What Companies Tell Me When They’re Leaving the IBM Stack

This is very much a YMMV post. I recognize that not everyone sees or hears the same story I am being told; there are regions of the world where the IBM stack is winning. There are companies that cannot imagine a life without the IBM stack. However, with the cloud making all of the news, getting all of the attention, there are companies that use the “disruption” as a means to take a hard look at their current environment. In my little corner of the world, that disruption usually means that the IBM stack (Notes, Domino, Sametime, Quickr, Traveler) loses.

First, it’s no secret that the economy took its pound of flesh from the Northeastern Ohio area. During those wonderful years, several of my customers no longer exist. And as they went down, they may have moved to Google, then they disappeared. Or, they simply closed their doors. Others were bought by other, larger companies, and as they lost their individuality, they also lost the messaging platform “war.”

No surprises there. It happens all of the time.

But what about those companies that made it through the depression recession? Those companies emerged to face a new player, the cloud, and all of the hype and promise that came with it. While they may not have moved to trusting another organization with their precious data, because there was a new player, it allowed them to look at how they currently run their businesses.

So, from those that emerged from the recession, those that are considering or have moved away, what do I hear?

By far, the number one answer is the “Lotus Tax.” I hear this from every single customer that has moved, or is in the process of moving. I hear it from customers that have no intention of moving. I hear it All. The. Time. What is this? Basically, the IBM stack is at a decided, competitive disadvantage when it comes to third party support. You want to invest in a new technology of some sort. You get down to decision time and discover that if you want to integrate this new “thing” into your IBM-centric environment, it’s either going to cost you more for integration or it just flat out won’t work. This certainly limits the things that you can do to sell more widgets or provide better/newer services to your organization.

The “Lotus Tax” can also be extended to another area: accessibility and availability of development and support resources. At one time, there were quite a few places where one could go to augment staff with external resources, using local assets. That is not the case currently, nor do I think it will ever be the case again. If you require someone for assistance in any area of the IBM stack, you have to go to great lengths to find and bring them in. The people that were once available have either moved in-house or moved on.  In many cases, if you need resources, you have to go outside of the region, which increases costs. It really looks like support is diminishing rapidly, and with it, quite possibly, the quality of that support. On the other hand, if you move to, say Microsoft, there is a plethora of resources from which to choose.

I believe, from what I have been seeing, the “Lotus Tax” tells organizations that market share in the IBM stack is dwindling. If third-party vendors aren’t supporting it, if it is difficult to find development and support resources, if it appears that investments aren’t being made to enhance the products or the ecosystem, the market is speaking with their money and the organizations that use the technology are taking notice. If you made a choice, and it is now limiting what you can do, the options that you have available, organizations will move away.  A Business Partner, an employee, may tell a different story, however the market is saying something contradictory.

Interesting, isn’t it, that in this discussion there is no mention of a UI, application development, security, replication, activities or social?

5 Responses to What Companies Tell Me When They’re Leaving the IBM Stack

  1. Lyta says:

    Thank you. I could have written this myself. We have been on the “IBM stack” since I converted this company from cc:Mail to Notes. It is becoming harder and harder to convince upper management that staying with IBM is the thing to do. You hit the nail on the head of: “it’s ten times harder to get anything done with Notes, there is no flow, I create my document, save it, get out of Word, get into Notes, attach it, etc.” I can go on.

    I have started to see some third party integrations for Connections, but if that doesn’t pick up, IBM’s going to lose that war, too. Maybe IBM needs to invest in some of it’s “co-horts” to get more integration with it’s products?

  2. Henning Heinz says:

    IBM is not losing at all. Steve Mills plan to assemble existing components and sell them with some extra lipstick is a clear winner. Add cost effective development in India and China for a global market and you have a high margin software solutions for large corporates.
    If it does not work anymore you start cost cutting and juggle your components a bit to sell the next big thing.
    As a Business Partner you may not benefit in the same way IBM does. The result is that many IBM Business Partners are calling me trying to sell Microsoft (or other vendors) solutions.
    I sometimes think all this is a pity because there is so much more IBM could do especially when we speak of Notes and Domino. To be fair it seems they are currently doing a bit more.
    I was very surprised that with Notes 9 there is even a usable Mac client.

  3. What I hear from my customers is not so much integration woes, because the right resources, skills and guidance can usually mitigate or neutralize such concerns. The more common theme of concern I hear is the absence of qualified local resources to provide the expert assistance when it’s needed.

    Unfortunately a lot of this harkens back to the R5/R6 days, when frankly the brand was being neglected. There was a perceived “abandonment” of it by IBM (because perception is reality to most people), which caused a lot of companies to consider alternatives – and the resources/service providers who wanted to remain engaged with their customers adopted the skills needed to support them. The end result was a run-off of a lot of talent to other disciplines. I’ve had to decline work (which pains me to say), simply because I was too busy to provide effective services. There simply are too few outside resources on which companies can rely.

    I think if we look around the landscape, there are very few newbies; most of “us” have been doing Notes/Domino for a decade or more. Unless the value of the technology stack is communicated and demonstrated to the up-and-coming generation of application designers, this will only get worse. It won’t matter how technologically superior the IBM stack might be, if there’s no one around to leverage it.

  4. darrenduke says:

    Anything that involves MAPI causes Notes to cry. You have to install Outlook (yes, you read that right…Outlook) *before* Notes and even then I maybe get a 25% success rate now.

    This is a somewhat simple *but* extremely common example, but I think this is exactly what you are talking about. In some ways this is worse….it. is. supposed. to. work! Can you imagine the man hours wasted installing Notes *twice*. Only for such an abysmal success rate?

  5. BVinLA says:

    There is still partial demand out there for administrators to keep old “IBM stacks” alive, but demand for development is very low. An “IBM stack” developer now has to constantly interview for and move around the country for gigs. With such conditions It simply becomes natural for developers, or college kids to invest their education dollars and time into other technologies which lead to steady work in places they wish to live. So the lack of development demand for the IBM Stack is leading to an ever smaller pool of people who are available or know how, a vicious loop.

    Its frustrating because IBM has some great solutions, they just haven’t evolved effectively. Early versions seem promising, but subsequent upgrades seem to disappoint customers more than delight. My take has always been that IBM product evolution feels like its done by huge committee leading a small ragged development team. Too many old features linger holding things back, and too many half thought out new features make the cut, leading to quirks and kluges.

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