it, and escape—before the sandstorms, sunstroke and intense heat kill any of you. Escape with everyone alive, and you win. Lose even one member of the group, and the game wins, and you lose.

In cooperative games, it’s very typical that each of the players has one or more special abilities. For example, in Forbidden Desert, the Archaeologist can clear sand from the board much faster than others, making it easier for that player to find pieces of the airship, but the Water Carrier has a much better chance of surviving, and helping others survive, when water gets scarce—which inevitably happens.

So, in this style of game, strategy involves working with one another to decide how to best use the special abilities of each player to attempt to survive.

Now, if you listened to my iTalk with Tuohy last year, or if you’ve attended my sessions on strategy at any of the COMMON conferences in the past couple of years, you already know where I’m headed with this. In some ways, in the game of IBM i, it’s “Us” against “The Game.”
When looked at in this way, the success of IBM i is a cooperative game.  

I can’t tell you how many times I have had someone approach me after a presentation, or at a user group meeting, and tell me how important IBM i and its predecessors have been, and still are, to their livelihood. The people who say this come from all parts of our community: users, IT workers, ISVs and Business Partners. They all depend on the continued success of IBM i. And, of course, so do I, and so do the people in IBM who work on IBM i.  

In that sense, we are all participating in a cooperative endeavor, working to survive and succeed—together.

Consequently, a significant aspect of the IBM i strategy is built with cooperation in mind. When we think back on our history, this is actually quite natural. The AS/400 was initially so successful not only because of the uniquely valuable architecture, but also very significantly because of the ISVs who provided solutions, and the Business Partners who took the combination to our joint clients. IBM i today is no different.  

Over the past couple of years, I’ve tried to be more explicit about in the past couple years is how we build the strategy with those other “players” and their “special abilities” in mind. There are things IBM can do, sure, but there are also things we cannot do, but which ISVs, BPs or even customers can do.


Furthermore, the cooperative strategy game requires the players to communicate about the actions they will each take. Consequently, we IBMers in the IBM i community have been talking with, and listening to, our community more and more each year.

When I’ve talked about the IBM i strategy for the past five years, I’ve used a chart like the following to illustrate our explicit strategy.


The focus on this remains: giving our solutions providers what they need, ensuring IBM i can be as good a system for cloud solutions as it has always been a system for on-site solutions, and integrating technology for the benefit of our customers.

But these days, I have been adding another chart to help people see the parts of our strategy which, until now, have been implicit. That is, they weren’t overtly stated, but were used as key assumptions for how we are going to succeed. I decided we needed to start using this chart to make it even clearer what the intent of the IBM i team is, and how much we need and appreciate the community.


In this part of the strategy, you can see that it’s important for us to communicate with the community, and it’s also important that we partner with others. If you are an ISV, you have special abilities and we need your partnership. If you are a Business Partner, same thing. And if you are a customer of ours, and you care about the future of the platform, then you can be an advocate for IBM i. We look to you for your advocacy and for your guidance.

If you get a chance to see me speak about the IBM i strategy in the next year or two, now you’ll already know part of what I’m going to say. It’s very important to us that you know that we continue to work on the IBM i strategy with our special abilities, and that we appreciate all the times you use your special abilities to help us in our common goals for IBM i.  

And remember:

Posted May 30, 2017| Permalink