Domino consulting drying up?

by Volker Weber

Carl is asking a very good question:

I keep hearing of people leaving their Domino consulting companies to go back to full time work somewhere. Is this because there is a reduction in Domino consulting? Maybe a side effect of the confusion IBM created by bringing a product to market way before it was ready and before their whole strategy was worked out?

I know I will be getting a lot of heat for this, but I would simply say "yes". At least for our domestic market.

IBM has scared customers by making too much noise about unproven technology. And though they are now trying to paint Notes as a part of Workplace, it may be too late. I know that IBM can come up with numbers of how successful they are doing but I am unfazed. BPs I talk to are not seeing interest in Workplace in the SMB space. The enterprise sources I have do not paint a different picture. Smaller ISVs are asking whether it makes sense to release a WP product as there is no customer demand.


I've been a long-term user of Domino and Notes, and can only confirm that from an end user perspective, Domino seems destined to die and thus not worth wasting any further money on.

Congrats, IBM, for fucking up a great product with a stupid marketing strategy. Re-used some OS/2 experience, probably ...

Stefan Tilkov, 2005-05-06

Yup, dead as a dodo.

Which is a shame.

Ben Poole, 2005-05-06

Sorry, but I disagree completely. First, I know that some of the Domino developers you have been hearing about are taking jobs with IBM. With IBM! Why? Because they feel that the new technology is very cool and want to work with it, and have decided it is worth working for IBM to be part of it. Sure, the consulting market in general is weak in all sectors, due to the pressures of off shoring and such, but Rocky, as one example, has been bowled over with so much work he has been sending it to others. He is going to IBM to learn new skills within the Workplace area, including Notes/Domino, and they want him there BECAUSE he has strong Notes/Domino skills (and because he is a really good developer and zealot).

As for IBM touting unproven technology, it is true, and it has been ricky, but take a look at my blog from today where I coincidentally talk about IBM and this approach. They have made mistakes, but they are also working to be where the customer will need to be, not just resting on laurels.

All of this aside, the Notes/Domino market has been heating up for almost eighteen months in my view. I have customers starting new projects, customers buying products, customers moving back to Notes/Domino after moving to Exchange because they realize all the good stuff is going on back here. Sheesh! This is hardly the time for doom and gloom. This is the time to get out there and grab some of the business to be had.

Ben Langhinrichs, 2005-05-06

Rocky and the other guy were recruited by IBM. I think that's recognition that the skills they learned in the independent market are valued by a company as big as IBM.

As for Stefan's colourful language, need I point out that Notes/Domino business grew for IBM in the last two quarters (as reported in IBM earnings), and that was license sales as well as subscription? The comparison to OS/2, as fun as it is for people to drag up, hardly works. OS/2 was never a market leader, while Notes/Domino still is. And with a "7" release coming this year, there will be plenty of new opportunity.

The small consultancies I work with every day have plenty of work. They are building their businesses, not just in Workplace or Portal, but Notes/Domino products as well. Maybe it's just a little bit of market correction as the market becomes mature -- survival of the fittest, rather than any hand on deck.

Ed Brill, 2005-05-07

I still maintain it’s dead here in Europe, sorry. Wish it were otherwise. But I’m glad things are on the up Stateside.

Ben Poole, 2005-05-07

I think that Workplace is a really good idea wrapped around a currently not-ready-for-market product. At least in the Services Express realm. My own excrutiating experience with that is detailed here.

I think there is a definite need for good document management in a portal environment to EXTEND Domino, but by the time they get it right, I hope it's not too late. [sigh]


P.S. For what it's worth, I think the Domino job market is going okay. I'm seeing a lot more postings for jobs these days than last year when I was unemployed. This isn't the consulting space however, so results may be different there, I dunno.

John Roling, 2005-05-07

In response to Ed, I am seeing this with more than just Rocky and the "other guy".

I have also seen a number of consultants head to MS.

As I said I don't do Domino stuff (although I very easily could) so I am wondering why so many are taking full time jobs.

carl Tyler, 2005-05-07

I started a comment here, but it got too long so I posted it here: Things do seem to be better in the last year or so, but it's all relative. If you're just noticing now that things are not as good as they were, consider yourself lucky - you've already slept through the worst part, a year or two ago.

Brian Benz, 2005-05-07

We see a lot of confusion here with existing Domino customers who now slowly reassess and extend their applications. We see very little new Domino customers and Domino never got hold in the SMB area (probably due to a lack of SMB focusing Business Partners).
Microsoft and OpenSource companies try hard to dent into Dominos market here. Luckily they are as efficient as IBM in the local marketing.
My 2c
:-) stw

Stephan H. Wissel, 2005-05-07

I agree with the confusions IBM was and is still creating. As strange as it sounds, but I have not yet found an IBM employee, who could explain which Workplace product(s) would be needed for a typical SMB customer who would want to fully replace Domino sometimes. For me, it looks as if the Workplace products today are more for the high end (1000+) customers.

If you look at Domino, you get a single, complete, working product (mail, calendar, workflow, documents, web-server, pop3, ldap, etc) which runs (for smaller groups) even in the 512MB to 1024MB RAM range.

Desipte these objections, I am still interested in learning Workplace (and the easiest way to install it ...) as its techology sounds very promising.

Andy Brunner, 2005-05-07

It´s not the products, Domino is good enough to do the job and Workplace will have a market share in future. My opinion is you don´t need to much consultants to talk about projects but people who do the job. Setting up Domino is easy, make it rock a hard one...

Companies don´t spend money on getting Domino or Workplace but want an environment that works for their needs. A lot of projects i have seen in the last year do not target this but most important try to use "modern technologies". Hey guys, it´s not your apps, it´s your clients. A long time ago a friend of mine told me to keep one sentence in mind as long as i do business:

"Your pleasure´s my business..."

It´s not time for Workplace, it´s time for Domino.

Hubertus Amann, 2005-05-07

Domino related jobs have dried up quite a bit, here in Europe.

After 10 years of Domino consulting, I have now taken a "steady" job as a J2EE (WebSphere) developer. Hopefully, Domino will come back into the fold, as part of a larger framework.

Vilhjálmur Helgason, 2005-05-07

Well, I've gotta agree with Carl, et al. After 10 years in the Domino business, I'm seeing rates at an all time low, and whilst I'm seeing a lot of jobs out there, they're quite low-grade.

Which is a shame.

I spent several months last year retraining myself on Portal, and found little traction with customers out there. I'm wondering whether to perform the same exercise for Workplace. The one large EMEA account that I know have already *purchased* workplace have no intention of using it this year.

So. Bit of a crossroads for me. Its not as doom+gloom as 2001 certainly was, but I'm finding it more and more difficult walking past the Oracle section of the bookstore these days.

What would actually increase confidence and/or spending ? Well, I've said this before but hey - why not repeat myself. Specific targeted Domino marketing, where those snazzy IBM ads' actually mention the product name would be a very good start. Or killing off those IBM sales guys who say that Websphere/Portal/Workplace is the Domino killer, and there's no point in upgrading. (I came across another one of these this week).

There's lots more I could say at this juncture, but I wont on a public forum. I'm certainly "loosing my religion".

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2005-05-07

Not long ago I read everywhere that the message is clear, that Domino has a bright future and that IBM is right on target with Workplace (acknowledged that Volker has always been a little more sceptical in this case). And now everything is wrong again?
And how can a product that gets so much criticism on one side be a "Domino killer" on the other?
Not that I am happy with what IBM currently does but have they promised something else than they are executing now?
For the Oracle book I hope at least that it is not about Oracle Collaboration (although maybe it rocks elsewhere).

Henning Heinz, 2005-05-07

The message is clear. The issues are (a) whether IBM’s improved message is a case of “too little, too late” and (b) that Domino seems to have been left languishing in certain sectors due to the aforementioned uncertainty of years past.

As for Workplace, I like it. But IBM are really going to have to pull the stops out development-wise to make this thing stick. Why?2.5 is the only version so far that is seriously worth looking at. And it’s not here yet.It’s still unclear as to exactly where the market for Workplace lies. Workers in warehouses? Please.Uh, the discussion forums in Workplace need a lot of additional functionality to actually be remotely useful ;o)All that said, the rich client rocks.

Ben Poole, 2005-05-07

As it stands my Domino consultancy work is full for the time being in the UK - getting new work all the time. I can't cope with it all!

Steve Castledine, 2005-05-08

There's no question that some people have been and still are able to be highly successful in the Lotus Notes and Domino related services business. Even in a slow market, there can and will still be winners. Very simply, the demand for some individuals' and some companies' services is partially disconnected from the overall market demand for the class of services in general. Those are the winners. The demand for their services is substantially supported by perceived value that they add to the market themselves, and this for them offsets the weakness in demand for Lotus-related services.

The fact that a few can still have more work coming in than they can handle, therefore, is not proof that the market is healthy. It's certainly not proof that it is as healthy as it once was -- which is the actual question here. There's really no question that the larger picture is that market is not what it once was. The proof of this is simple: there are many who used to have as much or more Lotus-related services work at premium rates than they wanted or could handle for whom this is no longer the case, and the number of new service providers coming into the market is minimal. Quite a few have dropped out of the market entirely. Some others have stubbornly kept at it, but at greatly reduced rates and/or greatly reduced utilization.


Richard Schwartz, 2005-05-09

As it stands my Domino consultancy work is full for the time being in the UK - getting new work all the time. I can't cope with it all!See, I told you it was quiet in the UK: Steve’s doing it all! ;o)

Ben Poole, 2005-05-09

I can not see any german business partners leaving comments here :-) Its not easy to discuss this in public obviously.
From my perspective, the german market for domino consulting has reached an all time low.
I can see a few points over here:
- german companies are still waiting. I know many big companies who definetly stopped investing in Domino. They do not drop Domino, they still think it is a great platform, but they are not sure about the future
- Investments go into Domino infrastructure. Consolidation and TCO management are the key factors.
- The market for application building, especially the so called business suites (CRM,OFA,..), is dead
On the other hand, companies look at Workplace, and with 2.5 they are ready to start first pilots. But: There is no market for large rollouts (except the big IBM shops that are supported through IBM and therefor get the Workplace support for free), and there is no market for applications in the Workplace environment. Perhaps we will see some larger projects in 2006.

So if you look behind the scenes, its the survival of the fittest. The old Domino bps have cut down jobs dramatically or left the market completly in the last two years. There are some new ones who start with good ideas, but earn money with business around Domino (mobility, enterprise integration, portal integration - and some earn money with zipping zipping zipping ;-).
And there are many Domino customers who hired the former self employed consultants for low money and integrated them for maintaining thier domino infrastructure and applications = no business for bps.

There are times I feel like we are riding a dead horse in the Domino market. The Workplace thing is now gaining some momentum. But we will not see positive effects for our consulting business in 2005. We all invest in that future. And we hope it will pay off.

Alexander Kluge, 2005-05-09

I guess I should correct my entry, as thinking about it 50% of my work is from outside the UK.

Steve Castledine, 2005-05-09

except the big IBM shops that are supported through IBM and therefor get the Workplace support for freeWere that actually the case!

It’ll be interesting to see how the momentum builds — or not — behind Workplace. I know of just one big outfit who have actually got Workplace for “free”, and that’s unusual.

Given that there is an extensive hardware and possible app. dev. cost for oragnisations trying out WP, I’m surprised that IBM aren’t helping early adopters out more, just to get the system bedded down.

Ben Poole, 2005-05-09

Ben, there are a number of companies in just that situation. The business transformation team that Rocky Oliver is joining is chartered with exactly what you describe. They're very busy. There's also a team chartered to work exclusively with partners/ISVs on ramping up Workplace. The investment is there.

Ed Brill, 2005-05-09

Excellent :o) Do they do territories outside the US?

Ben Poole, 2005-05-09

@Ben, yes, they are international in scope. I'm not the best to speak to how they engage, but I do know they are working -somewhere- within your current employer ;)

Ed Brill, 2005-05-09

Rather than respond everywhere with my thoughts on this, I blogged about it. You can read it here:

Once more, with feeling...


Rocky Oliver, 2005-05-09

As a german business partner i know business is going up - at least for us. Even license business - just did a couple new deals. From my point of view there are some issues with consultants as "one man shows" or specialized consultants:

- You have to be able to offer the whole range of products and services. Domino, Sametime, Quickplace, LEI, Java, Portal...).
- You have to be able not only to draw the plan but do it.
- Clients wanna see working infrastructure and apps, not just an idea
- BTW: are you available for Sametime-chats for your clients - besides Carl Tyler :-))
- You have to invest in your own qualification on and on and on...
- Clients expect an entire team for backup
- Clients want more than just Domino work - we started to offer agency work (we get german content and organize translation services and bring that content back in, check and publish it)
- "one man shows" have no chance to get jobs from bigger companies

And one last comment - we will talk with our clients about Workplace probably next year. We right now offer technology that is approved and works - Domino. We never lost a client, we get them to sign contracts with maintenance for 4 years!!!

Hubertus Amann, 2005-05-09

Well, Notes/Domino have been announced as dead several times.

In fact our business in Notes/Domino is booming, right now (and in Germany). Yes, we are doing a lot of clean up of messy things left by some dot com hype consultants, but we are also doing new projects.

I totally agree with Rocky's comments.

We are also doing business with Microsoft software, e.g. Sharepoint. Which gets a lot of customer interest, but only few real projects. This seems to be no real alternative (unless you already have MS Exchange als mail system).

The question is: What can you expect in a market, where everybody already has got a messaging infrastructure? You can't expect a lot of companies buying a new one and rolling it out. If you are specialized in planning and rolling out a brand new infrastructure, you're doomed.
Most of the customers had time to build up and train their own staff, so there is little market for body leasing of administrators as in the "good (??) old times". Therefore the rates (for this kind of things) have reached an alltime low, admitted.

But if you do infrastructural optimizations and application development as experienced consultants the market is still stable and - at least for us - improving.

You still have to explain to the customers all the time, that Domino is about collaboration, not only messaging. In most of our lead situations we are confronted with "Shouldn't we do this with SAP? SAP is the leading system..." questions. Or: same with "SAP portal". We are successfull if the customer does a real cost comparision.

Workplace still has to ripen. We will see how the stability, performance etc. is finally when 2.5 hits the market. Maybe it will take some more .x versions until you really can use it.
On the other hand: I don't think that Oracle Collaboration, MS something, OpenSource something etc. are different - either you are talking about a (stable) product in a saturated market, or about something which is still not available.

Workplace will co-exist with Domino a long time. Nobody will have the money to convert all the existing applications into something new (whatever the target platform would be).

Let's wait and see!

Hans-Peter Kuessner, 2005-05-09

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