Lotus is dead. Long live IBM.

[I note that Alan Lepofsky and Ed Brill have blogged thoughts on IBM vs. Lotus over the past couple of days – it’s worth checking out their posts]

So, Lotusphere is done for another year.  For me personally, Lotusphere 2011 generated an extreme set of emotions, and was a not altogether pleasurable experience.  Let me explain…

In the lead-up to Lotusphere 2011, I was ecstatic about the upcoming conference.  The headline topic, Social Business, was music to my ears – I’ve been preaching the Social Collaboration message for the past 3 years and more – and seeing IBM pushing that vision was exciting.  The IBM Marketing team gets Social themselves – folks like Kathy Mandelstein, Donna Bieg and Jacques Pavlenyi really do understand social marketing and the community. Finally, the folks that I know and love so much would be there, and so the community would be back together once more.

So it was with surprise that three days in, I felt really really angry and frustrated with the Lotusphere I was attending.  I won’t list out all the issues I was seeing, because that’s not the point of this post.  I’ll simply say that at every turn it seemed that the conversation was being forcibly directed away from the things that mattered to me – no focus on SMB, strategic panels versus product-related announcements, no mention of Lotus as a brand, partner programs that shift the focus from Domino/Notes to Portal and many many more.  It seemed that the Social Business moniker was being used as a weapon to beat away the Lotus brand that we have been loyally following for so long.

Then it hit me.

It really doesn’t matter…

This is not my fight.  In fact, there should not even be a fight.

IBM is a profit-driven business. Shareholder value is what counts.  Always has, always will do.  Lotus software is, at the end of the day, just a set of products within a ‘legacy’ brand that they acquired back in 1995.  The folks at the top of the tree, even in SWG, don’t get the community, the loyalty or the devotion – they have no reason to.  After all, it doesn’t deliver what they want – profits.  Despite being an IBM partner for longer than being involved with Lotus – my first job was consulting around IBM RS/6000 servers – I have railed against this for years and years.  To be honest, it has got me nowhere and probably won me few friends inside IBM.

If we drill it down to bare facts, this is where we are at…

  • Many of the technologies that have been part of the Lotus brand (Connections, Quickr, LotusLive and Portal) are now front and centre in the new Social Business campaign.
  • Technologies like Connections and Portal are market-leaders, at least amongst large corporates.
  • Domino and Notes may no longer be a core part of the IBM collaboration story, but they are healthy and in some areas (XPages) resurgent.
  • The Lotus brand may not be ‘going away’, but it is being deprecated.
  • The conversation has been moved on from being one about messaging, to one about Social Collaboration and Social Business.  This has to be a good thing.
  • Lotusphere will be with us until 2015 at least – IBM has publicly stated as much.

Whether the Lotus name and brand exists in 5 years doesn’t matter…
Whether Portal is or isn’t an ‘exceptional web experience’ doesn’t matter…
Whether IBM advertises product or not doesn’t matter…

The only thing that should matter is whether IBM technologies can do a valuable job for our organisations or for our customers?

Right now, that’s a resounding ‘YES’!

IBM gets Social.  It gets Social Business.  It gets why organisations need to push on in this direction over the next few years.

That’s what matters.  That’s why Collaboration Matters is an IBM partner, and why we advocate IBM solutions.

2011 is therefore going to be the year I stop engaging in pointless spats with others in this community and focus on the positive.  We at Collaboration Matters help to change our customers’ businesses using innovative solutions based on IBM software.  That’s what matters!

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!