February 21 2011
In the weeks since Lotusphere 2011, there has been the natural community settling in and reflecting on what we discussed, future goals, vision, and opportunities. I've come to expect some of this to be negative once we all come down from the professional and emotional high in Orlando, and settle in for the hard work of the year ahead. My team experiences this too, for what it is worth -- a recognition that on the one hand we accomplished much together, and yet on the other hand, there is always more to do.
It is inevitable that any technology company plays a bit of 'buzzword bingo' when asked about future plans and directions. Aside from any legal issues around forward-looking statements, there can be mis-set expectations, delays in decision-making, and other unexpected consequences come when we are too specific about the future. For example, I've talked now about changing the restrictions on Domino Messaging Express and Domino Collaboration Express in an upcoming release. Inevitably, the questions have come about whether and when this will happen, and I find myself a bit defensively trying to hurry the next release along to make the changes happen. (Collin, if you are reading, maybe we can discuss options on this)
Another large hue and cry in the blogosphere in the last weeks was around Domino Designer on Mac OS. IBM hasn't given you a formal answer on whether and/or when you can expect to see such a capability in market. It was hard for me not to react defensively as the pile-on occurred, with many assertions that "IBM doesn't get it" in all manners of speaking.
It took a sidebar Twitter DM conversation for me to get through to a couple of people why I was taking it personally -- because now that I lead the Messaging and Collaboration business within IBM Collaboration Solutions, this is essentially my decision. Sure, of course, the development team scopes the work, telling product management when they could get it done; finance would have to be convinced of the business case to do it; sales and marketing would have to comment on how we would be more successful and how we would create awareness of such a tool, etc. In the end, though, the product management team would have to drive this activity, trading it off against other potential activities that would help in the Notes/Domino business.
And that was the pain point. Companies never have enough resources to build or do everything their employees, or their customers, want. In a quiet moment yesterday, I was reflecting on how Microsoft Exchange 2007 went 64-bit, leaving all prior Exchange deployments and hardware obsolete. I was unrelenting at the time in criticizing this rip-and-replace approach from my competitor. Guess what -- it seems like it worked out OK for Microsoft. They could have invested resources in continuing to build a 32-bit server -- in fact, they did ship it as a "test" server configuration -- but instead, they put their energy into whatever it was their product managers deemed more important.
In the Domino Designer on Mac case, I am personally convinced we need to do this. It is NOT an easy decision just because I am, though. Yes, it's based on Eclipse now, which makes it easier to install/run cross-platform. We ship Domino Designer in 28 languages, so to ship it on a new platform means testing those 28 yet again. And testing that new Mac Designer against Domino 8.0.x servers that are still supported. And testing against all our server platforms. And designing and testing workarounds for Windows-specific capabilities in the Designer today.
The budget to do a full porting and testing of Domino Designer to Mac OS is in the millions of dollars range. Therefore I have three ways to approach it: trade the work off against some other list, ship some multiplier's worth of additional Notes/Domino revenue, or convince people much more senior than me that there is an investment case to spend the money to do it. For sure, my team and I have to participate in a triage discussion of what else we would do or not do if we make Domino Designer on Mac OS. All of those hurdles are high, and deliberately set there by the IBM processes that are put in place to ensure that we only ship products that we stand behind. This isn't Lotus as stand-alone company of a decade ago, where I got away with shipping the Domino Network File Store (DNFS) despite a 75-user per server limit, the use of a protocol that was nearly obsolete at the time, the ability to run only on Windows server, etc.
Either we are going to do something like Domino Designer on Mac right or not at all. That means it may take time, market demand, or tradeoffs. Those are the decisions my team leads, with all sorts of input we take from you in the community. It's why I sometimes blog speculatively, or specifically for surveys or other input. We want to know what you think. But if we don't do what you think we should do, that doesn't mean "IBM doesn't get it". It means we're weighing tradeoffs, resources, costs. This is what we do every day. We're not perfect at it, but we've not only kept the product going for 21 years, we've brought it into new markets (e.g. cloud/SaaS), new devices (Notes Traveler), new app dev tools (XPages), and new componentry. Sometimes, you'll like what we do -- but sometimes you won't. That doesn't make us right, wrong, or clueless -- it means we are running a business, just like many of you do.
This kind of triage is the most exciting, yet most challenging, part of being in product management. I've been interviewing candidates to join my team, and I talk about this frustration of having to see the future but trade it off against other futures all the time. It would be nice to live in an organization where there is no such thing as fixed resources, but this is the norm in your company and in mine.
My team and I, and the development team and architects, and the marketing team, and the senior executives, we all hear you. It's why we do Lotusphere and do sessions like "Ask the ___" and staff labs and do BoFs and take 1:1 meetings and read ideajam and do user groups and conferences. All of that input goes into the hopper and out the other end comes a release. In a mass market, we'll never please everyone every time, but we'll keep doing our best. I certainly appreciate the passion and energy, as you all are what keeps us going. Thanks.