What a week! Stuart waxes lyrical

Lotusphere BadgeCue the music!

I’ve had the time of my life…
This week at Lotusphere has been incredible.  The people, the sessions, the events, the buzzing show floor, the amazing new ideas in the innovation lab, the opportunity to feedback to the UX designers, the open access to the Lotus management team, the spectacular OGS, those beanbags, the “frickin’ awesome’ demos, and just to reinforce my point, the people.  First and last, people are what make Lotusphere special.

We are family…
We work in an incredible community that comes to the fore during this week every year.  These aren’t just names in this connected world of ours, they are friends that we work, identify, collaborate, connect, share, drink and party with.  We may have started as business contacts, but Lotusphere takes us way way beyond that. Contacts become friends, friends that we can rely on through the rest of the year.  Lotusphere does that – and for me its the “impossible to calculate” factor in the business case for attending each and every year.  

The more it changes, the more it stays the same…
This conference is run by some kick-ass people – Sandra, Kristin and the rest of the team take a bow.  Every year they pull off a minor miracle, firstly in organising such a great event under pressure.  Secondly, they continue to evolve what Lotusphere is and what it stands for, keeping it fresh and innovative without ever making it seem less than familiar to those long-time attendees. That is amazing…

Welcome to the social…
Social networking makes this event even more special.  Phrase of the week, usually delivered with a look of surprise followed by a beaming smile – “Hey, I follow you on Twitter. It’s great to finally meet you!!”  The rise of blogs, PLanetLotus, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, FriendFeed and BleedYellow mean that if one participates, it’s hard to come to Lotusphere now without already knowing a large number of the attendees online.  That delivers incredible benefits – one already knows so much about what makes that person special – their work, their outside interests, their relationships with others in the community.  Suddenly there is no need to break the ice – you get down to the important stuff so much more quickly.  That is powerful – a real gamechanger in my view, and shows some of the promise of Social Software being fulfilled.

I‘m a Lotus Man… (to the tune of Soul Man)
Bob Picciano – what can I say?  The new CEO gets it. He really does.  

From the keynotes at the BD Day and OGS, through the way he dealt with the press at conferences, the personable approach I’ve seen in exchanges with attendees, the competitive statements he’s made this week to the subtle changes in the behaviour of all the Lotus execs, Bob seems to just understand.  

Last night was a demonstration of that.  Kimonos, about 11pm.  Bob P, Kevin Cavanaugh and many other high-end execs come in en masse.  They look relaxed, chatting with other IBMers, partners and customers alike. They have a drink, smile, laugh, applaud the Karaoke performances.  Then Bob leads a threesome to the stage.  The music starts, the tune of Soul Man from Blues Brothers, Bob and the team sing.  Hey he’s rockin’, has a great voice too…  Then comes the genius moment – ‘I’m a Lotus Man, a Lotus Man, you’re all Lotus Men…”  Cue a roar from the assembled crowd.

This is a team of execs from IBM – yes IBM – opening up to the Lotus faithful, to the community – not behind closed doors at an IBM-only event, but in a public bar at a customer-facing event.  Would we ever have seen that under previous leaderships?  I don’t think so! Don’t get me wrong, Lotus needed Mike Rhodin at the time – the 17 consecutive quarters of growth and the record of delivering product attests to that. But we needed something different – a man that can take the fight to Microsoft, Google and others.  Someone to bring Lotus and this great community together and spur us onto new and better things. And most of all, a media-friendly figurehead that can take Lotus back into the news, back onto the front pages of the IT press.  Bob can do that.

One cautionary note – Bob’s going far inside IBM, that much is obvious.  Just please commit to stay with Lotus for a few years, Bob.  This isn’t going to happen overnight.

The best is yet to come…
So, last day. The sessions keep coming, GURUpalooza, Ask the Developers then the Closing Session.  For the first time in my Lotusphere history, I don’t need to rush off to get a flight tonight. I look forward to meeting for one last evening with many of those I’ve been ‘reunited’ with this week, plus loads more than I’ve met for the first time. I can’t wait.  Lotusphere2009 has been a blast…

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!