Here’s why ’the plan’ is important

I was having a fascinating and frank discussion with an IBMer this morning, who’s views on the Lotus brand are pretty much diametrically opposite to mine (he doesn’t care for it, I have close to 20 years of loyalty).  I appreciate that as it means we can debate topics back and forth.

This is a statement I made in that chat, and I think it explains why I am staying with this issue rather than letting it lie…

I posit that what IBM does to the Lotus brand in the next 6 months, will have a massive and manifest impact on the success or otherwise of Social Business and Web Experience in those [existing Lotus Notes/Domino/Quickr] customers over the next 5 years.

As I’ve stated again and again, I am a supporter of IBM Connections and a supporter of the Social Business vision (when presented in the right context).  

However, right now whilst Connections is garnering all the attention and net-new revenue, I believe it is the maintenance stream revenue from Notes/Domino that is sustaining the IBM Collaboration Solutions business and that of most of the business partners that are out there.  Many of those customers still love those products, and that is definitely true of the advocates for those products in the organisations.

If IBM continues to mis-handle this transition (as I believe it currently is), then those customers will not just leave Notes/Domino but also leave IBM Software as a whole.  The damage to IBM Software’s reputation will mean that when social business is really on the table as a discussion point, there will be no reason to even consider Connections as a viable alternative to Sharepoint, Jive and the rest.

I desperately want Social Business to be a huge success and to sustain ICS and thousands of partners for the next 5 years, for it to do that the future of Notes, Domino and the Lotus brand needs to be properly managed.  This continued fear, uncertainty and doubt is helping no one, and worse still, we can’t blame it on Microsoft this time – it is IBM itself that is creating the issue.

[Oh and just to clarify something that has come up a few times, I am hearing these conversations almost every time I enter a customer at the moment.  It is not just an issue at the forefront of partner’s minds, it is one that is affecting more and more customers.  Few of those customers have a voice, I am lucky enough to have this blog and readership and feel it is up to me (and others) to raise it for them.]

I’ve probably said enough on this for a while, so I’m going to leave it there for a couple of weeks to see what comes about.  I just hope that the ‘powers that be’ do not see the fallout from the community call the other day as being down to a select band of ‘activitists’ in the community, but instead a clear indication that the message needs improving…

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!