April 22 2007
It's been a while since I've felt the need to comment on competitive practices I'm encountering in the field, but as it is getting personal, it's time to take a look.
For the last eight weeks or so, I've been receiving occasional reports from Microsoft "migrate from Notes" events all over the world. It hasn't been worth paying too much attention, because the attendance hasn't been particularly large, and it's mostly been partners rather than customers. But one particular tool that MS is using needs some public discourse, sooner rather than later.
My understanding is that the presenters at these events have often been ex-Lotus employees. They go quite far in emphasizing how many of them there are at Microsoft, all the way from the top (Ray Ozzie) down. They say that there's been no similar movement from Microsoft to Lotus. They imply that there's nobody left (or at least nobody talented left) at Lotus. That's pretty personal and snarky.
I'm not going to name names here, but my regular readers know some of them. Given who they are, I have to say that this is an incredibly deceptive tactic. I can count only a very few of the ex-Lotus employees at Microsoft who actually went directly from Lotus to Microsoft. Most left for some other destination, following various paths, and later ended up at Microsoft. One exception is in field sales, where there have indeed been some people who have gone straight to MS of their own choice. While I am never thrilled with that, good salespeople are valuable anywhere -- including some ex-Microsoft people at Lotus. C'est la vie.
Does it matter how they got to Microsoft? Yes, I would say so. People with an end-user attitude towards computing software have few large company choices for employment. It's logical that, given MS's presence in end-user computing, people who worked at Lotus might find similar interesting work at Microsoft. Again, that part doesn't bother me at all. But insinuating that it is because of some brain drain or lure, when most of them had intermediate stopping points, is just plain unethical (and in their cases, often untrue). And it saddens me that they are all willing to sell their credibility short like that. In some ways, I could be flattered -- Microsoft needs the talent that is developed at IBM Lotus, while the same maybe isn't as true in reverse? I don't know, and in all honesty, individual resumés shouldn't really be such a big part of the discussion.
There's other activity going on, big offers (bigger than I've ever seen before) being the most notable. With the window closing on the "your users prefer Outlook" approach, and more and more companies realizing that Microsoft's upgrade treadmill has benefited only the wallet of their salesperson, I guess there isn't much else that can be done. MS is doing some things right -- SharePoint 2007 appears to be a credible competitor in the market. You just have to wonder what it is that makes them so willing to wrap capable technology in a set of desperate tactics.