I had stopped by to ask if their search technology could crawl a Notes/Domino database. At which point I was told that the company saw no value in creating an add-on for a dead product. "IBM isn't even here at KMWorld, look around - do you see them anywhere?" I didn't. (Unless they were hidden behind the Microsoft Search booth.) I also did not see them in the list of exhibitors.
I did check the conference guide to find that IBM was listed as a sponsor of the taxonomy bootcamp. OK, that's a start. I also noticed that a presenter was doing a demo of an IBM search tool in his session. I realize that this was not a huge conference, but there are key decision makers here. Some that use Notes may be wondering to themselves if Notes is a dead product, while others, unaware of the power of Notes, will continue to be... unaware.
During this week at the KMWorld conference I've met many people that tell me they are using Lotus Notes successfully as their collaboration and knowledge management platform. I heard this same comment more than once:
"... people at the conference are all excited about product X or that new tool or "Tool 2.0", but our organization's had [most of] these capabilities with Lotus Notes for years...."Of course, I did meet another speaker at the banquet who asked me if Lotus Notes was still being sold and supported. He was shocked when I told him that the last IBM # of Notes users I was aware of was 140 million Notes users. (Even if I'm off by a few tens of millions of users, that's nothing to sneeze at.)
So, what's the problem? Why are there so many decision makers that attended Enterprise 2.0 and KMWorld 2007 (and many other conferences I frequent) unaware of the power of Notes?
It's clearly not a technology problem. Many of the knowledge management professionals from the larger established companies were pleased to tell me about their Lotus Notes/Domino deployments. Many raved about Notes and more than one used my favorite expression about Notes:
"We're not getting rid of Notes in our organization; you'll have to pry Notes from our cold dead hands..."I have many clients and I even know of several collaboration analysts who feel the same way.
According to Ed Brill's recent post, Notes and Exchange continue to hold approximately 40% of the market, each. These numbers have been stable for some time. I don't see Exchange (or any other Microsoft product) killing Notes/Domino dead - at least not in the technology department,
I think It's a marketing problem on the part of IBM and in the mind of the consumer. (There, Microsoft, with its FUD campaign, may indeed be winning the battle.)
Anyway, back to my opening statement, I stayed at the vendors booth, convinced them that Lotus Notes is indeed alive and well, and growing, and that they could seize a large opportunity if they integrated support for Notes/Domino into their KM product. I convinced them (I think) to attend Lotusphere in January to see the market for themselves, meet developers who can help them add Notes/Domino support to their product and test the market. I hope this is a positive step for them.
As for IBM, I still believe Notes is an incredibly powerful platform for collaboration and knowledge management and I continue to be amazed at the creative things people are doing in their organization with Notes. I just don't understand why IBM's Notes/Domino marketing campaigns have failed to reach mass market awareness. Part of me wonders if people might perceive that Notes is lost deep within Big Blue and they are not sure if it will survive. Valid argument. I feel that way ... every time I have to deal with the IBM site to get information. At the same time, I know Notes is not dead. I see LOTS of innovation coming from the Lotus Notes division - just look at Notes 8, Quickr, SameTime, and a multitude of related products to name a few. Again, it's not a technology problem. I think it is a consumer perception problem. It's frustrating. Even more so, since I have yet to see a product that can do what Notes does. IBM owns the space Notes serves so well.
If I had several billion dollars in the bank, I would take Notes/Domino off of IBM's hands. I think it's that good of a product. Then, I would assemble a focus group of 50% customers, 20% business partners, 10% Value-added resellers, 15% developers, and 5% well-known respected collaboration bloggers/analysts to tackle the problem of how to position and communicate what Notes can do. (I would also hire away a handful of key Notes bloggers and evangelists from IBM and turn them loose on the web to do what they do so well.) I would give away the designer client to anyone that wanted it and get folks developing Notes/Domino/Web apps. Then I would get out of the way.
Oh, and I would make sure that IBM/Lotus is represented at conferences where decision makers go.
This is definitely a marketing problem.
I wonder if anyone on the IBM marketing team knows (or remembers) that IBM/Lotus technology once was [and still is] a core tool for information, collaboration, and knowledge management in many leading organizations today? I wonder if they have any plans to do anything about it?