This is the story, how I witnessed the rise and fall of Lotus Foundations.
3 Years ago, I heard the first time about Nitix Blue. I looked at it and liked it. No OS administration and a network server that suited perfectly my needs.
I started to look at my home market. More than 300’000 companies.
About 260’000 micro companies and roughly 40’000 small and medium companies.
About 70% of the employees use PC/Mac.
More than 30’000 start ups every year.
Nice! (And just to bust the „the US has more bigger companies“ myth, Switzerland has more Fortune 500 companies per capita then the US.)
I wrote a business plan. I presented my business plan to the-would-be-sole-distributor for the then announced Lotus Foundations and somebody from IBM.
They thought it was one hell of a good idea and presented me to some strange guy (Hi Serge), who had ideas in the same direction. That was the start of a new friendship and Informica.
Of we went.
What happened at IBM when we contacted them?
IBM came up with … nothing. Somehow they were never able to explain a marketing strategy. I think they never even had a concept. I met a few global and worldwide (what the heck is the difference?) sales, but nothing ever happened. I mean we showed our marketing plan and tried to explain what had to be done. We as BPs can not build the awareness. We tried to tell them, that cheap email and web marketing would not work. You have to talk to people. Face to Face. Get out. Spread the word. Contact start-ups. Get involved with associations. They did not even join an organisation for SMB and start-ups, where Switzerland’s biggest telecom company, the second biggest bank and one of the biggest assurance companies joined forces and Microsoft wasn’t there… yet. I had half a dozen meetings with different local and international people and the only result was. „Yes, we should look into things … we should … we should …“ and … you expected this … nothing. We don’t live on the same planet.
Then IBM announced that hundreds of MS partners joined as Foundations partners. Unfortunately most of them wanted Outlook as mail client and they were not familiar with Domino. DAMO was dropped two month later. Despite what IBM said, Domino/Notes knowledge was essential to make users happy. The discussions on LinkedIn started with a lot of misunderstanding, what Notes/Domino is. I wished IBM had kept ExchangIt as an option.
At the same time, they started to make the old Nitix partners mad. We couldn’t order through the Nitix/Foundations desk anymore. We had to go through Passport Advantage. This is hell for a product like that.
Then came this TCO tool. I mean it was a nice idea and it showed that LF was far less expensive then SBS, but that was not what anybody needed. I fought about this tool for quite a while with IBM but suddenly there were a few month of deafening silence and then the distributor was kicked out as the IBMs leading project partner. Some key personnel left IBM. We decided to write a letter and got attention. Unfortunately that new team wasn’t able to make the turn around. We had that deafening silence in September 2010 again. And now it is over and this is exactly at the moment when our new strategy kicks in and SMBs in Switzerland start talking about us.
Until today we had to rewrite several times our strategy. We had to do all the marketing ourselves. Nobody in IBM Switzerland was allowed to touch LF (Some did it anyway and I have to thank them. You know who I mean. A special thanks goes to Stephanie).
What killed LF?
Marketing was non existent. In IBM, those products who make the most money, get the most marketing funding, at least, that’s what I was told. I ask you IBM, how do you ever want to launch successfully a product with that kind of thinking? Egg – chicken / chicken – egg?
Technical training was nice but not sufficient at all. We never got enough technical information’s to really take advantage of the NVS. Somehow my requests for more information’s and training got lost in the mail or something like that.
DAMO was one of the biggest advantages that platform had. That IBM dropped it, wasn’t the foundations teams fault, but really bad for business.
Constantly changing the strategy isn’t a good thing.
Constantly changing key personal isn’t a good thing either (they call it blue washing).
Making an existent customer and partner base mad is plain stupid.
Bad communication with partners (or is there another name for this kind of lower life form) isn’t very clever either.
I really wonder, if IBM realizes how much damage they have done to quite a few businesses? Probably not.
This weekend, we had the party of my daughters sports club. It was pretty big and it had, kind of tradition in Switzerland, a tombola. As it is for a good cause, everybody is buying those little paper rolls with sometimes a number, but most of the time „Danke/Merci“. Me too. I shouldn’t. Why? My wife’s family was there, too. I don’t know why this always happens, but they win all the time. My mother in law got half a pig once, wheels of cheese and vacuum cleaners and other stuff, and she only plays, because she has to (good cause…). My brother in law got a few thousand bucks holiday voucher lately and so on. Me? Never anything useful. This weekend I tried to be clever. I bought an envelope with 10 „Lösli“ (Swiss German) with one win guaranteed. My brother in law took 10. He got 3 out of 10, me 1. I couldn’t believe it, I bought another 10, which I picked one after the other, being in trance, letting fortune guide my hand … nothing … nix … nada. Not even a paper clip.
He bought another 3 and got another win.
In the end there was a bottle of wine, a game kit with cards and dices, flowers and a bread.
Now you want to know what I got. Soap! An old odd smelling handcrafted olive oil soap with some strange grey stuff on the bottom.
That’s not fair. It will take years until I recover from that.
Doctor: I am sorry, but your friend will not survive the next few days.
Friends: Oh my god, why? What happened? He always looked healthy. Two years ago he got a new job and was really happy. What went wrong? Can’t you do anything? We are his friends and we really need him. It is hard to believe, that everything is over.
Doctor: Oh, have faith. He will not disappear completely. His internal organs are in perfect health and we have lot of people waiting for his heart, his lung, liver, kidneys and we probably even can give somebody his hands and legs. Isn’t that nice. Your friend will continue to live.
Friends: I am sorry, but that is not the same thing. What about his character, his soul, the love he gave us. You can only have that in the original body.
Doctor: Yes maybe, but imagine how many people he will make happy. You must see it more like a transition. His soul will go to a better world.
Friends: But we will not have our friend anymore. And if all his organs are still OK, what is he dying of?
Doctor: His health insurance is running out.
Dead or not?
The writing was on the wall and now its official. Lotus Foundations is dead. I don’t think that there will be any migration path to anything else.
What annoys me most, is the fact, that IBM again bought a perfectly good product and killed it. Two years. Twice they changed directions in marketing and distribution. Every time we had to change our strategy, too. We did it, because we believed in the product and IBM.
Dear IBM, you made us loose money. It wasn’t the product, that was perfectly good. It was your incompetence in bringing it to the market. We even gave you money for co- marketing, which was completely useless, because you don’t know how to approach SMBs.
You didn’t even had the guts to schedule a partner call, to give us the bad news.
You want us as Business PARTNERS. A partnership builds on mutual respect.
You know, that I was one of the most active supporters of Lotus Foundations. I always defended you. You just have to read my contributions in LinkedIn.
I am sad. I feel betrayed.
I am not mad at the Lotus Foundations Team. I had the honor to meet and talk to quite a few of you. It was always a pleasure to work with all of you.
PS: If anybody comes up with „that is only about Passport Advantage“, forget it. Outside North America there is no other distribution channel. For us, that is the end, except IBM comes up with something else.
Today was an event, I was looking forward to. SNOUG-SR (Swiss Notes User Group Swiss Romand) had it’s second reunion in 2010 today. Guess what, it was great. Why?
The location: We where all invited to Camille Bloch. One of the most famous chocolate makers in Switzerland. Ragusa, Torino are their its main brands. It is a small company with 100 to 200 employees – depending on the season.
In the begining, Michael Snijders, head of IT, introduced us to the history of Camille Bloch. Apart from the fact, that Monsieur Camille Bloch set up this company in the Bernese Jura, where most of you wouldn’t want to be buried, they have quite an interesting IT history. They bought their first IBM system 1948. This is not a typo. They have been IBM customers for 62 years. I don’t think that there many companies, that have an „IT“ history that long and we are talking about an SMB. Today they are using Notes, Traveler, Sametime and Quickr. If possible always the latest release. They are looking into Alloy and UC.
Their Domino servers run on Ubuntu. I asked Christophe Boss, the main Domino admin (I wonder what nick name he has in the company), why they use an unsupported plattform. His answer:“ I am the support!“ For Camille Bloch, Ubuntu is the most cost effective solution. It looks like it runs great. Boss talked about a few issues in the beginning, but he solved them all. (yes, I will pester him, until he gives me the documentation). Now they are thinking about moving Traveller and Quickr to Linux, too.
After the introduction Snijders showed us a Box. An original Notes 3 box with the floppy disks still in their little sealed plastic sachet (If you don’t know what floppies are, ask your grannie).
After the intro, we had a very interesting speach about the Notes NRPC Parser by Andrew Magermann.
And then came the part, everybody came for, a tour of the company with „degustation“ in the end.
After the Lunch we had for 12 bucks at Camille Bloch, we talked about other interesting stuff. Teamstudio showed of some of their products and IBM SR had some very interesting news about the IBM/Lotus road map. They showed the latest screenshots of project Vulcan and if that is the future of Notes, I feel a bit better. It is cool. I mean not just cool. Cool cool. And if until then, that dreadful campaign „Lotus weiss“ is over and forgotten, Lotus actually has a chance to be on the map again (in case of getting a marketing campaing going that deserves that name).
„THE BOSS“ showed us the Snapps QuickR app for his iPad. Now I need an iPad … oh, and QuickR, too.
The Snoug Team: The SNOUG SR reunions are always free. Everybody just does it for the fun of it. During lunch we found out, that this was anyway the most cost effective way to do it.
I have to thank the SNOUG team for the wonderful idea to go to Courtelary and when I drove back and I could see the tipps of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in the light of the sinking sun. Just a great day.
I am really sad about it. I liked these boxes.
October 26, 2010
Effective October 31, 2010, IBM will withdraw from marketing the following IBM System x products. After this date you can no longer obtain these products directly from IBM.
You can obtain these products on an as-available basis through IBM Business Partners, resellers, or distributors.
There may be a lot of good reasons, why IBM will not bring a replacement. But I get the impression, that IBM looses another opportunity to gain market share in the SMB market (I mean SMB by internationally accepted standards, not IBM standards).