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IBM Redbooks Provide What You Need, Where and When You Need It

Long before IBM officially unveiled its Smarter Planet* initiative, the company was already making the planet smarter via its unique IBM Redbooks* program. Launched 45 years ago, the program initially produced a series of comprehensive, practitioner-based publications that provided granular detail on deploying hardware and software products from IBM. The subject matter ranged from implementation case studies to solution-integration scenarios.

Times change, though, and so must information usage models and technologies. Today’s Redbooks program has evolved from solely developing comprehensive publications to offering a branded family of end-to-end technical enablement materials—materials architected for different audiences and delivered through a variety of channels like streaming video, social media, EPUB and a forthcoming mobile app.

“Traditional Redbooks publications can take several months to produce, from writing to editing to production,” says Todd Kelsey, IBM Redbooks manager. “Our user community told us they want information faster and at different stages of evaluation, development and implementation, so now we’re producing complementary materials that can be published throughout the development of a Redbooks publication.”

In 2012, the Redbooks website logged an estimated 9 million downloads—and around 80 percent were initiated outside IBM.


Established by the IBM World Trade Systems Center (WTSC), the forerunner to the company’s International Technical Support Organization (ITSO), the Redbooks brand rapidly evolved into a sophisticated program for creating original technical content. By tapping the expertise of IBM staff, partners and users, the ITSO developed IBM Redbooks publications that delivered positioning and value guidance, installation and implementation experiences, step-by-step tutorials and sample solutions. For example, one highly popular Power Systems* Redbooks publication is the “POWER7* and POWER7+* Optimization and Tuning Guide”

Today, more than 4,800 classic Redbooks publications are available to users and, in the past year alone, more than 1,000 complementary new materials such as technical blogs, Point of View publications, videos, and Product and Solution Guides have been created.


The core value of the Redbooks brand stems from the residency process that produces the content. Many companies develop user guides to assist customers with their products, but the Redbooks program follows a different approach, leveraging subject matter experts (SMEs) from around the world. Residents are carefully chosen from among IBMers, business partners and users to deliver content created by practitioners, for practitioners. It’s a model only possible with IBM’s unique global combination of highly experienced staff, dedicated partners and a deeply engaged worldwide user community.

“During a residency, we bring in some of the best subject matter experts in the world for a given area,” Kelsey says. “To be able to capture and share their expertise in new ways is really valuable. It especially helps people like CIOs, CTOs and architects who initially need to understand the benefits of IBM solutions. Our motto for producing technical enablement information is ‘What you need, where you need it, when you need it, regardless of your job role.’ ”


Kristin Lewotsky is a freelance technology writer based in Amherst, N.H.



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