The worldwide development advantage

By eweek  |  Posted 2008-03-21 Print this article Print


Today, you talked about desktops and desk phones disappearing, with the majority of knowledge workers telecommuting. Will we eventually see software development move out of the corporate labs to peoples' homes?

That's already starting. There's a project that IBM Rational is doing, Jazz. They've integrated unified communications into the development environment so the developers can collaborate in the same way that we collaborate with each other in knowledge worker tasks.

I've [seen] companies where developers have actually never met each other. They all work from home. Their relationship is all virtual. We have a different challenge. Ours is distributed more than virtualized. Our sales force is virtualized. Our salespeople don't have offices anymore. Many of our services people don't have offices anymore. If sales and services people are in an office, we're in big trouble. We want them out with clients.

Development is a little bit different. Our development challenges aren't so much about people working from home, even though we have a large number of people that work from home one to two days a week. Our challenge is that within my own development team, I have 13 laboratories spread against all geographies and all time zones.

None of my products are developed in any single lab. They're spread across multiple time zones intentionally, so we can take advantage of all of the hours in the day on product development. We pass it around the globe. Someone can work on a new feature in Lotus Notes that gets developed in Boston. That night, that feature is being tested in Beijing. If the engineer in Beijing finds a problem, someone in Dublin picks that problem up in the middle of the night, Boston time, and starts debugging it, comes up with a solution. The developer in Boston comes in in the morning and fixes it.

It's given us a tremendous advantage. It's why you're seeing so many products coming out from Lotus so quickly right now. We're not trapped in a four-year release cycle unlike some of our competitors.

Earlier you acknowledged Microsoft as a newcomer to the UCC game. Do you consider Cisco a rival? I know you partner with [Cisco] on several fronts.

Cisco's a partner. But, you know, everyone who's traditionally had a foothold in some sort of communications space is going to try to stake out territory in that market-Cisco, Nortel, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, the Japanese manufacturers NEC [and] Fujitsu. Then you've got the telcos trying to figure out where they play in this new world.

The interesting angle that we're coming at it from is that we understand collaboration very well, and we've extended the platform to enable all sorts of new tools to make it easier to do something once you communicate with somebody. The communication medium becomes an enabler for collaboration.

In pledging to invest $1 billion into UCC over the next three years, I'm going to assume you have some sort of return-on-investment forecast you'd like to see. What is it? 

It's not public yet. We want to stake out as big a piece of the market as we can. We're pretty bullish on this market. We've got 10 years of history on how to do this and really scale it. IBM runs on this stuff. We're testing a lot of the UCC stuff on top of our existing networks right now.



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