Networking, Name Dropping … how boring

Last friday I attended for the first time the alumni networking day at my old university. I am no friend of networking. I went there, because I was invited by my old friend Jan Martel, who happened to sponsor the event through his company Martel Vines. We had some very interesting speeches and I have to change my opinion about the host, Stephanie Berger she is an ex miss Switzerland and actually very funny. The a speech from Peter Hogenkamp, apparently the swiss social web evangelist, which was ok, but nothing new. More impressive was the presentation of Benno Kehl, a well known ex monk, who left the church for the love to a women. A very impressive person, who works with junkies and at the same time looks extremely happy. It took him six years to leave the church. The story about his decision to go with the love to a woman, is something I will remember.

Dieter Meyer from Yellow was there, too, but by far the most impressive speech  came from Ruth Metzler-Arnold.
Nobody of my readers will know her. She was a member of the Federal Council – the Swiss government (if you want to know, how Switzerland works, look here, if not, let me tell you, it is different from everything you know). Since I don’t care a lot about politics, I did not expect a lot from her. Boy, was I surprised. She talked about networking and how she feels that this new buzzword and trend is somewhat not the real world.  She believes, that part of her success is, that nobody knows her network and that it is not the quantity of connections that count, but the quality.
You don’t have just normal parties anymore after such an event, no more drinking beer with old friends, no, it’s networking. Everybody thinks, they are there just to meet the next customer. It’s like having a constant sales pitch. Name dropping is becoming a way of selling yourself.
Having friends is giving and taking. It’s not selling you or your company to everybody you meet. If parties are becoming huge sales events, we have lost our souls. In the end, one must come to the conclusion, that accumulating friends on Facebook, isn’t worth a lot. Sure, once in a while you will find a customer or even a friend through Xing or whatever else there is, but a real friendship develops only face to face.
Will I go again? Not at the normal price. It was nice to see it for once, but I don’t think, it will help a lot. Regarding meeting friends, just two other guys from my year where there and I did not get any business cards. Looks like I am not important enough or the networking part is a huge failure. Everybody is just there to meet old friends and have a good time … looks like it was just an ordinary party with a new name.

Who said Outlook is used by the majority of Email Users?

Today I got this link in the mail:

There is another one from 2009:

Even though I think this is fantastic news for Apple, it’s bad news for Micro$oft and IBM.
But lets look at it a bit closer. The disclaimer explains, how they count the clients; whenever a recipient opens a mail from Campaingmonitor and loads the images. Sounds logic, but I would almost never add to the statistic, because most of the time, I don’t load the pictures. How many out there do this? Don’t know, neither probably Campaignmonitor. But since most users don’t care about it, let’s assume the numbers show at least a tendency.
If we take the numbers, as they are, older Outlook clients are on a decline and Outlook 2010 isn’t adopted fast enough to make up for it. On the other hand, mobile device clients are soaring and Apple has the bulk of it. Also Apple Mail is gaining. Entourage isn’t a factor and so is Notes. When I look at it, something springs to mind. Not the big, feature loaded Clients are hot, no, easy ones, web mail, mobile mail clients with just the basic functionality (Hey IBM, how many times I told you that NotesBuddy was a cool Email Client? Now you see why). Most people don’t need all that fancy stuff. Apple Mail is gaining, from my point of view, a very basic email client … but it looks like people like exactly that.
I just happen to look my gmail account today – I haven’t for about 2 or 3 month – and there are so many new features, it just isn’t intuitive anymore. That could explain, why google mail isn’t as hot, as they make us believe. It isn’t a forerunner. Even yahoo has (still) more users.

At least, from now on, we all have an argument against the „All-have-Outlook-at-home“ mantra.

I know a way how IBM could sell lots more licenses in Switzerland.

How about getting a more realistic exchange rate? As fas as I know, IBM still uses 1.6 Swiss Francs to the Dollar. The Dollar down to 0.8. That’s a bit overdoing it, don’t you think?
IBM could lower the price at least by 30% and still have enough safety margin, should the Swiss Franc fall. That old exchange rate is not going to happen again.

Oh, and they should tell people about it. That would help.

The best and the worst in France

My parents in law invited the whole family for a weekend to Crest in the department of Drome. A town I wouldn’t put on the list of the 100 must see towns in the world, but everything holds surprises. As always, family outings are mostly about good food and good wine. The first evening we ate reasonably well. The next day we visited Crest with the highest dungeon of France. In the evening, we went to the Pizzaria Di Angelo … If you ever happen to be in Crest, avoid this „restaurant“ at all cost. We were greeted with the information, that only half of the guests were allowed to eat a pizza, the others had to eat something else, otherwise we would no be served. Woha (brain to blood preassure – rise)! Finally we ordered only two pizzas. Me and my parents in law ordered Raviol – a local speciality, basically small raviolis – which came clearly from the micro wave. It was disgusting. What happened to the pride of France, the kitchen. I would be ashamed to serve food like that. The pizzas would be a reason for Italy to declare war. They put french Emmentaler (which is an insult to the Swiss) on it instead of mozzarella. Yucks.

The next day we went to Saoû. Now that was something else. We enjoied local specialities under the trees on the central square (if you need soft drinks, you are out of luck here, no Coke or anything like that … but the wine was incredible). Since every meal starts late and takes at least two to three hours, we skipped supper and went to a vocal jazz festival in Crest.

Monday was the absolute highlight for me. The town of Cliousclat is almost to nice to be true. If you like pottery, that would be haven. My haven was La Fontaine – It’s about as close you can get to the perfect french restaurant. I don’t mean the expensive places with Pierre as your waiter (who wants to know the first name of the waiter anyway). No, sitting in the street in the shade, talk to other guests, kids running around and everybody is just extremely friendly, because they like what they do. Regional and seasonal food (mostly), perfect wine. That’s life. If I ever happen to have a big company and need a new headquarter, I would go to a small french town like Cliousclat, just to get lunch every day in small restaurants. Who cares about free fruits, massage, gym or meeting rooms, designed to the latest scientific findings in face-to-face collaboration, if you just could meet somewhere in the shades of a nut tree to discuss the next project? Customers would always come back to me, just because of the food they get during meetings (and I truly hate this new mode of standing during lunch, „Stehlunch“ they call it in German. Horrible. Where will it end).

The only setback was the nuclear power station a few kilometers down the valley. That really spoiled the view. That should be reason enough for France to get out of nuclear power.

I think we should do the same thing somewhere in Italy. Could be fun, too.

I even had time (while driving the sleeping family back to the hotel – don’t volunteer to drive and do a good job) to muse about Notes. Where is that Beta for Vulcan? There aren’t any news since LS11. It’s Q3 already! I am really curious about it. It is a crossroad for me. Either it has the Wow factor or it’s time to move on. We are looking into Zimbra, too, which looks promising as a Domino replacement.

PS: Notice to IBM Suisse Romand or SNOUG SR. Where is the Connections Account you promised at Givaudan? I am waiting to get more into this social stuff.

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.

Lotus becomes IBM Collaboration Solutions – News from the SNOUG SR at Givaudan SA

First things first, the Swiss Notes User Group Suisse Romande did it again. The conference yesterday was just great. A perfect organisation and Givaudan SA was the perfect host. 
The way Givaudan pampered us, will be hard to top and we will never be Givaudan customers.
 Apart from a very nice conference room with tables and water bottles at every seat, we were treated to croissants, croissants au chocolat, à la vanille and other things that make me drool again.
 Lunch was heaven. I am not going see this again at SNOUG, except if we get a restaurant with a michelin star as a member, who is willing to host the event.
 We had about 8 or 9 different amuse-bouche. Tartare au dorade royale or fois gras in a little sweet bun for example. The main course was filet de boeuf, perfectly done, with a dark sauce, pintade farcie au fois gras, filet de dorade, crevette tiede à l’ail et citron with vegetables and potatoes. I have to clean my keyboard after this article. Eight or nine different absolutely delicious desserts and coffee closed the lunch. Ed Brill choose the wrong SNOUG event this year, at least regarding the food.
The sessions started with Bénédicte Comard from Givaudan SA, presenting the companies collaboration environment. She was very open the challenges her department faces. N/D was replaced as the primary development platform by WAS. Why? The legacy look and feel of N/D solutions. But with XPages, there could be a new life in the 400 odd apps they use globally, especially after hearing the third session. I really liked her session.  It sets it apart from other presentations, where mostly the positive sides of the infrastructure are presented. She asked us to discuss with her openly, what could be done better (don’t take this as an invitation to contact her with a consulting proposal, that’s for SNOUGies only).
I suppose she is the driving force behind the event within Givaudan SA. Merci Madame Comard. On peut revenir?
The second session was called „Les enjeux et les dangers des Réseaux Sociaux d’Entreprises“ by llan Avventurato of Bobadilium. I am known as a FaceBook hater and not very keen on Connections either, but this was the first time I really got it. He explained, how to introduce social software in a company. You need quite a bit of change management, to make it work. Another point was, that the whole thing must be owned, driven and monitored by HR. That makes perfectly sense. Suddenly I became a fan of the whole idea and I was not alone.
The third session came from GROUP and was about the Transformer, which helps you to convert your old Notes apps to XPages. Pretty cool, if you ask me. Freeman the Great did it again.
The last session was news from IBM. Notes Next in 2013, Lotus becomes IBM Collaboration Services, but that will change again, and other things, most of you already know anyway. Fortunately Pierre Février-Vincent from IBM took the time to create his own versions of the IBM standard presentations. They were a lot better, then what I have seen before. IBM announced that SNOUG-SR will get its own Connections environment. Thank you, I appreciate that.
Last but not least I want to thank the volunteers of the SNOUG SR for their work. I always enjoy the events. The concept of meeting every time at another Notes & Domino customer site is great.

I am going on a diet now to be ready for the autumn event.

PS: Did I mention that the whole event is free?

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.

Book Review … 22 Years later

Recently I was in Munich for some training with Collax. In the evening we walked through the city center and I found an old book shop. Since I am a book junkie („My name is Christian and I still don’t have an iPad“) I spend some time looking for second hand books and found the following: „Who’s afraid of BIG BLUE?“ by Regis McKenna. The author is still known as an IT marketing expert. The book was printed in 1989. It talks about IBMs role in the computer market and there are a few, no, a lot of things, I did not know and are quite interesting. For example: I didn’t know, that IBM used FUD very, I mean very heavily to keep the competition out. When I think how many times we complained about Microsofts FUD strategy against Notes, I can only come to the conclusion, they learned from the best, from IBM. But, FUD wears of. The longer you try it and it does not come true, the less people are going to believe you. IBM’s FUD strategy failed in the end and Microsoft’s will fail, too.

There were some things I asked myself, if they still stand true today.
„Entrepreneurial and independent thinking have always been discouraged among the blue-suited army of IBM managers.“
When I recall what I had to go through with most IBMers that I worked with during the Lotus Foundations era, I would say, they still hate to take decisions.
If there is not a process for it, they can’t do it.

Another interesting part was the story about the PC and PS/2. Apart from the logo there was nothing from IBM in the first IBM PC’s and many believed that the Micro Channel in the PS/2 was a marketing ploy. And I thought IBM invented the PC.

In chapter 3 McKenna talks about „Big Blues for Big Blue“* and mentions a few points, where IBM has problems.
Problem #1 – A Mind-Blogging Bureaucracy. YES, still valid today, Passport Advantage was invented by a sadistic bean counter and process manager and the lead management tool must be from another century. They certainly run it with a steam engine.
Problem #2 – Installed technology. Nope, that isn’t a problem.
Problem #3 – Incompatible Products. I don’t think that this is a problem today.
Problem #4 – The Arrogance of Success. Interesting. What do you think?
But what is certainly still true, they only fight for the Fortune 1000 accounts.

The book reads, as if it wasn’t written 22 years ago. McKenna mentions many things, I was convinced they came much later. I talked about electronic mail and a lot about networks and sharing information. Somehow I have the impression, we haven’t made a huge progress since then. Sure, the word „Internet“ wasn’t mentioned in the book, but something like that was looming on the horizon. We are still using Folders to organise data and we still use the mouse and a keyboard. I am a bit disappointed about our achievements in the last 22 years. Look at Notes. Ray Ozzy had such a wonderfull idea and everything we have today called social software has been here for two decades.

Can we have something revolutionary please!

*BTW did you know that IBM does not want you to use the term „Big Blue“? Their marketing departement found out that this is too close to „the Blues“, meaning depression.

I admit it. I don’t have a smart phone

I feel bad. Yes, I admit it. I don’t like mobile phones. I don’t send many SMS or MMS. Most of the little gadgets of the darn thing I never used. Unfortunately, I will soon have to get a new one, because after 5 years the battery is just tired. What now? Is it time to move to something smart? Do I want to read my emails on a screen not much bigger than a stamp? I think the iPhone is pretty cool, but too big. I does not fit in my hand. I wouldn’t know where to put it when I am away without my backpack. You won’t catch me with one of those belt pouches. Neither with a blue-tooth headset.

Next problem, I am greedy. I hate to buy things that are industrial waste as soon as you buy it.

I like and I can read maps. I don’t need, or rather I don’t want to use a GPS for navigation on the ground and I don’t want my car to talk to me (but you can give me a Garmin 1000 any day or an iPad with sectionals, weather and SID/STAR).

I must be mentally retarded. I just can’t get exited about mobile devices. I could get warm with an iPad, but that’s because of the books. But if I continue to buy my books at amazon I can buy a lot until the iPad makes sense. I like to have books lying around. I like to have manuals on paper (OK, here the iPad would make sense, since we don’t get any manuals on paper today) but I can not imagine to read a book on a smart phone. No way.

But I could announce to the world, that I am doing an experiment:

„Living and working without a mobile phone“

Why not. Have to think about it.