Things I learned at the DNUG conference in Berlin

by Volker Weber

Chris Crummey on Project Vulcan
Chris Crummey presenting Project Vulcan (Photo: Volker Weber)

Stuart noticed a quiet period at the beginning of this week. No posts from vowe, anywhere. Thanks for caring. :-) Well, I was taking a few days off and then headed to Berlin to stay with friends I had not seen in a year and was missing very badly. And then attended DNUG in Berlin-Dahlem, also meeting quite a few people I had not seen in a while.

The conference was very, very well organized and set in a nice new Seminaris hotel. Dr. Boldt and team have done a great job, as always. Lotus was there in full force, all the way up to the General Manager Alistair Rennie. I enjoyed a long conversation with him, set up by the German PR team. Thank you for this. I could have this conversation once a week, and still learn something from Alistair. While I have had great respect for all of Lotus' GMs, and yes, that includes Al Zollar, I feel very connected to Alistair.

I also enjoyed spending some time with Ed. While we don't always agree, we can talk to each other very candidly and there is way more common ground than dispute. And no, I don't care whether I make his blog roll.

Lotus management is very confident they are well prepared for the battles of the future. They all expressed confidence they are ahead of the social computing tsunami. Connections is well received and they are having interesting discussions beyond the 'mail and document' thinking that dominates the Notes vs Exchange/Sharepoint fight.

And yet, there are troubling signs:

Lotus says that attendance at industry conferences is down across the board. Yet, conferences from Google and Microsoft have sold out quickly, so I am accepting this argument only partially. The interesting thing is that by making Notes cheaper to run (lowering TCO), the number of people, who can find work in this space, has dramatically decreased. And if there are fewer people working on the product, there are fewer people to speak out for it. For some large customers there used to be a dozen people to run it, but in many cases there is now only one or two persons keeping the lights on, and nobody cares to build out the architecture with more applications and new features.

I am finding there are quite a few people looking for work in the Notes space. When they lost their jobs, they try to go freelance, but the demand is low, and some are not made to go it alone. Not a problem for the flexible, strong people, but certainly so for the average. The drive to the cloud will only accelerate this trend. You definitely need fewer people to run the shop. That's one of the driving forces.

While I want to believe Lotus management that they are well equipped to compete in the global market, I would not want to accept the same for the German market. But that's just me.


I've been thinking of asking this for a while and never had the right forum, it is somewhat related to your points.

IBM are making good efforts to make Notes available on a small scale with free deigner and now EC2.

Why not create a server with up to 10 concurrent users ( not 10 users in the NAB ) and make it FREE and unsupported.

Any company that has more than 10 users and is impressed can afford to buy it. With any company with less than 10 users the transaction costs reduce the benefit to IBM in any case ( remember there is no support ).

Watching the recent screencast on domino on EC2 it very much had the feeling of being pitched at "net new" seats. The initiative described here would absolutely help with that.

I also think the ability to run on Linux and on 32 bit machines would appeal to these small net new potential customers.

It seems to make sense to me. It also plays well with ISVs using Xpages because they can sell apps on the basis. The more successful the app ( or the more apps deployed ) the sooner the threshold gets crossed and IUBM gets re-imbursed.

I really would like to see IBM make this brave step. If it were really successful it could end up as a ground swell in uptake.

RIM did this with BES - does anyone know if that was successful

Sean Cull, 2010-06-11

Sean, RIM is giving away BES (for Exchange). They make money on other things than software.

Volker Weber, 2010-06-11

I would confirm what you are saying about Partner IBM...

Many partners are fleeing in search of new alternatives where there is definitely more business.
Until that IBM will not make a serious marketing on the world Lotus will continue to lose customers.

For example we love IBM/Lotus product ( expecially Notes/Domino) and develop applications with this technology (xpages, dojo etc.etc..).... but we see the big companies are abandoning Lotus (this is frustrating) to products such example Microsoft SharePoint often ( arghhh)

The absurd is that is not a technology problem (lotus is fantastic as a platform), but what IBM wrong is knowing how to sell and know how to do local marketing (here we see slogans taken from the U.S. and translated into Italian. This is wrong! every country have has own culture and tradition. marketing must be done locally ).

P.S. We, too, reluctantly we are looking elsewhere to see where there is more business

Daniele Grillo, 2010-06-11

What is needed is customer oriented marketing. BPs love the product, but its the customers that need to get acqainted with it

Lars Berntrop-Bos, 2010-06-11

Lars, Lotus is spending more on marketing than in the past ten years (and in the years to come). They believe it's working.

Volker Weber, 2010-06-11

IBM made more than 100 billion dollar revenues in 2009 and earned 17 billion operating income. They have about 400.000 employees so to sum it up they seem to be a very successful company. So is really IBM wrong or is it us that we assume IBM to do things they never promised (and from their position is not needed either)?
I assume Lotus Notes/Domino is a highly profitable business for IBM. And it is without customer oriented or local marketing or giving something away for free.
IBM does not need to to do this to stay in business. Their sale of Lenovo has proven that IBM can give away core parts of its business and make even more money after doing so.
Of course this can be bad for the Notes and Domino business but I don't think that IBM currently worries much about it.
So as week-end is coming I am now going to think about how the fat Eclipse client has lowered my TCO but maybe the answer is that it is just not getting deployed or I am doing something wrong.
Thank you for writing your impressions and very happy to hear that the DNUG itself did a splendid job in Berlin.

Henning Heinz, 2010-06-11

I'll say it again. It's about customer confidence. Microsoft has been very good at wearing that down and bringing out strategic products. While IBM brings out Domino, but with no applications - just the same old redo. In Houston for example at all the conference and at CIO meetings MS is ALWAYS there even when the subject has nothing to do with them, IBM is NEVER there. So, who ya going to trust? It's the one you know and knows you. IBM does not get that it's about the RELATIONSHIP not the software! I keep bringing this up, I use the example of my Uncle a hardware and software sales guy always said he can outsell any 100 IBM sales reps because they do it from behind a desk instead of behind the customer at the customer site (ever try to get IBM tech to show up OMG), and at as many events you can show up for.

IBM needs to be "behind the customer", not "behind the desk"!!!!!!

John Turnbow, 2010-06-11

Henning is spot on. Software is big business for IBM. They get to choose which segments to target and how to market their product. Its the people stupid enough to base their entire careers or business around a single product/vendor that have fucked up.

Jeff Gilfelt, 2010-06-11

"Lotus says that attendance at industry conferences is down across the board."

Foxconn management says the suicide rate of their employees is lower than the Chinese national average, too. In both cases it's a red herring meant to misdirect.

I'm not sure what IBM is competing with in this space, to be honest. I don't get Connections at all, I don't get Foundations, and I don't get Sharepoint. I have piloted all three with end users and the response was lackluster to say the least.

Maybe it's a good thing I'm going to culinary school. :-)

Charles Robinson, 2010-06-11

It's the continual problem of Lotus Marketing. As Lotus continues to spread itself over too many areas, they spend on development/R&D and misdirect their marketing message.

Customers: Am I to move to the cloud? Am I to wait it out for Vulcan? I thought I was moving to DB2? What about all these client apps that have served me well for so many years and continue to be so easily deployed and managed...I guess this is telling me those need replaced?

It's all about perception, and Lotus has been losing that battle. The MS voice is simply louder, and Google is sexier. As far as the product, LN Client/Xpages/Sametime is an incredibly difficult suite to beat technically and administratively, but that's not the issue. The issue is the same as it's always been..Lotus Marketing is an ever-morphing mess of mixed messages and bastardized 'applications' based on solid Lotus Notes technology.

Mike McPoyle, 2010-06-11

To be fair, and it was pointed out above, with fewer people in IT, THE person can't take a day off to go to the DNUG or a LUG event, let alone days.

At our recent LCTY a few customers said, honestly, they can't come because there is NO ONE ELSE in the office to handle anything. And this was a fairly large business.

Yes, I mentioned to him we could have him covered, but the point was well taken.

On the flip side we are seeing more hiring, of junior admins to offset the 1 man standing.

As an IBM BP, I and others have a catalog to offer customers, focusing solely on Lotus(or getting bothered by your IBM rep about not selling enough) is not a good business strategy. If you focused on Saturn cars or Hummer where would you be now?

Have an open mind, look at the portfolio and your clients.

IBM tech people do exist and will help you, onsite even, but you need to help them(their boss/sales team needs to be your 1st point of entry) to continue to get help from them.

This works for us and IBM. But IBM will never bring you leads or new business, they do rely on us to do that. Once you prove yourself, and meet all the new requirements, you may find it easier to work with them in the future.

It also helps to find out what their goals and targets are and try to help them with theirs, to help you meet yours.

Lotus is about sharing and if you aren't feeling the love, you may not be giving it properly in return.

Keith Brooks, 2010-06-11

Lotus is about sharing and if you aren't feeling the love, you may not be giving it properly in return.

From software to cultware to nowhere.

I am afraid this sentence unintentionally illustrates the major cause for the problems with Lotus.

Lucius Bobikiewicz, 2010-06-11

Getting back to Volker's point about staying with the customer instead of staying with the supplier....(well put BTW!).

I hear more and more talk about loyalty coming from IBM and their closest partners. This is baffling to me.

Fleeing, switching, moving.....these words are so inappropriate when talking about professionals who are trying to make a living providing services.

Let's not get confused. I'm sure that professionals who have deep experience and knowledge and history with Lotus products would love to make a living using that experience and knowledge. But if they can't they have to find another source of income. There is no luxury of choice here.

Brian Benz, 2010-06-12

Another problem is the approach of the IBM Business Partners. In Africa most of the BP's are 'fringe' players - i.e only do the Messaging/Collaboration part for the client and nothing else and therefore do not have the required level of influence with client organisations. At the end of the day, the service provider who is providing more critical systems support (ERP, Core Active Directory/Networking) has more mindshare with the client and these providers end up influencing the client away from IBM software to competitor platforms.

Ed Mpoed, 2010-06-14

So now it's the customers and the partners running away.
Well, well. So again, Lotus and Notes and this time everything else in Lotus is dead. Ok, let's recapture that - I keep hearing this from the same people in this industry since I started developing notes apps back in 1995. Every damn year. Every damn week almost. I'm fed up with this whining bullshit.
Me and my company are still doing most of our business somwhere around the yellow bubble. The reason why I did not visit DNUG this year ? Guess what - I was too busy building XPages apps that link Notes and Domino into my customers core processes for the next years. Traveler is working well for me, so does Sametime, at least from a sales and services perspective. So, in my little world, things look different. I see more customers asking for new apps and technologies this year - far more than in the last three years together. I see a significant move from a lot of existing and new customers to use Notes/Domino/Xpages as a strategic technology stack for the next years to come. And they are willing to point that out explicitly.That's something I was missing for years. Are these customers cloud-crazy ? Throwing out everything they have, panicing around helplessly because the cloud does it all ? No one I know of. Interesting, yes. Worth a try a bit later, for sure. Something to keep in mind. But that's it. Events are declining ? Our LCTY had 120 customer participants - almost 30% plus year over year. I heard that other LCTYs were sold out as well. So maybe the things and ways customers want to see are changing... .

Heiko Voigt, 2010-06-14

Heiko, you may want to argue with jonvon.

Volker Weber, 2010-06-14

Volker - I never in my business life really relied on IBM to market or sell or do anything to make my business go. I have to do that on my own and I will have to do it until I'm able to retire. It's working for me - not necessarily for everybody else. I don't know jonvon and I'm sorry that someone obviously passioned turns away from the yellow bubble, and I can agree to his personal decision. You have to make a living - and sometimes you have to move on.

Nevertheless, I know a lot of other guys that now jumped on that bandwaggon - they have way more better channels to complain inside IBM than I will ever have. Why IBM isn't hearing them ? Maybe because they keep whining and moaning for decades now. And still rely on IBM to pull them through ... . That's all I'm saying, I'm not argueing with jonvon as stated above but with the usual "Nay-Sayers" inside the yellow bubble.

DNUG is a different story in my opinion. It's easy to mix that into a currently heavily discussed "trend" (which I don't see here currently) away from Notes/Domino, but that would be too easy in case of DNUG from my perspective.

Heiko Voigt, 2010-06-15

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