Well, it's Tuesday again, and you know what that means! IBM Announcements!
Starting today, April 1, 2014, the IBM Executive Briefing Centers (EBC) are adopting a new self-hosted model. In the past, each briefing was assigned a "Briefing Host", a member of the EBC staff, who acted as [master of ceremonies] for the day (or more) for the clients. At some locations, if there were three rooms, there would be three or more briefing hosts so that concurrent briefings could be held.
However, the method does not scale. Having a person per briefing means that you are limited to the number of total concurrent briefings. Inspired by self-service provisioning and scalability of the Cloud, IBM has adopted a new methodology.
In the new model, the visiting client rep, sales rep, or IBM Business Partner will be handed instructions and a map. This will include the agenda, the schedule, biographies of each speaker, the locations of the nearest restrooms, and so on.
I can take partial credit for the idea. In 2012, I made the analogy that having briefing centers at each development lab made a lot of sense, because it allowed clients to interact directly with the engineers and executives that made development decisions. I also made the analogy that having a fully-staffed EBC was like a fire department, whether you have five briefings per month, or fifty, you need a team that is ready, staying abreast of the latest technological changes.
In my post, [Like animals in the zoo], I argued there are two kinds of zoos, the self-guided kind, where visitors are handed a map, versus the docent-guided kind, where a member of the zoo staff introduces you to each animal.
The EBC briefing hosts in this analogy were the docents, and the animals that people came to visit were the engineers and executives.
As with zoo docents who are highly trained about every animal to answer every conceivable question, briefing hosts at IBM went through extensive training by [Mandel Communications] to achieve the certification requirements of the [Association of Briefing Program Managers], or ABPM for short.
As for the fire department, IBM management flipped the analogy around. They argued that many smaller communities had "volunteer fire departments", eliminating the need to keep full-time employees doing nothing but playing cards and sliding down brass poles in between fire fighting sessions. When a fire happens, phones calls are made, and this will help get everyone notified to get involved.
In my past 28 years at IBM, I have to say that you know you have good analogies when they can be used in both directions. The zoo analogy was used to prevent management from consolidating all of the EBC staff to Austin, TX. The fire department analogy helped us keep all of our lab equipment to run demonstrations.
The new self-hosted model will address both scheduling and scalability issues. We often had two-day and three-day briefings, and scheduling the rooms, and the briefing managers, based on their availability, was quite challenging.
There are three advantages to the new method:
A coordinator will merely assign rooms, no longer worrying if a briefing host is available for those days. Now, each EBC location can run at full capacity, limited only by real estate and floor space.
Subject matter experts, like myself, that often did double-duty serving as briefing hosts as needed, will have more free time. I personally will be doing more "outbound briefings" to attend conferences and visit clients at their location, eliminating the time I need to be in Tucson to host "inbound" briefings.
- The awkward silence that happens when the client rep, sales or IBM Business Partner invites all the clients and presenters, but forgets to invite the briefing host, is completely eliminated.