In yesterday's post, "IBM doesn't suck at Twitter", I turned the discussion from an observation about IBM on Twitter into something bigger, about IBM in the overall market.  The question posited is, especially to the vast majority of readers, who affiliate with the Lotus software brand, what does IBM mean to you?  What do you think IBM means to those unaffiliated with the Lotus brand, or outside the IT industry altogether?  How do you think this is different from geography to geography?

The subject of the posting referred to Twitter, though, so I think a lot of non-Twitter-affiliated readers saw that headline on PlanetLotus and moved on.  Today, I'm asking one more time, just because this subject is critical to me at the moment.  These are all questions that I've been thinking a lot about lately.  I want to know whether it even matters that there is an IBM software group as far as the perceptions in the market, or whether the five brands make more sense.  I want to know (confirm, really) if there is a natural resistance, 13 years after acquisition, for "Lotus" customers to see themselves as IBM customers.  I am curious what the broader IBM means to you, and whether you think it should mean something different.

I visited our corporate HQ in Armonk on Tuesday, as well as the software division's HQ in Somers.  In six hours, I learned more about the overall IBM vision and strategy than I have in years of toiling along every day.  But in my role as a sales leader for a single IBM product, I just am not sure whether any of that matters in my day job.  Heck, there are parts of IBM that dislike my product, and still other parts that actively work to displace it.  What does that say about IBM as a company (and oh, it's by no means unique to Lotus Notes -- there's Oracle/SQL implementation and management vs. DB2, for example, and hundreds of others).  On the other hand, one of IBM's huge advantages in the market is that we are the only company that can provide an "end-to-end" solution -- hardware, software, services, business consulting, outsourcing, training, even financing (IBM Global Finance is actually quite a decent-sized business).  No other IT vendor can do all that, period.  So if that's the value proposition, then where do we deviate from that into "this is my product and the only one I care about" thinking?  Do CIOs share the same thoughts as the average IT individual contributor?

I realize this post asks a lot of questions, and that several of you chose to answer some of them on yesterday's posting.  I appreciate that contribution.  But I'm keeping the topic going because, well, I think the future of the company can be strongly impacted by having this kind of discussion with customers.  IBM customers...whatever that term means!

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