Dealing with Change – How does the sale of WebSphere Commerce affect you?

When the announcement of the HCL/IBM deal was made, the effect rippled across the industry with the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) factor heading the parade followed by anger, disappointment and anxiety. We all felt these emotions at different levels as individuals and collectively as organizations as we assessed the situation and tried to make sense of it.

Let’s take a step back, look at what we know and examine a few scenarios that may play out.

First, let’s experience our emotions. I have to admit that I felt a sense of abandonment and disappointment when IBM made the announcement. IBM is the brand on which our customers based their purchase and investment decision. We don’t get fired for buying IBM, right? It’s like motherhood and apple pie. It does not matter who the new company is. As human being, we do not like change, not one little bit. But we cannot wallow in self-pity and stay with these negative emotions for long.

Next, we need to accept reality. Change is the norm; merger and acquisitions abound with companies jogging for dominant position in the marketplace; advances in technology are creating disruptors and game changers; our life is shifting to online with instant gratification and next-day delivery. IBM is not immune to changes and must transform itself to stay relevant. Unlike Amazon and Google and other start-ups, IBM has been around more than 100 years and does not have a clean slate to start with, it has vast amounts of legacy systems, a huge workforce and long-time customers. It’s transformation will cause pain but that’s the reality.

We need to shift our perspective.

First, we need to normalize our view of WebSphere Commerce. We must ask ourselves what really mattered when we invested in our purchase decision of WebSphere Commerce. Does the software install itself? Does the software have all the customizations you need out-of-the-box? What makes a website successful and others fail? It is the ability of the system integrators who master the platform, have the technical skills and possess the business acumen to communicate with the business users. So the software matters but what made you successful is the collaboration between your business team and the system integrators.

Then, we need to reprioritize and reframe.

To reprioritize, let’s ask ourselves, on a scale of 1-10, how big is this change? If you already made an investment in WebSphere Commerce and it’s serving your business, then this change is minimal. You are only paying for a subscription and support which is usually 20% a year based on your license fees. When was the last time you called IBM for support? I bet you can’t remember because chances are that you would call your system integrators first. When we talked to our customers, after a few clarifications, many have to admit that the WebSphere Commerce decision was made about a decade ago and since then, the solution has been very steady and robust. It just doesn’t break, so they can’t remember when they called IBM. So this issue becomes a very low priority for them.
If WebSphere Commerce no longer serves your needs and you are already evaluating other commerce solutions, then Headless Commerce will resonate with you, as it will provide the most flexible platform for your next generation website.

Next, let’s reframe by considering the potential benefits that could arise from this situation. IBM will continue to merge the code base before handing it over to HCL in June 2019 so customers will get a consolidated product. With the consolidated product, HCL will be able communicate a clear road map for customers. I truly believe that HCL will focus and deliver. 1.8 Billion dollars is no small change for HCL so there will a lot of momentum behind this purchase. HCL’s success will also hinge on keeping the partnership program alive and well with the existing system integrators to keep customers’ websites running as well-oiled machines without any disruption.

The IBM/HCL transaction is a reminder that changes will happen to us and affect our lives, companies and industries. In order to survive and thrive, we must be resilient and adopt a growth mindset. Putting our emotions aside, we must think about our business priorities instead of technical shiny objects. We must believe that we will succeed in anything that we focus on. We will find the courage and the strength to learn new skills such as cloud, microservices, and artificial intelligence, connect with new partners such as HCL and look for new opportunities, even in our own backyard. WebSphere Commerce V9 presents all of these opportunities via the Headless Commerce capability with a new architecture (Docker containers, Kubernetes, and more), REST APIs, CI/CD. Are you ready for it?

To learn more about how you can leverage this new opportunity, email the Zobrist Consulting Group at or call 877-962-7478.