Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Foundations: Selling Domino consulting to SMB

One of the biggest challenges in selling consulting services to SMB is helping customers to catch the vision of how Domino applications can help their business. For many of these people, their previous computer experience has been limited to reading their Hotmail, typing their invoices in Word and balancing their accounts in Excel. After they have bought Foundations and installed Symphony, the idea of spending an additional 'x' thousand dollars to develop a software solution for their business may well be the last thing on their mind.

Here's a way to expand their vision...

Back in the dim distant past Lotus (before they were IBM/Lotus) bundled up a set of basic Domino applications as a free download. Those R3/R4 applications are still available and, unlike Microsoft's 'rip-and-replace' application roadmap, Domino applications are backward compatible which means that these databases will run in the Domino version 8.x environment provided with Foundations.

Now don't think that I'm suggesting these databases will fit the bill for today's business environment - for a start, none of them are web enabled. What these applications will do is provide a discussion point for you and your SMB client to talk about what they could achieve with Domino, and since you were the nice guy who gave these databases to the customer for free then its only natural that they will turn to you when they want them tweaked. Then once you have engaged them in that conversation it's up to you to show the business benefit of a full system analysis and application development lifecycle.

These files shouldn't be mentioned in your first approach to your customer. I'd say they are best used after you've installed and configured Foundations and you're running out of excuses to call the guy. Ring him up one last time and tell him you've got a freebie. Send him the list of files and offer to install the ones he wants onto his server for free then call him up a fortnight later and ask him how he liked it.

Here's the list of applications:
  1. Things to Do,
  2. Requisition Approvals,
  3. Application Tracking,
  4. Book Reviews,
  5. Budget Planning,
  6. Call Tracking,
  7. Clip Art Gallery,
  8. Contract Library,
  9. Correspondence,
  10. Customer Service (five databases -- Product Design Problems, Customer Suggestions, Knowledge Base, Data Dictionary, Call Tracking -- as well as a sixth database with documentation),
  11. Demo Room Reservation,
  12. Employee Records,
  13. Event Calendar,
  14. Executive Briefings,
  15. Expenses Reports,
  16. Formula Catalog,
  17. Forms Routing,
  18. Electronic Library,
  19. Icon Catalog,
  20. Job Candidates,
  21. Job Postings,
  22. Sales Management,
  23. Library Tracking & Training,
  24. Purchasing Item Tracking,
  25. Litigation,
  26. Lookup Keyword Library,
  27. Meeting Tracking,
  28. Monthly Financials,
  29. Engineering Notebook,
  30. Patient Treatment Signoff,
  31. People and Facilities,
  32. Phone Book and Yellow Pages,
  33. Presentations,
  34. Race Results,
  35. Real Estate Management,
  36. Recipes,
  37. Relocation Expenses,
  38. Routing Tracking,
  39. Reservation Scheduler,
  40. Sell-through Sales Reports,
  41. Shotgun E-Mail Communications,
  42. Conference Suggestions,
  43. Support Conference,
  44. Support Center Call Tracking,
  45. System Equipment Inventory,
  46. Team Consolidate,
  47. Team Room,
  48. Tech Services Call Tracking,
  49. Technotes and Tips,
  50. Telemarketing,
  51. Travel Authorization,
  52. Values and Goals,
  53. Wholesale Customer Tracking.

BTW: Has anyone, anywhere, at any time, ever used the recipe application?

My guess: probably not.



Eric Mack said...

Hi Graham,

You bring up a good question. I think that IBM should do two things:

1. Update, then bring back the quick start databases

2. Provide designer, free of charge to everyone. (Employers may still disable it if they wish to prevent their users from innovating with Notes.)

The templates provided a valuable demo and learning aid and the designer client, in the hands of the masses will no doubt lead to innovative applications.

Now that I've said my piece, I'd like to ask you a question: Do you think it would be easier to sell a foundations solution to an SMB if you had an application that promised extraordinary value for the user - e.g. saving each user 30 minutes a day? (I know that's big claim, but that's our user experience so far). the reason I ask is because We are a small Notes shop that has an application that makes implementing David Allen's GTD methodology in Lotus Notes as easy as file, database, replace design. I've been wondering if this is the kind of app that would be smart to bundle with a foundations server so that people get to experience the power of Notes and GTD out of the box. What do you think?

Graham Dodge said...

Hi Eric,

Where are you doing the "file, database, replace design"? I'm instinctively wary of any application that wants to tinker with the mail file.

The effectiveness of the 'Getting Thing's Done' toolset may well depend on the nature of the SMB. Lotus Foundations will be of benefit to farmers, real estate agents and coffee shops in different ways.

If you want to see your application bundled with LFS I'd encourage you to sign up for the Foundations ISV toolkit beta test program as the first step.

If you want me to review your GTD application then contact me offline (email address at top of blog)


ISV Toolkit

Rupert said...

It's nice to have a collection of free apps to offer to SMBs, but the age of these would worry me greatly. Perhaps selecting a smaller group of templates from OpenNTF.org would be a better way.

My first exposure to Notes came as a junior system administrator with the then-mighty Ziff Davis publishing empire in about 1993. the recipe database and restaurant reviews were two of the killer apps at ZD (at least from the users' perspective).

Graham Dodge said...

Hi Rupert,
Guess I stand corrected on the popularity of the recipe database.

I agree it'd be good to get an updated collection of database templates but until someone volunteers to bell that particular cat (and it won't be me) we've got to work with what we've got.