Big Blue brings the demo to you

As is to be expected, IBM Corp. and its Canadian arm IBM Canada Ltd., have a multi-faceted approach to customer demonstration centres.

On the hardware side, there is a Toronto-area four-year-old PC server demo centre that also houses customer training sessions on a wide variety of topics including SAP installation, and plays host to quarterly server product briefings for customers, said IBM Canada Netfinity marketing manager Jeffrey Freedman.

In order to serve areas outside of south-western Ontario, Freedman said the centre has “a number of pieces of travelling equipment to send to other regions of the country.”

Andy Banaszak, manager of the IBM Canada e-business Solutions Centre in Toronto, doesn’t take equipment out to customer sites but does bring in special pieces as needed. His demo site hooks AS/400s up with System/390s and a wide assortment of bridging, networking and e-commerce applications. In this centre, customization leading to proof-of-concept is the name of the game.

“We will write and demonstrate everything from very simple applications to very complex ones. The range is quite broad,” he said.

Richard Thomas, worldwide marketing programs director in IBM’s Research Triangle Park facility in N.C., believes strongly in customizing the application and then leaving it for the customer to use.

Working in the company’s network computing software division means going to a customer, using a portable demo site — an IBM host integration solution and the tools found in the product – and building an interface which will connect directly to the company’s legacy system, giving it a user-friendly look via a Web-based host emulator or a Web browser.

“When you walk away, you leave the GUI sitting there,” Thomas said.

Still, despite IBM’s multi-pronged approach to demonstrating its solutions, not everybody is aware that the service is out there.

Eugene Berezny, manager of IT services at NN Financial, the Toronto-based life insurance arm of The ING Group, said until he began looking for a Web-based 3270 host-on-demand interface to give the company’s brokers Internet access to the main systems, he didn’t know about proof-to-concept and demonstration services. In the past he had always relied on references to other customers, but this time NN Financial was looking to be the first North American company to implement new IBM technology.

“It answers a lot of questions when you are actually seeing the thing work. We saw it before we had it made.”

Since then Berezny has taken advantage of other demo centre events such as e-business technology briefings.