As an IBM Business Partner, I have been involved with the "IBM-Lotus" technology set for almost 15 years now and have seen the market interest in, perception of and demand for the Lotus brand in general and "Lotus Notes" in particular, change significantly during that time.
Back in the early to mid 90's when Lotus Notes was the "Hot New Technology" everyone seemed to want to learn about and get involved with it. I would spend a large part of my day simply answering the question "What Is Lotus Notes?" before signing up another happy customer.
Well, as it is with almost everything new in the techworld, those heady days of "Notes-mania" and stellar year-on-year growth in Lotus Notes license sales are long since gone. The size of the global Notes user base has followed the classic "product lifecycle curve" and now that we are well into the "maturity" phase - and some might even say, into it's "decline" - the user base is shrinking as competitors start to target what they obviously see as "low hanging fruit".
Today, I'm far more likely to spend my time answering "Why should we continue to use Lotus Notes?" or "Isn't Lotus Notes Dying?" rather than "What is Lotus Notes?".
For many, IBM still has not or will not answer either of the first two questions with a sufficient degree of clarity and its apparent lack of product promotion wrt Lotus Notes simply doesn't stimulate the asking of the third.
So, from a completely non-technical, common sense business perspective, here's what I say to my customers when they pose each of the above questions.
Why should we continue to use Lotus Notes? - i.) Because you already have it and it will cost you significantly more than you are being told to replace it completely, ii) Because it's a waste of money ripping and replacing something that works with just a different "flavor" of the same old thing. Let's face it, email is email!!!, iii) Because your IT people and all your highly paid "external advisors" are going to be pushing you to implement a "social business strategy" over the next 5 years, and of course that will require - according to them - investment in new social business technology and solutions etc .... But hey; Guess What You Already have in Lotus Notes???
Isn't Lotus Notes Dying? - Any product that has been around as long and that has been as widely deployed Lotus Notes is going to eventually see some decline in its user base when some migrate either to the latest and greatest "new thing" or simply to where they see the grass as being greener. Don't let ignorance of the facts cloud your perception!!! Lotus Notes continues to evolve at a rapid pace under IBM's governance and is a completely different product today from the one that you may remember and may even have discounted less than 3 years ago. Lotus Notes as you remember it is probably already dead but IBM's email, messaging and social business technology set is alive and well, indeed it is arguably leading the field.
What is Lotus Notes? [Today] - Today, Lotus Notes is simply the email client component of the IBM-Lotus Suite of Social Business & Collaboration software rather than being the name given to the entire collaboration suite as was originally the case. Fnd let's not forget that despite all it's apparent "haters" out there, Lotus Notes is still one of the most successful and most widely deployed email programs in the world today. It can still be found in ongoing operational use within many of the largest and most successful organizations in the world. It works. It is completely proven and everything else is just either spin, politics or blind personal preference.
However, of far greater significance than the specific email client that you use is the fact that Lotus Notes mail users - by definition - already have a significant portion of the server-end technology that they will require - and could elect to use - to transform their businesses into truly 21st Century Social Businesses. So. To all the non-IT CXO's out there. What's the bottom line?
Quite simply it's this. Be very sceptical when someone tells you that Lotus Notes is dying because that statement will typically be followed swiftly by a call to invest in something new and exciting [and expensive] .... possibly even completely unproven .... and doesn't do half as much as what you already have!!! Great idea ...huh.