You can’t complain about the venue of IBM Rational Software Developer Conference 2008 because it takes place at one of the oldest luxury landmark of New Delhi known as Hyatt Regency at Bhikaji Cama Place. Wizcraft, a company better known for organizing star studded Bollywood award ceremonies, add a glamour to this themed event around comic strip hero’s. Radio Mirchi and others air radio commercials to advertise the event among their young and upwardly mobile audience which includes thousands of software professionals and users of IBM products in NCR.

On 28th August, I am sipping coffee in the foyer of hall where this mega event will take place. Around 400 to 500 people have packed themselves in a somewhat crowded but comfortable place. It is easy to make out from the looks that the Wizcraft girls are handling the registration process. This event is simultaneously taking place in Delhi, Bangalore, Trivandrum, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata. We will soon see a live telecast of keynote address from Bangalore.

The event starts with African drum performance in which the audience from all the cities joins by beating color plastic tubes on their palms at different intervals to create a rhythm.

After this exciting energy generating event, we get to see a long boring boardroom style presentation from Steve Mills that boasts about IBM software tools revenue of 1.8 b US$. From here onwards Hyatt and Wizcraft start making sense and my hopes of hearing about some exciting new stuff from the oldest surviving elephant of IT industry slowly fed.

IBM has more distributed software teams than any other company in the world as the heavily dotted slide showing world map confirms. IBM has 3400 employees in India, out of its 33000 strong workforce, working on developing Rational suite of tools that includes products like Rational Clearcase and Rational Method Composer etc..

IBM is the only IT giant which has successfully survived in each decade since 60’s by foreseeing the future and reshaping its strategy accordingly. Whether it’s transition to services business in early 90’s or setting up of Eclipse organization that has created an open source platform which has become the basic infrastructure in application development, IBM has reinvented itself. Given IBM’s ability to see the future and adapt, we can say that the Agile is on the path to become mainstream way of developing software.

As Steve Mills from IBM said that the new software development is going to be about Ship early, Ship often and listen to the customers. IBM, as a tools company, will help its customers with Governance, Architecture and forming a Collaborative Community. IBM still believes that Waterfall, Iterative and Agile will continue to coexist. You might take this seriously since it is coming from a company that still maintains mainframe systems from 60’s and 70’s.

IBM earns a great deal of tools revenue from big corporations that struggle with scaling Agile. Proliferation of open source tools and mix and match approach of early Agile developers might be a big headache for the large corporations since they fear losing control. In such places, the integrated tools approach of IBM can provide better governance at the cost of lesser creativity and innovation which is the driving force of Agile community. A large population of ‘commodity developers’ does not care if somebody has drawn a box in which they have to operate. More about ‘commodity developers’ in my future blogs.

The event has overtones of corporate marketing event which was sold as the biggest IBM developer conference only next to the IBM developer conference in Orlando. It was not inspiring to see that IBM decided to fly in heavily jet lagged and tired blue suited speakers from Australia and Europe who hardly went beyond reading their slides. I wonder why IBM could not find speakers among its 50000 strong workforce in India to fill first 5 hours of conference. We would have appreciated to get the conference program in advance or at least in the beginning and it would have spared us some confusion by the printed agenda by Wizcraft that wrongly showed breakout sessions starting at 3:00 PM and finishing at 3:30 PM.

While carrying my ‘free’ IBM Rational bag to my car after aborting my IBM day just after lunch, I am convinced that the web remains the best medium to learn more about what is happening at IBM. I am headed back to Xebia office in Gurgaon to see an evening session on software audit.