Sunday, January 1, 2012

Nice Shoes, IBM

An old manager of mine used the following approach for providing feedback to his reports.  Any constructive criticism was to be delivered in-between compliments, such as, "Nice shirt. You suck. Nice shoes."

In that vein, here are my reflections on some of the "nice shoes" IBM Collaboration Solutions modeled in 2011, followed by what I'd like to see from ICS in 2012. 

Good ICS Moves in 2011
  1. Connections Entitlement with Notes. The entitlement of Connections Files and Profiles services with Lotus Notes has to be the best move ICS made in 2011.  It adds significant value to Notes that the competition doesn't come close to providing.  What really makes this outstanding are the plug-ins that incorporate these services into the Notes client. It is a recognition that email is not dead, but that it is a space that can be radically enhanced by interweaving social tools into Notes.
  2. Connections and Sametime Mobile Clients. The Connections and Sametime mobile clients introduced in 2011 are excellent. The breadth of functionality delivers significant value to mobile users, and demonstrates IBM's commitment to making mobile clients a first tier user experience.
  3. Connections Press. I don't know what recipe the Connections product marketing team followed to get industry press, but they did a fantastic job. I don't know of another solution in the entire IBM software portfolio that appeared in so many articles.  Now this was not universally the case, and I was still surprised by the number of articles on social software that would mention lesser-known solutions like Yammer and leave out mention of Connections altogether.  Still, Connections has garnered good attention so that at least the product name is out there and getting recognized. Hopefully the other products in the portfolio can do a better job of getting similar press and acclaim. 
  4. Re-branding. I'm not 100% a fan of the way IBM has handled the re-branding of Lotus. I like to remove band-aids fast, and when I get into a pool, I prefer to jump right in.  That said, this effort by IBM at least is recognition of the problems with the Lotus brand, and an attempt to do something to address it.  IBM is a fantastic brand, but there is still major work to be done to have that positive shine carry over to its collaboration solutions. Dropping the Lotus name alone will not be sufficient.
  5. Sametime A/V Enhancements. From bringing back audio/video to web browser meetings, to improving a/v traffic across firewalls, to adding bandwidth management tools, these were significant enhancements moving Sametime into a full-fledged enterprise A/V communication tool.  Add SUT Lite to the picture, and you have a fully integrated soft phone and sip video phone without requiring any additional infrastructure or clients.  My only disappointment with SUT Lite is that it requires additional licensing above and beyond Sametime Standard.  I've seen this deter customers from deploying SUT Lite in favor of plug-ins from telephony vendors instead.
  6. LotusLive Notes Migration Process. The addition of an FTP option for data migration is a big step in the right direction for making it easier for medium and small businesses to migrate to LotusLive Notes.  Now complete this improvement by quickly making it possible for customers to move from a hybrid deployment to a completely hosted solution.
  7. Domino Express Licenses.  It was a great move to make Express licensing of Domino nearly equivalent to client/server licensing.  This recognizes that even small companies see email as business critical and need capabilities like clustering and face unfair cost increases with client/server licensing when upgrading servers to modern six-core processors.  But be fair, allow loyal customers who have continued to pay for client/server licensing a trade-in option for Express.  It shows no respect to existing customers to require them to purchase new Express licenses to move to that licensing model.  Heck, you treat customers that have been on Exchange better than that by allowing them to purchase discounted competitive trade-in licenses.
Wish List for ICS 2012
  1. Advertise your products. You're as tired of hearing it as I am of saying it. Find a way to get it done. The only product with name recognition is Notes, and the perception of Notes in the market is outdated.
  2. Get religion about email. I've heard too many times from IBM cross-brand sales people, or even those in the ICS brand responsible for other products, that they don't want to get into religious wars over email.  Sorry, that's the same as conceding, and I've blogged before that email is cornerstone of the entire portfolio.  Develop a focus and incentives on migrating customers from Exchange. Provide free migration tools. 
  3. Bring Foundations back. Killing Foundations was your Qwickster move.  Foundations is one of the keys to beating Exchange.  Foundations made it easy for companies without Domino skills to deploy and manage it.  It had a developing ecosystem of good partner solutions from companies like ShoreTel and Xerox. It had great potential for integrating with LotusLive. This is a key product in winning back the SMB market.  You need greater market share to get 3rd-party solution providers to make it a priority to integrate their solutions with Notes/Domino. If you're not going to bring Foundations back, at least be good to those customers that purchased Foundations licenses and give them an entitlement to Domino Express and Protector licenses so you don't simply abandon them with an unsupported product.
  4. Acquire a voicemail product. Like email, voicemail is still relevant, and having voicemail integrated into email so that it is easy to access from desktop, web and mobile clients is important to many customers. In fact, because Cisco has stopped providing this option for Notes and only provides it for Outlook recently led a former IBM UC case study customer to declare they will migrate to Exchange.  Your competitors learned this lesson before you.  For key UC functionality, you cannot count on the telephony providers to develop the integration or the functionality for you.  You must build the capabilities into your own product.
  5. SUT PBX. Allow SUT to optionally funcation as a complete PBX replacement, eliminating the need for a 3rd party PBX. Microsoft is making serious disruptive waves in this space.  You've held strong to the position that you aren't out to displace telephony systems.  Instead of earning the loyalty of companies like Cisco, instead they've taken the opportunity to look to displace Sametime with their own presence solutions.  Offering a complete PBX replacement puts you on equal competitive footing with Microsoft, and provides significant cost incentives to your customers to adopt SUT.
  6. Simplify the Portfolio. Eliminate Quickr as a separate product.  Provide QuickrD as an entitlement with Domino.  Put QuickrJ functionality into Connections. Put Sametime Advanced and SUT Lite capabilities into Sametime Standard.
  7. Enhance LotusLive. Provide full file connector capabilities similar to Quickr connectors for LotusLive files services with equal capabilities in Windows and Outlook as Notes.  Provide multi-cast video in LotusLive Meetings to bring it on par with your competitors.

Nice Shoes, IBM.

Here's to a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2012 for us all!


  1. Hi Phil,

    i totally agree!! Especially the wish list for ICS 2012. I hope Ed is listening ?!?