Before I was fortunate enough to be hired by IBM I used to be an IBM customer. One thing that frustrated me was being shown something by a proud IBMer that after giving feedback about a possible improvement or refinement the IBMer would write something down and say, “we’ll consider that for content in our next release”, which was possibly was months or years away. Wouldn’t it have been better if we’d been able to give feedback before we were shown the finished product. Perhaps in the prototype or design phase ?Fortunately IBM has changed a lot in the 20 years I’ve worked here one thing we are doing and want to do more of is get input and feedback before, rather than after, we finish things. Life is so much easier for everyone. Us and you, you and us.
With z/OS Explorer Aqua release train we update a suite of 18 different products monthly in a single update site to remove the “matrix jungle” of customers working out which offerings work alongside others in their z desktop tooling. We do so with a devops pipeline using a continuous integration build adopting best practices for agile development. Customers have told us what they like about this, and also what they don’t like. One of the things some folks are finding difficult is that with so much agile software delivery we are like a kitchen creating lots of meals where our diners can’t necessarily eat them as fast as we cook them. How do IBM let customers know what we have in our releases to enable them to make a decision for when and what to order if they’re only going to eat one or two times a year ?
“I create a single distribution of your z/OS Explorer Aqua products with IBM Developer for z Systems, CICS Explorer, MQ Explorer, Data Studio, z/OS Connect and then give this to my system programmers. I do this once every 18 months. Which one should I use that has the right content, the fixes I’m interested in, and works with all the z/OS product versions I’ve got installed for subsystems and tools”
Currently each month we create a “What’s new blog” that contains a list of what’s in that month’s menu. For example we have this for the previous months:
(other months follow a similar format)
and so forth…
Each product has a link to a site that includes detail of the content that was changed. This is the IBM support page so it has the links to the fixed defects (also knows as APARs)
Each APAR inclusion has a link to a page than contains more detail for what the fix was. The page also links to the prerequisites as well as a list of open defects, so if you’re waiting for a particular defect it’s possible to see whether it was fixed or not.
What’s going to get better
One piece of feedback we’re received is that for the scenario where a customer is at a particular release of software that perhaps is months, or years ago, for them to collate all of the updates across all of the products for all of the intervening months it’s quite a haul.
Good new is he site is being redesigned at the moment and one idea is that you can first select what offerings you’re interested in. What are the products that you are a customer have in site. Perhaps you’re not interested in IMS and MQ, but you are in CICS and DB2. Or vice-versa.
As well as products selection on the left hand side, you can choose the date that represents the software you’ve already got. This can be December 2015, March 2017 or any other month period.
The site will then collect all of the APARs and changed content between your date range for the products you’ve selected and build a specific page just for you with all of the content for APARs fixes and changes. That way you can have a single menu to look at and decide whether to eat or wait another month before you place your order.
We need your input
At IBM we are very keen to have your input on whether you think this is a good idea or not. We’re keen to chat to users 1:1 to learn more about their challenges using our site to consume content, whether it’s software, information about software, or just information itself.
One thing we’re thinking of – for example – is that rather than you are a customer having to select which products you’re interesting in seeing an aggregate view of content changes for over a date period – perhaps we find a way that you can launch our “What’s new” site directly from inside a z/OS Explorer Aqua build itself and we’ll detect what was installed and how old it is, and then pre-fill the selected products and the from date. Is this a good / bad idea ?
Please get in touch if you’d like to give us feedback, either through the feedback section at the end of this article, or else reach out on to me at https://twitter.com/JoeWinchester or linked in at linkedin.com/in/joewinchester or else my colleague Miya at https://www.linkedin.com/in/miya-huang-bba487b7/
We’d love to get your input and make changes before we finish it and it becomes slower for us to make updates. It’s the equivalent of pottery where the clay is still wet and we can reshape it quickly before we fire it in the kiln and turn it into a pot that’s a bit stronger, but also more fragile and harder to change.