Within less than a few weeks, we had some great discussions:
- What is Notes' core strength?
- What is Notes' core weakness?
- It’s the applications that keep the product alive (on Bob Balaban's)
- What would you do, if you were in charge of Lotus?
I especially enjoyed the last one tremendously. Lots of ideas that were not discussed in the open so far. The tipping point was Alan's great write-up on that thread. But there were two things pretty clear. Alan did not play by the rules I set up so that you wouldn't go over the top. I wanted to keep things sensible. The other thing was that Alan said, Lotus knows about these ideas, and has known for a while, since it was his job to come up with them.
The quick reaction is, why didn't they do all these great things in the past? The quick answer is that they would not work, because they need things to happen within IBM, that Lotus can't make happen. So I would like to pick up from there and ask:
What do you think, Lotus can really do if they try? Or what do you think they will do?
I will give you some that I think they will not do:
- Lotus will not make Domino their primary development platform for new application. I have a couple of reasons to believe that. Go to the research lab at Lotusphere and see how these guys build stuff. And then look at the software development in IBM Software Group. Lifecycle management, development tools, etc.
- Lotus will not greatly simplify to a few products. Why? Because some things cannot be thrown in because they are owned by more than one brand. Those products have to stand on their own. Or on more general terms: every product has to stand on their own.
Before we go on, just a reminder. These guys are not stupid. They run a very big ship. If you assume they are all going in the wrong direction, then maybe you are. And in that case you will be run over.
What do you think? What is going to happen, and why?
Volker, Supertankers are large ships that take hours and many kilometers to slow down or turn around. IBM is not dissimilar.
Change will take place but it will be slow, we will at times fail to see any difference and they may or many not hit the rocks.
It has been like this since pre-IBM (but more so part-IBM) and the only thing you, I and the rest can do is encourage change and promote it when it happens.
They may get it right in my lifetime - stranger things have happened.
the short term fix (which won't happen) is to move the marketing dudes from Armonk to Westford / Cambridge.
>> These guys are not stupid.
Indeed, and I’ve been considering the fact that the things that drive their planning and strategy are far, far removed from what my SMB customers want or need. If you take as examples of the future how the Sametime world is developing (Sametime Gateway, Sametime Advanced, Connections all require very specific and picky versions of the same ‘platform’ to run), then the disconnect is reaching galactic proportions. IBM seems to blindly be focusing on the grail of "one click install" instead of developing flexible, well-tested software that doesn't require very very specific fix pack/hot fix verisons and mindnumbing dependencies. And making folks rewrite their client plugins when moving from ST 7.5 to 8 to 8.0.1, etc. is simply pathetic.
This means smart and correct (for my customers) are very different things.
>> If you assume they are all going in the wrong
>> direction, then maybe you are. And in that case you will be run over.
Partially correct. I’m coming to realize that “on a very different path” is a better way to describe it. So my choice over the last couple years is to add significance other skill sets and scale down my Lotus work. It’s just a pity to see the perfect swiss army platform turn out this way. It didn't (and doesn't) have to work out that way. We'll see.
This is what my crystal ball is telling me:
- Lotus will continue evolving Domino Designer until everything is Eclipse based, including LS and Java editors
- Lotus will try to make XPages available in the Notes client, too. We already heard rumours about that.
- If XPages are available in Notes Client too there will be no further development of the classic Notes design elements since there is no need to.
- Notes 9 will get more of that "cool" end user features so that it can continue to stand against Outlook
- Domino Server will continue delivering more and more TCO optimizations like the DAOS in 8.5
- Domino Server and Lotus MailProtector will grow together so that the Administration is in one place
- Perhaps Domino Server will evolve more in the direction of HTTP/JSP/Servlets and that stuff
- Beside that I don't know what big new features Domino Server should get - for us Domino does everything we and our customers need, and it does that very good.
- Sametime, Quickr, Connection et. al. will evolve in the direction that they can be used more and more independent of Domino, so that customers having MS stuff can use them, too.
Overall I think Lotus got the message that Notes has to be "fun" to use, users have to like it.
And they will continue with the direct competition against Microsoft. Even if a customer cannot be migrated to Notes for his mail system, he should be able to use other Lotus Software, for example Quickr instead of Sharepoint.
Well, you see - I am quite optimistic.
I think they'll rename a few products. Maybe they'll decide to call Quickr "iQuick" or maybe change it back to Quickplace.
As may seem clear, I iterate back and forth between the extremes (optimism and pessimism) when it comes to Lotus. I just got a chance to read Mr. Balaban's comments and the discussion there.
To directly answer the point, I would focus on the N/D appdev environment - it's what makes Notes/Domino worth it. Focus on enhancing it, but also focus on promoting it within IBM (so the salesforce actually can talk about it intelligently and push it ), and actually use it to enhance the existing templates and add many more as part of the product (Nifty Ninety?).
Let me digress into Connections for a minute: It had a lot of very nice stuff, but it's beyond me why you couldn't do it all with Domino as the app server.
...Blogs: Double Duh?
...Dogear: Been done exceedingly well on Domino by an IBM BP already on a shoe string. Buy it. At a huge premium.
...Communities: Not rocket science.
...Activities: Closer to rocket science, but similar things have already been done and demo'd on Domino.
My point in discussing Connections is that it completely confuses the Lotus message: "Notes/Domino: A world-class server platform for e-mail, scheduling, and collaboration applications. 'Cept for us, 'cause we've got something better." My understanding is that in order to bolt on xPages (YAWR: Yet Another Workplace Refugee), IBM had to add some type of J2EE runtime environment. With NSF as a speedy and flexible backend store, let's leverage that to make N/D the best modern, integrated appdev environement by a mile.
Craig, that was #1 on my list of what IBM is not doing. The new stuff is not built on Domino.
#1 was "Lotus will not make Domino their primary development platform for new application. "
I'm not saying it should be .primary., just not lost-child.
It's clear that IBM, overall views WAS/DB2 as the primary platform, but it's a .non-integrated. platform. I'd just like a appropriate attention paid to N/D in making it that best it can be.
Want galaxy-class scalability and flexiblity? Go WAS/DB2.
Have more moderate needs? N/D works.
Seems like IBM's salesforce can't/won't discern that.
I think that Lotus will work with Canonical and RedHat and Novel to package the IBM Open Collaboration Client Desktop thingie (Notes, Sametime Symphony) for Linux and it will then be trivial to install and update:
Step 1 check a box in the list next to the application you want
Step 2 hit "apply"
Step 3 start using it.
This cuts out all the partnerworld nonsense and all the client version upgrades and all the server upgrades - they just happen, automatically, or on demand. Licensing still applies to the notes ID file and nothing *needs* to be Open Source or Free, although that would be nice. In fact there could be three software repositories called "yellowbleeding edge", "customer ready", "ultra cautious" with pretty much the same software in each, you just point to one relating to how risk-averse you are.
Sales go up, and the market share dramatically improves as the competition collapses. Customers are always on the latest release so security issues and user interface perception is improved, nobody is stuck on a 10 year old client version.
Other bits of IBM then see that a whole bunch of problems just got solved, but customers are dumping iSeries and pSeries servers. They implement the apt package management system for iSeries and pSeries and all those PTFs go into a repository and can be applied with apt-get update. Going to a website and downloading a setup.exe or worse a CTH-IYJWZ.exe becomes a thing of the past and nobody misses it (except Microsoft)
I believe IBM will continue to put their core technology into Lotus Notes. Once that is somewhat completed they will concentrate on what huge corporations demand and leave the rest to Google, Microsoft and free Open Source technology.
IBM will avoid competing directly with Google or Microsoft whenever possible and maybe further sell parts of its hardware business that compete with companies like Dell.
Further lowering development cost using IBM core technologies bundled with what comes out of IBM research.
But for me it is difficult to do any prediction what IBM will do.
I do not understand most of their business. I have no clue why they make their websites as they are today and how they organize their workforce.
Their marketing often if a myth to me and what is left from their hardware business and the often uber-complex software is something that I most try to avoid. Interesting times ahead.
I'm continually having my optimism at having great product (notes 8.5, etc) washed away by IBM's lack of delivery in terms of regional markets.
Ed notes that the 'Notes is dead' discussion is finally put to bed in the US - for which I'm extremely happy. (Actually he made this assertion years ago, and lots of US folks will back him up on that). Good stuff.
And a lot of German contacts (especially in the last few days in Munich at SoftSphere) asserted that knowledge of Notes at a general IT level in Germany is good. Whilst the lotus marketing in Germany might be considered 'strange' (this was the only word repeated to me in a number of conversations), at least it was happening. Which is cool, and is again good news.
Some markets - and lets all agree that I'm talking about the UK here - are not in as good shape. The local market folks within IBM set the marketing budget and implement the budget. For such a long time, there has not been any specific Lotus marketing. There has been the 'idiot fat IT manager' stuff, where Lotus get an ad or two, but general market perception in the UK (IMHO) is that Lotus is a legacy product, and that its been replaced by Exchange and Sharepoint. Which is a nightmare to actually compete against.
Its a nightmare for me as I spend the majority of my conversations reassuring customers that its worth investing in Lotus, even when IBM (UK) seem to do as much as possible to persuade folks that they should switch to something else. Even IBM Consulting (ISSL, BCS, etc) spend a fair amount of time in Lotus Notes customers whispering in their ears that they can help migrate them from Notes to Exchange. I suppose from a 'Consulting' POV, they have to compete with HP who offer this service too. But cannibalising your software license base for short-term consulting wins cannot make long term business sense.
(ISSL in Europe also are a nightmare, as they'd much rather sell you the time to develop product ideas than recommend that you buy in business-partner tools. Effectively, they're competing against BP's all the time, and always in order to sell consulting days.)
I wish (getting to the point of the question) IBM (UK) would get behind all its brands - and in my case especially its CONSUMER brand - Lotus - and actually support it as well as I'm sure they support other IBM brands here in the UK.
Ed - and thank god Ed exists within IBM because sometimes it feels like he's the only Lotus supporter out there in IBM senior-exec land - has been pushing the damn boulders uphill on this for years, and to be quite honest is sick to the back teeth of us (okay, specifically ME) moaning to him on something we cant change. Which I completely understand. I mean - why should be be continually kicked for stuff he cant change? Especially when (as he keeps reminding us) his sales numbers are up - even here in the UK.
I *wish* IBM would get behind Lotus as a brand here in the UK. Having a conversation with an ex IBM marketing manager, a journalist, and various IBM UK folks in the last few days however convinces me that in fact, IBM in the UK will do with Lotus as its always done.
P.S. Folks out there who believe that I should have this conversation with people within IBM instead of out in the open should assume that I've pretty much had this conversation with everyone I know at IBM. In the world. And they cant do nothing about it. Hence the reason I'm having this conversation in the open. Perhaps it can be forwarded onto the relevant person with IBM UK who I can then have the conversation with.
Bill, I can't comment too far on what you say. But let me assure you there are some people who care very passionately about the Lotus brand and care about Notes / Domino in particular. I'm sure you'll know who I'm talking about if I refer to one particular person in Marketing who is one of the hardest-working people I know and swims uphill everyday to achieve the things we do manage to achieve. I would be deeply upset if I thought the comments here were aimed at that person.
You know I'm not talking about one person here - I'm talking about IBM UK in general, not the folks (like you and this other unnamed person) who work their assess off for brand Lotus.
I think even your language - 'swims uphill' - recognises this issue within IBM.
Perhaps this new IBM Marketing VP - Kristen Loria - can persuade IBM UK to actually get behind Lotus. I hope so...
Yeah sorry Bill, I think I was being a bit tired and emotional.
Not at all. Perhaps more 'defensive' than usual, unsurprising given the tone of my rant.
Whereas 'Tired and Emotional' described most of UKLugs state last Friday night.. ;-)
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