One of the most interesting, but slightly uncomfortable, parts of presenting at the Lotus Top Gun training class in São Paulo this week was leading a competitive discussion with a very recently ex-Microsoft sales guy in the room.  While everything I present in that section is based on publicly-available documentation, you never know what the spin is going to be.  

Part of my agenda is to debunk truisms and FUD spread in the market by Microsoft.  I have a slide in the presentation that is based on my "Then and now, episode 2" blog entry from February.  The slide shows the same two graphics that are in the blog entry -- Accenture/Avanade's claim around when they migrated off Notes, and the reality of Accenture hiring Notes developers (and using hundreds of Notes applications) today.

When I finished presenting that slide, I looked at Luis and asked, how many times in your old job have you told customers that Accenture migrated from Notes to Microsoft?  His answer, many times.  When we spoke about this in more detail afterwards, he was incredulous.  He said that he had no idea that Accenture was still using Notes today, and that while at Microsoft, he was always told that Accenture was one of the best case studies for Notes to Microsoft migration.

I have said this before on the blog and elsewhere -- Microsoft is very good at training its field people and keeping them "on message".  From time to time, Microsoft employees have commented on topics here or posted items on their own.  They have often discovered over the years that the truth is at odds with what they say and have been told -- whether it's the statistical validity of a particular study, the current status of a migration story, or the number of customers in a particular list that are actually using Microsoft products.  What's interesting to me is that they have some ability to stick to their story, despite this being the era of open information and social networking -- nobody from their side seems to take a credibility hit when they are flat out wrong.

I wrote the above section of this blog entry on Thursday morning, but hadn't had a chance to post it yet.  In the meanwhile, Network World ran this story:

Microsoft is seeking to get five million Lotus Notes customers to make the switch to Microsoft's collaboration tools in its fiscal 2009 year, according to Kevin Turner, COO for the software giant.  ... "This past year we sold in 4.86 million seats of our collaboration solution -- SharePoint, Exchange and Office -- into IBM Lotus Notes accounts," Turner went on about Microsoft's success in the historical messaging and collaboration battle it has fought with IBM and Lotus.

"If you take the last two years, we have sold in eight million seats. This next year I have a goal for the [sales] field that is more than five million seats," he said.
This is very interesting and careful phraseology, which isn't entirely surprising coming from the COO.  Microsoft sold a bunch of their product into Lotus customers.  Even if the number is true, BFD.  They stuffed it in Enterprise Agreements, got customers to buy Office 2007 upgrades, and otherwise made deals "too good to refuse" to get these products in as shelfware.  

Microsoft's sales team is required to sell a balance of products in order to meet their performance objectives.  Even if they don't have any customers in their sales territory who want to buy Exchange, they have to find a way to sell it if they want to make the grade.  Is it any wonder that they then found a way to sell these products?  Mr. Turner, perhaps you noticed how the market reacted negatively to Microsoft's cost of sales in your fiscal 2008?  Perhaps the incentives put in place to "sell" these products weren't really worth it, after all?

This story from Network World gets more interesting when you put it in contrast with what Ballmer said a few weeks ago at their partner conference:
4.7 million seats of Lotus Notes have been Exchanged.  
Now that sounds more like Microsoft.  Boasting that they've migrated these users...whether true or not...is the classic Ballmer way.  In fact, they haven't "migrated" 4.7 million users in 2008, nor 3 million the year before.  Nobody at Microsoft is tracking actual deployment in these accounts, just the check box of whether they bought something.  And more importantly, they are claiming these huge numbers of migrations up against a nearly-four-year track record at IBM of revenue growth at Lotus.  My data shows that IBM increased the number of Notes customers on maintenance contracts during calendar 2007 by 10%.  Somehow, these numbers don't add up.  And from what I know, the reason is, Microsoft identifies a "Lotus Notes account" as anyone who ever bought any Notes -- like if there were 10 users in a department that bought Notes in 1994, that's a "Notes account".  Not that I'm accusing them of being deceptive, nor that this is the first time we've had a discussion like this.

I hesitate to make more noise out of any of these episodes of the past, because our story is solid and there's no need to be constantly and loudly defensive.  On the other hand, when the truth is out there, doesn't it deserve to be heard?

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