A short history of a failure. The Lotus Foundations Story!

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.

8 Gedanken zu „A short history of a failure. The Lotus Foundations Story!“

  1. Well it is not only that IBM does not really realize how much they are damaging their customerbase and their businesspartner base. It is that they simply do not care about that.

    Building a business on top of a product that IBM makes is like trying to juggle with 5 balls while standing on a rock that is located on top of a real high cliff in an insecure balance with suddenly rising winds coming from different directions.
    And the sharks are waiting down in the water for you to fall.

  2. So the everything is fine, just transition post on edbrill.com did not work for you?
    I ask because the statements vary from „Foundations is dead“ to „no announcement has been made“ and „Foundations is alive and kicking“.

  3. @Henning Heinz
    I am sorry, you couldn’t know this. This week one of the italian Foundations partners asked his rep about LF and the statement was pretty clear and that confirms everything I have heard until now from inside and outside IBM.
    Lotus Foundations has no roadmap and no future. It is dead. Sorry.

  4. It was made pretty clear to the LF BPs that we would be the ones championing LF. No air cover form IBM.
    And for an SMB play, none was truly expected either.
    Big companies try many product lines till they find the right one that sells.
    Customers and BPs can only provide feedback.
    It’s the life of business, look at cars, candy, restaurants, ice cream flavors, menu items or models sometimes barely survive a season or a month.

  5. Keith not that I disagree with you but your comment reads a but like it is Business Partners fault because they believed the marketing gibberish from IBM.
    True, I never take IBM serious in SMB but for sure they did not say things like „No air cover from IBM“ or „no SMB play“. Maybe you heard something different but the words I heard were never that honest.
    And those who think that Foundations is lost but Notes and Domino are a safe harbor. I would not bet my money on it. Things change fast in IBM land.

  6. I speak with the Foundations team frequently and have a close relationship and I even have them review their part of my Linux presentations. They are quite certain that Foundations is alive and well, just changing LOBs. The rationale is due to some customers being confused that Lotus is a software company and is now selling hardware. So, they moved it to the Smart Business area under IBM which is know for hardware. You can decide if that report is credible.

    Ed Brill did state with that IBM did botch (being kind and lacking is precise term), the announcement and channel communication. I agree with that. But Lotus and Linux initiatives remain a strong focus within IBM, so that this time, I am will to believe that LFS is alive, well, and has a future. Whether I am correct, or things change within IBM is TBD.

    Outside of the US, the relationship here is quite disturbing to read and empathetic to your plight. No fun…and I state this having been burned for thousands as an early Net Integration partner before the M&A by IBM. It appears that the intra-team communication and outreach is non-existent.

    If IBM wants to work the market, then they have to at least provide a consistent message within their product teams. Otherwise, there will be no shortage of bad press on social networks, increasing partner frustration and decreases in revenue as a result. You can’t grow successfully by burning bridges along the way–seen too many IT companies attempt this feat only to be reminded painfully later, then die or get broken into pieces and sold to the highest bidder (I do not think IBM is headed there…)

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