Open letter to IBM Lotus

thumb_white.gifWhat is it all about Bob? IBM Software Group and Lotus brand in particular needs to demonstrate some sense of real prduct strategy. It does exist in part but the ‘whole’ seems to be absent. IBM, I suspect your customers and prospects want to see this from you as well as great product, not just ‘us’ partners.

Mike Rhodin, GM of Lotus, is moving on. Its not news now, it was announced last week. As an IBM’er he has served his tour of duty and is taking on a senior role here in Europe. Bob Picciano (Sales Lead for DB2) is taking over. It is a great time to join the brand but there are a some important issues that need addressing. In January I was at Lotusphere and l have attended two Lotusphere Come to You events recently and with the amount of time between the these events the issues surrounding the big picture seems to have fallen into sharp focus.

During his tenure at Lotus. Mike has (through his drive) re-established the credibility of the brand inside IBM. It is clear from even the most casual observation to see that the funds now being invested in product development are at a rate not seen for a decade. As much as I applaud this turnaround it seems that although the factory is running at 100% capacity the marketing strategy as to which product customers should be buying and more importantly why they should be buying which piece of the output seems to have gone walkabout. Looking on from a distance, seeing how all the pieces fit together within an ‘over arching’ structure frankly seems completely absent. The strategy could be likened to the classic ‘throw it all against the wall and we will go with whatever sticks’

Often Lotus seems to define itself in terms of what it isn’t, not what it is. Mostly this has been ‘it isn’t Microsoft’. I can assure all at IBM that Microsoft does not spend much of the day defining itself as ‘we’re not Lotus’. As much as the classic multi platform, standards compliance, security and innovation messages are great themes that Lotus has espoused for a very long time, frankly we need to move to a state where the Lotus brand can clearly be understood not just for its products (old and new), but also for how these fit into some sort of big jigsaw. Once in place effective communictaion of this broader message not just to the washed (those of us who attend Lotus events of whatever standing) but to the unwashed (most of whom think that ‘Lotus’ is simply a brand of toilet paper) is vital.