Friday, July 25, 2008

Writing Domino Applications for Foundations

Over the last six weeks I've had a few phone calls from Lotus Business Partners wanting to discuss the best way of marketing their home grown Domino applications into the Foundations appliance market. I don't mind the phone calls at all - making it easy for people to talk to me about Lotus Foundations is exactly the reason that I put my personal mobile number (0435 094 694) up on this blog in the first place.

A common issue for all of these callers/emailers is that they generally haven't been able to articulate a prepared case for why their application is a good fit for the SMB market. I'm not putting down their development efforts. I'm sure their applications are well specified, tightly written and professionally presented. It's just that for the most part, their applications were previously sold into a different market - one where there was a resident IT department available to interpret the manuals and configure the software.

So what makes an application suitable for the SMB market? My guess is simplicity and robustness. Keep it simple so that the users are entering live data half an hour after sitting down to play. Keep it robust so that it forgives the inevitable mistakes made by these eager but IT-beginner grade purchasers.

Another issue to consider is that Foundations means a whole lot more than just Domino applications. It would be great to see developers thinking outside the rectangle and asking themselves how they can better integrate their code into the Foundations server stack. If you want the software tools to do this then just ask. Lotus have told me that they are more than happy to find ways to help in this department.

I'm evaluating a couple of open source applications now which I think could go well bundled with Foundations (Disclosure: I did not write the applications in question and I have never met, nor had business dealings, with the people who did write them. As a matter of fact, they don't even know that I'm evaluating their code since I didn't have to register to download the applications.) I'm happy to look at other applications further down the track provided the authors can show me how their code has been tailored to fit the needs of the SMB market.

So for what it's worth, my advice to potential Foundationeering Business Partners is to take their home-grown applications down to the local real estate agent or insurance consultant and get their opinion about what bells and whistles are superfluous to their needs. They will probably have quite different business priorities than you do.


Anonymous said...

If you feel adventurous, you may even venture outside the world of Domino and investigate LAMP based applications. There are millions out there, and some of them are quite fantastic. Take a look at SugarCRM, Plone, MediaWiki (or other wikis), etc etc.

Graham Dodge said...

Good point! The LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP / Perl / Python) is another way to go to leverage the Foundation platform.