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Why the Opening General Sessions fall flat

By Andrew Pollack on 01/22/2008 at 04:45 PM EST

I've been thinking about what happens in the planning process that lets this happen. Particularly in a year like this where there is so much to get excited about, it left me slack jawed to see how badly stepped on the excitement was. In years past, they built excitement only to step on it hard at the end. This year, they avoided the problem by building little or no excitement. So what happens?

You bring in a production company to help you may a big exciting event. They don't have ANY idea what the stuff you're showing actually does. They also don't have any understanding of your audience. There are two ways that a production company figures out what parts the crowd will like. The look at it, and they ask the people running the show.

LOOKING at the content, a production company in their right mind is NEVER going to guess that Maureen showing source code editors is exciting. Dragging around video windows, however, looks cool -- even if its just more portal based crap that few of us care about.

ASKING about it is more of a problem that can be fixed. When they asked, IBM has to start telling the real truth. Saying "oh, they'll be really excited by Portal" isn't going to work if it isn't true. They may WANT it to be true, but it isn't. The production company can't help you if you don't tell them all the story. If someone had honestly said, "well, we'd like them to be excited about Portal, but they'll give a standing ovation to Maureen's code editors", they may look disbelievingly but they'll be able to shape the session better. It is like going to the tailer. Don't suck in your gut at the tailor. Let it out, then the tailor can hide it with a couple of careful alterations.

Finally, they need to stop "speaking to the analysts". The idea here that I've been told is, "We're really speaking to the analysts in the OGS, so it makes more sense even if it seems boring." I call bullshit on that one. The analysts I know and have spoken with don't want you to talk to them. They're listening to the crowd response. If they hear the crowd go nuts, they write down the buzzword that seemed to cause it, and then go off and figure out what that meant so they can write about it. If you want to talk to the analysts, issue a press release.

How should IBM correct this? Bring more people into the process to help. Partners, developers, and other industry people can help identify places where really big opportunities are missed. Here's an example:

IBM announced that Lotus Notes 8.5 beta is now available on the Macintosh. That's a big deal because it finally shows the last steps toward bringing the Mac to full parity with the PC for the Notes Client. After last week's announcements at MacWorld. Mike Rhodin should have come out with a big envelop. From the envelop he could have removed a new Mac notebook (possibly even one of the new Mac Air ones). Opening the notebook he could proclaim "Hey, the Notes 8.5 beta is on here. Yes, its been released as of today." That would have been a FUN way to announce something instead of the stilted "oh by the way" manner in which it was done.

If they need help with showmanship, they should create a team of people who consistently get great reviews at Lotusphere in their sessions.

There are  - loading -  comments....

re: Why the Opening General Sessions fall flatBy Ian Randall on 01/22/2008 at 09:34 PM EST
I didn't attend LotusPhere this year, but from afar, I also feel that the OGS
fell flat this year.

There was lots of good stuff announced, but last year Lotus hit the mark better
because they actually delivered more products and new features in or near the
show, rather than just making announcements for stuff that was many months or
even more than a year away.

The Connections and Quickr products were both released shortly after Lotusphere
2007, and they demonstrated a significant leap forward over competitors in both
vision and execution.

The reafirming of Lotus Notes/Domino as the strategic messaging and
collaboration platform and the de-emphasis on Workplace sent the right message
to the Lotus faithfull.

This year, any mention of portal creates a technical cringe that threatens to
weaken their clarity of vision.

To me the emphasis this year should have been more focussed on the Development
Enhancements in Lotus Notes Designer. The release of Notes 8.5 beta on the Mac
was a good step in this direction, but the release of Domino Designer in
Eclipse should have been a priority.

We also need to have much better design tools for the Web, and also an update
of the "nifty fifty" or equivalent with some 21st Century user interfaces would
have been well received. Even being able to run the templates created for
Quickr by the Snapps people in a native Domino environment would have gone down
very well.

That being said, the Mashup builder and other stuff being demonstrated at the
show seems to have great potential, as does the "Atlantic" alliance with SAP
(at least from a marketing perspective), and the greater focus on the SMB
market is a huge step forward in the right direction, but they should have
focussed much more on what is in it for the Business Partner community.

To fight Sharepoint, Lotus needs to release some updated standard templates and
they need to have a strategy to counter the "free" Sharepoint version.

To make Lotus Notes "cool" again, the development tools need to be radically

To retain existing Busines Partners and gain new partners, they need to focus
much more on how these partners can make more money now. Microsoft is
outspending IBM in this area, and that needs to be reversed.

To win back end users, free or low cost tools need to be provided to help
update the user interface of their existing applications, particularly for the
Web browser experience and new and better end user oriented tools need to be
delivered now.

And Lotus needs to invest much more time and effort in expanding the skills
pools of certified Lotus professionals. In some markets people with Lotus
skills are either not available or in critically short supply, reinforcing the
perception that Lotus products are a legacy platform. The fact that Microsoft
costs several times more to do 50% less is a non issue if customers cannot hire
or acquire the necessary skills from the market place to install, maintain and
move forward with the Lotus product platform.

Finally, the IBM sales force needs to have a kick in the arse. In many places
around the world, they are still focussed on pushing the Portal platform and
still behave as though Lotus Domino is a dead product. If a Microsoft employee
actively supported a migration from Exchange to Lotus Notes they would be shown
the door, but in IBM they would be rewarded for the migration revenue
generated. Untill that attitude changes and the IBM sales force becomes
"passionate" about the Lotus software platform (particularly Domino) they will
continue to water down the forward momentum created by end users and the
Business Partner community.

Sorry for the long ramble, but that's my 2c worth.
re: Why the Opening General Sessions fall flatBy Paul Gagnon on 01/23/2008 at 10:09 AM EST
When things make little sense, I follow the money. A BP apparently makes much
more $$$ selling a portal installation than it does selling a Domino
installation. Duh right? I've heard first hand accounts from BP's that say
they don't even waste their time with Domino, becuase the money is in selling
Portal. (while attending a BP session at Lotus in the greater Boston area) I
can certainly understand how this works, everyone has to eat. Maybe its the
tie-in with all the backend hardware sales that portal drives that causes this
phenomenon? Maybe I'm way off here, but I don't think so.
sounds reasonable to meBy Alan Bell on 01/23/2008 at 10:20 AM EST
I think you are correct again Andrew, you are making a habit of this. My
concern now is that the Lotusphere comes to you events will lack fun and
excitement like last year. The OGS has the advantage of the big screen and huge
audience which makes being there exciting no matter whether or not the content
delivers. Sitting in a hotel in London with everyone wearing formal suits gave
last years LCTY more of a funeral atmosphere than a celebratory party.
re: Why the Opening General Sessions fall flatBy Danny Lawrence on 01/24/2008 at 10:46 AM EST
Andrew, try to find me so I can show you a great piece of Websphere wackyness

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