What would you do, if you were in charge of Lotus?

by Volker Weber

Last week we had three great discussions:

Everybody has his own frustrations about what IBM is doing wrong. But how would it be done right? What is it that you would do differently? No use crying over spilt milk. What would you do going forward? And remember, you have to pay for it with your revenue. You have to keep your management, your customers and your employees happy. And you cannot change how other parts of the Software Group or your competitors conduct their business.

Comments

Make the product use the platform it resides on aka use GPO and AD on windows and xyz on linux instead of having the lowest standard in the name of cross platform support.

Flemming Riis, 2008-09-15 10:16

Make Domino the primary development platform for all new Lotus applications, and publicly state this as being the case. If Domino cannot do that job, then fix the reasons why.

Stuart Mcintyre, 2008-09-15 10:29

Quit.

Jake Howlett, 2008-09-15 10:42

Jake, for shame! ;-)

I think the product itself is at a fantastic point in its evolution. I just think not enough people know about it. So I'd probably sell the Lotusphere 'big screen', and buy some ads.

No. Seriously.

I'd open source the whole lot. Two versions:
- One unsupported 'bleeding edge'.
- One paid-for support.

Similar to Fedora and Red-Hat.

Flemming, I think you might be pleasantly surprised that Notes 8.5 can run with AD as its directory instead of names.nsf. Is this the sort of platform integration you meant ?

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2008-09-15 11:10

Move from "exclusively B2B" to getting it into end user/consumer minds.

Other products have a community from the ground up because you start to work with them at home, at school, at university, etc.

Examples could be: give away Domino Designer for free.

Finally, remove the barriers between what's for free and what's not - it's currently impossible to grow from free to "I have to pay" without quite some trouble.

Move the crowd and let the crowd move you.

Florian Vogler, 2008-09-15 11:12

Sell Lotus to Apple. This would solve a lot of problems for a lot of people. :)

Thilo Hamberger, 2008-09-15 11:22

@Jake: best comment.

As Bill writes, Open Sourcing is probably the best solution, although it may be difficult (patents, etc.). Runner-up is give the products away free of charge and make money in consulting. Concentrate on additional services -- make excellent mobile-device integration, and sell that.

Jan-Piet Mens, 2008-09-15 11:36

Employ vowe to consult on product strategy ;-)

Stuart Mcintyre, 2008-09-15 11:40

I second Florian. Improve marketing and education in schools and universities.
Microsoft has done a great job in university marketing, giving away their solutions for free to engineering/computer science students. IBM's student programs must be made public. I personally know the situation in a German university a few years ago, there was not a single contact person for IBM software and no transparent way to get the software for educational use. And finally you need to offer teaching classes on Domino and Eclipse development, just like Microsoft does with .NET.

Regarding the product:
-continue the Java/Eclipse'ification of Notes
-publish documented APIs and samples how to extend the client
-offer development support persons for new cool Java-apps on Notes Standard client
-create a marketing platform for those new apps to show that Notes is not just email
-and of course emphasize their business value to tell management

Karsten Lehmann, 2008-09-15 11:46

Not the Lotus division so much, but anyway... Maybe get all IBM / Lotus divisions singing from the same song-sheet?

Ben Poole, 2008-09-15 12:01

make a hotmail/msn version of Notes and Sametime give it out for free so people see the product

Flemming Riis, 2008-09-15 12:08

@Bill, I think that open sourcing Notes/Domino would be practically impossible. Certainly it would take such a phenomenal effort that it would derail future development for quite some time.

One thing that might be possible, though still unlikely, would be if development moved to a Project Zero type approach. You can get your hands on the source. You can contribute back patches. You can see what is being discussed by the core developers. But IBM owns the source; you can't fork it.

Now there are obviously a bunch of downsides to this model, chiefly, why would anyone bother? Isn't it just doing free work for IBM? Well, yes, but if it was a choice of take it or leave it, then I'm sure quite a few people would take it.

I think if IBM wanted an open source version of domino they would do what they did with their office suite and JEE server. Start again with an open source project that had similar fundamentals, making a fresh cool new product. As with the JEE server the open source version does not need to replace the existing product, it can compliment it. Overtime though, there may be cross pollinating of code, ending with the complete codebase being open source.

Kerr Rainey, 2008-09-15 14:02

Kerr / Bill: the other practical issue being that Notes & Domino must surely contain reams of proprietary and / or third-party code that simply can’t be open-sourced.

This sort of stuff is everywhere when you dig, e.g. Lotus Traveller has it, the KeyView viewers in Notes, full-text indexing on the Mac, etc., etc.

Ben Poole, 2008-09-15 14:14

Create a single installer for Lotus Domino,SameTime server,SameTime Gateway, Lotus Quickr and Lotus Connections. Make it all run on ONE machine (not a AS400 :-)) and simplify the installation process with default settings until it can be done by any normal SMB admin within two hours.

Offer a simple per user license for all these products together.

Then advertise the ROI of such a bundle.

Hynek Kobelka, 2008-09-15 14:20

"Notes / Domino is the core development and production platform for Lotus products."

Brand that backwards on every employees' forehead.

Craig Wiseman, 2008-09-15 14:46

@Ben, yeah, that's one of the reasons I think it would be impossible. It may still be possible for the source to available to read in one form or another without it being open source though. Look at Java, the source was available under some weird read and play academic licence a long time before it was GPL'd.

Kerr Rainey, 2008-09-15 15:05

interesting comments ... too many of them break Volker's "And you cannot change how other parts of the Software Group or your competitors conduct their business" rule .. marketing is done at the IBM level not the Lotus level for the most part.

Mine #1 is that connections and quickr were merged into a single product on a single platform and the development story was 'fixed' ... that would give IBM a real alternative to Sharepoint. SP is huge but it's weaknesses are going to be exposed with the Office14 product wave.

I think Notes/Domino are in great shape (and Bill, the Directory Independence stuff is not in 8.5.0) and the product plan is in good shape for the next 15 months from what I have seen/heard.

My #2 is that we need more folks in development blogging - the best people to initiate the technical discussions is the developers themselves. More blogs like Mary Beth's - her blog proves that the blog conversation with customers and partners can have a great impact on the products

#3 is simple ... Ed's team should be 20, not 3. Ed can not do everything and the effect he and his team can have on customer (both those looking at alternatives and happy customers) is pretty amazing.

john head, 2008-09-15 15:34

Personally, I would massively increase investment in product QA and Support areas. I'd also dedicate members of the development team to fixing bugs, not developing new features.

Ben Rose, 2008-09-15 15:51

I can suggest a feature.

1.- A better support for web development inside Designer, Eclipse, whatever with advanced features (cross language helpers, code completition in LS, Java, Javascript, etc) Or,

2.- Provide Sharing feature of design elements that can be edited outside Domino (css, js, images, etc)

That will deliver more applications that can be suited by the target market. Think in Portal, in Sharepoint, etc.

If you look at Microsoft that is how they have made money, now look at google, they even have a browser!.

It's all about the applications.

.::AleX::.

Alex Hernandez, 2008-09-15 16:06

While this is a fun exercise, no one will be able to stick to the rules of "remember, you have to pay for it with your revenue. You have to keep your management, your customers and your employees happy. And you cannot change how other parts of the Software Group or your competitors conduct their business.". BTW I'd also add, keep your partners happy.

So, with reality of those restrictions removed, here is my list.

DRAMATICALLY simplify the product portfolio down to only 3 offerings: Notes/Domino, Sametime, and Connections.

Gone as standalone products would be Quickr, Doc, Workflow, Portal, Forms, Portal, Mash-ups, Traveler, Symphony, and anything else I've left off. Not gone as features, just gone as stand alone purchasable units which require marketing, confuse customers and press, etc. Take their code, and weave it appropriately into the 3 products above.

For example, Quickr does two things, file/attachment sharing and team sharing sites. The main confusion over Quickr is Domino or J2EE? Fine, remove any talk about that, by taking the Domino Quickr code and moving it into... Domino. Take the J2EE Quickr code, and make it part of Connections. Don't talk about parity across the platforms, talk about how Domino now has file sharing and team spaces, and how Connections now has file sharing and team spaces. That is not overlapping product functionality, as both products need those features.

Forms is an awesome product, which was shot in the foot from the start by not just taking it's technology and improving the form capabilities of Notes and Domino applications, thus putting pixel perfect layouts, digital signatures, and other features in the hands of Lotus's largest customer base. Instead, IBM tried to make it into it's own product, and it did not gain the popularity that I think it should.

Portal as a standalone offering, gone. Make it part of Connections. If companies want to run intranets or internets, great... get Connections out there!

Mash-ups, gone. Turn it into a part of Connections, and turn it into the Notes welcome page. How cool would that be?

Traveler? It is a Domino server task, why does it get such special treatment? There is no product for "replication", "updall", or "fix-up". So stop talking about it standalone, and just talk about the great new mobile features of Domino.

Symphony, this one is harder for me to say it should go away, but I will. Remove it as standalone. I don't think enough non-existing-Lotus customers are going to really use this standalone vs. other office alternative. However, keep it inside of Notes. Turn the document component into the editor for Notes, and allow Notes users to create presentations and spreadsheets, integrated, and seamlessly across their collaboration applications.

Once you simplify the portfolio, make it a thousand times easier to buy. Remove all the various versions of the products. No more collaboration, messaging, entry, advanced, utility, premium, express, or whatever else.

Just sell Notes/Domino, Sametime, and Connections, and charge per user.

Notes/Domino = x currency /user
Sametime = y currency /user
Connections = z currency /user.
Notes/Domino + Sametime = .85(x +y) /user
Notes/Domino + Connections = .85(x+z)/user
Sametime + Connections = .85(y+z)/user
All three = .75(x+y+z)/user.

Fix the issues Partners have been complaining about for years, such as the PartnerWorld downloads, and the limitations on membership levels. I've recently bumped into this myself, as we (Socialtext) are not allowed to put the IBM logo on our web site, because our level in PartnerWorld is not high enough. Gees, thanks for making us feel like a partner!

Advertising. It is time to try a new agency. I'm not going to rant about marketing overall, but from the advertising standpoint, the existing ads don't convey a message that compels me to buy, or even to be interested enough to find out more.

So there you have it, my short list of what I'd do if I ran Lotus. (I have a longer one!) But let me be clear, I don't think any of these things can be done under the restrictions listed above. Don't forget, my old job was to do exactly this, make recommendations on Lotus strategy, so these are all things I've said before internally dozens of times. The people at Lotus are much smarter, and more in touch with what could be done right, than I think you (the community) give them credit for. None of your ideas, nor mine, are things the execs have not heard already.

It is easy to know what to do, it is much harder to execute.


Alan Lepofsky, 2008-09-15 16:09

Well said Alan

Paul Mooney, 2008-09-15 16:22

Ben, *all* developers are fixing bugs.

Thomas Gumz, 2008-09-15 16:23

Alan, wow, well said!

Only disagreement with what you said - Symphony should stay standalone,
a) because I believe that SMBs will use it over opensource, and
b) it must have a free version so that it can be upgraded to parity with OpenOffice v2 or v3 - that's down to the licence terms I believe.

Otherwise, makes absolute sense!

Stuart Mcintyre, 2008-09-15 16:30

Alan, well said, indeed. You took this discussion to a higher level. Thank you.

Volker Weber, 2008-09-15 16:51

Alan,
I bow before your overwhelming awesomeness.
cpw...

Craig Wiseman, 2008-09-15 17:06

Good questions.
I think you are wrong.
Some of the way Software Group conducts business MUST change, not just for Lotus but for the company as a whole, especially if they want to play in the consumer side.

Keeping management and employees happy is the easy one.
If you make revenue, everyone inside is happy, in one form or another.

Customers, not so easy. Are they really asking for another desktop office suite instead of an online one?

Would Lotus be better off without IBM? Not very likely.
Can Lotus be Revolutionary? Perhaps yet again

Unlike the auto manufacturers where oil/gas has caused them to become revolutionary(although poatents of solutions and ideas go back almnost a 100 years), what does software have as an instigator?

Superficiality aside, what would really make a difference? iPhone, Google's Android, just devices with a newer look/feel function but still not better at earning $1 of revenue to your company than anything in existence.

Should IBM purchase RIM or a telco provider for Lotus? Perhaps, diversification is one thing, standing behind your UC decision is another.

Would it make any difference if IBM bought Red Hat or SUSE or Novell or SUN? Perhaps, if they also got a new ad company and could take over the world again in pcs with Linux as the OS.

Keith Brooks, 2008-09-15 17:16

Wow, Alan. Just wow.

Rob McDonagh, 2008-09-15 17:17

Maybe Alan wants a new job. He has taken a good shot at it. :-)

Volker Weber, 2008-09-15 17:22

@Thomas Gumz - I said "dedicated" - i.e. not part time and split between 2 priorities.

Ben Rose, 2008-09-15 17:28

Yeah Alan, I repeat everyone else's comments ... that post was killer.

So maybe Vowe should post not about what Lotus should do, but how they can execute on these things inside IBM. That seems to be the key question

john head, 2008-09-15 18:13

John, this is not the end of it. And I am pretty sure there are more smart people out there with good ideas. They'll just have to come forward.

Volker Weber, 2008-09-15 18:15

I would take the massive cost savings that would be realized from doing everything Alan said, and split the funds to augment staffing in development, user experience, QA, and support.

Richard Schwartz, 2008-09-15 18:17

I would also ask why were opinions/ideas such as Alan's ignored whilst he was inside IBM?

Stuart Mcintyre, 2008-09-15 18:24

Stuart, I'd like to not go there. Just look at the road ahead ...

Volker Weber, 2008-09-15 18:35

Volker, great question. Great discussion.

And Alan, I think your post is really great! And if Volker is right, I'd like to see you in a new job ;-)

Thomas Lang, 2008-09-15 19:20

Thank you, Volker, for redirecting that question.

Ed Brill, 2008-09-15 19:27

Thanks Vowe, yes I won't have that discussion in public. Stuart, the one thing I will say is that "ignored" is not the correct word. No one at Lotus wants to do what is wrong. Everyone has good intentions, there are just many challenges. As you've seen in the last 3 years, things are moving in a much better direction, focus on that.

Alan Lepofsky, 2008-09-15 19:32

@Ben - I fully support that idea. I was about to write the same, being really frustrated about the lack of quality and stability. Just today my team and I have wasted hours to (try to) fix a cluster (!) which goes down due to a Domino bug. Exact root cause unknown. All I can say is "no change, no performance issues on I/O, CPU and Memory level" - the problem is a corrupted fulltext index. Too bad we have several hundreds on the server and the NSD is not very helpful in that case. Well, actually in this case NSD has something in common with Lotus Support.

One could say that data corruption is not 100% avoidable, but
a) don't let it crash the server. Isolate the problem and let me fix it
b) don't let support tell me to "run less tasks"
c) don't let it jump to the cluster partner. why do we invest in a failover?!
d) don't let the crash corrupt the TransLogs, too. 7 hours and still consistency checking...

I love the product and use it since more than a decade, but problems like this freak me out. Client crashes especially working with RT, crashes when opening MIME mails. Did you know that one badly formatted mail in mail.box can effectively block the router? A corrupted local FTI kept my harddisc busy 100% until it got removed. etc. etc.

IBM/Lotus, please, dedicate some budget to fix and optimize the NSF/NIF structure. If corruptions happen at that level, you're doomed.

Dirk Rose, 2008-09-15 20:19

OK, Alan - now go back and play by the rules and see what you come up with. :)

Chris

Chris Reckling, 2008-09-15 20:30

Very good comments in here, but Alan is standing out excellent. Too bad he is on "vacation" from IBM/Lotus. :-)

Tommy Oustad, 2008-09-15 22:01

Fair enough on the non-answer to my question. You are right, let's focus on the future.

Stuart McIntyre, 2008-09-15 22:26

Too bad that Nathan etc miss out on these kinds of discussions...I'm certain he'd have something good to add to all of this. Sad.

Me, I'd mobilise my sales force...get them to show our customers that we're not a faceless corporate and that we do care about their day to day issues. Followup on that - create a feedback loop (IdeaJam!) and promise to deliver on that where ever possible. Oh and clone Ed Brill...1000's of em! ;)

Often times it seems like the shift to Microsoft occurs because there is no one listening, no-one there to defend the IBM position (unless you count the odd developer/admin/fanatical Notes dude - but in most companies I'd expect them to hear about it only once the decision has been made).

Colin Williams, 2008-09-15 22:59

Wow. This thread - especially Alans' post - nice work! A breath of fresh air.

Umm. Ben and Kerr - yeah - there's lots of issues around open source. Project Zero with big gobs of binaries for licensed product (viewers, full text index, RSA, etc) would seem logical. But I think I agree - switching over would take a long time *and* a huge diversion.

What it would give us is a (huge?) renewed interest in the brand. I guess what I'm saying that is without a HUGE worldwide dedicated team (and I somewhat agree with John Head here in that Eds' team is too small - sorry Ed) we end up with Lotus Salesmen 'sellling' portal to Domino customers (badly).

Certainly 'open source' corporate eMail would effectively shut down exchange. Which is an interesting end-goal.

I guess the open source/project zero stuff would be able to skirt around the 'lack of sales force' issue with ease, and focus on maintenance (passport in our terms). Lets face it, thats what software company value is dictated on - the amount of repeat business.

Perhaps this could be viewed as a flag-raising exercise to persuade the very senior IBM software people that Lotus as a brand has a very real present and a very real future, if only they'd get it (I qualify that with a big "In My Humble Opinion"). As the Belgians would say "Piss or get off the pot'. (Come on, I had to say at least one offensive thing in this post, right?)

Here in Europe we have a very real legacy of the Zoller years (IMHO), and here's hoping Mr Rodin will fix that in his term over here in the IBM C-Level monkey tree. I sometimes think that perhaps thats why he was moved there.

Local ("Europe") politics aside, I feel that Alans post - a dramatic simplification of product lines - would also play to the 'your not giving us enough sales guys' problem (that perhaps I alone perceive. I have to be careful to only give Ed a heart attack once per month).


---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2008-09-15 23:13

Sorry, Flemming/John. Yeah. 8.5.x as opposed to 8.5.0 for the AD directory integration. I just watched another 'whats new in 8.5' presentation today.

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2008-09-15 23:18

Colin, I asked Nathan a few years ago to not comment here, and he agreed to that. At the same time I have also decided to not take part in discussions at his site. Having said that, I often, but mostly silently, agree with his technical expertise. Let's please leave it at that, please.

Volker Weber, 2008-09-15 23:22

@Alan, really interesting thinking. I like your idea of reducing the complexity in the portfolio, licensing and marketing message very much.

My number one would be build a killer client. I'm not convinced that the Eclipse based client is the killer client that Notes needs. I'm assuming IBM has looked at the decline in PC costs and increase in performance and thought this would offset the relative demands of an Eclipse client. In the current climate I imagine CFO's are keen to reduce capital spend as much as possible.

I haven't met a regular user that would choose the Notes client over Outlook. It more closely matches the way they want to work and doesn't appear to have a huge footprint.
The 8.x Basic client is too much like the 7.x client which is very much like the 6.x client. There are few surprises in it whilst there are some fantastic plugins for Outlook.

I'd allow users to create virtual folders for email based on searches and tagging.

I'd design out, out of the box, the thick client. I'd make it optional for most users. To facilitate this I'd make all of the core templates first class web applications sharing a consistent look and feel across the board. Going a little further how cool would it be if those applications could be presented together in a unified interface like a portal only simpler, cheaper and more manageable?

What about producing Symphony web applications?

I'd also:

Reduce the charge for any and all Sametime clients to zero;
Get rid of hide whens, 32k text and view column limitations;

Jason Hook, 2008-09-15 23:41

I would go back in time 8 years and stamp my foot just that bit harder when I told Product Management that people are beginning to focus on what Notes looks like versus Outlook.

Darren Adams, 2008-09-16 00:37

Since you can't go back in time, what else would you do?

Volker Weber, 2008-09-16 01:01

Great discussion, if I was still at IBM and in an position to make these changes, here's what I'd do, most of my changes don't actually involve changes to the product, as I think if the product was in for example Microsoft's hands it would be sold very differently and would arguably have more success:

1. The first thing I would do, is require any IBM software sales person have a quota that they must meet in order to get to achievers club. If 10% of their sales target isn't met with the sale of Lotus Notes/Domino licenses then they don't get to achievers, simple as that, no exclusions.

2. I would bundle free Domino server license with Websphere and websphere portal. Show how Domino can be a great data server for these apps.

3. IBM has committed to invest $1 billion in the UC Market. I would take part of that $1 billion and build a true ISV team which would consist of a handful of marketers and a group of hardcore deveopers that know the products. Example 20 people for Domino/Notes apps, 10 people for Sametime, 10 for quickr etc. This group is difficult to keep going in IBM as it has no direct revenue responsibility, so it should be judged based upon goals and deliverables relating to 3rd party products.

4.I'd also take some of that money and have the ISV team work with ISVs and help fund integration projects, pay to develop iphone integration, pay for salesforce.com integration etc. Be like bees with honey with those ISVs, have an ISV engineer working with them, on site if need be to get that integration done. Again this team is not marketers, this is hard core engineers.

5. I'd create a VC fund from some of that $1 billion. Have companies apply for money to build the next great thing for Notes/Domino/Sametime etc.

6. All engineers in the above mentioned ISV team will be tasked with answering really techy questions in the Forums, and publishing regular examples of the things you can do with the Lotus products.

More to come, but it's late now...

carl tyler, 2008-09-16 01:47

@Alan "Ed" Lepofsky: Ditto!
PLUS:
1. Fix DXL
2. Ship the LSX Toolkit
:-)

Bob Balaban, 2008-09-16 02:02

WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! Alan read my mind! all great comments.

-Tim E. Brown

Tim E. Brown, 2008-09-16 03:14

@Alan; absolutely fantasic...! Streamline the product offerings and you'll make it easier to show the value of the use of the products as integrated services.

I would add... spend some dollars on education.

End-user training courses, hints & tips, and getting people to learn that the joy of using the Notes Client. It's so much more than a web browser front-end to your inbox. Get more books published on these topics and get them out to Amazon.

And for the developers, include more samples and examples in the base product; replicate best practices & guidelines databases everywhere; and show developers the way to write code that integrates the back end Domino data store with their fancy, front end Web 2.0 gizmo. Get into the university and college classrooms, and teach students that Notes is a development platform, not just email.

And let's not forget the admins and support folks. Continue to make the client-side installs easier; integrate with other system monitoring tools that admins love to use to watch their multitude of boxes. And keep up the efforts on lowering the disk space footprint of all this data we're collecting, and making efficient use of our network bandwidth. Give companies a credit, based on their user base, redeemable for an on-site Lotus health check of their environment. And let those junior administrators watch and learn, so they can continue to do it themselves.

The opportunity to sell services and applications to your happy customers will more than pay for the knowledge transfer costs.

William Ryken, 2008-09-16 05:47

Fantastic ideas folks.

Create a group of focus customers, composed of organisations in every size range (5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 20000, 100000 users etc.) and in multiple geographies, and roadtest every major product release and design change with them prior to sign off.

I'm not talking about design by committee or even beta programs here, but instead, really getting into the mindset of a CEO/CIO/proprietor and seeing whether the Lotus product really fits their business need, their technical abilities, their budgets and their expectations.

Work with them to install and to roll out the product, see where their areas of learning curve reach steep proportions, see where they hit barriers etc, and then change the products/marketing/training etc. to suit.

Not every product should necessarily fit 100% with all organisation sizes/shapes, but none should alienate, frustrate or baffle any of the organisations either. If a product doesn't make sense to a 10 person organisation, then I would argue it won't solve the business need of a 50 person one.

[It could be that Lotus already does this (design partners?) but if so, I doubt that such small companies are included, nor that enough face-to-face time is spent with the organisations, else certain products in the portfolio wouldn't exist in their current form!]

Stuart Mcintyre, 2008-09-16 07:10

What's about a "Big Picture"?

As I wrote some pages above (man, what a valuable and friendly discussion), I like the ideas here - the technical and the marketing ones.
But maybe we need to add something additional (or at least we need to outline it): We need a big picture in the head of the customers/users what the products are about. Go out and ask someone on the street what Outlook stands for. Or Sharepoint. And then ask what Notes/Domino/Quickr/Sametime/etc. stands for.
I know the things we outlined here. But I'm missing the buzzword everyone has in is head when talking about Lotus.

And here again Alan's ideas might be helpful: reduce the number of products. Keep everything more clear. Marketing should not confuse, marketing should highlight the strengths. And they are there, we just need to use them!

Thomas Lang, 2008-09-16 08:11

Aggressive SMB pricing. Also sell all software online without having to go thru a VAR. Most SMB would like to get away from Outlook, or not use free email systems but can't afford the hit that they take from licensing Notes. It does cost just as much as an MS solution.

Also a super small light (think mail/thunderbird) mail/calendar/tasks only client that is open sourced and free. Get the foot in the door to most endusers (like outlook express). There is very negative thoughts on Notes since most people are even still stuck at version 4 or 5, maybe even 6 if they are lucky because of the corporate culture. I had one user who came back excited after finding out their very large banking institution used the same messaging platform.

We all know the core strength of Notes but end users don't, they want to see flashy graphics and do do quick searches.. ya.. fix that damn search engine, how is it I can search every document on my drive in seconds yet i might as well go to lunch when i'm searching for something in my mailbox.

Bryan McDade, 2008-09-16 10:24

As a customer, I 100x100 agree with Alan Lepofsky comments.

Remember:

"And here again Alan's ideas might be helpful: reduce the number of products. Keep everything more clear. Marketing should not confuse, marketing should highlight the strengths. And they are there, we just need to use them!"

Albert Buendia, 2008-09-16 11:09

Bryan, I don't want to turn this thread into a support discussion, but it sounds like something is wrong with your search. I can search 10 years on notes mail in seconds. Are you searching a local replica or one on your server? Have you tried deleting and recreating the full text index?

alan lepofsky, 2008-09-16 13:55

Alan, it always amuses me the shock and horror insiders experience when they move into the 'real' partner world when dealing with the Partner program.

The Partner Program needs to be killed, stone dead. A much simpler accreditation scheme that has a low bar to encourage a growth in the organisation that actually sell to and support SMB.

Plus of course all the excellent ideas Mr. L states. Although these and similar have been stated since 199x!

Ian White, 2008-09-16 14:44

Have Domino priced at a nominal fee (zero cost for Alans x+y) for up to 10 users - if run on Linux :) - although that would be a hit with Foundations

john wylie, 2008-09-16 14:57

Some great comments in this thread. I would agree with most of what has been sugested but would also add:

1: Sell ND licences at a nominal charge, say $1 per user with forward revenues to be achieved through Support, Maintenance & Services. This would have the double effect of both potentially sending domino useage figures through the roof and terrifing Microsoft as they would be potentially blocked from sales of Exchange/Scarepoint/Office.

2: Start to focus on a commited solution marketing campaign that drives awareness and mindshare of the Lotus portfolio of products to both CxO and LOB, the way Microsoft has been so successful in doing for so long.

3: Strong focus on building the channel and extending the relationships with existing IBM partners

Pete Hampton, 2008-09-16 15:57

Give Lotus Notes Client for free, with designer, so people can use openNTF stuff for free.

This way notes would also become a new web browser, with widgets and other cool stuff.

Fix focus problems, so we can detect all open tabs, switch between them, etc...

Fix debugger so we can debug framesets.

Make notes work with new java versions.

Update simphony to the new oppenoffice version.

These are just few, there are many open issues...

Get yourself some good developers and make it happen!

Vito Malačič, 2008-09-16 16:32

@John W and @Pete

I have previously had a discussion with the-powers-that-be about the business model of having Notes messaging sold at $0 but continue to charge annual support and maintenance as they do today.

Given that the support and maintenance fee is typically 20% of the purchase price, then it's a 5 to 1 ratio for recouping that "loss" of revenue.

Would Lotus Messaging licenses generate 5x in new support fees in year 1 if the licenses were free? I don't know. Over 2 to 3 years, I think that new swell of customers would have to make up for it.

My premise is that Notes/Domino is the core for "easier" sales of everything in the portfolio; Notes collaboration and servers, Quickr, Sametime, Portal, Connections. If the install base of Notes clients were to increase dramatically, I think it would have a very positive downstream affect on the rest of the portfolio while at the same time making a dent into the MS dominance of the US mindshare about Outlook/Exchange vs Notes/Domino.

Unfortunately, I don't think the issue here is one of the ultimate revenue effect -- i.e. does it lose money or make money. I think it would but I'm not privy to all the real calculations that would say yes or no. Ed thinks the case is probably not.

However, the nail in the coffin for this approach is how IBM is organized and its individuals are compensated. If the Sales team isn't re-oriented and compensated for this approach, they have no interest in pursuing it as they are compensated on NEW license revenue...not on support and maintenance fees. This goes from Ed's team all the way down through the various tele-sales channels. So the sales plan and compensation model would have to take into account ALL sw revenue, not just new licenses to orient the team into even thinking of this as a viable approach. Currently, it wouldn't even cross their minds and is a non-starter.

Finally, I would prohibit IGS from selling migration services away from IBM products. (Now we're into breaking the rules of the premise as in the preceding section. This can't happen from the Lotus leadership position, it would have to be higher).

If the latest rumor I hear is true that IGS participated in selling a migration away from Notes/Domino to one of the very largest Notes shops in the world, it doesn't really matter who runs Lotus does it?

Lance Spellman, 2008-09-16 16:53

@Lance, I am sure you are right on this. I've had enough experience of IBM SWG sales to know that they are targeted only on 'net new' etc.

However, in the "brave new world" that we are discussing, I believe that most of the growth we'd be after is in the organisations below enterprise level, SMBs for want of a better term. In which case, 90%+ of that business goes via partners anyway (though there will still be IBMers involved in the commission structure somewhere).

I'd therefore say the more important question would be whether partners would be willing to work on the basis of loss-leading "free" Notes/Domino licences?

In my experience, I'd say, absolutely, I would. Most partners are far more willing to look at the long-term future of the customer relationship ('a customer is for life, not just for Christmas!'), and also would be more interested in services revenue rather than making a fraction of a license sale.

I like the idea...

Stuart McIntyre, 2008-09-16 17:22

Great discussion and I agree with a lot of what's been said.

Not so surprisingly, many of these ideas we are already exploring and some we are actively working on.

Interesting that the minority of the conversation is about the product(s) themselves and the majority is about how we sell them and work with our community. Not sure whether that's where people think there is the largest opportunity for improvement or whether it's just a more compelling topic to discuss.


Jeff Eisen, 2008-09-16 17:51

Volker, an excellent question and very healthy discussion. Could I suggest that it could be addressed to specific audiences? Most of us know each other here and we can hear these answers based upon where others are coming from. To be actionable, to have authority, it is a question that needs to go to a broader audience. It's an important debate for IBM to have.

For example, for large systems integrators, ask them to put themselves in IBM's shoes for a moment - "If you were IBM what would do to serve your [present] company better?" Ditto for smaller consultants, small businesses, enterprises and the various types of people's roles that are important in acquiring and keeping a customer or partner. IBM represents something different to each because they are all coming from a different perspective. Put them all together and you have some goals to act upon, the sort of exercise I've done to help vendors understand what needs to be done first.

I believe there is only one better question than asking a customer what they would do first, second and third, if they were in the vendor's spot. That is - "What is the best question that I should ask?"

Jim Moffat, 2008-09-16 18:00

@Jeff. I believe that is "largest opportunity for improvement" versus product changes.

carl tyler, 2008-09-16 18:20

I had unsubscribed from vowe for a while, but this great discussion is definitely bringing me back in.

Michael Kobrowski, 2008-09-16 21:34

I think I have to echo Jeff's comments that the majority of comments here are not about the products themselves, but about the manner in which they are sold/marketed/supported.

If this is the only conclusion to bring away from this discussion (I certainly hope much more is), then its not a bad place to start with the IBM senior management, all camped down in Miami for the LOLA conference.

The products are fantastic. The business of selling and marketing them needs some attention now.

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2008-09-22 18:07

@Alan Lepofsky, 2008-09-15
- Absolutely perfect post. Spot on. Slam dunk.


@Bill and @Lance: Agree: Its very important to make the base product "free" (by some mechanism, e.g. unsupported open source) at the micro-business level (1-5 users - i.e way below what Ed normally considers the SMB market) to draw in the students; the one-man bands; the consultants; the independent developers; the home users.
That micro-user is what has made Google, and its GMail etc apps successful, by drawing in and making individuals champions of the products, so that later they go into their larger offices and push the Lotus name as enthusiasts.

Martin Audley, 2008-09-25 02:01

So I guess it is unanimous:

IBM re-hire Alan and put Ed and Alan in charge ;)

I'd vote for that.

Darren Duke, 2008-09-25 18:52

As an ex IBM marketer, I can state that the biggest gain in marketing equity will be achieved when a marketer has an ability ton poke the box and step away from guaranteed agency contracts.

The roi gets significantly reduced in the current stucture.

Bilal Jaffery, 2011-04-22 09:01

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vowe.net is a personal website published by Volker Weber a.k.a. vowe. I am an author, consultant and systems architect based in Darmstadt, Germany.

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