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It Takes a User Community to Raise z/OS

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By Stephen Warren, Senior Technical Staff Member, z/OS Client Architect, IBM Client Center

IT industry vernacular has recently included the catchphrase “design thinking.” The utterance of these two words is sometimes accompanied by eye-rolling and other dismissive gestures for those that may be remembering other terms that have come and gone. Yet “design thinking” is more than just a phrase — it is something software development organizations are using more and more to get feedback early in the development cycle, with the end goal of enhancing the user experience.

Clients that can critique the design and help align a design team with the realities they are facing back at their shop help shape the outcome and experience of the function. Feedback given at a regular cadence allows software development organizations to stay on course and only need minor adjustments. This allows more time to add functionality, as opposed to the old model of developing the entire content and then having to do a massive rewrite if the code did not meet user needs. In short, this client interaction is a win-win for both the software developer and the user community. The question is: What mechanisms are in place where clients and vendors can provide feedback to help shape what is planned on being delivered in future releases?

Early feedback given by clients to IBM has been a long-standing SHARE tradition.  At every SHARE event, IBM, through the SHARE MVS Program, runs five hours of closed-door sessions. These sessions are for SHARE volunteers (a perk for volunteering at SHARE!) or other clients invited by IBM. In these meetings, IBM discusses future features, functions, and thoughts, and solicits input around z/OS, IBM Z hardware, and firmware--the z/OS platform as a whole. This vital input is used by IBM back at the development lab to shape future offerings. However, these sessions only occur twice a year, and offer no opportunity for continued engagement between IBM and their clients.

What if a client wishes to provide more regular feedback to IBM, or to one of the many other software vendors that participate at SHARE? Many of these companies provide a mechanism for users to provide feedback by signing up as a Sponsor User. These are nothing more than existing or potential users who contribute their expertise on a regular basis to help IBM or another vendor stay in touch with their needs throughout a project. The time commitment is not significant and can be customized for each project.  In most cases, all a user needs to do is:

 1) commit to participate in playbacks at an agreed-to cadence (allow the software supplier to share a “story” of what things make up the user experience and to provide insights and feedback) and

2) sign a Sponsor User Agreement (a document outlining expectations for both the software company and the client).

These two early feedback mechanisms can go hand in hand. Maybe after attending a SHARE closed door session, you have an interest in a proposed new function or feature and wish to provide more regular feedback to help shape the end deliverable and user experience. In this case, please continue your input to IBM and consider becoming a Sponsor User by joining the IBM Z Client Feedback Program.

How do you begin to provide early feedback?

1) If you would like to be invited to the SHARE closed door meetings, send an email to Steve Warren (swarren@us.ibm.com). IBM would love to have more clients join this valuable SHARE-exclusive program to help shape the z/OS platform.

2) If you want to be a Sponsor User, contact IBM or your software vendor. For IBM, click this link: https://ibm.biz/BdzN7U. Make a difference. Let your voice be heard. Help raise z/OS to the next level using YOUR valuable experience!

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