Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You, Skype!

This has been a very amazing week for me.  I've been in Minnesota assisting my sister who has been in the hospital for over six weeks now.  She had her colon removed, and her recovery had not been going well.  Actually, it had been going awful.  Last week she was transferred to the University of Minnesota hospital with a bad infection and she was very weak. I traveled in from Wisconsin to assist with her recovery.  (A big thank you to my employer for allowing me to take this time off.)

One of the things that has been particularly tough for my sister is that since her initial surgery, our mother was diagnosed with late stage cancer.  Mom has been going through chemo now for the past 5 weeks, and my sister has been stuck in the hospital unable to see my mom.  So on top of all of the worries of her own condition and recovery, she has had the additional stress of worrying about mom and not being able to see her.  My mom was in similar fits given that she couldn't travel to see my sister.

Before leaving Wisconsin, I was able to bring an old laptop over to my mom's house and hook it up with Skype and a Logitech web cam.  I dropped off my Verizon mifi as well so that she'd have internet connectivity.  I showed my mom how to move the cursor to answer a phone call.  She did great on our test, and we left everything running (with explicit instructions not to touch anything!).

Once in Minneapolis, we were able to use the wifi from my sister's hospital room to Skype with my Mom.  It worked fantastic!  They were both able to see and talk to each other without a blip.  After the call, you could see a complete change in my sister's demeanor. 

My sister has had an amazing recovery this week, and now there is the potential for her to actually go home next Monday.  It has been an amazing turn around--far better than I had even dreamed of when traveling up here.  It may be many months before she is fully recovered, and more surgery may be in her future, but this has been just fabulous. 

I'm not saying Skype was responsible for my sister's recovery.  The fantastic staff at the UofM Hospital deserve the credit for that.  But I do strongly believe that a positive mental attitude is important to anyone's recovery, and Skype definitely provided the means for that.

This was all using Skype's free service, and the least I can do is to provide a very public thank you for this service that positively impacted our family.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mat Newman -- S-U-P-E-R Genius

It has been one of those days where it has been tiring being aligned with the underdog at work.  My propensity for loyally sticking with the underdog despite the odds I blame on growing up as a Green Bay Packers fans in the 1970s.  They stunk every year, yet we always rooted for them, even if we were jumping up in the middle of games and shouting at the players and coaches on TV as if that would make a difference.  Then, lo and behold, the Packer fortunes changed in the 1990's.  My life has been colored ever since, and now I'm rooting for Lotus to have a similar turn around in fortunes.  What the heck, Lotus has the gold color, now they just need to add the green. :-)

The bright spot of my day was reading Mat Newman's blog entry where he shared his discovery that some (many?) iPhone applications are merely small form factor web sites that can easily be turned into Notes sidebar applications. Genius!

And, as if I was screaming at a Packer receiver on TV to catch the football, I find myself screaming at my computer hoping for Lotus to jump on this as another available stepping stone for them to consumerize Notes.  A world of iPhone applications, targeted at consumers, can be ported to the Notes client with relatively small effort.  But why would someone want these apps in their Notes client on a home PC?  The answer is in a comment that Mat put on that same blog entry regarding how he wired the Qantas plug-in to live text.
"I've even gone one step further with the Qantas mobile Timetable and wired to a live-text recogniser for dates. That way, you get an email from a customer notifying you of a date to be somewhere and you just click the live text to see the flight schedule"
And with that, Mat graduates to S-U-P-E-R Genius (said in a Wiley E. Coyote voice, of course).  

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  THIS makes Lotus Notes smarter email.  This IS a competitive differentiator. 

I also noticed when I installed the Symphony 3 beta 3 this week, not only does it include a LotusLive Connector that I had been begging for, but they also put a plug for LotusLive on the home page of Symphony when you open it.

In my own self-aggrandizing way, I'm saying to myself, "yeah, I gave them those suggestions when I blogged about it in January." (I also believe Charles Woodson intercepted several passes last year because I shouted at the TV that the ball was coming.)

So in keeping with my delusions, I'm going back to what I hope are the next steps Lotus takes.
  1. Fix the Notes IMAP experience.  Get it easy to setup for any end-user, and have it use the standard 8.x mail template.  
  2. Bundle the Notes client with Symphony for free, as long as it is used for Personal use only and is not connected to a Domino server.
  3. Open a Lotus app store (and with Mat's great insight) preload it with every iPhone app you can find that uses this small form-factor, and enhance them with live text recognizers.  
  4. Open the app store to BPs, validate their apps, and handle the transactions for them.
  5. Market the bloody heck out of the consumer product.
  6. Lastly, stop the talk that 'migrating email does not make business sense' and start pushing the message that smart companies need to migrate -- to LOTUS NOTES!
OK, I think it is time for my post-game drink and wind down. I think I'll wait until tomorrow to wash the gold face paint off though.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ah... so that's why it's been so quiet.

Rookie mistake, my apologies.  At some point, I mistakenly turned on a requirement for commenters to authenticate with an ID.  Thank you to Eric Mack for emailing me about this issue, and I apologize both to Eric and any other person that took the time to compose a response to one of my blog entries and then had to ditch it when they found they had to sign up for an account.

Test, Test, Test. Is this thing on?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

You know its a slow weekend on Planet Lotus when...

My request for feedback on CRMs is What's Hot

Speaking of which, I'm still looking for end-user feedback on CRMs that are out there.  I had a few comments pointing me to two CRMs, but no qualitative feedback.  Pretty please!

Netflix on the Wii

We have had the 1-movie Netflix subscription for some time. I have no complaints about the Netflix service--except that there is a critical weak link in their model--me.  We're not good about watching the movie and getting it back into the mail on a regular basis. We're also not great about checking what new movies they have and adding them to our que. So (because of me) their services has not been as cost effective as it could be, and I had been thinking about dropping the service.

This past week I signed up for their service that allows you to stream their on-demand movies and TV shows through our Wii. We received the DVD quickly and for free, and this weekend we tossed it into the Wii and tried it out.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with this service.  It was very easy to navigate through the available titles, select the one we wanted and play them.  We enjoyed the movie Bedtime Stories which my kids were big fans of.  It was also fun to introduce my kids to the Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends.  Viewing it on a big screen really highlighted how simple the artwork back then was, but amazingly none of my kids commented on it.  My 11-year-old daughter loved it, especially how the humor appealed to multiple age groups. Lastly, my youngest fell in love with some Swedish cartoon called Pingu.  I'm sure we would have never encountered this last program had it not been available on Netflix.

The audio and video came through without a hitch.  It would have been nice to have some sort of "Search" capability rather than having to cycle through the seemingly endless list of B-movies.  My only major gripe with this service is the selection that is available.  The on-demand movies available from the Netflix website are notoriously limited, and what was available through the Wii seemed to be a subset of that.

That said, there certainly are other titles we'd like to watch that I saw listed.  This is a far better way for families like ours to use the Netflix service.  If they keep adding content to this service (and not just endless B-movies), we may end up keeping their service after all.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

CRMs on Domino -- Need Feedback Please

I've had several customers inquiring about CRM's to use with/on Domino. I've certainly encountered several on the market, including the ones from Group, Salesplace, and iEnterprises. But I'm not a user of any of them, and would appreciate any feedback from folks out there could share on their experiences with these or other CRM packages with Domino. I've also had inquiries about using Sage CRM and Sugar CRM with Domino. If you have experience with those and Domino, please share as well.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

That's one sexy boat anchor

There have been some complaints in the Yellowverse about the Eclipse client size and performance issues on older systems.  Truth is, this has never been an issue to me, particularly when compared to Outlook.  John Head has recently posted some basic performance comparisons of Notes and Outlook on a new laptop, and the results (though granted very limited), showed equivalent performance.

To me, the capabilities that Eclipse brings to the Notes client are a significant competitive differentiator.  Email is not recreational reading.  It is information we act on in our work day, and frequently we take that data to other systems, either within our company or out on the internet, to get the next piece of data we need or take the next action required in the business process.  The sidebar in Notes brings those other systems directly into the Notes client, and live text provides that intelligent and direct link between my mail and those systems.  This is cool stuff.  This is smarter email, and these capabilities are worth the investment in the PCs capable of running the Notes client locally.

Now, Google may have clued into the insight Lotus has brought here.  But Google's usability is still light years behind the Notes client in my experience.  I still have a hard time finding the darn 'Forward' link for very basic email functionality.  Now I don't know how hard it is to create contextual gadgets for the Google environment, but I seriously doubt that it is as straightforward as it is in the Notes client.  Thanks to Bob Balfe for posting the video below that is a great example of Gist, how it is integrated into the Notes client, and how easily it can be extended to composite applications as well.  (skip past the Tungle integration)

Of course, Google does have the lead on making their gadgets easily available to customers through a marketplace, making it easier for business partners to make money on gadgets they create, and easier for customers to find gadgets of value. I'm sorry -- but an effective Lotus app store will not be satisfied by OpenNTF nor through a business partner hosted alternative. Lotus, you have to build and host this marketplace, vet the applications that are put into it, and manage the commerce transactions.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Plantronics releases call control software for Sametime

This past week, Plantronics released its call control software for Sametime.  It's available as a free download at:

 The software interfaces with Sametime in several ways:
  • allowing you to hear Sametime rings/alerts in the headset
  • answer calls from the headset answer button
  • adjust the volume, and mute your mic from the headset.
There are several Plantronics headsets that will work with this software, from corded headsets to bluetooth headsets.  I haven't used the Plantronics headsets with the remote control software for Sametime yet, but I have been fortunate enough to have been provided with several of their headsets in the past for evaluation.  My favorite was an earlier version of the Voyager Pro (current version shown below).

You can pair this headset with your mobile device, as well as your PC by using the USB dongle.  With it you can answer a call through the same headset no matter where it originates, your cell phone or through Sametime.

Plantronics gave out a similar headset to attendees at the recent UC Summit conference, except that version didn't contain the USB dongle.  It does, however, allow you to pair to multiple cell phones.  I gave it to my wife who has a cell phone for work and a personal cell phone.  My wife loves gadgets, but I would not put her in the category of a "power user".  I was driving home from work this past week when she called.  I answered, and the first thing out of her mouth was, "This is the best thing EVER!"  I had to chuckle.  She loves how easy it is to answer calls on either phone simply by clicking the toggle button on the headset, without touching anything on either phone.

If you're using Sametime for audio calls, or using Sametime Unified Telephony, you should definitely check this out.  Not only does it provide a convenient way for answering all calls, but it provides great audio quality so the people on the other end of the call have no idea you're not on a typical desk phone.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Double-down and Save More

I've blogged about the savings you can achieve with several LotusLive offerings, including:
Today I'll focus on the saving you can get with LotusLive Engage.  The LotusLive Engage service includes all of the services of LotusLive Meetings and Connections, and adds to that online forms and charting capabilities.

LotusLive Meetings is $60 a user/year, and LotusLive Connections is $84 a user/year, so a subscription to both for an existing Lotus customer would be $144 a user/year.  But LotusLive Engage is only $120 a user/year for an existing Lotus customer.  So not only do you get all of the savings I've document for Meetings and Connections, but the savings are greater because of the lower licensing fee, PLUS you get the additional capabilities in Engage. To get the form and charting capabilities available in Engage from a premise-deployed solution, you'd have to deploy Lotus Forms Turbo, and those licenses alone are $2,060 for a 20-user pack ($103 a user, plus servers, storage, etc).  So with Engage, the savings keep adding up.

The forms in Engage are extremely easy to create through the browser, and once again, you get the benefit of being able to make these forms available to free guest accounts.
When the forms begin to be submitted, you get access to them in your files repository.  Not only can you view the complete form submitted by a user, but you can also have the data aggregated into charts.  These charts are automatically updated as additional forms are submitted.  It truly is slick.

Two other nifty additions you get with Engage are the integrations of your Meetings with the other services.  First, you can pull files from your LotusLive Files repository to present in your meetings.
I love this.  No need to go find the file in your repository, download it, then upload again to the meeting service.

Another integration is with the Forms service.  This anticipates that after many meetings you may want to get feedback on the quality of the presentation or event test attendees on what was presented.  Easy enough, just click 'Start Survey' when you're done with the meeting.
But this last integration is one I find so smart and incredibly useful.  When you're in an online working meeting, you typically come out of it with a set of action items that attendees need to work on.  Right in the meeting room, I can type what the action item is, and assign it to one of my contacts.
These to-do's automatically get created under an activity in the activities service named with the meeting date and time.  And of course, after the meeting, you now can track and follow-up on these items either in the activities service online, or right through the activities plug-in in your Notes client.

So OK, I guess 'Double-down' isn't really a fair title since Engage is more than the 'Meetings' and 'Connections' parts.  But I think it is clear, if you need both web conferencing and collaboration capabilities, Engage is an extremely cost effective and smartly integrated set of services.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

LCTY Cleveland Change

Sorry to say, but Ed Brill is no longer able to give the keynote at the LCTY event on May 25.  Ed will be missed, but we still have an excellent event lined up with other fantastic speakers, good food, and great giveaways.  Looking forward to seeing everyone there.  If you haven't registered yet, please do soon!  Here's the link:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Connections on the Cheap

One of the primary reasons companies look at cloud computing options is for cost savings.  The LotusLive offerings definitely provide customers that.  I've blogged before about the savings that can be achieved with LotusLive iNotes for boundary users (save $226 a user in TCO), as well as the savings from using LotusLive Meetings, particularly for external web conferences (save $1400 a year over Sametime concurrent user licensing alone). 

Today I want to focus on LotusLive Connections, which includes services for:
  • Social Networking
  • File Sharing
  • Activities
  • Instant Messaging
 LotusLive Connections is only $84 a user for an annual subscription for existing Lotus customers.  Now comparing this to the premise-deployed Lotus Connections is not particularly fair because Lotus Connections has far more features than LotusLive Connections (micro-blogging, blogging, communities, wikis, dogears and more).  But I would argue for many small businesses, key features they wish to deploy are activities and file sharing. 

To deploy Lotus Connections on premise, a business with Notes/Domino is looking at adding a minimum of two servers, as well as needing to develop competencies in Websphere Application Server, DB2, and put in place the back-up software, monitoring tools and other operational items standard for new applications deployed within a company.  None of that is required for LotusLive Connections. 

Then take a look at licensing.  A Lotus Connections user license is $119 a user.  That is $35 more initially than a LotusLive Connections user, though in year two it will drop to $23.80 per user.  BUT to license your premise Connections environment to be shared externally, you would also have to purchase a Lotus Connections Extranet license, and that costs $292 per processor value unit (PVU).  Since you practically can't buy a new server that requires less than 200 PVUs, that's $58,400 year one ($19,500 year two).  There is no additional charge to share files or activities outside your company with LotusLive Connections because guest accounts are free.

So let's take a sample company of 100 users and compare.

The savings here in licensing costs alone, not even touching on the TCO, are VERYsignificant.  Of course, the savings go down as you add more users.  At about 330 users, your year two costs go down with Lotus Connections, but you'd have to have it for over 190 years before those savings would offset the difference in year 1.  With 1,000 users, that timeframe comes down to under five years.  And these are only licensing costs, not TCO.  But again, I will emphasize that LotusLive Connections does NOT give you all of the features of Lotus Connections. 

Here's another great bonus with LotusLive Connections, it WILL integrate with the Notes client on your desktop.  You can use both the built-in Activities plug-in, as well as the Sametime client with LotusLive Connections.  There is also a files plug-in available that allows you to easily upload files (I have my fingers crossed that a significantly enhanced version of this plug-in will soon be available). 

So even though these services are in the cloud and you haven't deployed any servers in your own organization, your end-users can begin to leverage these capabilities right from their Notes client instead of having to use a browser.

(As a side note, I've always been shocked by the number of Notes customers that haven't deployed the free entitlement to Sametime entry.  If your reason for that  was a concern over the cost of hardware or the need to maintain another server, LotusLive Connections gives you a no muss no fuss way of adding that presence awareness and instant messaging for your users.)

What are you waiting for?  Check out LotusLive Connections today, and extend the functionality of the Notes client for your end users today with activities, IM and file sharing, without deploying or maintaining a single server!

Monday, May 10, 2010

UC Summit 2010 -- Part III -- IBM

This is my final post on the UC Summit 2010 Conference.  To see my other conference observations largely focused on the Cisco keynote and the key UC2 value proposition for providers and customers, see my two earlier posts.

Part I -- Everything Old is New Again
Part II -- CEBP

In this post, I'll wrap up my coverage of the conference with a look at IBM's presence there.  Like the other major conference sponsors, IBM was allotted a keynote presenter slot.  Bruce Morse did a great job presenting.  Most of the content appeared to be a rehash of his presentation to business partners at Lotusphere, which for me was repeat, but since most of this audience came from traditional telecom, it was good material.

What stood out to me though was the introduction provided by Jim Burton.  Before introducing Bruce Morse for his keynote, Jim Burton asked the audience a few questions.  First he asked, "how many of you are familiar with the Sametime product offerings."  I'm fairly certain that the only hands raised in the audience were by the two other IBM business partners there and other IBMers in the audience.  Second, he asked, "How many of you know that Sametime will integrate with a Microsoft Exchange environment, and that 1/3 of the customers for Sametime the last two years have been Microsoft shops?"  The same hands raised.  Not explicitly stated in Jim's question, but sure felt in the undertone, was "I know you think Lotus Notes sucks, but don't worry, Sametime doesn't require Lotus Notes.

I said in my last post, I would follow-up on the "IBM marketing sucks" meme in a future post--well, here goes.  Actually, I don't think IBM marketing sucks.  I've been pretty psyched about the Lotus Knows marketing concept.  I've been concerned that the marketing campaign does not show the products, and so it does nothing to combat what I see as the #1 problem for the Lotus brand in the market--that the average consumer's image of Lotus is based on outdated versions of their products--products that IT administrators loved for their security, scalability and reliability, but that end-users hated for their lack of attention to usability.  But, I'm not a marketer, and I'm willing to accept the data Lotus has provided back that those exposed to the marketing campaign have an extremely positive turn around in their opinion regarding Lotus.

That said, I have not encountered a great turnaround in market perception of the brand.  I still frequently encounter a lot of the "Lotus sucks" attitude that was directed at Howard Stern recently and blogged about by Ed Brill.

So what is the issue?  This marketing campaign, however cleverly conceived and effective in small sample markets, will not succeed if it is not widely deployed.  Besides the general criticism of all the vendors in the UC2 space, IBM clearly has marketing issues specific to it as demonstrated at this conference.  During his presentation, Bruce Morse asked how many people had seen the "Lotus Knows" ads.  Fewer people raised their hands than to Jim Burton's question about Sametime.  Someone at IBM should truly be ashamed that after having such a great family of products in market for over 10 years, this is the response at a major industry event.  After what, three years in market, there wasn't a person in that audience that wasn't aware of Microsoft OCS, and Microsoft didn't even send a keynote speaker to the conference.  Someone at IBM needs to open up the purse string and spend the money until the average person we run into on the street has heard "Lotus Knows" as frequently as they've heard a duck quacking "AFLAC".

OK, enough on my rant. I want to congratulate the IBM team that was there.  I did have several conversations with attendees who, after attending IBM sessions, were truly impressed with what Sametime has to offer.  Like the Howard Stern taunters who changed their tune when they saw what Lotus now has to offer, so did many at this conference.  But touching a handful of people here and there is not enough for Lotus to reach a tipping point and change the widely held public perception of the brand.

Other clear wins for IBM were the exhibits by ShoreTel and NEC of their integrations with Foundations Reach.  These offerings clearly turned heads at the conference, and these telephony partners advertising their offerings can only have a mutiplier effect on the number of potential customers who can see how cool Lotus technology can be.  (On a side note, I hope we don't find Foundations out of the Lotus brand in the future--I truly believe it could be the spear tip back into the SMB mainstream.  For that to happen, we need things like trade-up and trade-in licensing options for customers to move to Foundations.)

One last theme from the conference was the importance that social software will have in the unified communications field in the future.  Obviously this gives IBM another advantage in this space given the great success of Lotus Connections.  This year's IBM presentation at the conference was focused on Sametime.  Next year it may be a good idea to have Alistair Rennie at the conferencing presenting the full Lotus portfolio. 

I can't complete my postings on this conference though without my favorite thing learned--if you want to win brownie points with Bruce Morse at dinner, be sure to bring him to a place that serves the still-beating heart of a lobster.

With that, I'm going to call it a wrap.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

UC Summit 2010 -- Part II -- CEBP

Boy, how to keep up with blogging!  Between trying to catch up on work after being out for the conference last week, and then having the final weekend of dance competition for my girls (who did fantastic, all Platinum category winners!), I haven't had the time I'd thought I'd have to post my follow-up to my first blog entry on the UC Summit 2010.

Another theme repeated at the conference was that both the highest value for customers implementing UC solutions as well as the highest margin for providers was with Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP).  CEBP is where you take capabilities like presence indicators, instant messaging, and integrated telephony capabilities and build it directly into line of business applications to improve the business processes surrounding those applications.  This has been possible with Sametime for many many years.  I remember using the very basic stlinks toolkit early on to enable visitors to one of our public web demo sites (for Lotus LearningSpace) to see if our team members were available to discuss what they explored in the demo site. The capabilities for CEBP have been significantly enhanced in Sametime 8.5 as well.

Now I'm fairly certain that some of the slides on CEBP were either pulled by these presenters from IBM's UC2 presentations I've seen in the past, or vice versa.  Unfortunately, the capabilities of Sametime in this space weren't really represented at the conference.  There were a handful of Microsoft partners that spoke about developing CEBP applications for OCS (and great fanfare regarding Microsoft funding for it) on one of the round table discussions.  One Microsoft partner mentioned how they thought Microsoft was missing a big opportunity by not integrating CEBP functionality into its CRM applications.  Although Lotus has done well to integrate Sametime into its family of products, it could steal a similar strategy and get a jump on the competition by if the other software brands within IBM integrate Sametime functionality in their applications.

One question I have though, is why is CEBP the "big thing" now?  It has been available for many years in Sametime, and some companies have developed CEBP products in Sametime.  But there hardly has been tremendous demand for these applications, nor a whole slated of development companies building these applications.  Perhaps part of the answer here lies in another observation made at the conference.  Demand in the UC space has been largely through Vendor PUSH into the market, and not enough Customer PULL.  Clearly the marketing around the benefits around UCC has not hit the masses, and this was a criticism leveled against all vendors in the UC market--not just part of an "IBM marketing sucks" meme, recently resurrected in comments in the bubble.

More on this in my final post on this conference.

Friday, April 30, 2010

UC Summit 2010 -- Part I -- Everything Old is New Again

I attended the UC Summit 2010 conference this week, and it was a very interesting look inside the broader unified communications market.  There were keynote sessions from (almost) all of the major vendor sponsors, including: Cisco, IBM, Avaya, and NEC.  The one exception was Microsoft, which apparently is going through a re-organization of its unified communications group, and so their scheduled speaker was a last minute cancel and replaced by a round table of speakers on Microsoft's channel programs.  I'll break my observations down across a few posts.

This was a very different conference for me.  As someone who has been to many many Lotus conferences, it was an odd feeling to be a part of a conference where the majority of individuals came from a different background--namely telephony resellers and vendors.  The main conference themes were clearly targeted at these attendees, and it was fascinating.

One theme that was expressed over and over was that the UC industry was moving from a hardware focus to a software focus.  This was espoused by Blair Pleasant in the very first workshop of the conference, and echoed by many others.  It is clearly a major shift in the industry, and given the conversations throughout the week, it was clearly disruptive and causing anxiety among the traditional VARs in this space.  For myself as a Lotus business partner, I was actually heading the opposite direction--going from a complete software focus to meet them in the middle where the software touches the telephony.

Nowhere was this move to evolve from a telephony hardware business more evident than in the keynote by Cisco.  Cisco is now positioning itself not as a networking, telephony nor even a unified communications company.  Instead, the great next new thing is ... collaboration!  Several times during this presentation I had to double-check and make sure I was listening to the Cisco presentation and not a Lotus presentation.  From
  • touting the importance of technology, process and culture (ok, I guess IBM called it people, process and technology), 
  • to promoting open architecture and industry standards, 
  • to its new emphasis on applying collaboration to industry verticals, 
Cisco sounded like it was singing more than a single verse from the Lotus hymnal.
The other big theme from Cisco was the importance of video for collaboration--not surprising given that John Chambers has spoken of video as the next big thing for many years now.  And with Cisco's Tandberg acquisition, Cisco can now make it so.  Cisco is predicting that video traffic will account for 80% of all network traffic in the future, and it was clear to more than one person in the audience that that would mean some tidy profits for Cisco's traditional business as well.

Well, Lotus may be 20 years ahead of Cisco in the collaboration space, but Cisco has listened to the teachings of the elder closely, and has some spry legs underneath it.  More importantly, it knows how to market the heck out of its products, and not abstract themes.  It should prove interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years.

That's all for this post... More on the UC Summit 2010 to come.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ed Brill to Keynote LCTY Cleveland, May 25

I'm excited to announce that Ed Brill will be delivering the keynote at this year's Lotusphere Comes to You in Cleveland!  Thanks Ed, I'm sure the whole community is looking forward to hearing your presentation and touching base with you.

We have a great set of presentations and speakers lined up for this year's event.  You can see the full agenda with the link to the registration page here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

For less than 2 Venti Chai Lattes a Month

You could pay for a LotusLive Meetings subscription for a host and up to 14 participants, assuming you are an existing Lotus customer.  I have been surprised that I have not seen more customers taking advantage of this extremely competitive pricing. 
  • If you are using any other hosted web conferencing service, you owe it to your organization to evaluate LotusLive Meetings.  
  • If you are using Lotus Sametime for external web conferences, then you are probably purchasing concurrent user licenses for your external meeting participants.  At $519 x 14 external users, plus the $60 for your internal Sametime user hosting the meeting, that's a cost of $7,326 a year for a comparable number of meeting participants.  Now granted those costs go down year 2, but that's approximately 14 x $104 + $14.40 = $1470.40.  So from a pure external web conferencing standpoint, you should be looking at LotusLive Meetings.
  • If you are not using any web conferencing software today, are you kidding?  Eliminate one in-person meeting a year that involves renting a car for a day, and you've paid for your LotusLive Meeting subscription for the YEAR!  If you're not taking advantage of the savings web conferencing provides, then you either print money or work on Wall Street.
 LotusLive Meetings integrates very nicely into your Notes client as well.  First, your meeting ID is persistent over time, so you have the same meeting URL for each meeting.  So in the Notes calendar, you can set up one entry for LotusLive Meetings, and re-use it every time you're scheduling an online meeting.

There is also a plug-in you can deploy into your sidebar that makes it quick and simple to launch a meeting you're hosting, or to enter the ID of another meeting you with to attend.  What I like about this is I don't have to think about going out to the LotusLive site, etc. to start a meeting.  I click 'Host Meeting' button and we're off...

And one final nice integration, you can do "Instant LotusLive Meetings" with your Sametime Contacts as well through an additional menu item available when you click on a contact.

If you need to host more than 14 other participants in a meeting, than other clip levels are available at 199 or 999 participants.  Unfortunately, the special pricing for existing Lotus customers does not apply at those clip levels (hopefully IBM will change that in the future). 

So what are you waiting for?  Cut back on the caffeine and sign up for LotusLive Meetings today. 

Lotusphere Comes to You -- Cleveland, May 25

Here are the details for the upcoming Lotusphere Comes to You in Cleveland. 

Click here to register.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010
8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Embassy Suites Cleveland-Rockside
5800 Rockside Woods Blvd., Independence, OH
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See you there!

Test, test, test

Thanks for lightening things up, Nathan.  :-D

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Turning the email feature race on its head

When it comes to new releases of software, as a technology geek, I'm used to looking for what cool new features a new piece of software offers us.  Sometimes the business benefit takes the back seat initially to what is cool. 

So, when I first learned the details of the features of LotusLive iNotes, my initial reaction was a bit of a let down.  "What, you mean this doesn't even have the same capabilities of iNotes deployed on-premises?"  Well, no, it's not even based on Domino.  It is the technology Lotus acquired when they purchased Outblaze.

OK, so what do you get?  Surely IBM wouldn't buy less capable technology than what it had already possessed?  Well, actually, yes they would.  LotusLive iNotes is a very easy to use web-mail and personal calendaring solution.  It has a very basic feature set for mail,which you can experience yourself by signing up for a trial

But why would a company look to a solution with fewer bells and whistles than standard Domino or Exchange?

Well, take a look at the price point.  $36 a user a YEAR, or $24 a user a YEAR for a company that owns other Lotus licenses.  You will not find a more competitive price point. But have times really become so tight that we have to throw out all the capabilities of our rich collaboration environments?  For some companies in these in economic times, the answer is yes.  But IBM is not really targeting the wholesale displacement of on-premise email environments with the LotusLive iNotes offering.  Rather, IBM wants you to look at all of those so-called "boundary" or "task" workers that have very basic email needs and are actually over-served by a full client on their desktops. 

My wife is actually a perfect example of this type of worker.  She is a community health nurse.  Her work day life does not revolve around email and scheduling meetings with coworkers.  She is in the field during the day at her patients' homes, and she only checks emails for communication from her employer.  Frankly, email is a pain for her because it isn't available to her except when she is in the office.

LotusLive iNotes is perfect for these types of users in your organization.  At $24 a user, that's less than even the annual license subscription costs of a Lotus Notes license.  When you look at the total cost of ownership for an average on-premise email user, the savings in switching to LotusLive iNotes add up quickly.

Many organizations don't know what their actual total cost of ownership is per user for their on-premise email usage.  For that reason, Ted Schadler from Forrester Research recently put together the cost model below which shows the monthly cost per user, and breaks it apart into different user types.

Calculating the fully loaded costs of corporate email: It's bigger than you think, Ted Schadler,

So the average annual fully loaded cost of email for an Occasional User, the true target for LotusLive iNotes, is $249.96.  Subtract the $24 a user LotusLive iNotes fee from that, and you have an average savings of $225.96 per user.  Assume that in an average 1,000 person company, 30% of users (300) are occasional users.  That would total $67,788 in savings annually by moving those users to LotusLive iNotes.  Obviously, mileage will vary, but the savings are potentially significant enough that it is worth your time examining the user population in your organization to find out the size of the "Occasional User" community.

But clearly you don't want to have two islands of email users.  That's the beauty of the "hybrid" model IBM is encouraging here.  Keep your premise deployment for your executives and information workers, move the occasional users to the cloud, and integrate the two environments.  With LotusLive iNotes, you can integrate your two environments, allowing for:
  • integrated corporate directory 
  • single-sign-on for LotusLive iNotes users
  • shared mail domain
  • even integration with your existing archiving or other dlp systems deployed at your location
 After getting over the initial feature-shock, I've really come to appreciate this approach by IBM.  One size never fits all, and LotusLive iNotes has a clear purpose and does what it is intended to do well, all while providing significant savings to an organization.  How many more IT projects could you fund with the savings you'd achieve?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

On App Stores, Notes Home Edition, and Open Source Notes

I was helping my sister-in-law setup her new PC the other day, and checked the basic installation of Office she had ordered.  I was surprised to find that Outlook was included even in this entry level version of Office.  Yes, MS is great at getting Outlook in the hands of as many end-users as possible.

It got me thinking about how Lotus could get Notes in more end-user hands.  I mentioned in my last blog entry that part of the challenge Lotus has in the market is that where people know about Lotus (is that 1-2-3?), a significant problem is that consumers have outdated perceptions of Lotus software.  Getting Notes in the hands of more end-users could go a significant way towards eliminating this perception.

There have been a number of blog posts this past year in the Yellowverse that have touched on different ways Notes could be consumerized.  There have been suggestions that Lotus make Notes available via open source, suggestions that they put out a "Personal Edition" of Notes, and passionate lobbying for Lotus to open an app store.

Now, I'm not a fan of Lotus putting Notes into open source.  Face it, Lotus does not sell an operating system that bank-rolls all of its other software development.  Lotus needs the revenue from Notes to stay in business. But I do think that Lotus should make available a free Personal Notes client.  Huh?  Didn't I just say Lotus needs to keep it's Notes revenue?  Yes, it can do that, and still make a free Personal Edition.  Right now, Lotus does not get revenue from home users, so they lose nothing by offering a free version of Notes to that market.

But how could Lotus get Notes into the hands of home users?  Here's my thought, Lotus should steal a page from MS and put a Personal Edition of Notes within Lotus Symphony.  Lotus says that Office tools are a commodity and should be available for free.  Well, the market leading Office software considers its email client part of its Office suite--so much so that it is a part of its entry level offering.  Doesn't it follow that Lotus should view an email client as a commodity and include it with Symphony?

Of course, this would require some modifications of Notes--I'm sure many recall the incident last year of a blogger bashing Notes when he tried to install it at home without a Domino server.  Frankly, even Ed Brill admitted this is a problem, but I don't think it is as big of an issue as some make it out to be.  You can get Notes to pump mail into the 8.5 mail template with offline IMAP, and when you do, it's a great Notes 8.x experience.  BUT, it's not straightforward to do right now, and that would need to be addressed.

There could be many advantages of to bundling a Personal Edition of Notes with Symphony.
  1. Get Notes in the hands of more end-users, and combat the image of Notes as legacy software.  When you see and use Notes 8.x, you can't really hold that view.  It is cool software.  What other email client lets  you easily deploy cool widgets to improve your productivity?  Or even more impressive, connect those automatically to text recognized by Live Text?  You all know the ways that Notes shines, I won't go through them all here.
  2. Collapse Notes & Symphony development.  No need to maintain two separate code-streams under development--one for stand-alone Symphony and one for Notes with embedded Symphony.
  3. Provide an attractive market for a Lotus App Store.  I'm a strong supporter of a Lotus App Store.  Getting Designer out there for free was a huge step in the right direction to make Notes a more attractive platform for developers.  But what developer will care if the development tool is free if there is no market for their applications?  A Lotus app store that has  all of the corporate installs of Notes/Domino out there, plus several million users of Symphony would provide an attractive market for developers. And we all know that customers are less likely to migrate away from Lotus Notes when they are leveraging the platform for applications.  We can say that Notes is more than email--a vibrant App Store environment would demonstrate that in spades.  Customers would not have to have in-house development skills to take advantage of the application capabilities of Notes.
  4. Make hybrid LotusLive for even the smallest clients. Lotus has had web-based applications for some time.  But anyone who used to use Quickplace knows what a huge time-saver and improved value came with the introduction of the connectors in Quickr.  The Connections team had the same realization.  As we rush to push customers to the cloud, let's not forget the lessons learned from these other products.  Don't make end-users go to a web-browser to use the services from the web-application.  A Personal Edition of Notes would make an attractive up-sell to LotusLive services.  Users could could pull their mail down, use the embedded Sametime client, connect to activities, and maybe at some point, pull down their calendar data as an overlay like you can with your Google calendar in Notes today.  Lotus could even put a tickler in Notes for users to sign-up for a trial of LotusLive from the Sametime and Activities areas.
OK, but how does Lotus do all of the above and NOT kill their Notes revenue stream?  Why wouldn't customers just use the free version?  Well, the current Notes CAL licensing is for attaching to Domino servers.  Keep that in place.  Any user that wishes to connect their Notes client to a Domino server will require a Notes CAL.

Hmmm, was this the motivation for switching to the CAL licensing model in the first place? Has Lotus been planning to offer a Home Edition of Notes all along?  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lotus Knows the Secret Ingredients to Great Pancakes

It was another great Lotusphere, and though many have already given excellent overviews of what was presented, I wanted to throw my 2 cents into the pot as well.

I had my five minutes of fame on Business Development Day during a short video that had a series of clips about things people don't know about us.  Alistair Rennie shared his proficiency with a chain saw (Alistair, when your done using that on MS, I have several trees in my orchard that need attention).  I shared my secret ingredients for Banana Chocolate-chip Pancakes, and was stopped several times on Sunday with comments like, "Hey, you're the Pancake Guy!"   Took me back to my younger days flipping pancakes at my Dad's diner.

Here are several things that stood out to me during the conference, some of which I'll dive into further in later posts.
  • Bob and Alistair.  First, a big thank you to Bob, and congratulations to Alistair.  I appreciate the edge Bob brought to Lotus, his willingness to directly take on MS, and his ability to bust through old ways of doing things that had become impediments to moving Lotus forward. AKA, "We can't do direct Lotus advertising, IBM doesn't do that."  Alistair has a long history of doing great things in Lotus--under his leadership, we've seen some major Cool brought back to the portfolio. I'm looking forward to his wit and sarcasm directed at the competition.
  • LotusLive.  It had a lot of attention at the conference.  That team has come an amazing distance in a very short time, and they have some great enhancements around the corner.  I'm convinced Lotus' "hybrid" approach to cloud computing will win in the market.  Not all users should be in the cloud, and even for those that are, not all functions should be accessed solely through a web browser.
  • Lotus Knows.  I have been so excited with the long overdue introduction of Lotus-centric adds that actually mention Lotus products by name!  That said, I've been somewhat disappointed that the content of the ads has not included visuals and video of the products in use.  A negative brand image is still rampant, and that largely has come from the outdated user interface of 5.x - 7x Notes.  Combating this image problem will require eliminating those old mental images.  But good news is, data from early test markets was overwhelming positive.  Now, will IBM act with the urgency needed to flood the market with this campaign?
  • Foundations.  Wow, amazing partner solutions being built on this platform for small businesses.  As if Foundations wasn't amazing enough with its instant collaborative infrastructure in a box, now you can get a complete VOIP platform with add-ons from ShoreTel, and impressive electronic document capabilities from Xerox.  Of all Lotus' efforts, this has the potential to move the market and impact perceptions.  I hope this is the year that Lotus gets aggressive with this solution.
  • Vulcan.  My first reaction was, wow, this is a rich client for Lotus Connections.  It did give me thoughts of Google Wave, but unlike Wave, the concept is far more practical.  I have to confess, I'm not much of a Facebook user, but my wife is, and I can see the value of connecting to others in this medium.  I can see the focal point of the "inbox" shifting to social networking as more and more users are connected this way at home.  But more than that, the interweaving of social networking, traditional mail, analytics, real-time communications and seamless premise and cloud elements really is exciting.  
  • Collaboration Agenda.  I see a lot of value in this approach for many customers.  It delivers targeted business value leveraging the full breadth of capabilities in the Lotus portfolio.  Now my concern.  This is a slow process, and by its very nature, can only touch a limited customer set.  It limits the reach of an already constrained sales force (compared to the competition), and worse, it puts the sexiness of the technology in the background when the biggest problem with the brand is its limited exposure and outdated images of old Lotus software.  I continue to be amazed at the number of customers I see wasting money on migrating away from Lotus during the worst econonmy in any of our lifetimes.  It shows that market acceptance of collaborative technologies is not driven by business economics.  Irrational as that sounds, its born out time and time again.
Well, there is my 2 cents.  I'll rub 'em together with a few more reflections on the conference, and maybe have a nickel when all is said and done.  Now, for the pancake recipe!

1 banana
chocolate chips
2 cups Aunt Jemima Instant Pancake mix
1 1/2 cup water

Mash banana in mixing bowl until liquified.  Add instant pancake mix and water, and stir.  Warm your non-stick skillet over low heat.  Put five tablespoons of mixture on skillet, and gently spread out in a circle.  Drop chocolate chips in circular pattern around pancake and dot in center.  Gently press chips into batter, and spread batter over top of the chips.  Wait until batter bubbles, and flip pancake.  Makes 8 - 10 pancakes.


Monday, January 11, 2010

CDW Customer Reception at Lotusphere

CDW will again be hosting a customer reception at Lotusphere this year.  The reception will be held on Tuesday evening, January 19th.  If you are a CDW customer and will be at Lotusphere, feel free to email me if you'd like to attend (  Seating is limited.  If you can't make the reception, but would just like to touch base at the conference, please feel free to email me as well.  Looking forward to next week!  See you there.