Holiday Season – Time to reflect on Notes, IBM and other stuff….

I have been away for a while. We went on holiday in Sigri on the isle of Lesvos, which is kind of the end of the world. 300 habitants. Not what you would call a vibrant holiday resort, but we had perfect conditions for windsurfing and a lot of fun, I mean really a lot.
My wife did beat me in a regatta and won a Lycra surf shirt. She will look to it, that I am not going to live that down.
The surf station is owned by a young austrian couple, Martina (the one with the bikini collection) and Marcel (the one with the camera that made me look like an overstuffed sausage in a wet suit), which does everything to make your holidays as relaxed as possible. If you are into windsurfing, have a look:
I had my iPad with me and that was just perfect (free wi-fi on the beach) to be in touch with the rest of the world and send my friends at home pictures to make them green with envy.

I had time to reflect on the things that happened in the yellow bubble after that now infamous call. Today I think it was nothing new. We had that before. Notes is dead … yeah right. No marketing from IBM … Yawn. Lousy communication from IBM … we would do the same thing with that kind of legal department looking over our shoulders. But, we got some news out of it. Ed said, they haven‘t decided on a name for the next release. I think that is great news, as long as „Notes/Domino“ in the new name is finally going away and the new product is really a major step forward. Faster, more reliable and new ideas is what we and customers want. This should be the last version that allows backwards compatibility.
I would not be angry, if IBM added MAPI to „TSFCD (The Server formally called Domino)“. If the customers want‘s Outlook, let them, they don‘t care about the server. XPages will give us enough opportunities to build jaw dropping applications.
Go for it IBM, give us the WOW. It‘s time to milk the last drop out of the cash cow (she will retire on nice pastures for a few years) and bring in the rising star.

But (and that is a big BUT), I get the feeling, that the yellow bubble is unsettled, if not outright afraid about the future (not people like Nathan Freeman, who knows probably lot‘s more then the common business partner).
It wasn‘t that bad, when Notes 8 was announced, because we were all involved. We had the beta very early and were able to contribute. Made us proud, didn‘t it? This time we are out of the loop, that‘s what makes us nervous. We see ourself as a loyal bunch, but not really respected. We get all kinds nice sales talk, how important BP‘s are for IBM but don‘t see anything coming from IBM that proves it. We loose customers we found, because IBM takes the deal away or IBM reps bring in other partners, who make the deal with IBMs blessings. Why should we be loyal to a single IBM product? We should not. Every shop owner has several products in the shelf to give customers a choice, but the shop owner has preferences as everybody else and will try to convince the customer, but sometimes the product of his choice just does not fit. Therefore, if you want to make customers happy, get more products in your portfolio. Get for example Zaraffa as an alternative for a mail server. If a customer wants something new, it‘s better that you get the contract, then somebody else. There are a lot of products out there, that are not as versatile as Notes, but do the job and are easier to learn. That is perfect for you and me and gives us a lot more power as BPs. Don‘t count on IBM for your survival, it‘s up to you. If Vulcan is the hell of a product we expect, great. If not, move on.
Loyalty is not something that is held in high regards nowadays. IBM employees who apparently love Notes move to the dark side without so much as an explanation. Who cares? IBM will start to care, if more and more Business Partners look for other products. Loyality is something IBM has to earn, not something we have to give.
The village of Sigri is a school book example for bulk risk. For years they relied on a single british tour operator, which filled the hotels and apartments every year (with bird watchers…) and then he went belly up. Now they try desperately to diversify in the middle of a crisis which affects the whole country. Don‘t fall into the trap of bulk risk. Learn new things now.

Another thing that came to my mind, why Notes does not sell good in the SMB market, is: IBM lacks a face. Apple has Steve Jobs, Microsoft has Steve Balmer – even though the videos on YouTub make me wonder about his mental sanity – IBM has … nobody. If the Lotus brand had a person who radiates confidence, it would sell like hot cakes. You could even take somebody from outside. William Shatner would be a good face. But since IBM has the marketing mantra „We don‘t do this (or any) kind of marketing“ my expectation for the future of IBM marketing is somewhat limited. But one never knows.