It didn't take a Nostradamus to predict that IBM would throw in a few spoilers during Microsoft's Launch Week for SBS2008. After all, if Microsoft can repeatedly use the first day of Lotussphere to re-release their plans to take 'x' million Notes customers away from IBM, then why shouldn't IBM return the compliment and try to crash Microsoft's party. It's all good, clean predictable fun. Announcing the inclusion of VMWare Virtualization in Lotus Foundations is one of those spoilers. Stand by for a few others as this week unfolds.
Now the serious bit. The launch of SBS2008 and EBS2008 means that the battle for the hearts and wallets of SMB is well and truly joined. Microsoft is the defending champ but for this round IBM had a ten month head start with their January 2008 acquisition of Nitix and subsequent release of Lotus Foundations Server. So did the IBM Marketing team use that time effectively?
My answer is no.
From what I can see, for most of 2008 IBM SMB Marketing have been flopping around impotently just like the US Army did in Vietnam in the 1960's. (That particular analogy can be stretched a bit further). IBM is a technical and financial powerhouse with a wealth of experience in classical IT marketing. Show them an opportunity to re-architect and replace the core database of a Fortune 500 company and they'll throw in enough marketing and technical firepower to win the battle. Unfortunately dealing with SMB opportunities is more like chasing Vietcong insurgents - they are small, mobile and each local cadre writes their own tactical rulebook. Microsoft has excelled at building a large Business Partner community to track down and nail these SMB opportunities while IBM is still trying to figure out how to adjust their existing marketing ploys to win this new war. To make it worse, IBM/Lotus seems to be treating Foundations like a sideshow product - it would be good to get a few sales but let's concentrate on the Notes/Domino market first.
Prove me wrong IBM. Show me that you have a worldwide marketing plan and that you're going to use it. Show me how my company can work with your marketing plan to build our common client base. It's strategically unwise and financially inappropriate to expect existing Lotus Business Partners to develop and pay for developing their own strategies to create the Foundations market. We need to see IBM leadership in this space.
(At this point I'm not addressing the IBM technical direction for Foundations - that's a much happier story and we'll look at that in another post.)