For a couple of weeks, an important discussion has been emerged between Lotus community members. I am watching blogs with deep curiosity, because similar issues are being discussed here (in Turkey) for a decade between partners as well as customers.

The discussion has been started with several bloggers questioning the future of Lotus Notes and Domino development. Jake Howlett, a well-known blogger running codestore.net web site,  posted an entry "Why My Sudden Interest in SharePoint" 3 weeks ago. He was discussing that he should add more into his toolkit like Sharepoint to guarantee his family's future. Several days later, John Vaughan, author of the blog jonvon.net, posted a very long goodbye for Lotus Notes. He has criticized IBM Lotus in this very long post.

Both blogs got hundreds of comments about the issue, favorably and unfavorably. Ed Brill's first response came with the post "I’ve never been a developer". After 183 comments in a couple of days, Ed closed discussion. Other bloggers posted some entries about the issue:

Ben Poole: jonvon says goodbye { Link }
Paul Mooney: Best post I have read in a long long time { Link }
Gabriella Davis: Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist { Link }
Volker Weber: What an interesting week { Link }
Mark Myers (aka Stickfight): Jonvon's Post { Link }
Darren Duke: Are we all in the Yellow Vortex now? Spiraling to our own demise? { Link }
John Head: The Notes / Lotus Bubble: Why "community" and "change" invoke such wide emotional responses { Link }

The story is based on several important points.

IBM is mostly criticized about its sales and marketing strategy of Lotus software. The argument is that Lotus Notes is not being marketed enough as a development platform. But on the other hand, important collaboration products are being extracted from Lotus Domino to Portal environments. IBM Workplace product is getting the most harsh criticism. As you know IBM Workplace product was an important failure of collaboration platform project until it has been disbanded in 2007.

There are several other arguments like the sales teams' attitudes towards products, partners' incomes, renewal model, complexity of licensing, pricing, cloud computing issues, NSFDB2 ambiguity and more...

I am a relatively young member of Lotus community with over 10 years. I am running my own business for 7 years which is my second attempt as an entrepreneur. I would like to post my ideas mostly based on my company owner point of view in an eastern country (Turkey).

First of all, I am focused on Lotus software only, not even interested in selling Websphere Portal to concentrate what I am doing. A couple of years before, I have been forced to provide some services on Sharepoint and dotNet platform but  I saw that getting aligned with single technology is difficult enough. Personally I have no plans to learn alternative technologies other than Lotus products right now.

I lived Workplace days at the very beginning of my Developi days. I saw that movement as a big mistake those days. I was aware of Lotus Notes would move to J2EE in some way but such a change could not be absorbed by customers easily. In sales meetings, we were struggling with customers telling "Lotus is dying" and referencing Workplace product. We were already in trouble with budget issues in small customers; Lotus was going under websphere according to their perception. Erasing this ambiguity and bad feelings has been very expensive for IBM.

I positioned myself as a 'professional services' company. Selling licenses was not an important motivation for me those days. Regarding our market's economic problems, selling license is a risky business. And it is also not so profitable as well. However, if you are not sellling license, IBM does not take you seriously. I was accomplishing very important projects, keeping major customers happy with my services but when I call an IBM rep, 'Who the hell is you'!

This is an important problem many partners are facing. There are several comments in overall discussion. If you develop a packaged product, there are incentives to support you. Resellers have also great advantages provided by Local IBM. But if you depend on services, no chance! It is not only limited with administration services as in my case, but also valid for partners who bill their hours for development. In this situation, some partners are considering to expand their portfolio with different products (with developing or partnering) and sometimes they become IBM's competitors in front of customers.

About the product line, I cannot argue the large shift in the paradigm is a mistake. Lotus Notes was stuck with its closed architecture. IBM did right or wrong, but Microsoft has settled down the market in many lines and the strategy was to be modified. They did so. IBM used the success of Websphere Portal product to extend collaboration platform to a next level. For example, the release of Quickr for Portal has been criticized due to its departure from Lotus Domino. However, Lotus Quickr for Domino has important limitations in scalability. Up to 700-800 members can be bound to a place (3-4K if extended membership is used with more limitations) which is not acceptable for large enterprises. The same situation is with Connections suite. As long as Quickr for Domino is maintained, I am okay for Portal alternatives.

IBM also changed Lotus Notes client. It was radical but the underlying message was not well-perceived. The purpose is not only to compete with Outlook's fancy interface, but also to create a unified, integrated and holistic platform to handle different applications. The transition will not be cheap for customers but it should be marketed well, emphasizing the future of Eclipse client. As Ed pointed out, Lotus Notes Basic Configuration is the crucial element in this change...

XPages
, on the other hand is a huge success according to me. It is more expandable than classical Notes development. Adaptation, compatibility and performance issues will be resolved by time but it is an unrivaled technology right now.

Is Lotus Notes being marketed as a development platform? I think the question should be asked differently: Is Lotus Notes being marketed in a right way?

When IBM changed its business in 1994, Gerstner hired Ogilvy to PR its new face. IBM has changed everything and communicated this shift very well. Lotus Knows is a similar movement. I think the campaign itself is an important example of 'change marketing'. But a couple of points should be reconsidered. First of all, we didn't see anything in Turkey. It is valid for many european countries as well. There is a serious coverage problem here. Second, messages are mostly about 'buying IBM licenses'. Partners (especially developers), on the other hand, are the most important contributors to the value. I think it is the most important reason of dissatisfaction in Lotus community.

Majority of customers in our market rely on the vendor. IBM is a powerful trademark. Using a workflow application, for example, completely developed by a partner makes sense but vendor-support is a more important factor. No matter how old or how outdated it seems, Lotus Workflow is favorable product against its competitors. However, Microsoft has the same advantage. As long as vendor supports their projects 'in person', it is welcomed. Partners need great support at this point. I personally think I am able to get this support from IBM in most of cases. there is a great improvement after we entered into CEE region which affected our local IBM in positive way.

Finally, IBM might be more 'active'. Listenning to the community would not be enough. My friends in other partners always complaint that 'they listen, listen but only listen'. IBM is expected to hear problems and take actions for smaller ecosystems like country-wide or region-wide markets. The community clearly wants to see more solid approaches that are refined for common problems.

On the other hand, the problems are not that dramatic to be emotional. This is business and it is normal for everyone to consider their own benefits...
Serdar Basegmez   |   June 28 2010 05:45:00 PM   |    IBM  Off-Topic    |  
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Comments (5)

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Serdar Basegmez    http://www.developi.com    06/30/2010 4:43:48 PM

Suchitra,

At the beginning, NSFDB2 was seemed to be a big step for us. We did utilize it for reporting interfaces. LEI is expensive in both dollars and performance. DECS is, what? mystery for me :) Actually, IBM hasn't released NSFDB2 for our reporting functionality. I didn't get their motive but their promise was 'it will work just like in NSF'. That didn't happen. I think they gave up then.

I agree with you about that some actions of IBM become 'technical preview program' in time and continue until zeta version.

Community shouts out mostly because of this. NSFDB2 is a small instance of Workplace situation. After third or fourth attempt, you will have no credit for a new technology. I can see customers asking about DAOS: what if IBM cancels DAOS in the future?

On the other hand, not only valid for IBM. It happens in this industry...

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Suchitra       06/30/2010 4:14:34 PM

"There has been a significant investment in the NSF data store and NSF remains the strategic data store for Notes/Domino applications and data. The NSF data store is optimized for storing and retrieving Notes/Domino data and provides the performance that our customers need and expect when accessing Notes and Domino applications". This is what i hate, if IBM was so much aware of the advantages/investement in NSF data store, why did it promote NSFDB2. Was it just to make customers feel notes can work with DB2. We already had LEI, DECS etc. I didn't develop applications using the same, but it saddens me to see things not progressing at NSFDB2 end.

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Serdar Basegmez    http://www.developi.com    06/29/2010 4:23:55 PM

Abou NSFDB2, I can share this technote:

www-01.ibm.com/support/docview.wss?uid=swg21384421

DB2 support is not going to be enhanced. Support has been guaranteed until 2017 (maybe more). But it is not a good idea to invest in DB2 anymore.

According to Eric Brooks's blog, after 8.5.2, the installation of DB2 support will not be available in standard server. You will need to install it additionally.

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Serdar Basegmez    http://www.developi.com    06/29/2010 3:58:47 PM

Suchitra,

There is a perception problem at the customer side that sharepoint is not actual a competitive product of Lotus Notes. However, there is nothing to do to fix it but to market our product more effectively. Lotus Quickr or Websphere Portal depending on the case will be more powerful and proven solutions for that kind of customers.

I understand you very well. We have exact the same problems here in Turkey. Many cases, the customer comes to us with a decision and wants us to complete transition.

NSFDB2 issue bothers me most. I will also blog about it soon.

Besides, as I mentioned, this is a serious change. There are solid directions that cannot be suspected. XPages is one of them. I doubt about Expeditor, but composite applications are real :) Lots of work has been invested into these two model. Moving to Java and Javascript seems clear right now.

Now, Lotus teams are working on some XPages controls that combines Workflow and Document management functions into Lotus Notes directly. Many products on Domino will be connected to XPages eventually.

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Suchitra       06/29/2010 3:19:30 PM

I have been working with lotus products past 7 years. Now a days we get lot of inquires where customers are looking out for options to migrate away from lotus notes. Mostly are looking for Sharepoint as an alternative. Once in a week i do get news of companies declaring to migrate away from lotus notes. Lot of times me as a developer have got confused the way IBM handles lotus notes. Few years back IBM was promoting NSFDB2, now we dont even see news for the same. Leaving things halfway doesnt help us neither it helps to develop a good product using the same technology.