IBM Leadership Alliance 2015

Each year IBM invites a group of customers and business partners to its Leadership Alliance to share its visions for the future and facilitate networking between IBM executives and attendees. Red Pill NOW was fortunate enough to have two invitees at this year’s event, Nathan T Freeman and myself. Most of the technical content is covered under an NDA so we are not allowed to share details of much of the discussion, other than to say most of the content is likely to be shared at IBM Connect 2016 in January.

Notes/Domino Development

While I cannot talk about what was presented, I can talk about what was NOT presented. There was absolutely no plans shared for either the IBM Notes client or XPages in any of the sessions. At MWLUG Pete Janzen indicated that the next release of Notes/Domino would not happen in 2015. The last version of Notes/Domino (9.0.1) was released in October 2013. Connect the dots….

Note: A lot of the extensions of XPages now takes place via the IBM Extension Library available on OpenNTF. Johnny Oldenburger has written a comprehensive summary of the many new features added in 2015 via OpenNTF.

IBM Verse Adoption

Ed Brill gave a presentation about his effort to drive Verse adoption across the entire Organization. IBM now has 300,000 of its 400,000 employees using Verse, including its CEO Ginni Rometty. IBM have now refined the on-boarding process to the point where they have been able to migrate up to 90,000 users to Verse in a single month. After completing the Verse migration IBM’s efforts will focus on migrating Connections to the cloud. This is very good news for customers as it means that by making itself the guinea pig, IBM have refined the migration process to the point were customers will benefit from a much more pleasant experience with their own migrations.

On a related note, I was advised by several IBMers that Outlook client access for Verse is available “now”.

Editor note: Its seems “now” does not mean at this minute but rather sometime soon.

IBM Connections Editor

The event coincided with the public launch of a new IBM Connections Editor for iOS and Android. (insert facepalm icon here…) This part of IBM’s strategy I just don’t get. Time after time IBM have failed to deliver content editors that are able to gain the market position necessary for them to be sustainable. If I upload Microsoft Office documents to Connections and I have need to edit them on a tablet I am not going to trust the integrity of my content to an IBM editor when I already have access to a free content editor from Microsoft. This seems to be a product whose target is a very small audience that is so committed to the IBM stack they are unwilling to reach outside for other (non-IBM) solutions.

IBM Design Thinking

During the event a number of sessions were conducted by the IBM Design team utilizing their Design Thinking approach to gather input for various projects under development. These not only gave attendees the chance to provide input into the design of future IBM products but also provided a chance to experience this new approach first hand. The sessions were fun and a great way to interact with other members of the community and IBM should be congratulated for making this part of the program.

Overall Impressions

Over the past few months I have had the opportunity to look very closely at the offerings of Google, Microsoft, and IBM. I have spoken to a lot of customers, business partners and analysts. The insights shared by IBM at this week’s event demonstrate to me that IBM will have a very competitive offering in the Enterprise Social Software space for the next few years. I see many advantages in what IBM are offering from a technical perspective. The real question is can IBM convince enough existing customers to invest in this platform as well as attract a significant number of new customers? Can they also convince enough business partner to integrate their own products into this eco-system to ensure its success? IBM was preaching to the choir at this event so it was only natural it received a very favorable response from attendees. I will be looking forward to seeing how those plans resonate with a wider audience when details are made more public at Connect 2016.

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.

10 Comments

  1. Milos Djelmas says:

    Hum, nothing shared on Notes, Domino or XPages…maintenance mode seems close !

  2. As a customer we totally have no idea where IBM is heading. We are just faced daily with the fact that IBM is not updating it’s platform. Domino/XPages is still a lot of writing code in stead of tightening the knots together by configuring plugin integration.

    We have no idea how IBM mobile will fit in to deliver Notes app to smart devices or how to bring these apps into Verse.

    Connections on premise is way behind the social cloud offering and it is unclear which cloud offerings will appear in the on premise version and when.

    Overall connections seem to have become (from a user perspective) unclear, unfriendly, not logic content system which is hard to work with without guidance.

    I agree with you the Leadership Alliance is good for devotees, but for more skeptic customers who are further from the communication line the road is unclear and we seem not to be heard.

    We wish IBM will make the message more simple and clear and provide us with more information to base our decisions on.

    A tip for IBM: I bet it will be very hard to sell in 2016 a product (Notes) that had a latest release in 2013 which code base is from 2008.

    • @Patrick. While there was no discussion about development in the context of the Notes client and XPages I can assure you there was a lot of focus on development. More than I can recall at an IBM event for a long time. Almost every session I attended made references to the importance of APIs and extension points. In 2015 these are things that matter more than proprietary language development such as LotusScript and SSJS.

      For the longest time now IBM have tended to make announcements about its future plans at Lotusphere. That continues to be the case. I think the Leadership Alliance tends to be a place where IBM can validate its thinking with a smaller, more intimate crowd to fine tune that messaging before it is delivered to the public. This time last year there were significant doubts that we would have our own event in Orlando. To Jeff Schick’s credit he went to Vegas and could see this was not an appropriate forum for our community’s annual event and chose to continue the Orlando (Lotusphere) tradition. IBM even announced the return of the pretzel cookie last week. I expect IBM will address some (but not all) of your concerns at the end of January.

      Unfortunately I can only cover parts of what was discussed at the Leadership Alliance. In my summary I tried to make it clear that from a Product Management and Development perspective IBM has a very compelling story in the Enterprise Social Software space. There is both vision and leadership there. Perhaps not using the specific products about which you care.

      There is no doubt IBM can do more to engage the community and customers at various levels. Programs such as the Design Partner Program and IdeaJam have not yet been replaced with alternatives. The product management and development teams for Notes and XPages are amongst the most approachable. They are active in OpenNTF and often attend many of the User Group conferences. So there are definitely chances to reach out to them and share ideas. IBM just makes you work a little harder than in the past.

    • Henning Heinz says:

      Well if you don’t know where IBM is heading you are high at risk that you are waiting for something that is never going to happen. I think the direction of IBM is very clear. Unfortunately their strategy is much about streamlining software development, cutting cost, cloud and IBMs preferred software stack (whch is at risk becoming a bit ancient imho).

      This does not mean that they haven’t got some interesting stuff in their portfolio but I do really think they are high at risk to be left behind. If you are happy with what you have now then there probably is no reason to change anything in the foreseeable future.

      As always I am following IBMs direction with interest. I should have designed worse Domino applications because although I have been a critical voice about IBM, and especially the Lotus product stack, my boss loves what he owns and I have no indication that this is going to change anytime soon.

      • I also see at work some amazing applications being built with XPages/NSF&JSON/Java and from my experience with Notes rapid application development has always been an excellent selling point. It is hard to run your business without these custom applications or implement standard products to serve your business in case you do not want to have a jungle of suppliers and products.

        But then again IBM should make it work by providing modern tools to build these apps. Bluemix could function as platform for these apps but I am unsure if the designer tools still qualify.

  3. Eric Mack says:

    Peter, many of my clients share Patrick’s concerns. I’m curious to know if there was any mention who is at the helm of the social software. My understanding is that Kramer left IBM months ago — at least according to his LinkedIn Profile, yet no mention about his departure or successor. It would be great to get some clarification.

  4. Ray Bilyk says:

    I wish I could have attended, but couldn’t swing it…

    “Outlook client access for Verse is available “now”…”? I wish IBM would tout that a bit more. It might stem the tide of movement in the email space.

    Cheers!

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