Doing things different

April 29 2009

It's been a while since I wrote a blog entry that felt particularly defensive.  Today, I need to respond to a criticism that I, and/or the rest of the IBM Lotus executive team, are stuck in a "do it the same way we've always done it" mode.  

Declaratively: it's absolutely not the case.

Right now, my team and I are spending almost all of our cycles identifying and executing activities that are doing things different for Notes, Domino, and Symphony.  Little things like fixing your complaints about download file names.  Big things like getting a promotion for Notes/iNotes into market.  Medium-sized things like figuring out how to use ibm.com, and the websites around it, to communicate more about what Notes and Domino really do and why customers should want to use them.

I was flamed specifically for not jumping into response mode when a two-week-old lame attack paper was discovered on Microsoft's Exchange 2010 site.  The paper happens to link to edbrill.com, and after 14 days online, had generated all of 12 referral hits to my site.  It contained a few granular attacks on Lotus, but as Kevin pointed out in the guest blog entry, changed tactics from Microsoft's usual "Notes is dead".  In fact, from what I heard at Lotusphere Comes to You in Columbus today, Microsoft is still out there telling their partners that "this is the big year" for them to win over the Notes customer base...with the same play they've been running for four years.  Some of you look at a few data points and assume it must be winning.  I look at the number of end-user Notes seats on active maintenance, and i see increases year-to-year from 2004 to 2008.  

If anything, this is the year where MS will wave the white flag on Notes Compete (after the end of their fiscal year).  They have, by my estimate, spent somewhere near $100 million to try to win over the Notes base, and yet the Notes base is bigger than when MS started.  Now they are attacking in an economic climate that has companies looking for ways to leverage their existing investments, not migrate to new, unproven, expensive ones.  A business partner I talked to yesterday told me that they are working with a Notes 6.5 customer on some new apps for the first time in years.  Another partner told me they had record billings for their Notes add-in tool in the first quarter.

Not everything is rosy.  I'm seeing some shakeout and consolidation in the ecosystem around Notes.  I worry about that, but I think it's a consequence of the economic conditions and timing as much as anything else.  The same is happening in the Microsoft market, where Office/Windows had their first ever revenue decline and the server/tools team saw their growth rate slow and barely even mentioned SharePoint or Exchange in the earnings announcements.  Strong partners with solid business models and market differentiation are doing well.  Meanwhile, the IBM team that works with partners is aggressively moving to put some new plans in place to spur new activity in the channel.

Our execution might be a step behind where you want it to be.  Some areas, like marketing to end-users specifically, are opportunities for additional work versus what we're already working on (and Nathan made this point well earlier).

We're not going to solve everything in a 30 day action plan.  There are a ton of new actions and announcements coming in the month of May.  Some of them will immediately impact the market while others will demonstrate ongoing strategic value and commitment.  We'll keep taking your ideas as input, too.  The reason I blog every day continues today in this job to be as strong a motivator for me as it was six years ago.  The feedback you all provide is critical to the success of Notes -- it is what has made the difference for the last four years, really.  Please keep it coming... please keep it professional....please keep brainstorming new ideas.  We will keep doing what we can, challenging each other inside of IBM, raising discussions outside, and sharing the effort to keep Notes winning in the market.  Thanks.

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