Engage: A New Direction?

The Journey

The team from Red Pill Now had an “interesting” journey to Engage when the plane carrying three of us was involved in the bombings at Brussels Airport. I have shared a detailed account of the journey and the staggeringly bad customer service provided by Delta in my personal blog at peterpresnell.com.



In 2010 I attended my first Lotusphere – Lotus Knows How, Lotus Knows Why. That event still holds a special spot in my memory because it was the last time Lotus Notes (and Application Development) would have any true presence as part of the IBM messaging at Lotusphere aka Connect aka ConnecEd aka Connect. This was the year Project Vulcan was introduced and with that it seemed IBM’s focus switched to Messaging and Social. It was as if IBM had lost sight of the amazing Rapid Application Development platform it had at its disposal and the 10 million Notes applications still in use today.

At Engage 2016… Enter stage right the new GM for IBM Collaboration Solutions, Inhi Cho Suh. It is not surprising to hear she plans to make a few changes. That is to be expected from anybody taking on a new role. What struck me the most was that she seemed more down to earth than previous GMs in this role and that she was had a genuine interest in listening to the views of others. She has a very compelling life story and it was clear she was going to be a different style of leader for ICS.


Inhi Cho Suh Meets her community

It would be fair to say that on arriving at Engage I was not expecting a lot. I have previously expressed my disappointment in what appears to be a steadily declining market share and the way our customers seem to be reacting to what they see as the inevitable. On leaving Engage I had a sense of optimism I had not felt for a while. I was inspired when I heard Phil Gilbert speak at an IBM Leadership Alliance event in 2015. I was equally inspired with what I heard from Inhi Cho Suh at Engage. I am hopeful that IBM will spend less time trying to sell us its views on Enterprise Social Software (and why everyone needs it) and a little more time listening to its customers and business partners about the struggles they face in addressing the aging Lotus Notes application development platform. I didn’t get the impression Inhi had joined ICS with a view just to slow down the rate of decline in email market share. I am sure she sees an opportunity for IBM to once again dominate in the Collaboration market, a market that Lotus Notes created. Inhi made enough references to application development over the two days for me to feel hopeful that she sees the opportunity to take this core component of IBM Notes and the 10 million applications still in use and make them relevant inside a social platform, inspired by IBM Design thinking, that is mobile, in the cloud and able to leverage cognitive computing. If I am right, both the IBM Leadership Alliance later this year, and IBM Connect in early 2017 will be more exciting for people like me than any ICS event since Lotusphere 2010.

Portfolio Review

It appears EVERYTHING in the current ICS Portfolio is being reviewed. Mention was made during the OGS by Suzanne Livingston that there was going to be a move towards simpler naming of products. So potentially product names such as “IBM Connections Exceptional Mail Experience for SmartCloud” would be simplified to “Mail”. Nothing was said but I suspect we will see a downplay of the branding of “Connections”.


Hopefully next year we will see a little bubble up there called “Apps”

ICS Front And Center

I am not sure how much of this reflects Inhi’s personal view of her new area of responsibility or how much it reflects IBM’s view.. But it was suggested that moving forward Collaboration Software was a key component to the broader spectrum of IBM products and would act as an entry point into areas such as cognitive computing and analytics. It would be very interesting if this were to become true. It has felt over the past few years that ICS was largely a carry-over group that didn’t really fit in well with the rest of IBM.

Road Maps

Inhi’s views on Road Maps were very refreshing. In the past it had seemed Road Maps were something provided with the greatest reluctance and then usually under the cover of an NDA that could not be shared with customers. Not only are we now going to see road maps for all the products in the ICS portfolio, but they are going to be accompanied by delivery dates that are expected to be met. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Perhaps the last time we will see a Road Map like this

Connect 2017

As many people noted at Connect 2016, there had been no announcement of a date or venue for the next conference. This had long been a tradition of the CGS. At Engage we were informed for the first time that Connect 2017 would be held in a new location, San Francisco between February 19 and 22. The venue is the Moscone Center, the same venue used by Microsoft for last week’s Build conference.


Presentation: Once You Go Graph

Nathan Freeman delivered the first Technical Session from Red Pill Now- Once You Grow Graph. After delivering the highest rated session at last year’s event there was a full room to hear Nathan share the latest updates of Red Pill Now’s thought leadership on the use of Graph databases to represent data and meta-data held in Notes applications. This included the latest work, completed just days before Engage, on the use of Graph as the cornerstone for searching the content of Notes databases.


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Presentation: Lotus Position: Four Degrees of Freedom

In our commercial session, Red Pill Now presented a case study of the work we have been doing at The Salvation Army to find ways to keep Notes data relevant without undertaking expensive migrations.

Position 1: LotusScript Framework – It is likely many Notes application will remain for a long time. Update them to keep them looking good.

Position 2: XPages Framework – Use a tools such as We4IT’s Aveedo to quickly add a Web interface to existing applications

Position 3: JavaScript Framework – Use REST as a way to connect Notes data to modern JavaScript frameworks such as Backbone.js and Polymer.

Position 4: Graph Framework – Build a REST API for all Notes applications using a REST API and Meta-data gathered about those application to build a portal to discover and display the information.


[slideshare id=60356149&doc=lotusposition-160401203606]

Round Table: Notes Data and Design Thinking

We took advantage of the round table format to allow attendees the chance to share our experiences in Design Thinking in developing modern applications for Notes data. Bob Kadrie and Nathan Freeman chaired the discussion. A big thank you to those that attended and contributed to a great discussion.


Presentation: Breaking Your Designer Dependency

Red Pill Now’s final technical session was presented by Keith Strickland – Breaking You Domino Designer Dependencies. In this session Keith shared his experiences over the past three years in building modern Web applications for Notes data  outside of the traditional XPages and Domino Designer platform. All told Keith explained a total of 14 tools that can be used to automate the process for creating and building Web applications for Domino data from scratch


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And The Winner Is….

At the closing session Red Pill Now, in conjunction with We4IT gave away an AWESOME LG 34″ Ultrawide monitor. To enter the draw it was necessary to attend our commercial session along with We4IT’s and speed sponsoring. The winner was Mark Beaumont. Unfortunately we could not stay for the presentation but we hope Mark gets a lot of enjoyment from this monitor. We are all very envious!


And This Guy…

Theo Heselmans has raised the bar yet again as to what can be achieved with organizing an IBM User Group event. I can speak as a Sponsor, Speaker, and attendee that there is almost nothing that this guy hasn’t thought out and executed perfectly on. We are eternally grateful for the many things Theo did to assist Red Pill Now in making this an awesome event for us and everyone else that attended. Congratulations to Theo, his wife Hilde, and the dedicated team that made this year’s event so amazing.


A thank you to Theo also for providing some of the photos used in this article.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Peter Presnell
Peter Presnell
CEO at Red Pill NOW. Strategist, technologist, blogger, presenter, and IBM Champion 2011/12. For years many companies have invested heavily in the Notes/Domino platform and I see my role as helping to find paths forward for that investment.


  1. Simon says:

    Nice write-up.
    I was also rather taken by the refreshingly positive attitude of Inhi. During the OGS she said that one of her targets was to increase the number of delegates at next year’s Connect.

  2. Some exciting time we have with ICS, although I have the idea that IBM should deliver sooner than later with delivering clearance to the roadmap for the Domino platform. I visited all three red pills presentations, so thank you for them. From the graph presentation I wonder if IBM is willing to contribute to the project since it could be an argument for customers to remain faithful to the platform and explore new opportunities with their domino data?

    For the design presentation I have my doubts. The only way up is web, because users expect similar experience they have in the web applications they use. It will be too costly for IBM to keep the Notes client up with the possibilities in the web browser. For client application modernisation I made my own attempt (https://www.openntf.org/main.nsf/project.xsp?r=project/AppDev%20Template) perhaps a Bootstrap skin can modernise client apps a couple of years.

    From Keith’s presentation I took with me the difference Domino developers have compared with other development teams who work with other products. Would be good to have DDE in eclipse to get the “Domino” branch back into the general application development branch, although there are complications due to the Forms and Views design elements I have understood…

  3. Fredrik Malmborg says:

    I share many of your feelings about Engage 2016, really gave new hope. Great to see capable women taking stage and giving a well needed injection of both execution and social from IBM. On the other hand it is not hard to be better than the latest predecessors regarding communication with the community.
    Notes is dead, long live Domino!

  4. […] in March I suggested that new ICS GM Inhi Cho Suo was likely to make significant changes to the direction of ICS. The […]

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