"Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product"

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007
I don't think so, but that's what I was told when I visited more than one booth of vendors of KM search technology at This week's KM World conference in San Jose.  (Steve Barth and I presented a workshop on Knowledge Worker Productivity at the conference.)

I had stopped by to ask if their search technology could crawl a Notes/Domino database. At which point I was told that the company saw no value in creating an add-on for a dead product. "IBM isn't even here at KMWorld, look around - do you see them anywhere?" I didn't. (Unless they were hidden behind the Microsoft Search booth.) I also did not see them in the list of exhibitors.

I did check the conference guide to find that IBM was listed as a sponsor of the taxonomy bootcamp. OK, that's a start.  I also noticed that a presenter was doing a demo of an IBM search tool in his session. I realize that this was not a huge conference, but there are key decision makers here. Some that use Notes may be wondering to themselves if Notes is a dead product, while others, unaware of the power of Notes, will continue to be... unaware.  

During this week at the KMWorld conference I've met many people that tell me they are using Lotus Notes successfully as their collaboration and knowledge management platform. I heard this same comment more than once:
"... people at the conference are all excited about product X or that new tool or "Tool 2.0", but our organization's had [most of] these capabilities with Lotus Notes for years...."
Of course, I did meet another speaker at the banquet who asked me if Lotus Notes was still being sold and supported. He was shocked when I told him that the last IBM # of Notes users I was aware of was 140 million Notes users. (Even if I'm off by a few tens of millions of users, that's nothing to sneeze at.)

So, what's the problem? Why are there so many decision makers that attended Enterprise 2.0 and KMWorld 2007 (and many other conferences I frequent) unaware of the power of Notes?

It's clearly not a technology problem.
Many of the knowledge management professionals from the larger established companies were pleased to tell me about their Lotus Notes/Domino deployments. Many raved about Notes and more than one used my favorite expression about Notes:
"We're not getting rid of Notes in our organization; you'll have to pry Notes from our cold dead hands..."
I have many clients and I even know of several collaboration analysts who feel the same way.

According to Ed Brill's recent post, Notes and Exchange continue to hold approximately 40% of the market, each. These numbers have been stable for some time. I don't see Exchange (or any other Microsoft product) killing Notes/Domino dead - at least not in the technology department,

I think It's a marketing problem
on the part of IBM and in the mind of the consumer. (There, Microsoft, with its FUD campaign, may indeed be winning the battle.)

Anyway, back to my opening statement, I stayed at the vendors booth, convinced them that Lotus Notes is indeed alive and well, and growing, and that they could seize a large opportunity if they integrated support for Notes/Domino into their KM product. I convinced them (I think) to attend Lotusphere in January to see the market for themselves, meet developers who can help them add Notes/Domino support to their product and test the market.  I hope this is a positive step for them.

As for IBM, I still believe Notes is an incredibly powerful platform for collaboration and knowledge management and I continue to be amazed at the creative things people are doing in their organization with Notes. I just don't understand why IBM's Notes/Domino marketing campaigns have failed to reach mass market awareness. Part of me wonders if people might perceive that Notes is lost deep within Big Blue and they are not sure if it will survive. Valid argument. I feel that way ... every time I have to deal with the IBM site to get information. At the same time, I know Notes is not dead. I see LOTS of innovation coming from the Lotus Notes division - just look at Notes 8, Quickr, SameTime, and a multitude of related products to name a few. Again, it's not a technology problem. I think it is a consumer perception problem. It's frustrating. Even more so, since I have yet to see a product that can do what Notes does. IBM owns the space Notes serves so well.

If I had several billion dollars in the bank, I would take Notes/Domino off of IBM's hands. I think it's that good of a product. Then, I would assemble a focus group of 50% customers, 20% business partners, 10% Value-added resellers, 15% developers, and 5% well-known respected collaboration bloggers/analysts  to tackle the problem of how to position and communicate what Notes can do. (I would also hire away a handful of key Notes bloggers and evangelists from IBM and turn them loose on the web to do what they do so well.) I would give away the designer client to anyone that wanted it and get folks developing Notes/Domino/Web apps. Then I would get out of the way.  

Oh, and I would make sure that IBM/Lotus is represented at conferences where decision makers go.

This is definitely a marketing problem.

I wonder if anyone on the IBM marketing team knows (or remembers) that IBM/Lotus technology once was [and still is] a core tool for information, collaboration, and knowledge management in many leading organizations today? I wonder if they have any plans to do anything about it?

Discussion/Comments (24):

Eric Mack (http://www.ericmackonline.com): 11/9/2007 8:59:06 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

I've been thinking about this for the past few days. If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that for the past 15 years I have use Lotus Notes as the cornerstone of my collaboration and knowledge management tools. I believe in Notes/Domino and its future. Enough that I'm investing heavily in a productivity tool for people that want to implement David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology in Notes.

So, I'm definitely putting my money where my mouth is...

I don't want to turn this into an IBM vs Microsoft post; I'm simply surprised that for a conference focused on collaboration and knowledge management that the representation of IBM products - products I use and enjoy - was practically nonexistent. The same, by the way, could be said for SharePoint - I saw a few references to MOSS in various search and taxonomy vendors listings, but no visible representation.


Chema (http://chemalosada.com): 11/10/2007 7:50:29 AM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

I agree completely with you!!!

Many times I have think that IBM has done the worst marketing about Notes. Remember that just a few years ago, with notes 5, they say that Notes has died. More or less.

Today they say another thing. They have a very good horse in the race. But few people in IBM know it.

Include in your plan a few people developing templates for notes to include for free in the package.

But, perhaps the market is based in technology that need many lines of code and many packages to do something that Lotus Notes has done since the last 10 years:

"to sell notes apps is not a good business. it is better to sell moss apps". (ja!)


Chris Blatnick (http://interfacematters.com): 11/10/2007 6:55:36 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Thanks for taking the time to write this up, Eric! I think it is an important message that needs to be told. Notes and Domino is certainly far from dead, but we need to keep getting the word out...that much is clear.

Looking forward to hearing more about the conference when you have time! :-)


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 11/12/2007 9:40:07 AM
"But I’m not dead yet!" says Lotus/IBM marketing

I agree with you, Chris, Notes and Domino are certainly far from dead. However, IBM obviously isnt communicating that message well. They are too busy with those multi-million dollar two-page IBM Infrastructure, ads - they are cute and entertaining, but do nothing to communicate what Notes and Domino is doing for 140 million customers each day!


Notes and Domino is surviving and even thriving in spite of limited marketing promotion by IBM. I think that's a testimony to the Notes design team, the Notes evangelists (inside and outside of IBM) and the Lotus BP community. (OK, they are called IBM BPs - I've been working with Notes since R2, so they are Lotus BPs to me.)


Perhaps we need a grass roots marketing campaign, as Bruce has done with his feedback forum, to promote what people ARE doing successfully and profitably with Notes each day!


Eric


Thomas Coustenoble (http://www.linkedin.com/in/coustenoble): 11/12/2007 11:58:32 AM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Thanks Eric for this great feedback, also lot of good ideas in the discussion thread.

As marketing manager for Notes and Domino, I confirm that we've been working on many of these points in 2007. Even if we were not able to participate to all industry events, we've covered lot of them around web2.0 and unified communications & collaboration themes.

Beyond industry events, we've been extending audience to end-users (with a new specific Lotus Notes 8 ad, yes :-), I said 'ad' on CNN.com, LinkedIn, business week, Gizmodo...), increasing presence on market segments like Small and Medium business (Lotus Starter Packs), investing on web and delivering one of the best product launch ever. Waiting for Lotusphere 2008 official numbers, you can already have a look at our marketing investment through the 'Lotus Marketing wall' on my Flickr page.

Lotus marketing wall on Flickr

{ Link }

I see the version 8 as a great opportunity for our partners and customers to provide end-users with a unique and innovative work experience. Web 2.0 features, integration of collaboration and application services into a single and intuitive workspace. So it's much more than email and collaboration.

To support 'word of mouth' and let people know the great benefits they'll get using Notes 8, we've created interactive contents showcasing the cool new features.

Notes and Domino webpage

{ Link }

ie : in just 6 weeks, Notes and Domino contents have reached +25 000 hits on YouTube

Lotus Notes Domino 8 videos on YouTube

{ Link }

Looking forward to meeting with you and sharing ideas to continue to change market perception. Thomas


Jim Knight (http://www.struturo.com): 11/12/2007 1:16:03 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

The marketing is lacking but I think the core issue to date has been the interface. Lotus worked on it hard in 8 but the face of Notes to date has been mostly ugly apps and prior to r6, ugly mail.

I have a personal mission as a developer in Notes since r2 to make my apps look good and make my web apps such that you cannot tell what the underlying platform is.

37 signals is a company who makes online apps and spend a lot of time and effort on UI and they have a slogan that "the interface IS the product" and I think there's something to be learned there.

The Domino platform is so good that I have heard of companies selling apps with all the features of Domino without mentioning Domino because of the reputation which is a shame but it's important because it shows that the platform is worthy of respect.


Trevor Nelson (): 11/13/2007 9:34:21 AM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Eric,

One quick question - you cite a user base of 140M users. At $100/year for licensing that works out to $14 Billion per year just in licensing revenue for IBM. Does that sound right? Their total revenue from Software for 2006 was $18B and I assume that includes sales as well as license. Do you know where they get the user number? Is it from license renewals? Not arguing, just sounds high. If it is accurate though that's pretty incredible.

Trevor


Alan Lepofsky (http://www.alanlepofsky.net): 11/13/2007 12:04:25 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Hi Trevor. a) not all users that should be under license are!, and b) renewal price is only a fraction (I think < 30%) of the first time purchase price. Also most of our large customers purchase enterprise packages which include multiple products. In other words, don't bother trying to piece together license sales, # of users, and revenue.


Trevor Nelson (): 11/13/2007 3:42:28 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Alan,

Thanks. Do you know how IBM quantifies 140 million users? I'm just curious. With an actual number that high I would think that Notes wouldn't be viewed as a "dead" product by anyone.

I'm not saying that the numbers are inflated, just trying to figure out how a product with that large a base still manages to end up sidelined.

Trevor


Jaime Bisgrove (http://jaimebisgrove.blogspot.com): 11/13/2007 9:41:29 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Eric,

Great Article. I think you hit the nail on the head, sort of. It is a marketing problem, but not only on the part of IBM/Lotus, but also on our (Notes users) part.

Currently it is trendy to support .Net/Sharepoint and there will be no getting around that. However, the grassroots movement that has begun again in R8 is refreshing. With the growth of blogging, an open community has begun to branch out to the Lotus Notes users outside the inner click. Microsoft users have overcome this for years by sharing widgets and code samples. The Notes community has been lacking in this area. Notes.net and SearchDomino.com use to be places to go for help. Now they are nothing but places that questions go to die. And the Sandbox or IBM's site isn't the friendliest of help either.

But recently, I have seem more blog postings, openNTF projects and open communication than ever. Got a question? Google it and someone is doing it or trying it in their blog. Jake Howlett of Codestore.net has been a HUGE help. We need to continue to market to our base: our users and developers. Getting them the tools they need to make the product better is just the type of marketing we need.

Jaime


Keith Brooks (http://lotustech.blogspot.com): 11/14/2007 8:22:19 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

To be fair, Lotus is not a KM search product(K-station and extended search died miserably) focused company.

They don't do search(and if they did, the one in the forums sucks).

True Domino is about KM but this is like going to a security conference and saying why isn't Lotus here. Because they don't make a security product.

Sure they could be there, have a BP exhibit and brand it but you get this pot of money see, and it gets setup to be used in 100's of ways. Then Q3 starts and all funding gets cut. Then Q4 comes in and you need to push end of year sales and funding gets cut more.

Sometimes I think IBM should have Richard Branson teach them about marketing and how to spend your money wisely(business money I mean).


Anonymous (): 11/15/2007 8:39:19 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

We're a small company (less than 15 users) moving from Exchange/Outlook to Domino/Notes? Why? Notes 8 is superb from what we've seen, and perhaps most importantly, we want to shift to Mac and Notes is the only platform that gives us the capabilities we need for workgroup collaboration.

I think there's a huge opportunity for Lotus to exploit growing interest in the Mac.


Marlo Aguinaldo (): 11/18/2007 8:00:56 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Hi Eric,

We are eagerly awaiting your seminar here in manila. BTW, will you be touching some topics in notes as a collaborative tool. Philippines needs some revival in their use of Lotus Notes as a collaborative tool. Some still view it as the the Old Lotus 123 thing... an spreadsheet tool in the 80's.

Regards and see you at the conference.

/Marlo


Jérôme Deniau (http://www.inform-france.com): 11/22/2007 7:02:02 AM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Sure Notes is not dead but Miscrosoft is, They Hired Ray just to proove the world they do not have the capaicites/abilities to develop their own tools. Their only power was to listen to users at the beginning, IBM never did, so when IBM ideas and your ideas met that was cool.

Lotus-Notes 8 is the exception they listened to the users.

We are planning to launch a big campaign to say Notes is up and ready (as usual), the T-Shirt is:

Kill Bill Volume 8.

We do have to hurry, it seems that Bill (Gates) wil retire before December 2007.


Philip B (): 12/20/2007 10:05:44 AM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Eric,

Not sure if you have seen this....

{ Link }


Don Strawsburg (): 12/27/2007 9:58:24 AM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a Born Again product

Lotus/Domino has been Born Again, I think there will be rebirth to this product, Notes 8 is pretty awesome, I think part of the whole Eclipse revolution is the fact that IBM has been quietly working, not selling vaporware like some of it competitors, but creating real products that produce. Users of Notes/Domino are just more productive.

IBM needs to bite the bullet and make Notes a plugin to Eclipse, and make it free to download, and then sell support or sell ID's, certified by IBM, and build products on that platform, I can think of a few, Banking, Medical, and Insurance companies to name a few that should be interested. Hackproof infrastructure, can you imagine the money that is spent trying to make the web secure, Notes has the security, sell secure ID's, so when I get an e-mail from a banking, insurance, credit card institution, I know it is real, not some spam or phishing scheme.

This is where the web has fallen flat, but Domino/Notes could shine.

IBM needs to tell the world, they have a solution of all that data that isn't exactly easily classified or organized in a tabular fashion. I can even imagine a commercial campaign that would work, Envision, a meeting room full of real people, standing room only. Each with their won stack of papers, folders and binders. All grumbling and complaining, Then the Office Manager, ask management,(ties and business suits), "Where are we supposed to put all this information?", then just pan across the group, holding their stacks. Then Flash to a full screen picture, of IBM NOTES in the product box, and a small footer, Built for Documents!

Try to explain to management the difference between structured and unstructured data, I have witnessed the abrupt revelation, and announcement, in disbelief, "Lotus Notes is Not Relational!" Exactly, and neither are the documents you create in Word, Powerpoint, most of Excel and a large portion of the information you try to stuff into relational databases.

Sorry for the rant, but I have worked with Notes since 93, and have witnessed IBM waste endless opportunities to market an awesome product.

Don


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 12/27/2007 11:54:11 AM
re: Lotus Notes/Domino is a Born Again product

Thanks for your comments, Don. I, too, have worked with Notes since 1993 and have been continuously amazed at two things:

"Notes can do that and did that - years ago" when confronted with new applications, and

"I don't understand why Lotus (Now IBM) doesn't get the opportunities with Notes?"


Fortunately, as you pointed out, things are changing and I agree that notes is being reborn. I'd like to see IBM reduce the # of their silly ads (I counded 20 full pages in one magazine) and focus the $ on Notes/Domino solutions that will propel Notes into the limelight. Notes is an amazing product. I enjoy showing people who say they "Hate Notes" just how productive they can be with some training and a few simple databases.

Good points!


venkat (): 1/2/2008 5:13:27 AM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

I'm working with Lotus Notes since 1998 and it is a wonderfull product and meet all needs of small to very big customers. Many are thinking that Lotus Notes is just a mail client but it's not. It is a collabration platform and can buit any kind of applications. We shouldn't compare Lotus Notes with MS Exchange which is just a mail server. I feel that IBM lacks in marketing Lotus Note and Domino product.

Lotus Notes and Domino == 7 Microsoft products (exchange, out look, .net, sharepoint etc..).


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 1/2/2008 10:56:04 AM
re: Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

I agree, Venkat, that it really isn't accurate to attempt to compare Notes and MS Exchange.

Notes is so much more.

The Comparison between IBM Domino and MS, as you proposed, would need to include so many MS technologies and MS servers...


Brian Vincent (): 1/24/2008 8:19:52 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Yes, mainly a marketing issue, and for a number of reasons.

First IBM has done a poor job of marketing all of its products. They take the marketing angle that they sell "solutions." This approach works well for selling services, and last year they did record sales in services. However this approach does not work well for products. Products need to have a clear identity in order to be found. When lumped into "solutions" they just get lost.

Second, IBM's different product divisions have no alignment or allegiance to one another. All Microsoft products groups essentially work in lockstep, they work from a proactive plan each development cycle that products will work with one another. IBM product groups operate and wither in separate vacuums. Any tie ins or hooks are created re-actively as an afterthought. Micorsoft products depend on one another, IBM products often operate in spite of one another.

Third, IBM has never truly embraced notes themselves and you cannot sell something you do not believe in. So while one group at IBM is working to better notes, another is installing exchange servers at customer sites, and other product divisions are worried about their own product and could give less of a rip about old cousin Notes. I'd also gamble to say that not all of IBM is on R8 yet, and thats a lot of potential sales mouthes not being leveraged.

Finally there is Microsoft's well oiled marketing machine. Trade rags and website will publish just bout any Microsoft created PR doc, study, or statement with few questions. Microsoft then sells to customers based on studies, papers, and news articles they them self originally written. Beyond this their products are built to market one another. While IBM is trying to find alignment Microsoft is running the presses.


Haidou (): 2/21/2008 8:29:11 AM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Hi all,

As Eric Mack said, we can t compare Dominos, with exchange directly. BUT we can t compare Domino with Exchange AND Sharepoint.

To be honest I use Lotus (6.5) and I really miss my microsoft environment (for synchronising and for export options) But it s true, I don t kown yet the version 8. But if it only change the graphical interface, I won't like it for sure.


Thomas Coustenoble (http://www.netvibes.com/tcoustenoble): 4/29/2008 3:47:07 PM
Lotus Notes/Domino is a dead product

Just to follow up on this and to make a status after version 8 launch back in sept 2007. I see strong alignment today between new user interface (development investment), community expansion (new blogs everyday, new user groups,..), market presence (most press clips in the history of Lotus, and a worldwide (+12 markets) advertising campaign just for Notes and Domino 8 (have you seen any other product/version oriented campaign in IBM the last 3 years on such scale?), 13 consecutive quarters of growth...and so on. I wish I could share more with you but certainly later. Here is an example of things that change the way we market our products / encourage our community to engage discussions with customers around recent Lotus innovations: www.netvibes.com/tcoustenoble

Sincerely yours,

Thomas



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