Random thoughts from an unusual company

Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Gabriella Davis  15 June 2010 11:52:40
Like everyone else, I read John's beautifully written post yesterday and I'm sure like many others I felt his pain / sense of loss coming through.  I don't really know John but I do have friends who are going through similar situations and I know they are similarly struggling with decisions about where they go next in their career and what technology they choose.  

I didn't, however, post a comment on John's blog because, much as I don't doubt the veracity of what he's saying or the reality of what a lot of Notes developers are dealing with, it's simply not my reality.  So that got me thinking, why am I so positive about my career and the work Turtle is doing and Turtle's prospects?  Is it because I'm relentlessly optimistic to the point of being naiive?  Well possibly, but then I've talked about it with my fellow Directors at Turtle and they feel similarly.  

Is it John's argument that when you're in the eye of the storm, all looks peaceful and you simply don't notice what's swirling around you (paraphrasing him badly) - that's possible too, but I'm not stupid and in the 15 years of running Turtle I've often found myself in this position and my instincts have so far (touch wood) led me in the right direction.

So why am I posting this?  Well the number one reason is the 3 emails I received from customers this morning asking what was going on and if IBM were dropping Notes after reading the comments and the postings from yesterday.  That's not John's responsibility and nor is it the responsibility of those who commented, but I wanted to state my view here for them and for anyone else who hasn't emailed me but is thinking the same thing.  

Now there's a big difference between my viewpoint and that of an independent or employed developer.  For a start I'm not a developer I'm an admin.  Secondly my focus is not on my personal career but on the business of Turtle as a whole - of which only about 25% is development.  About 50% of our business is outside the UK, mostly in the US.  

So some key points that come from my reality:
  • Do I see the Notes / Domino / Lotus market going away?  

    From our perspective that's not happening this year any more than it has in previous years.  The business continually evolves - some years we do more development than infrastructure or strategy projects, some years more support contracts, some more integration projects.  We're having a good year, certainly not the kind of year that would make us want to go elsewhere.  

    I feel very uncomfortable typing that knowing that some people aren't but there is another side to the coin, I can't tell you why we are doing well and others aren't and I wish I knew so I could assure myself it will continue.  It may be the breadth of services support, admin, strategy, BB dev, iphone dev, Notes dev, Web dev that has protected us.

  • How about those MS technologies?  

    Well, we do Exchange work and have done for years but it focuses on coexistence not migration, we also support Exchange and Exchange BES but only in mixed environments.  We've done some Sharepoint integration too but we have no interest in providing that as a primary service for MS only companies.  

    Why?  Well, #1 is that the technology and its potential for customers doesn't engage us and while we monitor what companies are doing with MS technologies , we don't believe in them the way we believe in Lotus technologies.  I wanted to like Sharepoint until I saw the underlying infrastructure and realised its limitations in terms of flexibility and security compared to Quickr.  Sharepoint 2010 is better but it still leaves me pretty cold.  I have the luxury of choosing to work with technologies I love and right now Sharepoint and Exchange aren't them.  

    For those of you who complain at Sametime 8.5, try an install of OCS sometime and you'll realise how little you have to complain about.    Of course the other reason I'm not interested in becoming a MS partner is that the world is neck deep in terrible, barely competent MS business partners (I know because I get to go in and clean up their mess all the time, or try and work with them).  In that enormous pool of the patchily skilled, how do I differentiate myself as "expert" and is that even a commodity in that market?

  • As for Google:

    I believe companies aren't ready for the Cloud and those that are moving are going to find, like the holy grail of outsourcing, that the TCO of managing that environment and handling the data restrictions and limited / loss of service will come back to bite them.  

    Of course they won't admit it because may companies, once committed, have no choice but to keep pushing on the course they have budgetted for.  IBM meanwhile will keep pushing LotusLive (which as a Cloud replacement for on premise Domino servers is also way ahead of its market) because it makes them lots of money.  

    My opinion is that if Cloud replaces on premise at all (and I'm giving that 25% chance but what do I know) it won't be for several years yet.

  • Aren't we frustrated with Lotus products?  

    Not really no. The work being done on the Domino server is phenomenal. You need only look at things like the managed replica model on 8.5.2 (a point release with a major feature enhancement for goodness sakes) to realise how much Lotus is investing in that.  I also think Connections and Sametime and the upcoming Quickr 8.5 all have huge potential if we just accept that they are re-inventions of themselves and that they may be over-reaching in terms of features and we may wish they were a bit better baked before coming out of the oven but rather that than a bunch of stagnating products.  

    If your company is using Lotus technologies there's a ton of exciting developments right now and coming up you are probably missing out on.  I blogged last week on LotusLive meetings and it's a fast, feature rich, slick service which all Lotus BPs should use (you have free access if you're a BP).  

    We talk to customers every day who understand the benefits upgrading brings them and are keen to move to 8.5.1 / 8.5.2 Sametime 8.5 etc.  I've done seven 8.5.1 corporate upgrades, 4 BES upgrades and 3 Sametime installs this year so far - those customers aren't planning to move away tomorrow.  Maybe they are thinking about it in a year's time or 3 year's time but that takes me to my next point

  • There is no technology you can hitch your wagon to today that will take you into retirement.  None.  

    Lotus has changed a lot since 2000 but so has Exchange and Sharepoint and Novell.  That's the nature of IT and the business we're in and you can't defend against it. All you can do it be the best you can be at the technology you choose to work in.  Sometimes you might bet on the wrong horse but we're smart people in this community and we can learn new technologies in a flash - let's not let life pass us by worrying about what could happen someday.
  • Many of the public complaints regarding IBM or Lotus are about missed opportunities and I understand that, but I'm not sure Lotus would have been better off if I had been given a free rein to run it for the past 10 years so I have little to say on that matter.

So I may be naiive and optimistic and you can all have a good laugh at my expense if Turtle fails in the future but right now, today, as I said to a friend this morning, what Im seeing is blue skies and clouds off into the distance. My focus today and every day is what is best for my customers, company and the people we employ.  Right now that's still very much Lotus and though I will continually monitor other technologies and keep expanding my skills, I don't see that changing any time soon.
Comments

1Lisa Duke  15/06/2010 13:17:33  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Well said Gab!

2Richard Shergold  15/06/2010 13:25:52  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Some excellent points Gabriella. And well made.

3Frank Docherty  15/06/2010 13:53:28  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

A very well thought out, and nicely delivered response Gab.

4John Head  15/06/2010 14:27:23  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Brilliant Post Gab! Just awesome!!!!

5John Vaughan  15/06/2010 15:14:37  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Gab,

I don't think you are naive, at all. I've seen you speak a few times - I know how smart you are (and Tim too, plus any guy with a room full of comics has to be all right), it's no wonder Turtle is doing well.

Everyone has their own "reality tunnel". I'm a bit shocked at the direction mine is pointing, but I have to move on. That's me. And ultimately I think I'll be better for it and possibly a lot more marketable. Time will tell.

Eye of the storm - I think that for *me* there is/was something like that going on. I'm not saying it is or should be relevant for you per se or anyone else.

My complaints are, I think, pretty specific, and I hope someone high up in the chain at IBM understands what I am saying. And of course, what I am saying, personally, isn't important, but the resonance in the community is what is important. If that resonance exists, if the numbers speak, well, then it's bigger than me.

See comment 107 - directed in part to people like yourself who are doing well. Gab you guys and all the successful BPs are my heroes. If I keep doing this tech stuff long term (actually really want to turn into a novelist), I want to be like you someday.

6David Leedy  15/06/2010 15:33:42  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Great post Gab!!! Wonderful read.

7Gabriella Davis  15/06/2010 15:50:45  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

@5 John, I'm not sure what to say other than one of the big advantages of running your own business (possibly the only one) is the control you have over the decisions being made. That may be the only difference between us in that decisions are being made for you and they aren't the ones you'd choose for yourself. I'm glad you see the opportunity because I honestly believe it is and that you'll be around in this community for a very long time to come, hopefully only as light relief to your writing career :-)

8Chris C  15/06/2010 16:07:49  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Gabriella - brilliantly said as before. Business here is good although we have lost a couple over the last few years. As you mention this is the technology business - it's up to us to gear up and respond in the best way to how the market moves - changes always offer up opportunities.

I see a brighter future based on developments pre 8.5x. Even got some new business on board - so swings and roundabouts.

IBM is a big machine that takes a while to move...Having said that we will all be watching and planning with interest to see how the next steps pan out. So for us no need to "ditch" Lotus - there are plenty of people out there rubbing there hands at that kind of talk...

9Rob Novak  15/06/2010 19:13:04  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

As always, eloquent and very well reasoned. Wonderful post, Gab.

10Mary Beth Raven  16/06/2010 03:24:19  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Thanks, Gab. You make some excellent and fact-filled points.

11Mat Newman  16/06/2010 04:33:40  Well put!

A great read Gab, and a good balance to the 'doom and gloom' that's been blowing around the Yellowverse in the last couple of days.

We too are seeing a renewed interest in Lotus software in Australia, and not the 'mass move away from Lotus' alluded to in many of the US based posts.

I wonder how much the depressed US economy is contributing to experiences such as John's?

12Jim Casale  16/06/2010 08:11:56  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

"I wonder how much the depressed US economy is contributing to experiences such as John's?"

@Mat

Bingo!

Reality is in the eye of the beholder. I would say the US economy is, and has been, in the dumps for a very long time from my perspective. For someone else however, the economy might be going full steam ahead. It's just how people see it based on their reality.

It may contribute to how people see their career/employment situation although this may not be true for everyone.

13Scott Good  16/06/2010 18:23:32  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Gab,

Thoroughly, wonderfully, thought out and said...as usual. I, for one, share your optimism.

As an application development shop, last year was a down year for us but I attribute that to the economy. When there's no money to spend, people keep the servers running and put off new projects.

This year, however, we are seeing a pretty strong upsurge of new work from both long-time and new clients. Some of this, I'm sure, is pent-up demand from clients unable to do projects last year but there is strong enthusiasm among many clients who had done nothing for several years for Notes 8.5+. In many cases, they are returning to the fold or, more accurately, renewing their commitment to the platform.

While we have started training many of our developers in .NET technologies as a hedge, there is no question that the Microsoft approach is so much harder to work with, so much slower to implement, and so much more costly for clients that the comparison is almost laughable.

We will keep our eyes open, too, but for now Notes and Domino are, if anything, growing among our client base.

14Keith Brooks  16/06/2010 19:47:25  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Well said Gab!

We see the world similarly to you and Turtle and continue to move forward and branch out more as well.

15Phil Dawson  17/06/2010 04:56:52  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

If 14 positive comments in 2 days are anything to go by I'd say Turtle's reputation and exposure is as strong as its ever been.

In today's world it is brilliant to see that a company can retain customers and build loyalty by providing quality service and delivery......even with no Australians on the payroll!

Keep up the good work!

16Gabriella Davis  17/06/2010 17:47:20  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Good to hear that I'm not completely in the wilderness - thanks.

@15 - Thanks very much,we continually assure ourselves how rubbish England is to make up for your absence :-) btw shouldn't you be busy rocking, bathing, feeding or burping a small baby about now ?

17John Vaughan  19/06/2010 03:45:19  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

@7 Thanks Gab! :-)

@11 Mat - In my particular case the move to Microsoft had nothing to do with the economy.

I'd guess a slow economy would, all things being equal, slow migrations to Microsoft. Their stuff is awfully expensive.

18Shaw G  19/06/2010 13:04:26  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Well said!

my feeling are better told by some one in this community:

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19Rob Ingram  25/06/2010 03:52:22  Lotus Software - The View Of An Optimist Who Thinks Like A Pragmatist

Gab

Being a previous Domino guy I moved myself to the the Sametime product team to reinvigorate my own career. So I though your choice of the word 're-invention' was perfect.

It seems to me that no person, business or now country in this 'new normal' economy can afford to think that the way things have been in the past are the way they will remain in future. In our software industry I believe we all need to be ready to reinvent the rest of our careers.

I'm heartened to see Turtle appears to be flourishing by taking the re-invention message to heart and bringing their Lotus customers along on the next phase of the journey.