One of IBM's largest Australian customer organisations has chided the technology giant for a declining level of communication with external user groups.
Interaction Australasia was formed in 1999 through the amalgamation of two smaller IBM user groups. The non-profit organisation provides training to its members and helps gain access to IBM subject matter experts.
However, at Interaction's annual conference in Queensland this week, the group's president Dermot O'Daly said the pair's formerly close relationship had slipped over the past several years due to IBM liaisons devoting less time to user groups.
"Eight or nine years ago when Interaction was formed, 80 per cent of our [IBM liaison's] time was user group interaction, we now have an IBM liaison who has 10 or 20 per cent of his time devoted to [being our] IBM liaison," he said.
One problem that O'Daly pointed out was IBM's frequent staff changes, making the organisation difficult to access.
"Every January they have the magical moving of the chairs, and everyone moves around ... their execs, and some of their middle managers, nearly change positions every 12 months," he said.
The problem had been exaggerated by a recent shake-up. "Recently, they had not only individuals move, but a whole structure change. It makes it difficult for IBM customers when people move around," O'Daly said.
O'Daly said it was important the pair maintained a close relationship. "There is customer service and customer satisfaction that IBM can deliver through the user group," he said. "We deliver them customers that they can talk to."
Every January they have the magical moving of the chairs
Interaction president Dermot O'Daly
"Our value is to put our members in face-to-face contact with experts in the products that they use. IBM provides us access to those experts".
"We also provide a voice to IBM, so if there is a particular issue from users, then we can take it to IBM and it will get a presence," said O'Daly. "We allow our members to get as big a voice as Centrelink or Westpac."
However, Mark Latchford, vice president of IBM Australia and New Zealand's systems and technology group said that the reorganisation had been user-centric.
"We're [now] organised by industry teams to allow great depth of insight into the issues and opportunities our clients have within their part of the A/NZ market," he said.
Latchford said IBM's acquisitions had spread resources across a larger group of users.
"With such a broad portfolio we have a large number of user groups now, including multiple [groups] inherited through our recent acquisitions. I think we have a very solid investment in user group relations, but spread across a much larger community of user groups than existed a few years ago."
Alex Serpo travelled to Queensland as a guest of Interaction.