IBM Marketing for Notes/Domino – move on, that’s a boring post.

If you are expecting ranting about IBM’s marketing here, move on, nothing to see here. Marketing shouldn’t be a never ending story.

A lot of things were written about Sam Palmisanos time at IBM, since he announced to step down. Interestingly, the head of marketing, Gini Rometty is taking his place (do we have an Italian clan thing here?). Therefore, she is responsible for the marketing of Notes/Domino – or the lack of, as many would say – for the last few years. Was it really that bad? Depends on your point of view. There is one thing, which explains a lot.

IBMs focus has always been on business software, hardware and services.

No consumer products. Not even the PC’s were widely available at mediamarkt or whatever retail chain is out there. That limits the possibilities quite a bit.

Would Notes be a good consumer product? I doubt it. The current Notes client lacks quite a few things for being suitable to consumers: MAPI, good IMAP support, ease of use for several mail accounts and so on. A private customer can’t even buy it. Therefore the whole theory of getting consumer products into business fails for IBM products. That works for Microsoft and Apple. They have cool (at least Apple) products, people want to use professionally. IBM would have to go the other way, cool business products for consumers. Does that make sense? No way (look a RIM)! It could happen, that IBM comes out with something really cool that everybody wants. Yes, Vulcan could be the thing, but would IBM would have a huge uphill battle until they had a consumer channel. I don’t think it is going to happen (but I like surprises).

If IBM cares about businesses, why are they loosing one account after another? They add a few, but that does not make up the loss. Part of it are certainly the consumer products, that move into corporate IT. I believe, that is not even half of the story. What I don’t believe, is that Ed and his team are not fighting for every customer – who must have a certain size, certainly – that wants to move away from N/D. In the case of Ernst & Young it could be that IBM his happy about it, because that would give PWC a financial advantage.
Microsofts FUD and other really aggressive moves towards IBM are certainly a big part, but IBM lacks a few products, to make customers completely happy. As long as Windows is the corporate user interface, Microsoft will always have a foot in the door. Even Apple is in a better position here.
CIO’s are often not really geeks and everybody prefer what they know. Unfortunately there are much more MCSE’s and so on out there, who are much happier installing Windows servers, than Linux (you are lazy) and since M$ promises that everything works perfectly together, they just do it. That you get lots more trouble with M$ products, then with anything else, isn’t a factor. The problems people have with M$ products are taken as normal.
ROI just isn’t a strong argument. Many of the geek CIOs don’t even know what it is and those who know, aren’t geeks and believe M$.
IBM has two strong psychological factors against it. First, people don’t like change and people tend to do what others do, or in other words: „You will not get fired for buying Exchange“. The first factor makes it hard for IBM to move people to N/D, the second factor makes it hard for IBM to keep customers, who want to upgrade/update their infrastructure.

After being nice, now a bit of rant. The mistakes about N/D marketing have been done years ago (Workplace!) and Ed can’t turn back the clock easily.
In the moment I don’t see a product portfolio, that would attract customers below enterprise size. Having the possibility to add Connections files and profiles is great, but four different applications on three different servers? Lots easier to deploy Sharepoint (I believe, but I could be on thin ice, here. BTW, Connections screams for a high availability solution from Collax, sorry, had to do it).
AFIAK, the bonus system for IBMers does not motivate them to go after renewals. If it is true, that’s a shame, really (again, thin ice here).
Notes is getting old. Too big, too clumsy, not intuitive enough, not-so-nice UI (I would not call it ugly, though, but the workspace should have had a makeover years ago).
Said all this, I don’t believe that Ed or Gini are stupid. I rather think, that they know everything I have said, already, but it isn’t easy to turn that train around. At least they could fight the M$ FUD, after all, IBM invented it.

Do I have a solution? Not if the next major release Notes Foo, isn’t something I would like to use as my one and only application to solve all my business and private needs. In other words, either Notes Foo is a huge step forward in integration of all those bit’s and pieces I have currently to deal with, or it is over. Yes, that’s easy to say, because if Notes Foo is the huge step forward, it will sell like hot cakes anyway, but in IBM’s situation, a me-too product will not get them anywhere. Therefore the solution lies in the product, not in the marketing.

Now lets wait till LS2012 and see what happens. A bit like a second Christmas. You hope it is what you wished for and that it isn’t another pair of socks.

Ps: Told you it’s boring.

2 Gedanken zu „IBM Marketing for Notes/Domino – move on, that’s a boring post.“

  1. Notes foo will be based on 8.5.X so don’t expect too much. With XPages things will probably happen in the browser anyway. I expect things to look nicer as Connections already has a better look.
    The bonus system of IBM normally has no effect for most customers. Below a certain size business is done through Business Partners. For Switzerland this would probably mean 95%+ of all potential customers would not be handled through IBM directly. And I don’t think a company the size of Ernst & Young moved because IBM sales people did not get renewal bonuses. A company that size would probably get the original (Ed Brill) if there was any evidence of a problem.
    Now you could also if a Business Partner ecosystem as it currently is still makes sense (because most business partners are partnering with vendors (e.g. Microsoft) but that is another question.
    Maybe IBM already fights on the big accounts (or even the smaller ones). I don’t know. But Kodak isn’t fighting for its photographic films business anymore too.

  2. I agree with you that „Therefore the solution lies in the product“.
    A great example is Apple, where their success is hardly due to marketing but much more about products that perform very well, with very good usability, with very little compromise on quality.
    LS2012 will indeed be interesting, and I agree that a lot depends on ‚Foo‘ being something to which one can say „yes, I can see the real customer business advantage of using that“.

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