Okay, so I rounded out my trip after leaving Prague to Slovenia and Croatia. In both locations there was an IBM Storage Forum conference. In Slovenia, IBM has just moved into a new building this year called Crystal Palace. It was very beautiful. The highlights of the Form were Cloud, Big Data and Real-time Compression. At the IBM Slovenia Form I discussed Real-time Compression. There were approximately 80 customers and partners at the conference. They were very enthusiastic about learning about Real-time Compression. They had all heard about the technology but they wanted to know more. We talked about how the Real-time Compression technologies core functionality comes from it real-time platform. The real-time platform is how compression is done in real-time vs. the competition that cannot perform compression in real-time. The customers and partners saw this as a distinct competitive advantage.One of the most interesting events that I was able to witness this week was kind of reality show for a job. IBM Slovenia, Ministry of Labour, family and social affairs and Slovenian employment institute got together to host a contest. The contest was to take 15 Slovenian unemployed workers, and give them a challenge. IBM has just moved into the new premises - Crystal Palace and in June they opened IBM Innovation Center Ljubljana. Candidates competed for are open position of Assistant (to marketing) in IBM Innovation Center (IIC) Ljubljana.The contest was to identify ways to promote and market IIC Ljubljana in the region of southeast Europe. The contestants came to the IBM office and heard about IBM’s values and to tour the new facility as well as meet some of the employees. The contestants were then given 48 hours to come up with a power point presentation that shows off IBM’s values, the Innovation center inside the new complex and IBM’s commitment to growth in the region. It was a great contest and they got a number of great presentations. The winner was Mateja Gorše. I thought this was a great concept and we welcome the new employee to IBM with open arms.
The following day, 9/15/2011 I drove to Umag, Croatia for IBM Form there. There were well over 300 people at this event and this place is one big party. The people coming always come in a day early and are there for the open reception that starts the night before. The rumor is that the Forum used to take place on an island off the southern coast of Croatia. Because of the distance required to travel to the island folks spent the day traveling the night before the event there was always a great welcome reception. This was a time to meet and greet the people coming. Sometimes this event was also treated as a reward to hardworking IT staff at different companies in the region so they got to attend. The presentations don’t start at normal conference hours, I think the first one started at 11am and they did go to about 5pm, but at about 12:30 after lunch the bar was full. Don’t get me wrong, there were hundreds of presentations going on and I know mine was well attended, but I will say, the Eastern Europeans have it right.
In Croatia I also did a press conference that talked about IBM’s 100 years of innovation in storage. You know, it’s pretty impressive that almost 100% of customers (globally), if they were to look around their data center, they would be hard pressed to a piece of storage gear that didn’t have an IBM patent in it. From the invention of disk, RMAC, to Winchester, to RAID, to virtualization to automated tiering, IBM has done quite a bit in the storage industry and it is only getting stronger. With IBM’s incredibly strong research and development arm and its financial stability and its ability to develop and acquire technology, they are really unmatched in the storage business.
In my travels, a few key things I learned about Central and Eastern Europe:
- The distribution between SAN (block) and NAS (file) is about 80% / 20%. While they all did say that the mix is slowly changing, it is still heavily block focused.
- The sellers (at least the storage sellers) are super smart, more so than in the US. If you think about though, they have to be, they really need to be able to support themselves.
- Translation. If you really want to do business in Eastern Europe, you really need to make your content very easy to understand and translate. Make your PPT with more pictures and fewer words. I don’t know if any of you have seen 7 bullets in ppt translated into Russian, but it gets pretty messy pretty fast. We could all be a bit more efficient at PPT and be cognizant of our friends across the pond
- I am amazed at the fact that the people who live in these countries are so knowledgeable about their history. It is also important to point out, that knowledge translates directly in to “how” to sell to people in that region. Which says two things:
- Don't think you can just put some “feet on the street” and sell stuff.
- Knowledge is power.
It was a fantastic trip to Europe. I am glad to be home but I am glad I got the experience to also see that part of the world.