Is IBM the right vendor for SMB?

It looks like I touched a nerve with Henning Heinz when I said that IBMs products are not suited for SMB anymore:

IBM does not care about 20 people shops. They never did and probably never will. You are just looking at the wrong vendor for this space.
Having said that if you still like the technology you could sell LotusLive. I am not so enthusiastic about IBM’s cloud offerings but others seem to like it and licensing starts at 1 seat (so should work well for 20 people).
And for IBM and marketing. Well they are running record quarter after record quarter. They overcharge customers in such a way that I believe they must have a fantastic sales and marketing teams. IBM is awesome in many areas just not in those you (and maybe me) would like them to shine.

Wellllll … does IBM not care about 20 people shops? It did a year ago (remember, there was a product called basement(?) or foundation(?)). But we should probably talk about the Lotus brand, because IBM at least knows something new they did not wanted to realise for a long time. Most of the workforce is in SMB. Look at that:
Amazing, isn’t it? But let’s not be too enthusiastic. IBM only wants the 250+ companies but they should buy directly from IBM through a completely new web experience. And now something even better. From 300 seats upwards, IBM may want to talk to the customer directly.
Now what about Lotus? Yes, I was frustrated after the OGS 2011. It looked like Alister and the others tried to tell you a story, they don’t really believe or they can’t find the right words. For example Bayers story about how they use their new toys, wasn’t really news. We have heard similar stories since connection came out. It lacks the WOW-factor by now. And one thing came clear. If you want to become a social company, you need to take the whole Lotus stack. Lotus/Domino will remain a mail-server-that-can-do-apps/an application-server-that-can-do-mail (I am not sure what Lotus is selling today, but I think it is mail+). If you want to use Domino at its best, than you have to buy some X-Pages application elsewhere or invest in your development department.
I think I am not alone here. The applause during the OGS was low. The demos where somewhat strange, because I had the impression to see 3 times the same thing from different products. That explains probably, why Lotus is the only brand that does not shine quarterly. Customers just don’t get it anymore. It is too complicated and the concept is too far away from their daily business and pains.
When I wrote a few weeks ago about Lotus Notes/Domino as a cash cow and if IBM should come up with something revolutionary pretty soon, I hoped for  LotuSphere. It did not happen. The new Notes Client looked nice (as far as I could see it because the screen quality was lousy this side of the pond) but not revolutionary. But before I give my final verdict, I wait for the beta. But Henning is probably right. Lotus is not the right vendor for SMB anymore. That hurts.
Now what about the marketing? Oh, Henning, come on, we always brag about it. It is kind of a sport. But seriously, if you work only the Global 1000 companies, marketing is all about networking and personal contacts. They know you and you know them (kind of inbreeding). That has been IBMs traditional approach for 100 years. That even works for the Global 20’000. Why is Ed Brill flying around the world all the time? Because he is Lotus most important marketing tool. I really do not agree with Henning. IBM does not shine in the marketing department, except in keeping the personal networks of the sales people running. But that is something even the tiniest car repair shop masters, if it survives more than a year.

7 Gedanken zu „Is IBM the right vendor for SMB?“

  1. Bayer announced a migration to Microsoft Exchange /Sharepoint /Lync in 2010 right on their website for more than 100.000 seats. That is why they were probably mentioned in the OGS (IBM would call this a win).
    For marketing we don’t have to agree (most people in Lotusland don’t agree with me anyway). But Websphere recently grew 30%. A product where its inventor recently said that he screwed it by making it utterly complex. You know with Notes 8 IBM recycled XPages and other Workplace stuff into Domino from the just died Workplace line. What would have been the plan for Domino if that did not happen!? I don’t know but I do believe that it is a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes.
    IBM does not market the product because they have no intention to do so. This does not mean the product is going away. The morph into IBM’s common software stack is going to continue. If you are an IBM shop this is a good thing. Even if not IBM has a track record for keeping old stuff for a long period of time.
    You may not like it but even Foundations was screwed with its latest releases. They tricked with virtual machines sometimes running windows in the background. Some third party tools were Windows Only. It just was next to impossible to keep this software stack on one machine.

  2. IBM has lost its touch to the SMB market since a long time.

    The „SMB“ companies I am in touch with have between 50 and 1.300 employees. They invest heavily into classic Notes application in the last 10 years to support their internal workflows, collect know-how, build up complex CRM and even ERP (of course only the smaller ones) systems. Some started to use Notes/Domino as their first web CMS system.

    Today, their Notes apps still in use looks mostly the same as years ago, because the progress concerning platform and UI capabilities was – all in all – fairly small. Especially new people joining these companies feel themself set back in ancient history.

    Today, IBM is drawing a (coming up) wonderful colorful world full of web based social business. What is missing is the grounded path from today to tomorrow. IBM’s message today is:

    1. Rip out all those Domino app servers and throw in WebSphere
    2. the Notes client will be dead soon, anyway
    3. start using XPages to migrate your existing apps to the web (by yourself)

    That implicates:

    1. Heavily invest n new infrastructure (especially in human ressources)
    2. Stop to invest any money in classical Notes development – now!
    3. Don’t be frightend to:
    a) invest in a technology which is still not adopted by most of IBM’s own business partners
    b) use a young development platform which just party it’s first book on Amazon
    c) use development tools which were ripped out of their own developer process (and still not ready for production in many areas)

    Some of the „SMB“ companies may even accept these obstacles. My apprehension is, that most of them will look at another strategic platform for the next 10 years.


  3. Phone stuff and this was IBM’s suggestion if you want to use BES (which now is free for the Express version but still Windows only). Also Sametime and QuickR do not work together on the same box. Good luck with the Sametime Gateway. Traveller for Foundations? Non-existent (even until today although being promised in 2010). Foundations was a great idea and I still think there is demand for such a product. But scaling down offerings that are intended for 5.000+ users can be a challenging task. And Foundations pricing was way higher than IBM’s own cloud offerings (LotusLive is cheaper than traditional Domino on-premises setups too thanks to hard competition from Google and Microsoft). We charge you more because there is no Google Software Appliance probably is an answer that does not work well for a sales team.

    1. The only thing I was waiting for was Traveller. That was a promise that never happend. But it was a Linux box after all. If somebody wants Microsoft they should have bought that. It could have been possible to integrate Quickr and Sametime on the same Foundations boxes due to the NVS. All Servers running on Foundations had their virtual Linux box. That could have worked, but Quickr for Domino on Linux needs a 64bit environement. As far as I know, they were working on it for a Foundations Release 2 , but it never happend.

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