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.