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:  http://www.ibm.com/smartbusiness
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.

Impressed by LS 2011? Nope, not really

I just watched the Opening Session of LS 11 and since I am a real fan of Notes I expected something incredible. Unfortunately, they talked more about social analytics and other stuff I don’t really get, that I was a bit bored after a while. Notes Next may be a nice new client, but I doubt it. The screen wasn’t very good, though.
I just hoped for more. For the SMB market this is too heavy to digest. It is neither easy to set up nor easy to maintain and not enough out of the box stuff.

I am going to get the beta. That’s for sure. I hope the darn thing convinces me of a good future.

The real funny part was, when Sandy Carter talked about marketing.

Concrats to the winners. Good Job.

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.

What I want to see at LotusSphere 2011

I will not be there, but believe me, I will follow as closely as possible, what is going on.
But I have a wish list.

  • I want the Notes 9 Client as soon as possible in a public beta. It worked with Notes 8, why not with Notes 9.
  • I want Quickr for Domino Express or even better, bundled with Notes 9.
  • I want better iCal support for the Notes Client.
  • I want a marketing campaign for Notes that is visible
  • I want one more thing … something revolutionary with a WOW-effect.

… what do you want?

IBM’s Domino/Notes market – Let’s face it, it’s a cash cow.

What did I learn from my article about IBM’s and Microsoft’s market share? At least that nobody told me how the market share calculation really works. There are two numbers: 47’000 companies (down from 60’000 about 5 years ago) and a total of 192 million Notes licenses sold (up from 143 million about 5 years ago). That’s not really helpful. Let’s leave it at that. But that made me think about the future of Notes/Domino in general. The yellow bubble is groaning about IBM’s almost non existent marketing effort for Notes. Why isn’t IBM promoting Domino/Notes as we think it should? Do they really know what they are doing? Is there a plan? To find out I dusted of some of my marketing books and tried figure out, what strategy IBM is following. It looks like, they know more or less, what they are doing.
If they have a plan, Lotus Notes/Domino is a cash cow today. Or in other terms, it is a mature product and the product life cycle is closer to the end, then to the start. That is not a bad thing by itself, but it is a something we have to accept. IBM is showing standard behavior. It is not investing heavily in marketing because it does not make sense. IBM is continuing improving Notes/Domino to keep the customer base happy. Sometimes there is even a big win, but all in all, sales are sliding downwards. That is something completely normal in a product life cycle. We will see that happening with MS Office, Exchange and Sharepoint, too one day.

What would I do with that cash cow? I would milk it to the last drop and do gradual improvements and then kill it. But I would grow a new beast at the same time. That’s (from my point of view) what IBM is doing right now. I only think, that they are a bit late in the game. They should have started to build a replacement product much earlier. But it is possible, that Workplace should have been that replacement. Is project Vulcan part of that completely new product? I don’t know, but I hope it is.

If I had to design a replacement product I would do quite a few things, which my BPs probably wouldn’t like.
I would build an (almost) completely new product and cut as many legacy connections as possible. Fast, good looking and widely available.
I would provide a migration tool, but I would really strip especially the client from ballast. Is it really necessary to have 6 or 7 different programming languages? I don’t think so. One good one would be sufficient. RAD does not seem to attract a lot of sales. In the end, the admins kill RAD because they definitely don’t want every user to develop it’s own little app (at least the admins IBM is talking to).
I would want a client that lets me not only organise mails, but also calendar entries, office documents, sms, mms, chats or just anything that contains information which is necessary for my work and preferably I want to have the stuff offline and encrypted.
I would add VOIP as a standard feature.
I want to see all my documents under the customer and supplier and friend and tag and project and whatever or in a calendar view. Let’s get rid of folder structures in file systems or mail applications. We don’t need that, it never worked. It was and is the biggest data cemetery in the known universe.
I would want to add addresses by drag and drop from my and others address book to a document regardless if it is an email, sms, letter, fax, blog entry or whatever else and I want to decide AFTER having written the document, how I want to send it.
I would make the new client modular. For example for free without a server and mail, Facebook and calendar only, but fast (somebody remembers NotesBuddy? I liked that one a lot) and then add whatever else is needed (at a very reasonable fee…).
I would add MAPI support to client and server.
I would add complete iCal and CalDav support.
I would add a simple back up functionality to client and/or server.
I would integrate as many online services as possible.
I would add an easy way to use several email accounts.
I would provide a free online calendar access for everybody using my client. Now users could just use free POP accounts and still have the calendar sharing possibility.
… and I could go on.
Most of these elements are already around but nobody adds it up to a complete solution.

Lotus was always ahead of Micro$oft, but they keep up. Now they add offline support for Sharepoint thanks to Groove. That was one of the best features of Notes/Domino.
Let’s face it. All the features we always thought were so incredible cool did not stop customers from migrating to Outlook/Exchange and nothing else will stop that until IBM comes out with something new.

We need something exciting, never seen before and useful to about everyone (for my 7 year old daughter I want a „Hello Kitty“ Theme)… a new rising star if IBM wants to beat Microsoft. IMHO that will be the way to success.

But… and that is big BUT. Can IBM do this? Big companies have the tendency to be not very innovative. Bureaucracy and internal competition are the killers. Microsoft is the best example for this. They almost always only copy what others have done before. IBM is better, but not a lot. The most patents every year but not many new products. Evolution yes, innovation less.
Let’s keep the fingers crossed, that IBM really knows what it is doing.