SNoUG-SR – 10 years and going strong

Yesterday we had the annual gathering of the SNoUG Suisse Romand, an event I always look forward to. This time it was together with LSCY, sponsored by IBM, Avnet and TechData. SNoUG-SR events are always free, BTW. It would be too expensive to take money.
First things first. Those who have been there last time at Givaudan, still remember lunch. This time it wasn’t up to the standard we are used to. The beef was hard and the fish overcooked. But probably we are just spoiled.
As expected, the presentations in the morning – the SNoUG part – were very interesting.
First we had a small celebration 10 years SNoUG-SR. Actually it was founded together as SNoUG 1992 in Zürich, together with the Swiss German guys, when Notes V2.1 came out. In 2002 the SR group formed and in 2009 it became independent from the Swiss Germans (… somehow the term „kicked us out“ springs to mind …). At least this year, they sponsored big chocolate coins with 10 years SNoUG SR written on it. Something to bring home for the kids.

Next came HSCB. Marius Schmid talked about how HSCB implemented ID Vault. They had a Notes app before for handling ID’s, but that involved a lot of manual work. By implementing ID Vault, a lot of things got easier, but still no walk in the park apparently.

NovaTeam’s Christophe Pathod presented a side bar app, for handling mail archives. It does makes the live of users a lot easier. I would really like to get my hand on this, weren’t it for the fact, that my archive is broken and I can’t get it to work again.

Flavien Boucher of Sogeti presented how they introduced IBM Connections. Now that was my highlight of the day.
A few years ago, Sogeti was looking for a solution to interconnect the different branches worldwide. The usual problem.
They looked at 4 different products and in the end choose IBM Connections over Sharepoint, because Connections is people centric.
It is called Teampark and there should be a book about it somewhere but I can’t find it.
Now how they implemented it, is an interesting story.
It’s everything else, culture change, change management, HR, marketing but not a pure IT project. I met somebody of another company that has Connections, but nobody uses it. Why? Wrong project lead. IT can provide the infrastructure, but can not influence the culture change which is absolutely necessary.
Sogeti used what they called Catalysts in an early phase. They contacted people who used Facebook and other social platforms and talked about Sogeti. They just asked them to rather use it in-house. Pretty clever idea.
The first community that formed when Connections went live was Pizza Party and since then Connetions is going strong. Today about 14’000 of the 20’000 users have logged in at least once but usage is growing. Target is, that 84% of all employees to use Connections. The last 16% are probably those, no admin really wants to touch anything anyway.
The whole system is self serve and they are setting up a gamification – hey, new buzzword for bullshit bingo – system, because Sogeti has 3000 new users every year. Here I began to wonder, do they really have a fluctuation of employees of 15%? What’s wrong in this picture?

That was it for the morning. After lunch came the LSCY part.
I don’t have to go into the details, because everybody should know by now, what was announced this year. Yes, we go mobile and social.
As always Louis Richardson was a pleasure to listen to and some of his examples about companies not willing to be social, could help me in the future.
The demo part was a bit an anticlimax. There was a room full of Notes gurus and the demo was about live text, how to make widgets from websites, the collaboration history and so on. Things we have known for a while. The Connections 4 part was a bit more interesting but the iNotes Social Edition was slides only, due to network problems. All in all not bad, but while „networking“, we missed something new and exciting to talk about and more discussions than ever were about which direction should we go, when the Notes business dries out.

Last but not least, thanks to the committee for organising the event. Thank you Gerald Mengisen for your work as a president and a warm welcome to the once again president Pierre Fevrier-Vincent.
There is still a position vacant in the organisation of SNoUG. Volunteers please!

PS: I would, but my ability to write in french would make me a laughing stock. It’s even worse than my English (now I spoiled your punch line).

After LotuSphere – what is does the future hold?

After quite a while I finally found the OGS video and I was a bit disappointed. I had hopes, that IBM comes out with an exciting new Notes client, what we got is a new homepage in the old client and a few enhancements for 8.5.4. No Notes Next, just the remark, that jumping to a all new client, would be too much for partners and clients alike (preserving the investment and all that stuff). That settles it for 2012. More customers and partners will turn their back on Notes/Domino.

… on the other hand …

Let’s face it. After over 20 years of continuous development, the code in Notes/Domino has probably been rewritten twice by now. NSF isn’t the most modern way of storing data. A few years ago we all hoped DB2 would be the solution, but that did not work out. Compared to Exchange, Domino is still way better in architecture and performance. Unfortunately Microsoft does a good job in selling their stuff and companies are jumping wagon almost at any price. I is amazing how much money goes down the tube by replacing a working system by another one. ROI just isn’t a factor in most decisions to migrate. I think, that IBM knows all that and the future is called Connections.
I want it, too. Notes/Domino can not deliver that functionality. Without Connections, Notes Social Edition is useless (See Ed’s comment). The activity stream would be the thing that sets Notes apart, but that does not work without Connections. From where I sit, the other enhancements don’t have enough WOW-factor to make me grin.

Much to my chagrin, Connections is just out of reach for me and many small companies. Having more servers than users, does not make sense. The administration is not really user friendly, either. Yes, I could go for Smart Cloud, but somehow, I like to have my own stuff … and in the cloud IBM must make my data available to the US government without telling me. Not that my data is of any interest to them, but one never knows, what may be of interest all of a sudden.

If I was in IBM shoes, I would do the same thing. Domino can not win against Exchange and that has nothing to do with technical advantage. Exchange is almost as old as Domino and the jet engine was worse than .nsf from the start, but FUD and other creative ways of selling, make it hard for IBM to compete.
IBM is focused on big companies. The marketing approach is pretty easy here. Everybody knows everybody. You sell trough personal contact. That settles it for the smaller companies. 1000 users just isn’t big enough for that extra effort to keep customers. That may sound sarcastic, but it looks like IBM thinks that’s the way to go.

What I found interesting is Ed’s remark, that they were never as many Domino servers in the free wild than today. Unfortunately, that’s servers, not customers. I would prefer the other way round, but I don’t know, what that should tell us.

Does anybody wonder, why there wasn’t a real road map for Notes/Domino. There wasn’t a sort of preview for the future. It’s pretty dark on that road in front of Notes/Domino.

For the traditional Lotus partner that does mean, you either learn Connections pretty quick and start talking to your customers about it, or bring them to the cloud. In that case, they are lost to you, except for the occasional PC or network problem (hopefully they have a few windows servers that need update).

Though, now I am standing on a cross road and ask myself, where do I go from here and I think, many other Notes geeks have the same mixed feelings. LotuSphere did not give anybody the security about an exciting future. Rather a the same old battle to keep existing customers and hope for the best … but I do like Connections.


LotuSphere 2012 – My one and a half Cents

Oh, bugger, I missed the OGS … at least the most important parts, the demos. I saw Michael J. Fox and the end, because I had to bring my wife to the doctor … she has a flu. Damn, but my wife’s health is more important … I told myself every 5 minutes … and the kids sports and music lesson, too. Now I am waiting for the recorded OGS … not there yet. Grrrr. Right now I have to live with second hand reports and I still don’t have all the information’s I need, because I have to do an article for the Swiss Small Business Association. Can somebody please point me to good information’s about the new Notes and Connections stuff? I don’t see the whole picture yet.

Now, what did I got until now. I watched Ed Brills presentation and I think IBM is going in the right direction. Unfortunately, we will not get the completely new client i hoped for, for at least another year, but Social Notes and Domino is one hell of good step towards what I would like Notes to be.
Do away with different types of documents. An email, a letter, an invoice, a complaint a spread sheet, a chat protocol, an SMS or anything else with information in it isn’t something that should appear each in a different application. The means of transportation may be different, but for the user, it is just something that get’s read on the screen (or printed out). I want all that stuff in the same place, but linked to persons, companies, activities, hamsters or what ever. I don’t care, if it is sent by mail or tied to a pigeons leg. But it is important, that I know, where the heck it belongs to and who is involved … and how all this is linked to other things.
What I have seen until now, Notes and even more Connections, are on the right way. I like that … a lot. And the Client looks better.
I have yet to see, how the inbox will be less cluttered with the intelligent sorting gadgets behind it, but it is a start and I see this as a game changer.
What I really would like to have as soon as possible, is Connections with Connections Mail. That does mean, I would have to learn Connections … or I get the stuff of those guys here: Connections Administration Toolkit Now isn’t that cool or what? I just imagine a Collax V Cube with all the Connections and Domino Servers on it. At the same time I would do reusable templates of the virtual machines and we have a plug and play installation with the whole administration through the browser. Have to think about … a lot … makes me dream of a better future.
Me too, I thought about Workplace. I liked it. I thought it wasn’t a bad idea. Was probably ahead of it’s time.

There is one thing, that troubles me. Ed said in his presentation, that they have the highest number of servers out there ever (if I got that right). That does not correspond to our feelings, that IBM is actually loosing customers, or does it? He said too, that they are adding more and more seats in companies above 100’000 users and at the lower end, too. How is that possible? What did he say? The number of servers. NOT the number of customers. If he says though, it is true, but I am (and yours truly probably, too) waiting for: „We have the highest number of CUSTOMERS ever!“

Now, how do I feel with everything I know by now. Mixed. I like the approach, but I don’t like the time frame. I hoped for the big thing, but it did not come. But haste makes waste, but this is another year where partners will move to other pastures and customers will go for the main stream stuff (MS) at any price (they really do, at ANY price. Expensive way of thinking).

I hope I get some more good information in the next few days.

PS: What I really liked would be the functionality of Connections and the ease of use and installation of Domino. But that is too much to ask, I suppose.