VentureBeat: Once king of enterprise software, Lotus Notes is dragging IBM down

After the Wall Street Journal wrote an article about IBM Notes, it seems that there are some other news organizations have picked up on it and have spinned it into another direction. The “not too favorable” direction. For example, VentureBeat writer Dylan Tweney has another view:

IBM has more modern social-media software, too, but only makes about $55 million per year from that segment of its business. So the challenge for IBM is to continue milking as much revenue as it can from Lotus, while gradually shifting the branding and the revenue to newer, sexier lines of business. One example: Renaming its annual Lotus conference, Lotusphere, as “Connect2013.” Yeah, that’ll help.

We’ll be watching to see if the earnings report sheds any more light on IBM’s efforts to turn Notes around. But as for me, I’m not holding my breath.

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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?

Salesforce.com: Why Companies are replacing Lotus Notes

One of the beautiful, annoying aspects of the internet is that it never forgets. There are many, many examples of this trueism coming back to bite companies and individuals. So, let’s look at Salesforce.com.

Back in 2009, at Lotusphere, Salesforce was there, in force as I recall, to demonstrate how their offering integrated with LotusLive. Oh, it was a joyful time.

. . . At IBM’s Lotusphere event, salesforce.com will showcase how customers can bring together Salesforce CRM with LotusLive and Lotus Notes, to harness the power and innovation of cloud computing within their enterprises and across their customers.

Salesforce.com has also entered into an agreement with IBM to work together to further enable technology interoperability and joint customer success for businesses that use solutions from both companies.
“The cloud computing model offers customers a low-cost, low-risk way to manage their IT infrastructure,” said Polly Sumner, President, Platform, Alliances and Services, salesforce.com. “Bringing together Salesforce CRM and LotusLive can help customers further leverage cloud computing to streamline their communication and collaboration processes.”

Wow, kittens AND unicorns. It was beautiful.

Here we are, at the end of 2012. How’s that relationship between IBM and Salesforce working out?

Well, the reality is that Notes penetrated companies pretty darn well back in the 90’s (like a Nirvana song permeated the radio waves), and the departmental applications sprouted and filled all the holes that IT often couldn’t get to. Love it or hate it, Notes became a mainstay platform of the enterprise. In a recent survey we did of our Dreamforce 2012 attendees, we found that 73% did indeed still use Lotus Notes. And that 70.3% were considering replacing Lotus Notes, the majority within the year.

No hard numbers, as in “number of respondants,” but that doesn’t really matter. Of Salesforce’s customers at Dreamforce, 73% of their customers use Lotus IBM Notes and Domino. Of those respondants, as I read it, 70.3% of the 73% are looking to replace it.

[Blog intermission] I am rather shocked that there were that many IBM Notes and Domino customers attending. Consider that IBM probably has less than 50% of the total messaging market, and that of that number, 73% were at Dreamforce. I would venture to say that only other place on Earth, where more than 73% of the audience is IBM Notes and Domino customers is at Connect. Or one of the many User Group conferences held around the world.

What the heck happened from 2009 until now that soured the once exceptional relationship between IBM and Salesforce? Remember, it was all kittens, sunshine, and unicorns back in 2009.

If you read the comments to the Salesforce post, and I highly recommend that you do, Ed Brill chimes in. But then, so does Steve Wood, VP of Platform for Salesforce:

Let me start by making a bold statement: we like Lotus Notes! We also have a huge respect for Lotus Notes developers. It has been a transformational platform for many businesses. It illustrated how empowering the business to “do more” with software can result in amazing things. However, it’s old. And I think I could probably get you to agree that IBM has under-invested. It’s client/server (more on xpages later), users find the product to be pretty clunky from a UI perspective, workflow has to be coded, and it doesn’t REALLY have reporting (it has views). It’s just kind of… well… old and tired. All of this stuff means that Lotus Notes users and developers are looking for a new player – we hear that from surveying just those people. They like Lotus and what it does, but they feel trapped in an aging and underinvested platform – that’s where we see our opportunity (and we’re investing heavily).

I wonder if Salesforce will be at Connect?

Link: Salesforce.com Demonstrates Cloud Computing Solutions at IBM Lotusphere 2009

Link: Here’s Why Companies are Replacing Lotus Notes (And You Should Too)

Cringely: More stupid IBM tricks put customer data at risk

Keeping an eye on Cringely, as he continues to watch IBM. This time around, IBM failed its internal security audit which means that those of you that rely on IBM Global Services to manage your data centers might want to take notice and demand some things from your sales rep or account manager.

I heard from dozens of readers this morning about a message IBM sent to its current employees concerning their 401K plan — changing it from a contribution in every paycheck to a single contribution at the end of the year. Of course if you are laid off that means no annual contribution, less retirement savings, but a real bonus to the company. This, in itself, isn’t worth a column. It’s just Scrooge IBM being more Scrooge-like in search of that 2015 earnings target. What is worth a column is putting this news in the context of IBM having failed its recent internal security audit, which should concern IBM customers.

What, they didn’t tell you?

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Sametime Gateway Update

A while back, I asked if anyone knew Sametime Gateway. I certainly appreciated the responses, however restarting the Gateway and the Nodes was not my idea of a good time.

Even if we were able to script it.

What did opening a PMR with IBM get us?

After much time and effort, on both IBM’s and our part, it came down to a problem between, not the Gateway and Google Talk, as I expected, but a communication issue between the Sametime Gateway and the Sametime XMPP server. That’s right kids, the IBM pieces weren’t able to communicate with each other, which resulted in the installation of an IBM patch. A patch that was unknown to the IBM techs that were trying valiantly to resolve this issue.

Wonderful.

However, this episode did bring me to a harsh conclusion – there are so many moving parts in these new tools from IBM, so many different areas within IBM involved in the development and support of these tools, that there is no one person or group that is responsible for, in this case, the Instant Messaging stack. You need a WebSphere person. You need a Sametime person. You may even need a person from Israel who was there on “Day One” when someone decided that moving Sametime to WebSphere was a good idea, someone with A LOT of institutional knowledge. Then, at the end, someone, somewhere, discovers a patch. A patch that was unknown to the tech, until he happened to ask the right person,the right question.

Apparently, important information is missing from a wiki somewhere.

While I certainly see the usefulness of having something like Sametime Gateway installed and functioning, it’s true value would be delivered by allowing more than just two external communities to communicate with it; AOL Clearinghouse and Google Talk. Yes, that’s right, this is probably the only Instant Messaging gateway on the planet that talks to only two communities. I see no indication from anyone that Yahoo will soon be added back into the mix. Nor do I see any other instant messaging community lining up to be included to Sametime Gateway.

Where is the value you are delivering with this product, IBM?