MQ Insights #02 - Business Enterprise Solutions Team (IBM BEST)

MQSeries-1-Small.gifThe MQSeries product was made Generally Available (GA) in December 1993 for the MVS platform only.  The Hursley Laboratory and their subcontractor Systems Strategies (SSI) were already hard at work preparing for the upcoming IBM product releases for the distributed computing platforms.  This preparation created a dilemma within IBM.  How was IBM going to support the sales, installation, and servicing needs of an entirely new software product that created both a new conceptual space as well as a new layer of infrastructure?

The need for personnel trained in MQSeries was more profound than it might initially appear.  World Wide channel support for sales was required.  Since MQ was an expensive technology that would serve multiple applications, architects were needed to explain MQSeries role with an organization.  In short, Enterprise Architects were needed. Unfortunately, that role hadn't yet been "invented".  J.A. Zachman had published a paper (“A Framework for Information Systems Architecture”) in the IBM Systems Journal in 1987 that essentially marked the beginning of Enterprise Architecture as a discipline.  When MQSeries was release, this was still a very nascent capability.  The U.S. Department of Defense Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management (TAFIM) was only introduced in 1994.  This framework was ultimately turned over to the Open Group, where it involved into The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF).

In addition to the required Enterprise Architects, solution designers, programmers, and administrators for the MQSeries product were also needed.  All of these roles were needed at very senior skill levels since those people would need to work in an environment in which they would themselves be the ones providing support to others.  All they would have behind them was formal IBM support.  Achieving these skill levels clearly required both significant training, hands-on experience, and mentoring.  These skills were going to take some time to acquire.  

IBM Global Services also faced a dilemma in providing these skills. The new MQSeries technology was going to require a significant investment in both training and hands-on time to develop deep enough skills to drive customer success.  Unfortunately, there was no current market for those skills.  Therefore, an ongoing effort would be required to maintain those skills.  Furthermore, when the demand for those skills arrived, there was no guarantee that the personnel that had been trained would be available for the new opportunities.  

IBM BEST TeamThe Hursley Laboratory turned to one of the IBM Business Partner programs, the IBM Business Enterprise Solutions Team (BEST), to augment IBM's internal sales, delivery, and support capabilities.   The BEST program focused on the distributed platforms and supplied Business Partners with training, software, mentoring, and direct sales leads from IBM.  Some BEST Business Partners focussed more on sales, while other specialized more in service delivery.  Both were needed to support the new MQSeries product.  In 1995 alone, thanks in no small part to MQSeries, the number of BEST Business Partners increased over 300%, to almost 4,500 Business Partners worldwide. 

Many of these Business Partners, like the company that I had founded, were relatively small (1-20 employees).  The BEST Business Partners could support the entire range of IBM distributed software (DB2, OS/2, etc), so not all Business Partners were focussed primarily upon MQSeries.  I was aware of MQSeries before it was GA from my CICS contacts at the Hursley Laboratory and we began preparing to support the initial MQSeries z/OS GA release (v1.1).  I had been introduced to the BEST program by staff from the Hursley Lab at a CICS Transaction and Messaging conference in San Francisco in the early 1990s (1994?) and we immediately started the process of becoming a BEST Business Partner.  

My own personal climb into the MQ world then started in earnest.  This journey included:

  • A week long class of lecture and hands-on covering MQSeries concepts, installation, administration, and configuration.
  • A week long class of lecture and hands-on covering the MQI programming interface.
  • Reading every MQSeries v1.1 and then MQSeries v2.0 manual cover to cover at least once.
  • Building a complete MQ lab environment and exercising every command and every parameter of each command.
  • Designing and building our first set of Proof of Technology applications in the lab.  

We all put a minimum of many hundreds of hours each into mastering this technology.  Personally, I easily invested over a 1,000 hours of MQ study and preparation.  While we began some professional MQ work (Sales Support, Installations, Proof of Concepts, etc.) earlier in this process, it probably took me over a year to finally achieve the full  IBM BEST Qualification for MQSeries (see certificate below).   All of that hard work did pay off. 

We were as prepared as possible and, on top of that, I already had considerable experience as an Application Architect.   I could easily see the value and position within an organization of the MQSeries product and we seemed adept at communicating that vision.  The result was that we worked closely with IBM Sales and the Hursley Lab to successfully deploy MQSeries into a number of major San Francisco Bay Area corporations.  In fact, at one point I received an angry call from an IBM Global Services executive.  He was upset that we were leading the deployment of MQSeries at one of his major clients.  He had wanted to sell that opportunity.  The irony that we had invested far more in preparing for the launch of MQSeries than his own Global Services team had invested was not lost on me.  

MQSeries went on to experience explosive growth.  In addition to MQSeries itself, the MQSeries Workflow and MQSeries Integrator products came into being and the overall family growth thereby increased.  The new products also required trained personnel and these new offerings also required MQSeries knowledge as a foundation.  But in the very beginning, there were only a handful of us there to lead the charge.  As soon as these products started to take of, of course, there were a lot more people interested in them.  With the increased demand, commercial training became viable and began to meet the demand. 

The IBM Business Enterprise Solutions Team (BEST) program played a key role in the success of the MQ product line.  A new idea, in this case asynchronous messaging, requires evangelists.  Evangelists require skill, knowledge, and, most importantly, passion.  By opening up MQSeries to the BEST Business Partners, the Hursley Lab was able to develop a cadre who believed in their vision.  The process was self-selecting.  If a Business Partner didn't believe in MQSeries, then they ignored it.  If they invested in it, as we did, then they believed enough to make the investment.  In our case, that investment was considerable.  

The IBM BEST program thus helped prime the pump.  It created an important portion of the initial cadre of professionals needed to sell and install the MQSeries product.  These sales and installations, in turn, created the demand for an increased supply of MQSeries professionals.  I was fortunate enough to be one of the small handful of MQSeries professionals helping to launch this product and it has been at the center of my professional life ever since.   

IBM BEST Team - MQSeries

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