As the industry's collective understanding of collaboration software continues to evolve, so does IBM's set of offerings in this space. Today Lotus Notes is maturing into a server offering that promises to unite workflow around multiple applications. In addition, Lotus is readying another geberation of workplace messaging solutions. In an interview with CRN Editor in Chief Michael Vizard and Senior Writer Paula Rooney, Lotus General Manager Ambuj Goyal talks about how enterprise software requirements are changing and his ambitions for the next generation of Lotus Notes and workplace messaging.
CRN: What are your top priorities for the immediate future?
GOYAL: The NexGen product line,because now we have a standard through which we deliver value across multiple devices. Second, the business value associated with what IBM bought with Lotus Notes. Third, we want to make sure we don't enter the application space.
CRN: How is NexGen different from Notes as we know it today?
GOYAL: I think we want to [get away from the idea that] Notes equals Lotus. Lotus has many products, and the NexGen offerings will use Web services as the main mechanism for integration. It's our view that the way the integration is going to get done is via the Web services protocol.
Notes has different DNA, which is file-server DNA. We will continue to invest in the Lotus Notes Domino environment and continue to integrate things like instant messaging and Discovery because there are 100 million users [for those apps]. For the next 200 million users, we need to be based on the NexGen platform.
CRN: Could you explain the connection between Notes and business-process integration?
GOYAL: People have workflow engines and business-process management solutions. In my previous job at IBM, I was doing the back-end process integration, which is the automation of processes where people are not really involved,what we call straight-through processing. Now we can do on the front end what we did on the back end. What we have now are people processes.
CRN: How does this manifest itself as something with business value?
GOYAL: You say that a customer is looking to integrate a Siebel process, CRM process and logistics application, but what they're really looking at [is integrating] order [processing] and cash delivery. Or they're looking at something like this: It took them 30 days to introduce a product in a retail channel, [but] can they introduce it in 10 days instead? To get to that, it first requires integration. But after that, it requires automation of processes from integration to a process level.
When we raise the bar from enterprise application integration to business-process management, we're talking about business value. In this world, people really understand business value, and that business value comes from the lines of business.
CRN: How is this strategy working?
GOYAL: When we raised the bar, we gained more than 50 percent growth over what we had because we're selling to the higher value proposition.
Companies need to become more responsive, and people play a huge role in that. So in addition to being just an e-mail and instant-messaging provider, we're trying to say, 'OK, how do we make people more productive?' We provide tools that show you how to capture the value of people in a business process.
CRN: What role does the channel play in that?
GOYAL: We want our partners to focus on building capabilities on top of our environments while we create the programs for them to become effective. Our objective is not to get into building those applications ourselves or capturing those business processes in software. Our objective is to get the channel to do it.
CRN: How do you partner with major enterprise application vendors?
GOYAL: We had the announcement with Siebel, for example. They have their own app server; they're getting rid of that and are working with us. This is because our strategy is clearly identified by our saying we'll remain in the middleware space. In fact, that has really helped us. The reason we're No. 1 with DB2 now is that Oracle, by moving into the application space, competes with its own partners. There's no reason for these ISVs not to build on top of our standards-based environment because we've decided not to get into that space.
CRN: As Microsoft gears up for Office 11, what's your take on the vendor as a competitor?
GOYAL: Microsoft's marketing gets way ahead of their products. Once the product ships, we compete.
Office 11 has some document sharing. When it comes out, we'll deal with it. Exchange and Outlook have been free, and we continue to win in the marketplace. Because they're in a proprietary environment, [those deployments] require client upgrades to the next version of Windows and upgrades of Active Directory, which requires an upgrade of the servers. So even to deploy the free thing, customers end up spending huge amounts of money. That's called a 'replace' strategy. Outlook winds up on people's desks anyway, but there's a difference between [having] that function and using it.