IBM's social media guidelines are clear: Don't blog about specific customer situations.  So I won't.  But what I will say in generalities is that I've just returned from a meeting that was the main reason I came to Chile this week -- I met the CEO of one of my customers to discuss the future of collaboration and productivity.  And in sixteen years at IBM, I've never had the opportunity to call on the "Gerente General" of any customer, certainly of the size, anywhere in the world.  This was a very cool opportunity and I am grateful to the business partner who sponsored the meeting.

You're probably wondering, so what happened?   We had a great conversation about innovation and moving beyond commodity email to help the organization's employees be more productive.  We talked about scenarios where they could integrate business logic (e.g. SAP) and collaboration.  And we talked generally about the future, through concepts like social analytics, attention management, and mobile devices/form factors.  Yes, there was plenty of discussion about their existing Notes deployment, and how we can help them realize more value from this while also reducing costs.

We also had some really nice Chilean sauvignon blanc, but that was beside the point. :-)

As a format, the two-part meeting we did here worked really well.  Yesterday, I met with the senior IT staff from the customer organization, and we talked about and demonstrated the entire Lotus portfolio.  While most of you know me as "the Notes guy", and this is a customer running Notes and iNotes today, we really spent more time talking unified communication, social networking in business, and where they could go on this journey and how it would improve their organization's productivity.  We then took that message to the more-senior meeting today, and outlined a vision for the future.

So now what.  When we have this level of partnership with a client, it is easy for IBM to design a roadmap to the future.  We are going to start with some "home improvement" around their existing Notes/Domino deployment.  But we're going to introduce Sametime meetings right away.  And we're going to look at some new XPages-based apps to help leverage their in-process upgrade to Notes/Domino 8.5.1.  From there?  The road ahead has many opportunities, and solutions that can help this organization.

Talking to customers is always the best part of my job.  It's why I blog, it's why I travel, it's why I love what I do.  It is a unique opportunity and more important than anything else I can do on any given day.  It's worth 13 hours of economy-class travel and studying new cultures and learning about new business customs.  It's worth having to try to again dust off my high school Spanish (though ultimately we conducted these meetings in English) and immerse myself.  And whether it is me or another part of the IBM Lotus executive team, we will always find the right person to talk to a customer about our story.  Because when we partner, it is a good deal for both parties.

As for my first visit to Chile, I am having a great time.  The local IBM team, the business partner who asked me to visit, and the hotel staff where I'm staying have been wonderful and hospitable.  As today is the 3rd day, I have hit the magic point where I can "think in Spanish" a bit more and try not to translate on the fly (though I still sound like un niƱo).  The seafood has been delicious, the views of snow-capped mountains, exquisite.  I am hopeful that I can squeeze in a little bit of time on Friday to visit some of the local wineries before flying back Friday night.  Until then, hasta luego...necesito escribir unos correos electronicos....

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