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Lotusphere 2012 Day 1

2012-01-17 13:54:13    |    Blog

It's warm, it's Florda and I have quite a lot to say about the first day, so I'll just get straight to it.

OGS - Opening General Session
After starting the day with a 9 km run and a pretty good breakfast, it was time for the official start of the conference. Most of the conference's 5000 attendees were present as IBM presented products to come.

Since social business is the buzzword IBM lives by these days, they had selected the band Ok Go to start off the conference. The band's music is pretty dull, but they do have entertaining videos. In fact, they have built their career by using social media like youtube, and I'm sure you've seen at their videos:



As the vocalist said: “Geeks are the new rock stars. That's why we play at a tech conference at eight o'clock in the morning.”



Every year they have a famous guest speaker. When I was here in 2007 it was Neil Armstrong. Last year it was Kevin Spacey. This year it was Michael J. Fox. He was visibly very ill with his Parkinson, and it was sometimes hard to hear what he said. But he got his message across:

Online communities helped him find his way through his illness. And his foundation also uses online activities and social media to gather financing and to get research done.

I like Michael J. Fox. He's a really good actor and seems like a genuinely nice person. And his got a gorgeous wife.

He was funny too. He told the story of when he was writing his book and came out of his study to tell his wife that “I'll never be able to finish my book on optimism!” He then finished it off with the story of a woman who had to flee to the top of a tree during a flood, and gave birth to her baby while staying at the top of the branches. “You think you've got problems? A woman gave birth in a tree!”

Then it was time for presentation of coming products. Let me be positive first: The Sametime for handheld devices looks fantastic. Being able to hold video conferences on your Ipad or Galaxy tab will be a great asset. Also, the way you will be able to control content on your web pages via drag and drop on a pad looks great.

Also, IBM Connections is a great product. The CEO of Bayer Material Science has been testing it for some time, and he told us how it had severely made it easier for them to share content and keep control of their files. No more fiddling around in explorer to find the right file or folder. “We can focus on collaborating instead on focusing how to use the software.

However: IBM Connections is for huge corporations. It's for the big league, where a huge corporation like IBM is. Connections isn't for smaller business like my own company. My company has 250 employees, most of them on the factory floor, and with a middle management in an age group that has mostly only read about Facebook. And we are not alone in this. IBM is catering to a market that doesn't exist yet.

Apart from companies that are heavily interacting with end users and huge corporation with funds to have people working with knowledge management, most CEOs won't see much use for "social business." And to tell you the truth, I don't think it's not what a lot of the attendees at Lotusphere are there for, either.

While people applauded when IBM showed how easy to use Connections is, and when showing Sametime and content management on the Ipad, the biggest round of applause came for the new Lotus Notes Social Edition client (8.5.4). Especially when they announced a web plugin that makes it possible to use Notes applications directly on the web, without web forms or Xpages. You can just run the app right in your browser, and it simulates the Notes client. The applause went through the roof!

Now, think about this for a moment. IBM is pushing huge social business solutions while telling how much your ROI will be. But their customers are here to learn how to put their most business critical platform, Lotus Notes/Domino, to even better use, and how to modernize their Notes applications. Still, IBM spent only ten minutes of the opening session on this product. Something is rotten in the state of Florida, folks, and IBM is Notes/Domino's step mother.

Don't get me wrong. My company has plans for using IBM Sametime for what it's worth. And we will be looking at Connections, especially for sharing files and knowledge inside the organization, and maybe on our intranet. It's not just Lotus Notes for us. But I think IBM and their customer base are on different planets at the moment.

Lotus Notes and Domino will be here for a long time, but I don't think the use of it will grow much (and I don't think IBM wants it to). I also think it will we move away from Notes being a huge ungainly mastodon of a client to a thinner client, partially running like a web app. The new mail template with the next version of Notes seems to be 100% webmail-based. Combined with how easy it is to use Lotus Notes with widgets and plugins, we could, if IBM play their cards right, have an increase in use of Notes on our hands. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

Phew! On to the rest of the sessions I attended.

SHOW 101 – Ace Time Detective – Developing Expert skills in Calendar Troubleshooting
Even if the calendar in Lotus Notes is the best calendar on the market (really, it is. Outlook (which I also use in one of my other jobs) and google calendar doesn't hold a candle to the Lotus Notes calendar), it doesn't mean it's trouble free. Debugging of and finding errors in calendar entries is sheer and pure hell, no matter what system you are running.

In this session we were given several really good tips on how to solve common calendar problems. In fact, I think I found out why one of my users receives a certain error message, and I will give the solution I was presented a try. I also learned several new commands to run in the command console, as well as rebuilding the freetime database.

What the session also showed is how hard it is to deal with IBM sometimes. They showed us several good problem solving tools, but they couldn't tell us where to download them, because IBM Legal didn't allow them to. Nice… We did get tips on third party applications, though.

Overall it was a good and really useful session.

AD 111 – The Xpath: Practical guide to taking your IBM Lotus Notes applications to Domino Xpages
Xpages is all the rage now, and I can see why. In this session they discussed what applications you should transform from traditional Notes applications and which ones you should not. They also discussed on when the application should look the same in both the browser and the Notes client, and when not to do that. We also covered mobile applications, which is what I'm looking most forward to with Xpages.

My main gripe with the session is that they made Xpages seem very complicated, while they in other sessions have told how easy it is. But I do agree with their critical view on when to transform applications in to Xpages and when not to.

BOF 107 – IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Has the Best Video Capabilities ever..
I went to this session in the hopes of getting a demo of Sametime's video capabilities. Especially since that is something my company probably will start using this year.

However, this was only a discussion among administrators of the product, so I left 20 minutes after it had started.
Instead I went to the Social Business Reception where business partners of IBM are pushing their products. They also sell merchandise and books there (which reminds me I have to ask my boss if I can buy a few books before I leave).

There was a reception with free beer and food when I arrived. Talk about your great timing! So I hung out, talked to people, made some contacts and joked around with the people at the Open NTF booth, while ogling the promo babes.

Still three days to go…
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IBM Connections is not only for big business. The smallest company back home in Norway who use Connections are only four people, another Norwegian are 100 users.
And if you believe that Lotus Notes will die, you are wrong. It is still part of the strategy, but it will be even more open and more social. Did you not get the announcement on Lotus Notes and Domino Social Edition?

Posted by: Arne Date: 2012-01-17 13:58:36

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@arne I think it would be very useful for other small companies to learn what you did, what software and hardware you used. What it cost. How you use it & how you benefit.

Posted by: Jason Date: 2012-01-17 14:38:18

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Hi Jason,

I have to agree with quit a lot of what you say, even though Arne, say Connections is for small companies as well, in reality its a massive system that comprises of so many parts, so much to go wrong, so complex to install.

One of the major things that is good about Notes is its so easy to setup and run, even quite a large system. Connections is so hard to setup and requires a load of hardware.

Arne, when IBM make connections simple to install and administer then you can say its for small companies, right now its defiantly not. It might be easy to use but most companies will never find that out cause its to hard to install.

Heres hoping,
Nick

Posted by: Nick Halliwell Date: 2012-01-17 18:21:41

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@Arne: Thanks for your reply. I do not think Notes is going to die soon, and I do not think I said so in my blog posting either. What I did say is that Notes/Domino is not going to grow. Companies that rely heavily on Notes/Domino will still be using the platform for years to come, but IBM is clearly showing us that Notes/Domino is not something they care much about any more. I have heard about Social Edition, I even refer to it in my blog post.



If you were here in Orlando, you would as I have, hear from a lot of people that Connections just is not something they will use right now. And, you would hear that people are very dissappointed with the lack of Lotus Notes-related talk. And do you know what sessions that attracts the biggest crowds? Sessions about Xpages and Lotus Notes/Domino.



The closest people companies are planning to go social is to webify their notes applications via Xpages, as well as make them available on mobile platforms.



I attended a session today about Connections. Several CEOs were present. During the Q&A it was painfully obvious that the CEOs had no clue to what this was all about. "You mean this makes it possible for us to share our files?"



And another thing: IBM just cannot show us good demos on how Connections really work. It is all technical talk and what they are planning to do. It was only via an IBM partner that I learned today that Connections is 14 different applications, and that you can choose which ones to install. Why could not IBM tell us this when they did their sessions about it?



Microsoft are so much better to sell their ideas and solutions to CEOs. IBM could learn quite a lot. After all, IBMs solutions are better than the ones Microsoft are selling, but M$ just market theirs better.

Posted by: Elf Date: 2012-01-17 20:37:14

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It takes 3 work days to install an out-of-the-box IBM Connections. This is what my techies tell me from their own experience. (A friend of mine installed it for a Norwegian University in 24 hours!!). Then we use appx 2 days to import the person data from any HR-system or Active Directory.

What takes time is the adoption bit. I am now working with adoption of IBM Connection at a Norwegian shipping company and this will take approximately 9 days spread over 6 months.
All functions are installed the first 3 days. But we start to use them successively as the user adoption get more mature.
Around 40 % of our customers have Sharepoint, and more than that have MS Office. They tell us they need to use less email, and share files and info better than MS kan do for them.

Regarding marketing: Well thats a point of view. When we look at the sales numbers - viral marketing (like IBM do) works very, very well.
If you would like a demo of what Connections can do for your business (in Norway) please get in touch, but I want to talk to the top management, like CEO's, CFO's, because this is not about IT, but about improving business.

Posted by: Arne Date: 2012-01-18 04:33:48

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First of all: Something changed at my webhost that made my php scripts stop working. It's now fixed. Thanks to Arne for pointing it out to me.

And thank you for your answer, Arne. I'm glad someone from IBM actually takes the time to comment like this. And I wholeheartidly agree with you. As I said in my own comment: It's the CEOs that have to bee convinced, but the few of the speakers here at Lotusphere have been too technical (see the story about the CEO from my former comment)and I don't think most companies are there yet.

But the fact is, we are several Notes/Domino (as well as Sametime and Connections for that matter) lovers who are a bit worried and skeptical. Some of them very famous in the Notes/Domino community.

And the number of sessions here about Notes/Domino are the most visited, but IBM is mostly pushing Connections to CEO's that quite don't understand it.

The ones that do understand it are mostly ICT presidents and such. But then they tell you that there's no way they'll get their CEO to understand it. And that's the point where I introduce them to an IBM representative, telling said representative that they should start talking to CEOs in CEO language, like Microsoft are doing.

I'm glad that you say so too!

Posted by: Elf Date: 2012-01-18 04:43:50

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Some thoughts: Lotusphere is traditionally for technicians that came from the Lotus Notes world. They are experts on Notes and know that they can make a lot of things happen with Notes/Domino. We are now into a transition where new technologies and new ways to work and collaborate. All transitions are difficult, not at least psychologically: We feel unsecured about change and stick to what we know. It feels safer. So we do like "everybody else" does. But if you do like everybody else, you will be like everybody else, and get the same results as them.
I am an evangelist - I talk to CEO's, CFO's and top management. When I talk business and connect it to social business - the new business model - they understand what I am talking about, because they want to be different from their competitors, they want to be in front.
I believe that both traditional Lotus business partners and customers have to reengineer their vision and think outside the box (mailbox). That is where the future lies. Business Partners doing that will take a lead on their competitors.
So - let me talk to you top management - and I will show them what a positive difference social business will be to them.

Posted by: Arne Date: 2012-01-18 06:40:51

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@Arne: Don't be too surprised if I take you up on your offer in the near future. Thanks for your thoughts.

Posted by: Elf Date: 2012-01-18 08:27:00

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I think you're spot on when doubting whether IBM has got its marketing priorities straight. IBM has great solutions for companies willing to put time, money and dedication into IBM's state of the art products. And IBM puts pretty much all their (visible) effort into pushing those solutions to any and all.

Now, the reality is that few companies have matured enough yet to be able to take advantage of IBM's latest offerings, like Connections. However, most companies DO have people that can easily use their Domino designer skills to incorporate great "social" functionality into old Domino applications and their existing intranets running on Domino. Doing so could strengthen Domino's reputation a lot, and at the same time let the corporations get used to thinking the way they have to in order to start using Connections well. Creating the right Domino applications could even stagger the mindless migration from Notes/Domino to Outlook and SharePoint that has been going on all over the place the last half decade or so.

If only IBM would put more effort into giving those developers the best possible tool, a Domino Designer that can be used efficiently as a container for modern solutions based on the latest tools from the open source community (like Ruby on Rails, Play! and various JavaScript libraries including, but not limited to Dojo), and combine that with the proven, rock solid Domino security and stability. If only.

I'm not saying Domino can't be used in innovative ways that includes new open source initiatives. I'm just agreeing with Hogne that IBM does a poor job in promoting these possibilities. The profile of this Lotusphere sadly seems to extend the trend.

Posted by: Bjørn Date: 2012-01-18 14:19:54

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