So, Ed Brill is an exec over at IBM who really has responsibility for Notes/Domino sales. His blog is actually really good because in addition to talking about what’s going on at IBM, he uses it as a personal travel log and Ed does more than his fair share of traveling. I like reading Ed’s entries because in addition to the interesting places that Ed gets to see and people he gets to meet, I get to read about his perspective on Notes/Domino and lets be honest, each of us is skewed in some way around our own bias’s. In this case Technological bias’s around collaboration tools. As it turns out, we both agree to post our pics up on Flickr so realistically its possible to agree on something even when you can be diametrically opposed on others.
So, with that said, he had a post this evening that I thought was interesting and I’m linking to it here Ed Brill . The post is about an organization in Australia that chose to remain on the IBM collaboration platform rather than move to a Microsoft platform. What’s interesting (and I don’t know the specifics about this particular situation) is that Ed takes the opportunity to parlay this by saying "In many of these "defend" situations, customers end up considering a broader scope of IBM Lotus software, and this has given us many opportunities to beat Microsoft both in the Notes/Domino space as well as with Quickr, Connections, and Sametime. One thing I’m proud of as a sales manager is that our team is very, very good at turning defense into offense."
Now, again, I suppose that in some cases this might be true, but I think that to use the word MANY in that sentence is probably an overstatement (in all fairness though as sales people, that’s what we do). In my ‘limited’ experience, I would say that generally what has happened is that the customers who have chosen to remain on the existing platform have done so, not because of the "broader scope of IBM Lotus software", but rather because what Notes/Domino has been exceptionally good at is creating an environment where application creation is ‘viral’ and customers wind up with such an embedded investment that it becomes cost prohibitive to try and migrate. This assuming that a customer actually has the funding to pay for an assessment of the sheer volume of Notes applications that may exist to understand what the impact of a migration could be. Make no mistake, when considering a move from Notes to ANYTHING, it is NOT about email. That is the biggest mistake that anyone can make in considering changes in technology of this kind. Folks SAY that its Exchange vs Notes, but lets not kid ourselves. If it were just about email, this wouldn’t be such a hard conversation. Its not about email, or instant messaging, or collaboration (that’s another favorite word to throw around in those discussions). It becomes about how tough it would be to replatform the entire user community and how many applications are simply tied to Notes.
Long and the short of it, customers lock themselves in and make it cost prohibitive to leave the technology. This despite the evidence that some of the technological solutions that Ed refers to (such as Sametime) are inferior to what is being developed by other technology competitors. The solutions are good, but I wouldn’t say that they are necessarily winning based on the overall technological merit of the solutions. Realistically, they are winning sometimes in the same manner that Microsoft does, "If we are going to stay on Notes, then we should probably use Sametime because it integrates better with Notes". Its not a bad argument, however, it is one that IBM has worked hard at competing against when working with a Microsoft based incumbent environment. I would put the IBM folks on notice now that the "Sametime integrates better" argument is on borrowed time. Check out the innovation going on by downloading the add-in for Notes here and see how it is explained by and OCS MVP here.