Ambuj Goyal took over as general manager of IBMs Lotus Software Division a year ago this month. Since then Goyal has guided Lotus through the launch of its new Workplace platform while restoring customers and partners faith in the division, in doing so, reestablishing IBMs commitment to Lotus core Domino and Notes products. Goyal sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Dennis Callaghan in December to discuss the year past and ahead.
eWEEK: Youve been GM of Lotus for just about a year now. Tell me about how your first year went. What were your impressions of the group and its customers and the technology? What do you think you accomplished this year?
Goyal: First of all, I feel that Lotuss customers are extremely and are really excited about what Lotus has to offer. I found that they were looking for a direction from us—where Lotus is going—and what they can look for in terms of new products coming out and how they can move to the next plateau in collaboration.
Today they are no longer [asking that] because they are feeling comfortable that we are taking them to the next level while protecting their existing investments.
So what do I mean by the next plateau? This is the most satisfactory part of what I feel that we have accomplished at Lotus as a business. Lotus has been the key innovator in people-oriented technologies, Lotus invented teamware and groupware. This was about ad hoc collaboration. We wanted to take [customers] from team productivity to organizational productivity. For example, if you are doing an auditing job, today you attach documents in e-mail and send them out. And then somebody prints it and says, OK, everything is OK. And then you find it and say things are audit complete.
What they would like to do is to take this collaborative infrastructure and implement a people-oriented process in the context of that business.
So now we are taking ad hoc collaboration to organized collaboration. Not that we are abandoning team-oriented collaboration, thats very popular and people love it. But were moving it to not only business controls, were moving it to claims processing, event management, retail associates management, store management, consumer product groups management, customer care management, procurement, in the context of real business. And people are starting to understand that as we are offering more offerings in this space.
eWEEK: You announced the Workplace platform almost a year ago now as well. What sort of traction or acceptance in the marketplace have you seen?
Goyal: Oh theres been tremendous acceptance. First of all, there are people in the marketplace who are standardizing on open standards—J2EE, XML, Web services, LDAP, SQL. And they wanted collaboration in the context of whatever they had done. They had done a portal or they had done a J2EE application. An ISV may have done a packaged application. They want collaboration in that context.
So Workplace is a family of products which is open-standards based. So people coming from the open standards world can get collaboration in context of what they are doing. Workplace is also a set of organizational productivity offerings like business controls and reporting or case management subjects approval or customer care. Workplace is a set of business oriented offerings as well.
eWEEK: Is Workplace attracting new customers to Lotus?
Goyal: In fact, its not only attracting new customers, its re-energizing our base. So we are getting customers who are very interested in coming from the Web angle and customers who were in the client-server domain wanting to move to the Web world. They are leveraging the capabilities to get there. I will be talking about net gain in customers at Lotusphere. We are gaining significant new customers not only in small to medium businesses but in the Fortune 1000 companies as well.
eWEEK: How many customers do you have now on Workplace?
Goyal: We dont know really because the quarter is not done yet. We have overall No. 1 share in the marketplace in both integrated collaborative environments as well as portal capabilities as well as business instant messaging and e-learning solutions. Our key play is how do we leverage our presence and our customers interest in open infrastructures to gain more customers. And I think we will achieve that this year.
eWEEK: There are so many collaboration companies out there today, many as you well know were started by former Lotus employees. Why should people still turn to Lotus for collaboration?
Goyal: First of all, customers look for three things. They look for long-term innovation. Innovation in how people work. Innovation in how organizations produce more. Innovation in just base interesting technologies. People are looking for that. Second is whatever collaborative solutions that they choose, they want a reliable and secure infrastructure so the organizations can depend on it. Not point products but infrastructure which delivers all collaborative capabilities as they need it.
We focus on total cost of ownership, thats why continuously we win. People focus on the security, reliability, manageability and the cost of deploying collaborative solutions. And the third and most important [factor], every innovation and TCO that we do is about business value. [Customers] are looking for not only team-oriented collaboration, but how do I take a business problem—I have distributed resources across the globe—how do I solve that problem, how do I get them to collaborate.
Or Im doing claims processing, how do I get collaboration in context of claims processing or designing a system or doing sales or doing supply chain event management or first event responding. Or even simple things like auditing and control. These are all people oriented business problems that people want to respond to in real-time so they can be far more on-demand than they have been in the past.
And Lotuss focus in everything that we do is … business value. So yes, we work on cool technologies. But business value and total cost of ownership with key innovation is the key play.
eWEEK: You come from the application development world yourself. How will Domino developers benefit from the work being done at the Rational group, specifically the announcement [last month] of the IBM Software Development Platform?
Goyal: I think there is a developer world and then there is a new class of builder world that is coming in…The next step is builder world. The builder world is by drag and drop you can create a people-oriented workflow that integrates with a business process so you can do a better job of doing any of these business processes that I talked about which are people-oriented. Our focus is leverage that Domino developer community and get them into the builder world because they can write applications and business processes much faster.
So we are driving to that. There will be a Workplace Builder that we will announce at Lotusphere. There is a Portal Builder already so people can build portals very easily. Theres a class of builder that is coming in so more and more people-oriented processes can be automated. … Its our objective that anyone whos trying to create a dynamic workplace can build their own. How do we take it from 7 to 8 million developers to 100 million builders is the direction that we are headed.
eWEEK: Some Domino developers have been talking to me about a sea change theyve noticed at IBM in the last few months where Notes was once considered legacy and now is the centerpiece of the Workplace and Portal rollout strategy. From your perspective was there a change in IBMs thinking about Notes and if so, why?
Goyal: I think we have been consistently saying that there are a different class of programmers, developers and builders in the marketplace and we will support [them all]. There has been a paranoia in the market that we might abandon the people who really love Notes and my answer to them was there are a 100 million users of Notes and millions of developers. It will be foolish for us to abandon that.
But as people have seen more products, more capabilities coming out, they truly understand that we continue to focus on Notes-like capabilities of ease of building as well as server-side capabilities of ease of developing and building. I think its just the paranoia is starting to come down rather than any change of strategy.
eWEEK: So from your perspective then Notes and Domino always was part of the future path and not just something to be migrated from?
Goyal: I think what we are trying to do is to make sure that people who build Notes applications or Domino applications have a way of delivering the capability of that particular business process to more than just Notes users. How do I get a quality assurance process that is written on Domino in another company, not only being delivered to Notes but to a browser and to a handheld device and to any other environment.
So what we are doing is by providing more of the builder tools and more of the developer tools by embedding portals inside Domino and new Eclipse based client technologies into Notes, we are increasing the power and reach of what people have done on capturing business processes in Domino and in Notes.
Im not the rip and replace kind of a person. In fact, open standards like WSRP, XML, Web Services extend the reach of what people used to do…Its about open standards, and about extending the reach and thats what we are trying to get done with Domino and Notes.
eWEEK: I dont see quite the anger from the Domino community that we saw at Lotusphere two years ago but at the same time there still seems to be a little bit of angst out there that people think their Domino skills arent going to be worth anything in a few more years and theyre going to have to go to Java or .Net. Theyre a little bit resentful of that because everybody tells me that nothing is better than the Domino RAD environment…
Goyal: I agree with you, there exists nothing better than the Domino RAD environment. And we will continue to enhance and support that. We will continue to improve its capabilities. And for those customers who do choose to leverage our other tools, we will integrate those tools whether they are J2EE tools or the new builder tools with the existing Domino environment. No rip and replace, continued improvement.
eWEEK: But do you recommend to these Domino developers that they embrace these new skillsets and technologies?
Goyal: Absolutely I ask them to embrace new technologies because new technologies enhance the reach of [Dominos] capability. Let me give you an example. A Domino developer who had built an application in a customer environment, that customer is a Notes user, they may have 30 percent of the population at that customer using Notes and 70 percent of the customers just use browsers or handhelds and its a quality assurance application. In the past, they had a reach to only 30 percent of the population. By leveraging the new capability, they can reach 100 percent.
So a CRM application provider like Relavis, … can now reach not only Notes users, but any browser user using standard Web-based technology anywhere in the world at any time. So acquiring new skills in the world of Internet standards—XML, Web services, portals, WSRP, the things that we are embedding inside Domino—is a good thing for them because now they can give more value. They have a way to go back to their customers and say, “I provide now more value because I understand how to improve the power and reach of what we used to do just in Domino or Notes.”
eWEEK: What can we expect to see at Lotusphere next month and beyond that whats going to be the theme for IBM-Lotus in 2004?
Goyal: I think from a strategy perspective the strategy remains the same as I announced it at Lotusphere in 2003. Strategy is not a strategy if it changes every six months. What youve seen us do this year is execute on the strategy. Youve seen four business value offerings on Workplace, youve seen us release Notes 6.5, youve seen us release four new products on Lotus Workplace. The strategy remains the same, we just continue to execute.
You will see more and more associated with business value offerings, we will talk to the TCO. And something that you may be surprised about at Lotusphere is how much we will be able to talk about innovation because innovation is really back at Lotus.