During Admin2008 here in Boston, I lead a birds-of-a-feather session yesterday called, "Sending a Message to Management: How to keep Lotus Notes and Domino in your Company".   There were about 80 people in attendance... as I said at the start of the session, I considered the attendance a "win" because at this very same (and equally well-attended) conference two years ago, I had 125 people attend a similar session.  The situation is improving.

I spent the first several minutes discussing the state of the Notes business, mainly in terms of statistics -- 40% market share according to IDC, 46,000 active (= on maintenance) customers, 10% growth in active end-users, revenue growth in 13 of the last 14 quarters, 850 developers within IBM working on the Notes/Domino platform, wins as big as 200,000 seat deals so far this year.  I realize that upfront five or ten minutes might have been a bit overwhelming, but the point was to show, this is a business IBM is investing in, continues to invest in, and as we move forward towards public beta of 8.5 and 9.0 and beyond releases, will be here for a long time.

Then we started open discussion. I really wanted it to be a collaborative discussion, with input from the audience as much as from me.  For a few minutes, we got some good comments and questions -- talk about positioning versus SharePoint (which I also talked about from the perspective of integration with SharePoint, more on that next week too), some solid questions about what's going on to make rollout and consumability of Notes 8 easier, end-user reactions.

From there, though, we took a turn around that dark corner and I felt like we stepped away from a collaboration, sharing kind of session to a "what are you IBM going to do about..." approach.  The first step, 22 minutes in, was the "Lotus marketing sucks" lob.  Then, as I started talking about user acceptance of Notes 8 -- that in all of the technical, head-to-head user acceptance "bake-offs" we did since notes 8 shipped, users have chosen to stay with or adopt Notes 8.  Someone in the audience started visibly showing disagreement with my statement.  Her challenge was, "I don't believe you.  In my market, you are losing every major law firm to Microsoft."  

Note that I was talking about technical bake-offs, but now we were off in a different direction, about a concentrated "groupthink" situation going on in one industry segment, without (in many cases) any technical evaluation or business case.  I tried to explain that these variables are different in every company that considers moving away from Notes, and that looking at what is going on in the business that is causing the consideration or migration is critical.  Unfortunately, it seems a few came to the session looking for "silver bullets" -- the answer on what specifically to do next.

Problem being, that answer is different from company to company, industry to industry, and even country to country.  A lot of the information and technology used is the same, but the tactical how to do it is different.  

My hope in running the Birds of a Feather was to share some practical experiences and ideas, some information, and make some contacts and introductions.  Perhaps the title was a bit misleading -- we simply can't go into a room with 75 different companies for 45 minutes and come up with the single right answer for all.  But I am always happy to have the individual conversation -- I, and my team, and our SWAT teams, and our specialists, etc.  

As I said at the end of the session, I was also at the "meet the experts" from 6 PM to 7 PM last night, and would have been happy to carry on the conversations from the Birds-of-a-Feather (which ran over time to begin with).  Alan Lepofsky and I had six guys sit down with us at the start of the hour, and only one or two other attendees joined as the evening progressed.  I am not sure if the full table scared off anyone else from joining -- if so, my apologies, we really WANTED to talk to as many people as possible!  Be sure to reach out to me via e-mail, IM, twitter, or comment here.

See you all next time!

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