June 6 2011
Earlier tonight, a business partner blogged about different ways that small businesses could refactor their Domino licensing to take advantage of the changes my team and I have made in Domino Collaboration Express licensing over the last few months. The blog entry is a good encapsulation of a part of my strategy presentation over the last few months -- in short, that it appears I over-steered in listening to the community on needed changes in Domino Express that may have resulted in putting customer situations "in play" that should not have been.
To summarize how we got here - leading up to late last year, I had heard frequently that the original restrictions on Domino Express -- no clustering, use of certain directory features, etc. -- had outlived their shelf life, and that I needed to adjust Domino Express to current market conditions. In November, I announced that we would add clustering capability to Express, but by the fourth comment I had buyer's remorse, realizing that the other restrictions were considered as onerous to new customers as clustering. So, in March, I announced that we'd drop the other restrictions on Domino Collaboration Express, such that the only distinction for Express that remained was its per-user price as opposed to a client/server model, and the restriction around company size of less than 1000 employees to be eligible to purchase Domino Express. And there was much rejoicing.
Except that, as is highlighted in the business partner's post, a few existing customers have come back to us and said, wait a second, if there is no technical difference, I want to downgrade to Express and I'm eligible. I've hesitated to blog about this because we do not and will not have a trade-down approach. As the partner's blog explains, you have to buy new Express licenses to get to that licensing structure, and by the way, IBM generally doesn't discount Express products.
In most cases that have come to me, the actual savings of switching to Collaboration Express are far less than expected, and in some cases the swap would cost the customer more. So we've ended up with some churn, clearly not my intention in changing the Express terms.
More to the point, as we've learned over the last year, the definition of the Collaboration Express product is a bit fungible. And I expect it will change again in short order. In fact, much to my surprise, as part of the license simplification work that I've been doing for Notes/Domino 8.5.3, I've learned that a key provision about Domino Express -- the very definition of an Express-eligible enterprise -- will have to be adjusted. I'm loathe to do it, just ask my lawyers. But there are good reasons for the adjustments, and in the long run it will help clear up when a customer can buy Domino Express and when they cannot...something that hasn't been as clear as we would like.
I can't say exactly what the change will be yet, simply because it hasn't been approved through internal IBM processes yet. But as soon as I can, I will.
Meanwhile, I've learned a few lessons. Much as I have tried to increase flexibility and simplify at the same time in Notes/Domino licensing, it's an impossible task as some organizations will attempt to find creative approaches to leveraging our licensing. I've also learned that, much as I have lived the last decade online and believe in the tenets of a social business, sometimes you can be steered the wrong direction by listening to the market and reacting, rather than doing thoughtful, proactive analysis. The first step in December to drop clustering was the right move to help increase interest in Domino Collaboration Express, but maybe I would have done some of the rest differently, or made other adjustments simultaneously. The last, unfortunately, is that while my sincere efforts in making these changes were to help grow the market opportunity for Notes/Domino overall, instead it seems that some would rather just look at different ways to be creative with existing customers. That is probably not the lesson learned the market would have wanted me to take away from trying to do the right thing.
For sure, as we look to design the next new offering coming out of my team (an application server concept I've discussed obliquely a few times), we're taking the time to get it right. We're definitely listening, but not just reacting.