IBM New Zealand delivers the Big Blues

Of all the companies in the ICT sector known for having a good reputation, IBM is one of the leaders. But this week, the giant tripped up in New Zealand.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

Big Blue is akin to a "Blue Chip" stock market share — steady, safe, reliable. If it was a car, IBM would be a Volvo or a Mercedes. There's that old saying that "no-one ever gets fired for buying IBM", such is the US giant's glowing reputation.

But this week, IBM is looking a bit tarnished in New Zealand.

It's flash new $80million Highbrook, New Zealand, datacentre suffered major failure due to problems with its Virtual Server Services, and many customers were affected for several days.

Such a disaster only worsened as it lengthened, blackening IBM's reputation severely as debate raged in response to a couple of stories in Computerworld.

Critics were certainly pointing the finger at an embattled Big Blue. IBM did not have sufficient skilled staff in New Zealand, it was alleged. IBM's services were being sold as cloud computing, when strictly speaking, it was not, was another claim.

The crisis was being managed from Sydney, and we were told that the boss of IBM New Zealand was "missing in action".

No doubt there will be vested interests keen to stick the boot in, but IBM hardly helped itself as the problem dragged on.

Both Computerworld and the National Business Review noted the brevity of statements and lack of transparency from Big Blue, with the NBR, for example, saying that IBM "played its cards close to its chest".

By contrast, Telecom New Zealand has delivered yet another textbook case of openness, with its bosses fronting up as the telco grappled with recent security problems concerning its Yahoo Xtra email accounts.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected, but the openness from Telecom New Zealand, even issuing statements over a weekend or during the evening, have helped salvage the company's reputation.

Telecom obviously learned lessons from its XT debacle a few years ago when skilful handling of its XT outages turned disaster into something of a triumph.

IBM certainly needs to take a leaf from Telecom's open book.

And that is before it needs to ask itself questions about the skills and competencies of its New Zealand-based staff, including its local management and local expertise. Certainly, they don't seem to be at the required level to serve New Zealand properly.

In the meantime, expect Kiwi rivals like Revera, Datacom, and others to do their utmost to capitalise on IBM's failings, which judging by the many comments received by Computerworld, suggest that Big Blue only has itself to blame.

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