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  • Blog, Enterprise IT - Written by on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 15:05 - 25 Comments

    Lotus position: ABS a “happy Notes camper”

    blog We couldn’t help but laugh when we read this excellent interview with Australian Bureau of Statistics chief information officer Patrick Hadley, describing the agency’s ongoing commitment to IBM’s Lotus Notes/Domino platform as part of its recently released and wide-ranging ICT strategy (PDF here). iTNews quotes Hadley (we recommend you click here for the full article):

    “We have Notes programming skills in our team. They are very smart and very technologically literate,” he said. “We are a happy Notes camper.”

    Now, if you examine the ABS’ ICT strategy (which we plan to go into in a great deal more detail at a future date), you’ll find the organisation is not just using Notes as a stand-alone collaboration environment; it’s actually using the complete suite, ranging from Lotus Notes 8.5.3 Mail and Calendar, SameTime for instant messaging, Connections for “social/business networking”, Work Group Databases for collaboration and knowledge management, Lotus Live and Quickr (“external collaboration”) and Lotus iNotes and Traveler Mail and Calendar via web. In short, Notes is highly entrenched at the ABS and it would be a complete platform overhaul to get it out and replace it with Microsoft Outlook/Exchange in one of its several iterations.

    However, we can’t help but suspect that while Hadley might be a “happy Notes camper”, not everyone at the ABS will be. It’s hard to imagine that junior staff entering the workforce after using Gmail, Yahoo Mail or any of Microsoft’s Windows Live options in their private lives will be happy being force-fed Notes at work, and we imagine the same will be true for senior executives at the ABS, who would no doubt prefer the agency shift to the standardised Outlook/Exchange ecosystem which most people are familiar with. In fact, that’s precisely what’s happening at Hadley’s old outfit, the Department of Human Services (he joined the ABS in February this year). Will the ABS still be using Notes in five years or more? Only time will tell. In any case, I am sure Microsoft and Google have already marked the agency down on their ‘high-priority’ sales target lists.

    Image credit: Aidy Spencer, Creative Commons

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    1. BrownieBoy
      Posted 02/10/2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink |

      That would be embarrassed laughter, presumably, Renai. This is plainly a topic of which you have very little understanding.

      Read Hadley’s interview again; he doesn’t mention email at all, and yet that’s all that you can talk about.

      “Outlook/Exchange ecosystem”? What “ecosystem” is *that* exactly, Renai? What do companies *build* with Outlook/Exchange?

      Nothing, that’s what! It’s not an applications platform and never has been. It does email and calendaring and bugger all else. You need Sharepoint and likely SQL Server and Lord knows what else to get some kind of *real* collaboration going. And as Hadley knows, MS is still a long way behind in capabilities in that arena.

      What it *does* have is naive tech journos spouting on about “ecosystems” and “juggernauts” because it makes good headlines and saves them having to do any real research into their subjects.

      • Posted 03/10/2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink |

        Outlook/Exchange is not an ecosystem or an application development platform — you’re correct. However, I am correct in that Microsoft’s platform has an overwhelmingly large market share in the collaboration space. I’m not sure whether Lotus Notes/Domino is technically a better platform, but it’s definitely not winning right now.

        • BrownieBoy
          Posted 03/10/2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink |

          What “platform” is that, Renai?

          And how do you define “collaboration”?

    2. Craig
      Posted 02/10/2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink |

      No one cares about email anymore. It will be the first of many applications to move to cloud services… if you HAVE to host it internally, you’ll probably move to mobile/web based systems anyhow.

      Craig

      • Posted 03/10/2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink |

        i don’t know what planet you are on, but take email from any small, medium or large business, and they start to panic. little hipster organisations might not use it, but plenty of businesses do.

    3. CrustyCoder
      Posted 02/10/2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink |

      Sigh! Renai, I shouldnt bite over such rubbish, but… it seems that your technological bigotry is only surpassed by your ignorance. I hope Microsoft are paying you for this because it’s devoid of any meaningful analysis, and only exposes your lack of analytical ability. You could have at least been paid like Sara Radicati before sacrificing your credibility. But perhaps that was gone a long time ago anyway. Anyway, reading through your unfortunate rant reminds me a lot of Bill O’Reilly….

      • Posted 03/10/2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink |

        I’m not a bigot ;) I base my opinions on what people are using, mainly, and my own personal experiences. I’ve used Notes, Outlook, even Google Apps, at various places I have worked over the past decade. And I remain up to date with where the various suites are in terms of their development.

        • CrustyCoder
          Posted 03/10/2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink |

          The problem I have is that even when someone gives a credible positive critique of their exploits, you try and discredit it (or them) by “cherry picking” the facts. Government organizations, each have their own culture and skill. Their successes and results are as unique as different private enterprises. ABS has around 100 registered developers and over a decade of experience. That’s literally 1000 person years of effort. Things may wax and wane at the ABS but they are smart enough to know that its budgetary suicide to consider a move off Notes. Especially when you see places like and Qld govt have permanently “suspended” their migration or have limited it to mail only. Other factors like, operational effectiveness would be on ABS’ KPI. The cost to retrain developers is huge, not to mention slow. Clearly, you haven’t thought this through, just picking a couple of facts and drawing narrow conclusions shows you have limited experience and understanding in the collaboration space. Better you stick to topics you know, like exchange and gmail.

    4. Posted 03/10/2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink |

      Its absolutely no surprise that the ABS wouldn’t want to give up the Notes/Domino platform, but their approach (they way they embraced it entirely) is quite exceptional. From what I understand, they are using IBM Connections quite well too and that in itself would probably satisfy many people – in many respects, ABS are more advanced that many of their peers who are nervously trying social media.

      • CrustyCoder
        Posted 03/10/2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink |

        Connections 4 looks pretty slick and has a fairly good user experience. It does capture the collaborative qualities you need for the enterprise. It is however an expensive proposition and something you only embark on, once you know how to use it organizationally. Like anything, simply throwing it at your user base will have limited value. Best value if the organization has prepared for it. But at least there is now a technology that can support it.

      • Posted 03/10/2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink |

        Interesting comment, James — this would go far towards justifying continued use of the platform. One of the most common refrains by Notes fans is that those companies who do use it don’t use it enough — they only deploy a small amount of the features, with the rest going unused. If the ABS is using more of Notes/Domino than other organisations, this would help explain why they are such fans of the platform.

    5. Steve Hodgkinson, Research Director IT Asia/Pacific, Ovum
      Posted 03/10/2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink |

      Hah! I’m with Crusty on this one Renai … the IBM Lotus vs. Microsoft Exchange debate goes around and around and usually fails to get beyond the level of technology bigotry. The Lotus suite has been best of breed as an integrated enterprise collaboration platform for a long time and many of the world’s largest enterprises are making sophisticated use of Lotus software as a platform … rather than as a point email solution.

      Usually when Notes is “on the nose” in an organisation it is due to a failure to invest in keeping the software up to date while consumerisation has given users better – usually Microsoft – tools at home. Users see a choice between “old Lotus” and “new Microsoft” or “new Google” and naturally want up-to-date software.

      The broader issue afoot is the fact that the pace of innovation is overtaking the ability of IT departments to respond … so it seems easier in the short term to “jump onto Yammer or Google Apps” than it does to design and implement a more robust enterprise-wide collaboration environment … and upgrade Notes and Connections and then roll it all out as a new enterprise app.

      The future of Lotus is, for better or worse, tied to the ability of the corporate IT department to roll out enterprise collaboration and office productivity solutions in a ‘push’ model. Microsoft and Google et. al. benefit more from the ‘pull’ dynamics of consumerisation and the rise of cloud-based delivery models.

      From a practical perspective, however, when you look into the case for migration off Notes it all comes down to how under-invested the implementation is. If an organisation has implemented the Lotus suite poorly and/or allowed it to become out of date then users are unhappy and the case for change can be argued. If, on the other hand, the Lotus suite is well implemented and up-to-date then the case for change is pretty weak because the Lotus solutions are actually very good. Irrespective, it can be very expensive to migrate away from the platform because of the cost of replacing the apps that have been created in Domino … and all for what … a slightly different email system?

      The sad fact remains, however, that the tide does seem to be turning against IBM Lotus because of the very fact that the tide is turning against the corporate IT department itself as a driver of innovation and monopoly supplier of IT solutions. Unless productivity and collaboration software has a credible presence in the consumer space and is available via the cloud to individuals it is unlikely to be preferred by most users … no matter what the IT department thinks. The “vote with your feet … mouse … or these days your finger” dynamics of consumerisation and user sentiment naturally favor Microsoft I suppose. Google is a useful challenger, but Microsoft’s 2013 software releases and Windows 8 and Office 365 (once they get the bugs out) will further strengthen the appeal of its solutions … which are becoming ever more integrated and inclusive of the best-of-breed innovations of its competitors.

      “We can do the same stuff as those smarty pants up-starts … but better” seems to be the new Microsoft strategy … which will up the ante further as a threat for the IBM Lotus offerings.

      • Posted 03/10/2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink |

        +1 Steve :-)

      • Posted 03/10/2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink |

        Hey Steve,

        thanks for your comment — insightful as always!

        In terms of an enterprise collaboration platform, I’m not sure that I agree with you that Lotus/Domino has been best of breed for a long time. How, after all, do you define ‘best of breed’? Do you define it on its technical merits, featuresets, or through reviews, or do you define it through popularity, and how many people want to implement it, and how easy people find to use it?

        There is no doubt that Lotus/Domino is an excellent enterprise collaboration platform, and there is also no doubt that it has far greater capabilities than either Microsoft or Google can offer, especially when it comes to its extensibility with reference to application development and so on. I willingly concede this point.

        But there is also no doubt that people are just not deploying Lotus/Domino at the moment in new installations. I haven’t reported on a new installation of the software in Australia for five years, to my memory. I have, however, reported on dozens of organisations which have swapped out Lotus/Domino for Outlook/Exchange or Google Apps. I’ve reported on a couple of upgrades of Lotus/Domino, but that’s about it.

        Right now, CIOs around Australia are handing off basic email and collaboration functionality to outsourced providers, either as a managed service or as an out and out cloud deployment. In this space, Lotus/Domino just cannot compete on the same terms as Outlook/Exchange and Google Apps. IBM left it to languish with only slow development efforts for too long over the years from 2000 through 2005, and in that time Microsoft and Google caught up.

        With respect to the ‘other’ functionality which Lotus/Domino offers — the ability to build in-house applications easily and so on, I’m also seeing a move away from this aspect. This kind of application represents precisely what the modern CIO doesn’t want to do — customised, in-house software solutions. Over the past decade, CIOs have learned that these customised efforts are hard to support in the long-term. Consequently, I’m seeing a much higher focus on using off the shelf software wherever possible.

        When it comes to end users in organisations, in practice the research I’ve seen suggests that most of the younger crew are happiest with Google Apps, while most of the executive team is happiest with Outlook/Exchange.

        I know there are diehard Lotus shops like the ABS out there, but it’s my opinion that they will eventually be converted. I really do wonder whether the ABS will still be running Lotus in five to seven years. I would be willing to place a bet that it will be not — or if it is, then it would be running it only for customised apps and not for its core collaboration environment.

        A bit of a rambling comment, but there you are.

        FWIW, I do actually agree with much of your comment, particularly these paragraphs:

        Usually when Notes is “on the nose” in an organisation it is due to a failure to invest in keeping the software up to date while consumerisation has given users better – usually Microsoft – tools at home. Users see a choice between “old Lotus” and “new Microsoft” or “new Google” and naturally want up-to-date software.

        The broader issue afoot is the fact that the pace of innovation is overtaking the ability of IT departments to respond … so it seems easier in the short term to “jump onto Yammer or Google Apps” than it does to design and implement a more robust enterprise-wide collaboration environment … and upgrade Notes and Connections and then roll it all out as a new enterprise app.

        The future of Lotus is, for better or worse, tied to the ability of the corporate IT department to roll out enterprise collaboration and office productivity solutions in a ‘push’ model. Microsoft and Google et. al. benefit more from the ‘pull’ dynamics of consumerisation and the rise of cloud-based delivery models.

        From a practical perspective, however, when you look into the case for migration off Notes it all comes down to how under-invested the implementation is. If an organisation has implemented the Lotus suite poorly and/or allowed it to become out of date then users are unhappy and the case for change can be argued. If, on the other hand, the Lotus suite is well implemented and up-to-date then the case for change is pretty weak because the Lotus solutions are actually very good. Irrespective, it can be very expensive to migrate away from the platform because of the cost of replacing the apps that have been created in Domino … and all for what … a slightly different email system?

        Perhaps I should have better explained myself in this article to start with ;)

        • CrustyCoder
          Posted 03/10/2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink |

          @renai. Note that the Australian market is generally divided between +1000 users and sub-1000 markets. I have seen reports that show a general trend with a “long tail” of user licences for sites which kicks in around the 1000 user mark.

          Despite IBM banging on about SMB, generally has little interest in this market, it’s too vulnerable for them to engage with as it’s easier to move a few hundred users rather than thousands. It’s left to IBM BP’s to sort this out. And again, the perspective you appear to be taking in this discussion is predominantly email which is not the be-all of “collaboration”. Collaboration goes a bit beyond my comprehension as well, but it’s more than servers and licences.

          There are migrations that go the other way, they’re just not touted to the same degree as their sub-1000 users. Don’t forget that since the big moves, I don’t know of any that have completed successfully nor satisfactorily, (ie Westpac, Qld govt, Qantas, AMP, and how is NAB going with it since they started a few years ago ?). Many companies disparage Notes, then pour alot of cash at it, then they go dark. Cutting through the spin is the challenge. Is there a happy ending to their migratory desires ? So far I haven’t heard any major success stories. Perhaps, no one likes talking about failure or un-resolved problems…..

          I think you’ll agree that you suffer from cognitive bias. (ie. All I see are “red cars”). Migrations from Exchange have been happening, if you want to shake this biased stigma, you can follow up a few references already given to you here. http://delimiter.com.au/2011/03/10/lotus-fans-show-me-the-money-or-shut-the-hell-up/

          • Posted 03/10/2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink |

            I agree with quite a few of the points being made here — you are indeed right that a number of the large migrations have been placed on ice, and I’m sure there are migrations > 1000 users that are not being reported. Getting IBM to talk about Notes at all is a bit of a hard ask at the moment. I ask them for case studies regularly. I agree IBM has little interest in SMB.

            I did follow up the examples mentioned in the comments after that article. Universally the customers were either not willing to talk, it was too early in the process etc. But I would love to publish Lotus implementation case studies as there is still a lot of interest from readers in this area.

        • Steve Hodgkinson, Research Director IT Asia/Pacific, Ovum
          Posted 03/10/2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink |

          Best of Breed? Ovum’s Collaboration Decision Matrix has consistently ranked the Lotus Suite as having the strongest overall functional support for enterprise collaboration use cases … though the Microsoft suite is pretty much neck-and-neck and of course it market impact is higher due to its broader and deeper penetration. As mentioned, my personal view is that the tide is turning though.

          From a personal interest perspective, I would be really interested to hear of any enterprises that have decided to migrate towards Lotus from an installed base of Microsoft. My sense is that that is a pretty unlikely scenario. Usually migrations towards Lotus occur in pursuit of consolidation following M&A activity where the critical mass post acquisition is in favor of Lotus.

          IBM do, however, claim that sales of Connections as a standalone best-of-breed enterprise social networking solution are growing very strongly. Can anyone offer evidence of this?

        • Richard Ure
          Posted 04/10/2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink |

          “This kind of application represents precisely what the modern CIO doesn’t want to do — customised, in-house software solutions.”

          That does not mean it is right. It’s a bit like many parents’ capitulation to their children’s pester power. The parents know what is good for their children and they hold out to see that they get it…then they find life is too short and the shrill messages from McDonalds et al prevail and the parents capitulate.

          By the time the organisation realises what opportunities have been foregone, you have moved on anyway.

    6. Posted 03/10/2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink |

      We’re at interesting cross-roads. One lesson is that there are a lot of companies doing very average things with these tools and I suppose that won’t change, regardless of the platform. However, its interesting to note that while Google and Microsoft are really leading with email at the core, companies like Salesforce are taking a different strategy.

      SharePoint 2013 has some interesting capabilities for hybrid cloud apps (through Azure) but it remains to be seen how many will take advantage of that deployment model even if its readily available as part of the Office 365 stack (because they just want cheap MS Exchange and Outlook)?

      Maybe email just won’t be that important moving forward, other than part of the corporate IS plumbing?

    7. Henning Heinz
      Posted 03/10/2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink |

      ABS is a good story for IBM and still Renai LeMay is not completely wrong. The IBM people claim you cannot compare Lotus Notes and Domino to Exchange Outlook because Notes and Domino can do so much more.
      Well, even IBM is not using Notes and Domino for their own Connections product, Their UC software (Sametime) still has a legacy Domino part but this one is not enhanced anymore.
      Ask IBM why they do this and you might get some interesting answers. They even sacrifice some of their own hardware platforms (the IBM i) which Connections still does not natively support today.
      Sorry but this does not sound like “so much more” but more like Notes and Domino could not handle it.
      Now for the comparison. Besides Outlook and Exchange you need Microsoft Visual Studio, a data store (which can be MS SQL server but any other data store works fine too, even some cool new stuff like MongoDb or MySQL) and a lot of Windows.
      And with this you can enhance or integrate for example the Outlook mail client. Almost any bigger CRM vendor does this. It is quite easy to hook into the Outlook interface. If you search Google you will find many screenshots doing this.
      And comparing Visual Studio as a development environment to Domino Designer is an interesting comparison. So far the new Domino kid (IBM XPages) does not even have an integrated debugger and the debugger for the legacy environment is very crashy or does not debug at all.
      To be honest it still is a very poor experience although the V8 version has been out for some years.
      And the old parts are not moving forward. You will need third party software to migrate them to XPages or do it yourself.
      Now I have not mentioned Sharepoint at all. It does some of the basic features Notes and Domino and you can enhance it too. I admit I don’t like it but you can do some interesting stuff with it and compared to the build in Domino templates even Sharepoint shines.
      If you compare the components ABS uses today for their Lotus stack with Microsoft you won’t find much difference to a Microsoft stack. Both now use an armada of components and technologies.
      I have stopped counting but I have been using Notes Domino for about 15 years (and still do). It still is a solid platform but only developed at half speed and full of bugs it is becoming less and less competitive. And this is why it does not get many new customers nowadays. The value that many customers have achieved over years is not in the boxed product. You have to build it yourself.
      Should you migrate? Notes and Domino people say it is not worth it. I say it depends on what you want to achieve.
      Many customers lost trust in IBM pushing the platform forward. I mean IBM is moving their own working products away from Notes and Domino and do not announce new ones but their customers should all keep using it? Why should I keep my Notes CRM solution if IBM themselves use Oracle and Sugar CRM? Why should I store my data in the Notes Storage Facility (nsf) if IBM says it is not trustworthy enough for their own products and does not scale? You cannot use nsf for Connections. It is not even an option. What a pity.

    8. Jyotiprakash
      Posted 04/10/2012 at 1:04 am | Permalink |

      Tata Group rejected M$ and added more Lotus Notes seats. http://www.newstodaydigest.com/international-business-machines-corp-nyseibm-leads-over-microsoft-corporation-nasdaqmsft-by-collaborating-with-tata-group/126424/

    9. Ken Smith
      Posted 04/10/2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink |

      ABS understands that Notes does more than email, because they use it for more than email.

      Many Australian government agencies have failed to make this realisation, they include Fahcsia, Defence, Centrelink and DFAT. You have to ask why ? Who signed off on the project ?

      Can other people see the elephant in the room?

      Why is it OK for a government CIO to ignore government purchasing policies when buying from one particular vendor ?
      Why does AGIMO allow this to happen ?
      Why aren’t alternate products correctly considered ?
      How can government agencies change email systems without doing a full cost analysis or any cost justification ? They spend millions doing it, and for what ? In most cases they keep the other system anyway. More expense.
      Why is it acceptable for a Government CIO to say their department only purchases solutions from one particular vendor ?
      How does any of this comply with the FMA ?

      Lots of questions…does anyone care ?

      • Richard Ure
        Posted 04/10/2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink |

        Answering these questions would lead to the need to taking courage in the Yes Minister sense. Why did Australia rush to war in Iraq? Groupthink.

    10. Posted 04/10/2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink |

      The ABS has an enviable reputation for security, data security in particular and relies on this to achieve mission critical functions (get people & business to supply very personal/confidential information).

      How does a cloud based solution or Outlook/Exchange garner that level of corporate confidence?

    11. Posted 10/10/2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink |

      Hey everyone,

      I have deleted a few posts from this thread alleging that I am ‘biased’ against Lotus Notes/Domino. Please note that this kind of personal attack is not permitted on Delimiter, as per our comment guidelines:

      http://delimiter.com.au/comments-policy/

      Pleas restrict your comments to the issues involved in the article, and we’ll all get along just fine.

      Cheers,

      Renai




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