Zollar Articulates Lotus Positions

Lotus GM says collaboration and integration are keys for the IBM unit.

Al Zollar is general manager of IBMs Lotus Software division. Since being appointed to that position in January 2001, Zollar, an IBM veteran, has sought to integrate Lotus into the software development fabric of IBM, while expanding the scope of Lotus technological edge. He was interviewed at the recent Collaboration East conference in Boston by eWEEK Executive Editor Stan Gibson.

eWEEK: Can you describe specific synergies you are realizing with other parts of IBM?

Zollar: I think the portal technology that is behind the dynamic workplace concept is the best example. Starting with the WebSphere portal server middleware framework, we have created a solution that integrates all of the software group technologies.

The collaborative capabilities come from Lotus, the security technologies for fine-grained user access controls come from Tivoli, and the data management and searching algorithms come from DB2.

There are other examples. Notes 5 and Notes 6 have technologies from IBM Research. The IBM research group is made up of several labs, and theres specific expertise at each of them. Theres some stuff we get from Watson, some we get from Hawthorne, some we get from Almaden. The logging and transaction capability in Notes 5 and 6 came from Almaden.

We source from IBMs worldwide technology farm, if you will.

eWEEK: What has become of Iris Associates, the research unit that created Lotus Notes and other technologies?

Zollar: Iris Associates was a legal entity within Lotus that was dissolved in October of last year. But the team of people that builds Notes and Domino are still there [in Lotus].

eWEEK: CEO Sam Palmisano has said that there will be layoffs at IBM. Will some of those happen at Lotus?

Zollar: We began thinking how to structure Lotus right in 2001. We did have a series of layoffs at Lotus in 2001. That prepared us for the kind of economic environment were seeing now.

eWEEK: How many were laid off?

Zollar: We didnt disclose the number, but it was a fair number. A lot of people [were] in overhead positions in duplicate sales structures. It was significant rightsizing. As a part of IBM, we didnt announce them externally because it was not material news.

eWEEK: Do you see an upturn in the economy or in IT this year?

Zollar: Im not an economist. But I do believe we will come out of this with our customers priorities heavily focused on cost avoidance and return on investment, so were shaping our thinking along those lines.

The analyst firms say there will continue to be less IT spending. But they have revised their forecasts upward in e-meetings, instant messaging and real-time collaboration. Thats great for us. IDC says there will be over a billion dollars of annual spending for software in these categories in 2005.