There are many ways to look at the market for the Domino family of products (Notes, Sametime, and Verse). One of them is to see the product from the perspective of various segments of the existing market. At Red Pill Now we have a long established market segmentation model for Domino customers that breaks the market down into three segments, the engaged, the resigned, and the separated. We usually find ourselves having to develop different strategies for each of these segments because the way they look at Notes/Domino differs significantly. This creates unique challenges for us in our goals of making our customers happy.
If we apply Design Thinking to the challenges that lie ahead for the Domino platform I see Red Pill Now sharing the same desired outcome as IBM and HC – How do we make these customers happy? A happy customer is important because they in turn make referrals to others that allows a small company like ours to grow. It is the exact same path that seems to be required to change the momentum for the Domino platform. It has been unhappy customers (spurred on by other vendors) that has helped drive the momentum in the Domino market. Just like the stock market, which usually requires a change in investor sentiment to trigger a bear market becoming a bull market once more, we need to consider carefully what may be required to cause a similar change in momentum within the Domino market. What is it going to take to put a smile on the face of a frowning Domino customer? If we start with the outcomes, the tactics such as new features become easier to select.
Either finds Domino is still meeting their needs or fully committed to IBM in the belief they will provide a solution for their Notes applications. Likely to be using/considering Verse and Connections. New applications continue to be developed using Domino and existing applications are actively enhanced and maintained.
For me a classic example of this would have been a company like Czarnowski several years ago. A company that was building a lot of important business processes based upon the Domino Platform. In doing so they were sufficiently proud of the solutions they were building that they had a regular stream of people blogging, producing, and presenting about their use cases and the skills they had developed. People such as Declan (Learning XPages) Lynch, David (Notes in Nine) Leedy, Mike McGarrel, and Devin (Spanky) Olson became household names to so many people around the world and contributed greatly to getting the word out about the power of Notes and Domino.
How do we build a new base of engaged customers like Czernowski that provide the case studies and thought leadership to attract even more new customers to the Domino platform. Domino 2025 needs to be a platform that provides exciting and compelling stories that are shared at a wide range of conferences (not just Lotus User Groups). Domino applications should be the subject of internal and external corporate blogs and something that the CIO and other IT staff proudly show to visitors from outside the company. When a company is hiring, the ability to work with the Domino platform should excite prospective employees, if for no other reason that they want to be able to proudly include this on their resume for their next job!
The question is what is going to provide that degree of WOW? Simply put it is going to require a move from being a follower to a leader in the application development space. Notes needs to be at the forefront of technologies that users want. It needs to be an open platform that integrates easily with the many advances that are now appearing such as voice assistants, the Internet of Things and Smart Cars, touch devices, mobile, wearables, artificial intelligence, cloud services, and the blockchain.
Resigned to the fact that IBM/Notes has no future but still looking for a magic button to migrate applications to something else. Mail likely migrated to another platform. Resistant to investing in existing Notes applications until the future is made clear. Existing Domino applications are being enhanced.
A typical use case here is a company that has migrated away from Notes to Office 365 for mail and is trying to decide what to do with its Notes applications. It may have other strategic applications being built using something like SQL/.Net, LAMP, MEAN etc.
I think here the question becomes one of co-existence and the application lifecycle. How do we create an application platform that allows citizen developers (and many existing Notes developers) to build new applications that solve important (for them) business problems without the layers of bureaucracy that make traditional IT projects slow, expensive, and painful to endure? How do we then allow those applications to evolve over time so they don’t become the white elephants that many Notes applications became when responsibility transferred across to IT? How do we take an application from its simple beginnings and make it a more robust, reliant, and secure application that integrates with other platforms without having to rewrite the application from scratch? Architecture and engineering will clearly be important. This would include the ability to quickly and easily take the traditional data, business logic, and presentation layers of an application and transform them into something else should the need arise.
And this should be a two-way street. If Domino 2025 becomes a thriving successful environment we also will have the need to take existing applications developed using aging Excel, SharePoint, SQL, MongoDB environments and quickly import them into a Domino platform.
Likely to have separated from IBM as well as Lotus Notes. Will have migrated mail to Exchange, Gmail or similar. Will be actively moving as many Notes applications as practical to another platform such as SharePoint/O365, SalesForce, or MongoDB. A minimal amount of investment is being made in enhancing existing Domino applications. There is no new Domino applications being developed.
Here the use case would be a company that still has a lot of Notes applications in use but has decide to go off maintenance while they start to migrate their applications to one or more other platforms. In this scenario we have at least two challenges. First, how do we convince the customer that the Domino platform is still worth continuing to invest in enough to resume maintenance so that they can do that upgrade to Windows 10, provide support for the latest version of macOS, or support retina displays without abandoning Notes client applications completely? The second challenge would then be to convince these customers that it would once again be strategic to restart the development of new applications with the Domino platform.
For these customers there is little point adding new features to Domino as they are no longer getting the upgrades! What is required here is the establishment of a vision for Domino 2025 that will trigger these companies to take a fresh look at the Domino platform. To see that the platform has a future and still remains one of the cheapest ways to build and maintain business solutions that will continue to be relevant in 2025. And while there is a lot of debate within the US political system about the value of amnesty o solve a long-standing immigration problem, I think we have a very compelling case to consider an amnesty for Domino customers. When Domino 10 is released next year AND a vision has been published for Domino 2025, I would like to see every company that has ever used Domino given a one time opportunity to upgrade their existing Notes/Domino license to Domino 10 so that everyone that remains invested inside those companies has access to the latest tools to add some life to their applications and build a case for its continued use. To support this a simpler licensing model can then be applied to keep those licenses updated for the many things that will follow that reflects the current usage with or without mail.
There is another segment of the market that is not shown, but one that we do encounter from time to time. People who have used Domino in the past often move on in there careers and later find themselves working for a new company that is looking for something that does what Notes/Domino did for them 10-20 years ago. It may also be a new company that has not yet settled on an application platform and is concerned about either the costs or the complexity of alternative platforms. How do we make Domino 2025 relevant to these companies so we can start growing the base once more?
I keep looking back to the early days of Lotus Notes and how it was able to attract new customers. At that time the IT departments all believed they had all the solutions they needed without Lotus Notes. And yet, it was still possible for business departments and small satellite IT departments to introduce a product like Notes into their environment without the need for creating too much attention from corporate IT. It also required a degree of consumer marketing to make the product known to these sorts of customers. Another angle that will work, but only in some enterprises, is to convince corporate IT, that the Domino platform provides a compelling business case for citizen developers to drive down the cost of building smaller personal and departmental applications.
I think it has been a long time since we have seen the Domino platform being marketed directly to the SMB market. This has allowed companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce to dominate the market restricting the ability for the Domino platform to attract new customers. Being the CEO of a small company I know the challenges that come from trying to build a business while keeping the costs for things like software under control. So the use case for this scenario is Red Pill Now.
While I have a team of highly qualified Domino developers at my disposal we never seriously contemplated using Notes Mail or Domino for any of our applications. To do that I would have needed a cloud offering that allowed me to get started without the need to purchase install, and support my own servers. I would have needed software that I could easily download and install and get started with special pricing while I was a company with 0-10, 11-25, or 26-100 users. I still may not have purchased Connections or Verse so my application platform would need to integrate with my mail, contact, calendaring, and cloud file system (G-Suite) as well as support our use of Atlassian products such as Jira and Confluence. I also would have needed some way to start with a monthly subscription with an option to convert to an annual subscription or a one-off purchase once I had the cash flow to make that type of purchase. By the time my company had the cash-flow to purchase a perpetual license I have probably got so much invested in that platform I am not going to transfer what I have created to something else without a compelling reason to do so. Of course, the other thing I would have needed at the time I was making decisions about software was a sense that the software had a future up to and beyond 2025. That was not the case for Notes/Domino in 2012.
And then of course there is the education market, an area that has long been the subject of heated debate within the Lotus community. The students of today become the employees, managers, and business owners of the future. They often take the skills they acquire in high school and college and put them to use in their jobs. If they have the need to automate a business process for which they are responsible they will often turn to a product about which they know. I have a 14 year-old daughter who has just started her first year in High School. She is already well versed in both Office 365 and G-Suite because these are the tools of choice in the various schooling systems in which she has been enrolled. My daughter’s only knowledge of Domino is knowing that is tied to what my company does. I have never taken the time and effort to explain to her in detail what Domino does because I consider it unlikely to be a skill she would encounter any time soon. (I wish it was otherwise as I am proud of what I do). The long term future of Domino would need to change that in some way. The solution here is a combination of two things. First we need to have a modern application platform with plenty of WOW as outlined for the engaged. Once we have that we then then need to make it easy for students to download and start using a free Domino Community Edition and then market this to schools and students alike. Of course now I have drifted back into a series of ideas that have been proposed and debated many time before within our community, something I never find to be all that fruitful.
On Monday I have the chance to participate in the Domino 2025 Jam. I am looking forward to the chance to hear the views of many others in North America. If you found your way to read this blog you are probably somebody whose thoughts and opinions are important and relevant to this discussion. If you have not already done so I would encourage you find an event that you can attend and get involved in the discussion.