Human communication

IBM email fiasco complicates sales deals, worse than commerce suggests – sources • The Register


IBM’s messaging migration mess has been worse than the IT titan suggested, current and former staff told us.

Big Blue acknowledged yesterday that “some IBM employees are experiencing courier service delays” and that the company uses “a variety of alternative communication tools to ensure minimal disruption to our customers and our business” while it restores its systems.

We are told that IBM’s communication problems stem from an email migration, scheduled for the past 18 months, which aimed to move the tech giant’s email data from HCL servers to machines operated by Big Blue. . The migration did not go as planned and led – for part of the company – to four or five days with limited or no messaging capacity and the inability to schedule events and calendar meetings. Outlook, Verse (IBM webmail) and Notes were affected; Slack messaging, at least, was spared.

Now, two sources have told us that the botched email transition affected not only communication and productivity, but could have revenue implications for the company’s second quarter, which ended yesterday. We are told that IBM has given its salespeople special instructions to ensure that they can fill customer purchase orders and obtain contract signatures because their normal business processes have been disrupted.

These instructions, seen by The register, describe the unusual procedures IBM has in place to ensure that the business gets paid on time while its communications infrastructure is being repaired.

The instructions specify that, for direct customers, contract signatures and supporting documents to “solidify“A purchase order can be sent via electronic signature. But currently they cannot be reliably received by email.

“IBM can still send an electronic signature request[s] to customers, however we cannot receive them back by e-mail for the 12 [affected server] clusters, however [the] The electronic signature application is still working, ”the instructions indicate.

IBM has very strict guidelines for meeting quarterly financial close dates, a source explained. If an order arrives after midnight at the end of a quarter, then the next quarter has started and the order was not placed on time.

The temptation may be to backdate orders completed after the deadline so that revenue can be recorded as expected, but this raises legal issues. Presumably, IBM wants to avoid this.

The instructions outline an alternative process for customers using Slack: “Customer can be invited as a guest to a workspace and receive material through Slack”. For customers not using Slack, other processes are available.

One of our sources, an IBM employee with knowledge of the company’s technical operations, told us that the situation is worse than suggested.

“They claim it’s just a dozen ‘clusters’,” said the individual, insisting that the number of affected clusters is more than 15, which is a larger disturbance. . “I guess it’s maybe 150,000-200,000 impacted mailboxes out of 400,000.”

A group, as it applies to Notes mail, refers to “a group of two or more servers that provides users with constant access to data, balances workload between servers, improves server performance, and maintains performance when you increase the size of your business “.

In this case, however, the access was not constant.

“They keep saying it’s just ‘delays’ but users haven’t had access for days,” the individual told us. “The Slack channel is overrun with comments. They had to shut down the chat support because too many users asked for help. Users post memes and drag them into every comment. I don’t see this problem. settle within several days. “

They have to move everyone to Outlook / Office 365 and just tear off the bandage

The register was unable to determine the specific technical issue that affected the email migration. But in a comment Posted on Hacker News, software engineer Bernd Verst suggested that people who really understand how to process Notes data are rare.

“Migration from Lotus Notes is always horrible,” he wrote. “In 2011, I worked on many migrations to Google Apps for Business (GSuite, Google for Work, etc.) and there was only one person in all of Google who understood Lotus Notes and could maintain the migration tool he created. “

That said, not everyone has been affected and things could work out. According to our sources, IBM is hoping that everything will be sorted out by Monday – a public holiday in the United States, as July 4 of Independence Day falls on a Sunday.

When asked what message Big Blue management should take from this, our tech insider wished for better planning, better communication and better testing, adding, “They need to move everyone to Outlook / Office 365 and just tear off the bandage. “

The register asked IBM if it could confirm claims that special business process instructions were instituted and if it expected the email disruption to have a significant impact on its second quarter 2021 results. A company spokesperson acknowledged our email – perhaps a sign that the recovery is underway – but we have yet to receive a response to our request. ®


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