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I’ve been fortunate enough to have been nominated for the Lotus Awards three times. I’ve been a finalist twice, and I’ve won an award category once. Peer recognition is very gratifying and I certainly felt honored by the experience -- especially as one man shop, where I have to imagine,propose, sell, develop, deliver, and support the solution personally from start to finish. That’s why I’m so disappointed with the direction the award has taken recently. The awards are meant to represent the very best work being done in our community in several categories. It should be a showplace for the leading edge technologies and use cases from the broadest possible range of companies, business partners, and customers. Unfortunately, this is just not the case any longer – if it ever was.
When I looked into submitting a customer’s solution this year, I discovered something that I was sure had to be a mistake. The awards nomination process now excludes anyone who is not an Advanced or Premier partner within the IBM Partnerworld program. When I contacted people at IBM to see if this was an accident, I learned that the requirement had changed for the 2010 awards and was the official policy for this year as well.
These kinds of awards are always somewhat political and marketing driven. That’s no surprise and even in the category descriptions IBM is pretty clear that the more products of theirs you use, and in particular the more you make use of the ones they most currently want to talk about, the better your chances. That’s fair enough. It’s in the category descriptions and it is IBM’s award after all.
Judging for awards like this are always flawed. I’ve been surprised in the past to find that additional information provided by way of a URL to the judges (which is an option when submitting) wasn’t even opened by the judges in one case a few years ago. That’s sad, but you can’t really point to it as a flaw big enough to judge the whole process.
Excluding any submissions not from Advanced or Premier Partners is, however, a bridge too far in my opinion. IBM cannot claim that the Lotus Award represents the “BEST” work being done if they do not even accept nominations that don’t come from partners willing to take a few more tests, submit a few more customer details, and jump through a few more hoops required by Partnerworld. Technically, it is possible that I could have done the work to get my one-man shop recognized at the “Advanced” level. Another partner showed me just what hoops could be jumped through to make that possible – but there’s no reason for me to do it. I don’t sell licenses, I don’t wish to share customer details with IBM’s sales and consulting teams who quite frankly haven’t always proven worthy of having that information, and I don’t need the additional recognition that comes with the “Advanced” status. IBM has decided then, that any solution I build for my clients can’t possibly be as good as another partner site that has a few more people and is willing to play those games.
I am left with the conclusion that the IBM Awards no longer represent the highest standards of ability, innovation, imagination, or productivity at all. They represent a lead generation tool for IBM and little more. I’m very sad to see this.
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