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There’s been an understandable grumbling from the IBM Business Partner community surrounding the Lotus Live and Lotus Live Notes offerings. For years, IBM has pushed for Partners to sell licenses and then gone directly to those end customers to make the sale for renewals. In larger accounts, partners have complained of being undercut on licenses costs and generally not being treated well by the IBM sales force. I don’t sell licenses, but people I know and trust who do seem to give these stories a fair amount of weight. This doesn’t look to be getting any better with Lotus Live offerings – if anything, it’s worse from what I understand. It’s no surprise then, that the response from the partner community has been somewhat underwhelming. There is, however, some potential for good news for service providers. I wanted to take a minute to focus on that opportunity.
Unlike license sales, custom application development is not an area where IBM can effectively undercut – or really even compete – with the business partner community. The biggest stumbling block for partners in this area for the last few years has been a result of IBM’s complete lack of successful focus on growing the user base. When partners go in to get a departmental solution built – a historically sweet spot for Notes applications – they are met with a wall at the I.T. side of the shop because “we’re migrating off that platform and don’t want to pay for new development there.” While of course the majority of those migrations never happen, it doesn’t help the projects get built. Instead, the environment languishes until over time becoming less valuable and more easily migrated.
Lotus Live, and Lotus Live Notes have the potential to solve some of these problems. It will remain to be seen if the implementation gets it right – but if IBM can get these deployed with a reliable, extensible, secure interface that allows credential and directory integration, it could be an opening to once again build departmental applications. Without that doom cloud of migration hanging over the head of any potential project, IBM Business Partners should be uniquely ready to build local “black-box” or even “appliance” based application servers that integrate into the new directory model and provide the kinds of workflow and interactive applications we know how to do best.
What I’ll be looking for this year at Lotusphere with respect to Lotus Live and Lotus Live Notes is a comprehensive discussion of exactly what kind of directory, access control, and identity interface is going to be available to applications built to live on the corporate net – or hosted 3rd party servers.
IBM – this is important. You can build something partners can get behind and make “sticky” in the organization the way Lotus Notes has always been, or you can build a commodity cloud that can really only compete on price per user. The latter is a fight you will always lose.
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