February '03 - November '03

Software Architect

When the IBM Lotus Learning Management System product shipped in January '03 the core development team and their resources were moved onto working on their next task: porting the application to Workplace and the Rich Client Platform. I was moved from eTool, which had reached stability and was integrated into the process, onto the team supporting and maintaining the just released product. I provided mentorship and support for the functional areas of content import, launch and tracking, simple sequencing, and the Assembly and Authoring Tool. When sales engineers, product support, or the bug fixing team came across technical problems, these would get escalated to me. I would provide the technical triage and either fix the issue, document the clarification, or better identify the problem and pass it on to the engineering division that could deal with it. My role included training people in those areas of the product, working as a technical advisor to people planning customer deployments, and giving management costing information used to determine which problems got scheduled for this quarterly maintenance release or the next one.

Continuing my work with standards bodies, I attended Plugfest 8 in October '03. I gave a presentation of lessons learned by IBM in implementing the SCORM standard, and in particular Simple Sequencing. Many other vendors where there and most were hesitant about Simple Sequencing. Some claimed it was hard to implement, others that customers weren't asking for it, and many didn't mention it at all. This was fertile ground for driving home several points to IBM's advantage.

  • Simple Sequencing drives revenue. In my work I had seen enough customer escalations from the sales side to be very clear that there are multiple thousands of seats that we would have lost if we had not implemented Simple Sequencing. If anyone had any doubts about things, this cuts through them. We make money with this.
  • It's a differentiating feature that isn't proprietary. IBM chose well in becoming an early adopter of the standard. While we're ahead the crowd, it serves as a differentiating feature. But it has the advantage of not being a proprietary one. So when the others catch up we still have interoperability.
  • We get the training now to compete later. The technical problems of implementing Simple Sequencing are overrated. The bigger problem was educating the sales force and training the support team. That takes time and plenty of examples from the field. That's happening now with our current release. Even once other vendors start implementing it, they won't have a sales and support team that will let them maximize that feature. We will, so we'll still be ahead.
  • Sequencing solves real customer problems. To make sales we often have to prove that our system can do what the customers need. So far any instructional design problem that's hit my desk has been solvable using Simple Sequencing. The technology works.