Notes and Domino as Open Source – Is this really a good idea?

Once in a while the call for open sourcing of Notes and Domino comes up. Actually I personally would like that. But would it really boost the use of Notes and Domino? That is the point were I have doubts.
Let’s just forget for a moment some issues that will prevent this, because apparently there is some third-party code in there, IBM can not just give away. That’s a legal problem.
Let’s focus on the other problems, which are huge enough.

Technical
While I have no doubt, that there is a great many code that is wonderful, we had some snags in the not so recent past, that annoyed some of the best yellow bleeders so much, that they recoded a whole bunch of things, just to have something that works as it should (I just say Java).
When we would dive in the source, we would probably find quite a few more things, that should be rectified and that does not pay the rent.
While Notes is based on a Non-SQL-Document-Database, which are very en vogue today, the performance of the NSF is not at par with MongoDB or CouchBase (or CouchDB for the matter). Replacing NSF with CouchDB would give a huge performance boost, but that would demand quite a bit of new code. Some logic could certainly be reused, but still, somebody would have to write a few thousand lines in Erlang.
A few other thing were to address, the lousy performance on the Mac, search isn’t that good either in comparison. I think some of us would gladly kill the Eclipse RPC.
Domino becomes more and more expensive to maintain, too. A whole bunch of new code would be required to make administration easy and save. Web Admin comes to mind, too. There isn’t a way around a web admin.
And let’s not forget the slight security problem we have with it. Not addressing this, would be certain death of the whole thing.
We would have to do without Watson, that wouldn’t be a show stopper, but probably we would have to live without Traveller. That would be a show stopper. Developing a Traveler replacement would be quite a task.
Repeat after me: “Migration must be painless” and let’s not forget updating it should not be rip and replace.
And to round things up; to be a success, it can’t be “the same old”. Feature- and performance wise it would have to be something out of this world.

Design
The one most important thing I hate about Open Office (and Libre Office); it’s ugly. I hate to look at it. It might be technically good, but I still hate it. Notes hasn’t very compelling looks either, but still better. But to be a success, that Open Source Version 1.0 would have to be the best looking email client ever. As an example we have only to look at Android. Only because Google and others have invested in good Design, it became a success. For us geeks, Linux was always the better server choice. But as a desktop, it never really succeed. I think it is because of the desktop design. It just isn’t up to specs. Or better, it never was overwhelmingly better as Windows. Only then it would have seen as a replacement. People hate change.
But who is going to do the design? A real good designer with a vision would be required. John Ive isn’t available and I do not believe in hundreds of designers fiddling around with some design language. For a single product it has to be one person that makes all the design decisions.

Organisation
While the Apache Foundation does one hell of a job, most of the really important tools are not made for the run of the mill end-user. I doubt, that Apache would be the best way to organise the work. Notes would deserve a dedicated organisation and it probably would need one that works full-time. Therefore it has to make money. Who pays?
Probably Linux could work as a model. Having a few experts who decide where to go, is probably better, than having a democratic vote. These half gods would also be responsible for preventing any attempt of forking.
The Linux model also has the advantage, that it lets companies make money with it.
For our purpose, the initial financing could be done by the highly committed customers. Getting them in the boat and building a project and team based on Kelly Johnson’s 14 principles, is the way to success and fast.
Probably we should only focus on the server anyway. Clients could be the thing to make money. Except for basic client that serves as example and first building block, if a rich client is really needed.
Mobile is without question one of the corner stones that must be included.

Marketing
Who is going to sell that thing to companies who are absolutely against open source software for their strategic tools? Or the ones that are fed up with Notes anyway? Or those who have only heard terrible things about Notes? Only keeping the few companies that are willing to dedicate time and resources to an open source project, isn’t a viable solution for all the partners and the product. And there is the fear about migration. That should be painless. I mean really. Not just a sales pitch.
Small companies might want to go for a free version, but please in the cloud.
There are tons of ideas, how to build a business model around this and one would certainly be a good one. But is a group of volunteers capable of doing this or will there be an eternal fight between those who want to feed their kids and those who rather starve than going against the higher ideals of open source?

I believe, that IBM rather lets Notes/Domino die, than give it away. But if IBM does it and it becomes a real success and IBM would have to explain that to the greedy share holders.

Having said all that, I believe the better solution would be starting from scratch altogether.
Getting the code and finding out, that more than half of it would have to be rewritten anyway, would be a bad surprise. Starting with a clean sheet gives the opportunity to get the best ideas from the best people and make it happen much faster.
From the start the group could build something that really can change the game. For example a server, that does not care which client it serves. A server that does more than just mail, also chat, SMS and documents. A server that uses Apache as a web server (but carefull: the more third-party code, the more dependencies).
A structure that lets one store anything project AND contact based.
Thinking about it, it should be something like Connections for the poor, only with more features and fewer servers.
Still, it would be a lot of work. But fun. I would help. But frankly, the yellow bleeders are not the open source geeks who flip burgers during the day and do miracles during the night. Somebody would still have to come up with a sustainable organisation that keeps the project going and contributors happy. Even if that means the final product will not be free to use for all.
But since we know by now all the remaining Notes customers, all of them could tell us what they want from the new thing not called Notes at all. That’s a plus.
Oh, and migration should be painless. I did mention it, did I?

It’s time to say goodby … or is it?

25 years of Notes & Domino and the signs of the end of an era are getting stronger. Hardcore yellow bleeders are moving to other pastures. Some think it is the last ConnectED. That’s sad. Especially since IBM had tons of chances to turn it around. Instead of using those 138 billion (138’000’000’000 or 9.86b/yr) USD since 2000 for making a few people richer (and a lot of employees/retirees poorer), IBM could have used that, to get its act together. Did not happen. Somehow giving away money was more important, than making money.
Just to give a perspective, how much money IBM did not use for product developement:
The LHC, the biggest machine in the world, did cost 9 billion and found evidence for the Higgs and a quite a few other things important to all of us (particle physics is important, very). Still the CERN fights a constant battle against people who think this is a waste of money. It isn’t. CERN is justified just by the existence of WWW alone.
National Cancer Institute budget 2013: 4.8 billion.
Fermilab 2013 0.360 billion, down 9%.
UNHCR 2012 4.3 billion USD
UNICEF 2012-2103 0.96 billion USD

It is amazing, IBM made itself into the poster child why shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world (Jack Welch). That must count for something.
In short, 2014 was for IBM rather a disaster. Hardware sales are down 40%. There isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel to be seen.

IBM had CouchDB once. Would have been a nice replacement DB for Notes and Connections.
Instead of making programming in Notes ever more difficult and complicated, IBM could have invested money in making it easier.
Looking into a new design language in 2014. That should have been done years ago.
Did not happen. Anyway it’s a waste of time to look back.

Verse is bound to be the next cool thing. Well, we will see. At least for those who like to have their stuff around them and not in some foggy thing, it will be at least another year if not two, to wait until Verse will be available on premises, if ever.
I am willing to give it a try, but I am still waiting for the beta access, I registered for in November. Therefore I can’t say anything about it.
My last attempt to follow a webcast was unsuccessful. I waited hours for it to start and then suddenly it was over. Must have blinked. The replay link a few days later was dead.
Looks like Verse does not want to have anything to do with me. Probably I should take the hint.

 

Well, it’s a Verse

I am as ever late in the game. It took me a while to digest the whole Mail Next/Verse thing. Actually, because the whole two hours thing was kinda boring. Half an hour of demo, the rest futile attempts to explain the new way to work. Maya was cute, though.
I am not sure what I should think about Verse. On one hand, it does have a few features, I always wanted. Some of them I even did for customers and me years ago. I always thought that folders are a waste of time and I created people centric views, that showed new mails on persons. Unfortunately, I was limited by Notes and my own capabilities. I always dreamed of taking apart the whole mail client thing and attach it to a bigger picture. Things like blog responses and tweets, SMS and Chat, LinkedIn and Facebook are all just information’s that flow in. I don’t want to change applications, just to do read a LinkedIn post. Therefore I am a lousy social platform user. It never fit me. Does Verse change that? Well, I hope so. Does it have the WOW-factor I have been missing from IBM for so long? Not quite; almost. It looks good though. Interestingly it looks a lot like the first screenshots from january. Not at all like the examples I saw in april/may. What goes around, comes around.
IBM claims it is just the start of a whole new approach to collaboration. We have heard that before. We will see in january, what else IBM has to show.
IBM claims that it is compliant with EU and Swiss(!) laws. That does not mean a lot. By US-law, IBM has no way to protect our stuff here in a way that “they-who-read-all-the-mails” can not read it as long as it is in IBM’s cloud. And as if “they” ever would have cared about anybody elses laws. Therefore, will there ever be an on premises version? I doubt it. Even though the panel that was invited yesterday, was all in favor of Notes and wants to go on with it, it looks to me, that they did not realise, this isn’t Notes. There could be a Domino server somewhere in the back, but everything else will not run on Domino alone.
Maybe they know something more, or they just did not realise, that IBM wants them … in its cloud. BTW where was Scott Souder?
Even if there is an on premises version, I suspect it would be a crippled one. Anyway, without Connections, it would probably be useless. I can’t imagine IBM letting me connect to WordPress with MailN… sorry … Verse. Would be nice, though. CalDav? WebDav? No word about that either. Would have been nice to hear more about the technical side of that thing yesterday.
On the upside is the fact, that IBM seems to go for a new approach. Rather than asking customers what they want, IBM shows, what it can do. That’s more like Apple and way more innovative.
Is that the thing, IBM is betting on to get out of the swamp?

I told you, didn’t I?

THIS I wrote almost two years ago and surprise surprise, I was quite close to what happened lately with IBM and Apple. Quick read? I’ll wait.

(Dumdidumdi… have to mow the lawn again. Stupid rain … Oh, the cat (Floh, because he had flees when we got him) under my table is dreaming again. Sounds like a fight with someone. Haven’t heard him growl like that since that stupid orange tom attacked him)

Ready? Good. Overall it seems that I had the same ideas than IBM and Apple. Their products do not overlap, Apple needs, or rather wants more foothold in the B2B market. Only IBM doing something in the customer market, isn’t mentioned at all, which I think is a mistake. But I am getting ahead of things again. Let’s read the Press Info. (Dumdidum and so on)

Does somebody strike something there? Mostly it talks about what IBM is going to do. There is hardly any mention of Apple, bar the enterprise care plan.

The landmark partnership aims to redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change—grounded in four core capabilities:

  • a new class of more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions including native apps, developed exclusively from the ground up, for iPhone and iPad;
  • unique IBM cloud services optimized for iOS, including device management, security, analytics and mobile integration;
  • new AppleCare® service and support offering tailored to the needs of the enterprise;  and
  • new packaged offerings from IBM for device activation, supply and management.

Apart from the selfworshipping in the first part, it’s more or less IBM stuff for iOS. Apple will certainly help with the design – meaning look-and-feel and IBM needs every help it can  get – but otherwise, it’s all about IBM’s cloud offering.

For me, that does not sound like a partnership between equals. Taking in account IBM’s current problems with declining revenue, that looks more like IBM’s grasp at a straw.
If that concept fails Apple has still its consumer market, where it shines and if Apple decides it can do it without IBM in B2B, it will. For IBM it would be a lot of lost money it can’t pay to share holders, a lot of lost time it does not have to turn around and again lots of pissed off customers and partners.
Analytics also comes into play again. I don’t believe in a huge market. Analytics can become quickly much too complicated for most people and specialists in that field are in short supply. Most companies will do without or will try to mimic it by using SQL and spread sheets.
But IBM has 400 mathematicians(!) that can help. That will be the same problem as with business ratios. Most managers do not understand where the numbers come from and with analytics it will even get worse. Ratios and numbers that change with time without any clear meaning because nobody remembers the algorithm. That’s like being on the Titanic. The music is still playing, therefore it can’t be that bad. As of lately it was estimated, that of all companies using analytics, only about 40% of managers or employees understand what they are doing. That isn’t a too good ratio. If the numbers are wrong and management does not know it, they could be in for a surprise. (But hey, if a new product fails, managers now have a new culprit. “Not my fault, Analytics was to 89% positive, couldn’t help it that we happened to be in the last 11%”. And they can never be proven wrong. What a job security mechanism.)

But let’s look at the latest news from Mail Next. Kramer hints that about 60 % of all the stuff on mobile devices is mail and calendar. There is hope for a iOS based mail and calendar client from IBM? And Apple is doing the look and feel? Nice idea, isn’t it.
Somehow the whole story isn’t consistent, regarding Mail Next, Mobile First, Cloud first, Apple and IBM. For the mobile devices, IBM will have to build apps, which are “rich” clients. On the other hand, there is no mention of any rich client on “traditional” clients. PCs and Macs should go to the Mail Next web client.
Both IBM and Apple have rich clients for Macs and mobile devices. Logically I would think, something has to go. Apple will not let go of the Apple Mail client, neither on iOS, nor on OSX. Quo vadis Notes? Using Outlook as a front end, the browser plugin for Domino applications and the browser for XPages? That’s a three window hell (And it will not work for me anyway, since there is no browser plugin for anything on the Mac). A mail app from Apple, a mail app from IBM, two calendar apps and two “Notes” apps. Does that look good for Notes on iOS or OSX?
But what about the applications? It would certainly be nice to have local Domino apps for iOS. Xpages could do it. Is IBM planning on an app for iOS for all these Domino applications out there? About ten million as somebody once estimated?
I don’t see the browser plugin come to iOS, but who knows, but if that app does not happen, Domino will be relegated to what every half backed migration expert out there thinks it is, just a mail server. On the other hand, if IBM comes up with an app for that, happy days, suddenly we would have a whole new market to play with. One, where nobody knows or cares about “Notes is Dead” rumors. (And if it works on iOS, it could also work on OSX, which would be right down my alley). They just want apps that work and do not require a server farm at home for connections … ups, sorry, we are supposed to move to the cloud.
But again, I am just putting Lego pieces together and completely leave out politics.

Now there is another thing that came up in the last few years with cloud offerings. Today many companies outside the US like the idea of mobile first but not the idea of cloud first. In every webcast about IBM’s cloud offerings questions about on-premises come up. Every single time. Why is that? Do customers not trust IBM? The problem is not limited to IBM, every US cloud service, inside or outside the US, has to provide data to the US government on request (secret judge and everything). It does not matter if IBM (MS, Oracle or whoever) tells you, that the customer always knows where his data is. Neither does it matter if IBM firmly believes, that with its data encryption and with the customer only having the key, the data should be save from everybody. Nobody outside the US does trust it.
If IBM wants to shine in that market, the only solution is to sell (in selling and then they own it, not just selling the usage) the cloud software to european, russian, chinese, japanese, swiss and so on companies. These companies can set up the cloud offerings with IBM’s blessing and help, but no piece of hardware or software can be owned by IBM. There should not be any cloud or data contract between IBM and the customer. Only then, some more companies might be reluctantly be ready to move to the cloud.
(BTW, there is still an unused Yahoo data center around the corner. If anybody wants to set up a data center for anything big, Yahoo might want to be willing to sell. I would help to make it work).
Costwise IBM is in for a hard game. Cloud will become cheaper over time until enough players drop out. IBM will need a lot of money and breath to survive this and become a important player. But if you believe in the latest rumors, cloud isn’t the big money maker as the hype makes us believe.
IBM, how about the on-premises offerings? Probably Apple can help there to, how to make updates without anything crashing.
One big argument for cloud always is, from IBM’s point of view at least, the faster upgrade cycle, because IBM does not have to test on several OS’s and hardware configurations. If IBM would just sell the VM’s it uses anyway in its cloud, that wouldn’t be a problem anymore and we could all continue to use our on premises installations or move to the cloud and back without so much as a mouse click. They had them once. Where are they now? I know, some companies just don’t want shrink wrapped VM’s, but if the price tag is right, many arguments will just disappear into oblivion.
Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see where Notes and Domino goes with iOS… if they are really part of the package.

 

Mail Next and Many of you are drunk right now … kind a!

Yup, that’s true, if you are one of those incredibly hard-working men/women, who know they don’t need a lot of sleep and can work for 20 hours a day for weeks. If you find yourself here, you might want to realise you have a mental performance of a heavily drunk. And as a bonus you are killing yourself.

Every other year in May the time comes, were I have to renew my flight instructor privileges. Probably for the last 10 years they beat into us, that fatigue is one of the bigger problems in aviation and the one the easiest to solve. It rectifies itself literally while we sleep. Would be nice for all my problems.
Now the most important misconception:

  • I am young, strong, I run, I bike, I work out, therefore I need less sleep.

Na, sorry. Older people need less sleep. The average person at around 25 needs 8 straight hours of sleep and that does not change a lot until 60. No argument will change that fact. Not even coffee. And you can’t do a training to need less sleep, all you get is even more sleep deprivation.

When somebody has to work for a while more, that’s ok, as long as enough rest awaits in the end. If not, the continuous sleep deprivation leads to burn out, depression, cardiac problems, there are even signs that it might be a factor in getting cancer. Need more reason for enough sleep?
Let’s say you stay awake for 24 hours. Would you consider yourself at peak performance? Not really. I personally start feeling quite dizzy after 20 hours. Test show that continuous sleep deprivation of only two hours per night over 14 days, reduces your mental performance to the level above. That is about the one of a drunk with an alcohol level over 0.1%. Nobody wants a driver or a pilot in that mental state, but developers, admins and managers all over the world think that this is their normal level of performance. A bit more coffee and I am ok. Wrong. In that state my work is lousy. More mistakes and way slower. The problem is, my subjective feeling tells me different. In don’t feel very sleepy, actually quite ok, but my mental performance is still lousy.
Unfortunately we have a culture of who stays the longest in the office, wins. Everybody has to show, they can work hard. Real men culture. Working under pressure. Yeah.

Bullshit.

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) just released new regulations about Pilot Duty and Rest Requirements for Airline Pilots (not for the freight dogs, which I think is stupid). After a 14 hour shift with not more than 9 hours of flight time (8 at night), every pilot must at least get 13 hours of rest and 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Every pilot has to sign a document to affirm that they are fit for duty. There are now limits for daily, monthly and yearly flight time. Why? Because we don’t want almost brain-dead people on the wheel. But pilots are real men/women, aren’t they? Especially helicopter pilots. We are by definition cool, no? But if I would fly for 20 hours straight, I would probably crash. Now I am not cool anymore, rather the late blithering idiot.
Do we really need sleep deprivation to be considered hard? The results should count, not the number of meetings I can press in a day.
Unfortunately many people see this like sport. They say, that working hard is like running a marathon. That picture is wrong, because after a marathon, your body needs rest. Everybody knows that. Nobody runs 10 marathons in a row but this is perfectly acceptable in business. Working should more be considered like a round the world tour on foot/bike/boat. Constantly working toward a goal without damaging the body, because it is a loooooong way and you can not do this with the speed of a marathon. But it brings the best performance over a long period. But no, (almost) everybody thinks long hours are the cool/hard/peak-performance factor. In reality they are the stupid mistakes, bad mood, irritating behavior and friday afternoon crash factors. More coffee please, thank you.
It’s a question about what one wants. It’s either a game of who can keep the seat warm the longest or who performs the best. If I want the best performing employees, I should throw them out after 10 hours in the office and go home, too.
Now what about mail next guy Scott Souder? Every time I hear him, he is complaining about the email flood and his solution is mail next. Good show though, but not a solution for his sleep deprivation. The 10 PM mail from Kramer will still come and Scott will only find it faster with mail next.
How about a feature in mail next where mails from certain people only show up between 8 AM and 8 PM? Cool no? As long as the boss can override that setting. If I have one of my great ideas, I want that all my subalterns know that immediately and start working on it.

 

A View from Beneath the Dancing Elephant – another book

Now this book is different from Cringely’s. It was written by Peter E. Greulich, an insider. He tells the story of the Watsons in IBM and the impact they had on a positive corporate culture. Something inexistent today, as the author believes.
While Cringely relies on information he can gather from the outside, Peter E. Greulich has worked for IBM for about 30 years in various positions, including management. He has many interesting stories to tell, but the essence of the book is his grief with IBM’s current situation and how it came to it. For him it started with the reign of the white knight in the person of Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. who at first was his hero. Later, especially after changing the retirement schema, he started to feel, that IBM was going in the wrong direction. With Sam Palmisano, it got worse. Management started to use rules and tools, that were either incomplete or not understood. As an example he recalls Tivoli Configuration Manager. At first a game changing product, but for the lack of continuous developement it became obsolete.

The development director said, “TCM is a cash cow. Why should I spend money on a product that is nothing but pure profit?” He believed that products in this market were commodities with low margins, and should be left to others to waste their profits on. We never convinced him otherwise.

The cow in “cash cow” is quite a good example for this. When you got a cow you have still to feed it and you have to look for a replacement – its offsprings normally – while the profit you make with the milk, pays also for growing (cash-)cow. But until the old cash cow becomes a poor dog (meat loaf), it is the duty of the product manager to push the poor dog as far in the future as possible. In the software business that means constant upgrades and enhancements and at least some marketing, until nobody has any new ideas (good ideas that is) to keep the milk flowing. By then, the rising star should be ready to take over and eventually become the next cash cow. That’s the ideal world and it does not always happen but still, Just abandoning a product, just because one thinks it good enough right now, without having the next thing in the drawer, is rather short-sighted.

The other story was with “Lean”, even so he does not mention the word. IBM used Toyota’s “Lean” initiative in a perverted kind of way. The real “Lean” wants to free resources by using everyone’s knowledge to eliminate inefficiency AND augment quality. The idea is not to find ways to fire people but to free resources to use them better. That’s one of the main principles of Lean, not to fire people. Greulich recounts how he lived through that time, when more and more of his friends disappeared and how that hurt his and others work. Key people were “resource actioned” (fired), because that department just had a quota to fill. It works exactly like Microsoft’s performance management. If you have a bad quarter, you are a goner. Does not matter, if your family just died in a train crash. Or in other words, if you had Einstein, Newton, Curie and Pauli on your team, Curie probably would have let go, due to her morning sickness and the resulting slightly lower performance at 7:30 AM. With that IBM became even more inefficient and the quality dropped. To make up for the loss, IBM bought more and more other companies for a lot of money, only to bluewash and crush them. Small example: Nitix. Developing their own products ahead of time with freed resources from a proper Lean program, could have saved and made IBM billions (in the case of Nitix, IBM once had a lot more Linux developers). But that would have cost shareholder-value. Now that’s bad, if the friends at Wallstreet don’t like you anymore because you don’t fill their pockets enough. It might be a wild guess, but if you look a the prices IBM paid for some companies and the number of products that after a few years are still alive, one gets some doubts about that strategy.
This kind of senseless loss of manpower (today: knowledge drain), did not happen 20 years before, when Greulich had a hard time himself as a single parent with three small kids. His friends at IBM and his manager just helped him through this time and he is forever grateful. First, it did not hurt IBM, because the work got done anyway and second, Greulich committed himself even more. If that isn’t a win-win situation? And don’t tell me that isn’t possible today. Many companies all over the world show that you can prosper and accepting a social responsibility.*
The numbers are also different to Cringeley’s. According to Greulich, for every old IBMer (in the US, Europe and so on) let go, three to five Indians or Chinese developers were hired and still they can not match the quality and therefore the speed of the old team. Not even financially that makes sense. As a side note, many big european companies in-source again. Even Apple starts to build computers in the US. Do they probably know something IBM does not? None of all those companies do that because suddenly labor costs dropped below China’s, oh no, they do it because it makes sense financially. More money in the long run!

Worth a read? Definitely. It does give you a point of view of somebody inside. Cringely looks for sensation (that’s his job) and Greulich is just sad. Somewhere in the middle lies probably the truth, but all in all, the pictures match.

A View from Beneath the Dancing Elephant
Rediscovering IBM’s Corporate Constitution

by Peter E. Greulich

* One of the best example came from the union representative at Porsche during an interview at Le Mans. You can be nice to your workforce and demand that extra effort if somebody wants to work for Porsche. That’s the view of the “Betriebsrat“! In early days the enemy inside, today an important asset to the company. No wonder VW wanted one for their american workforce, because it pays off.

i Cringely: the Decline and Fall of IBM – a review

For quite a while I was working on a series of blog posts about the decline of Notes and Domino and then came this book. Damn, he was faster. But this book isn’t about Notes and Domino and I couldn’t say if Cringely even knows it, but it does not matter. Here is a bigger picture and it explains quite well, why Notes and Domino are on a sinking ship. It’s not only that Notes is under constant fire from outside, the whole IBM is a mess, if all what Cringely writes is only half-true.
I like the book. I said similar things before. But is the magnitude of stupidity that reigns in the ivory tower of IBM as bad? Sam was on the wrong track, but it looks like, the Road Kill 2015 is not going to stop soon and the C-level is following like lemmings.
Forbes has a nice article about it, too.
The whole problem with IBM turns around shareholder value, or rather the gamblers version of it. Even as a first year student, I knew shareholder value is not one of the clever ideas (according to Jack Welch, the most stupid and he should know), if you want a company to survive. It’s a good idea, if you don’t care about the company and all you want is more money. But that river will dry out eventually. It just does not work as a sustainable strategy.
From my point of view – you may call it idealistic – investors are people who give a company money to work with, to build on. They have a long-term view, because the investors believe in the company and the products. People like Ican, BlackRock and so on, are more like gamblers. They are not investors, because they do not invest. They want making money as fast as possible. Which means buying cheap and – now comes the important part – selling high in the shortest possible time. Only by selling the stocks, they actually make a lot of money. Dividends are just a nice to have on the way there and a way to move the stock price higher (read: the twenty bucks target of IBM in 2015). What comes after, isn’t their concern. If they leave a bloodless hull on their way to wealth, who cares. What amazes me most, is the way Sam thought, that the investors are a good thing for IBM. They buy stocks from outsiders and sell to outsiders. There is no money flowing into IBM. It is absolutely useless. The only reason to schmooze with them, were his own pockets, as Cringely points out. According to him, Sam did everything to get rich and get out … and on the way make his friends on Wallstreet happy.
What I find interesting about the investors, is their view about “their” money. If it was “their” money, it wouldn’t be in stocks, it would be a credit, where the company pays an interest and after a while the whole sum back. Capital stock is money you don’t get back from the company you invested in. That’s the whole point. It’s the companies own capital. But you get a dividend which is hopefully higher than the interest you would get from a credit. The only way to get your money back, is to sell the shares to somebody, who believes that this risk is worth taking at a certain price. That’s the stock market were the gamblers reign. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is wrong to use your power to influence companies to act in a way that hurts their business only to make money for gamblers, who have nothing to do with the company. Why the heck should IBM care about them? But it looks like, there is a whole generation of economists, that never saw the stupidity of shareholder value.

My profession – the economist, not the developer – is a lame one. We can’t do anything. We depend entirely on others to develop, build and sell products (I am not really one of them, because I can build stuff) but we are the clever ones that made a whole economic world revolve around us and we are very good at slapping each others backs. Yes, there are things we learn and can do, like organising, reorganising, book-keeping, all very important things, but we are nothing without the grunts on the shop floor, who turn the screw drivers.
Unfortunately, not many managers realise this.
Now the real clever ones think; yes, the grunts know a few things we don’t. How can we make them expendable anyway? How about knowledge management? If that works, we can fire the expensive grunts and hire cheap ones without loosing anything. Unfortunately it does not work, not even with IBM Connections. Because intuition, experience and creativity isn’t something you can store in a database.
Back to the book. IBM added 100’000 Indians, Brazilians and Chinese developers, managers and whatever else, and fired (or talked them into leaving) 100’000 Americans, Canadians, Germans, Swiss and others to cut cost. What I don’t get is the fact, that outsourcing developement, services and design is so last century. By now everybody knows that software written cheaply elsewhere by newbies without experience and proper (which means looooooong and expensive) training, will be easily 20 times more expensive, because of the errors which have to be rectified at home (from those few left, that still now how it works). That has been common knowledge for years and still is true today. But since my brothers and sisters of the economy schools do not have a clue about software or hardware development (they don’t, I gave many of them private lessons in excell programming. It was horrible) they probably really do not know about it. Another interesting effect of this is, that IBM seeded hatred against itself. Many fired IBMer will eventually turn against IBM and 100’000 ex-IBMers with a grudge is a lot of influence in the market.

Can Ginni turn the ship around? If she wants, but she will make a lot of gamblers angry, because it would mean to stop the Death March 2015 (said that before). She would have to stop borrowing money to pay for buying IBM shares. Invest IBM’s own money to make better products faster. I don’t agree with Cringely, that they have to be cheaper, but for a premium price you need premium products and services. It’s doable, but not like this. I get itching from the last sentence:

One thing is certain. Rometty will likely breathe a sigh of relief once her hands are no longer tied by it [the Roadkill 2015].

Why are her hands tied by it? Just because Sam had a this idea? And even if she does pull the 20$ off, who believes that after that she can do the right thing? By 2016 the gamblers want even more. It’s a never-ending story, if you are in bed with the gamblers, they will not let you off the hook. That is the reason why Tim Cook did not want to give in to Ican. He knows what happens. Fortunately Apple has so much cash left, that it almost looks like a good idea to give something back and since Apples stock can’t rise indefinitely, one day Apple had to pay a dividend. Every company has to look for its owners, but not for the price IBM is willing to pay.
The only solution for IBM is to throw the gamblers out. Which either means that Ginni looses her job or the situation is desperate enough, that even the most greedy gambler sees the writing on the wall, which means the stock price has fallen, despite the 20$ bucks. In that case the gamblers will leave and try their luck elsewhere. Ginni might still lose her job, but at least she has a chance to convince the remaining share holders that she has the right ideas to save IBM. On the other hand, if the stock price falls far enough, Apple could use its petty cash and buy IBM. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
The next thing that I have not seen to this extent are the management levels. Up to 13 from the shop floor to the boss. Oh my, what happened to KISS? What are these guys between level 2 and 11 doing? But wait, let’s crunch a few numbers. If each of the managers have just 2 others report to them – which would be silly – that would make 8’191 managers. Not that bad for IBM, but the lowest level would have about 100 grunts each. That’s too much. Let’s say it’s 3 per manager. That would make 797’161 managers. Obviously too much. You can’t invent that many job titles. There are probably quite a few dead ends in the reporting chain. Whatever, there must be a lot of spread sheet pushers in IBM.
When I think back about the last ten years, IBM constantly changed. Once it was services, today it’s software, people came and went, it was always a big surprise, who you would talk to next time. Products came and went. Big failures, small failures, name changes, changes back to the original name. It’s a mess and it has been for a decade.
Probably one of the more important reasons why Notes and Domino customers jump ship is, they are just fed up with IBM. Something I have probably underestimated. I should have learned from my own experience, when IBM took very nice prospective customers from me.
Ford once was in a similar position not too long ago. They made more money with financial transactions and forgot that they were a car maker, until it caught up with them. One day the CEO said: “We understand our troubles.” How about that as a motto, instead of “Be essential”?

PS: I am now reading “A view from beneath the dancing elephant”
Looks like it goes in the same direction.

 

No really. What kind of evaluation license is this?

I made myself a Smart Cloud Engage(?) test account.
Now what I wanted to do, is invite somebody to work on a text outside “my” company. First it is rather complicated until you get there. You can not invite somebody from outside by adding him on the document. You have to go through files and invite them first from there. Right there were your new document shows up (aaaarrrghhh).
When you just added somebody and click invite, you are informed, that you are not allowed to do that. The invitation will not be sent. What kind of usability is this?
Wana do that in Google Drive? Add an email address on the document, done. That is how it should work.

IBM you just won my Catch22 special award for annoying usability. If you don’t want somebody do something, tell him first, not after he did everything required.
Could somebody within IBM please call Apple for a course in usability? Might be worth it.

 

Mail-Next and a amazing change

First the rant. I am with Volker Weber and the annoying stuff one has to do to follow a web meeting with IBM.All started well until it actually started. I had an image but no sound. In the chat window phone numbers appeared. Toll for anybody outside the US or Canada. IBM, that’s not nice. Is anybody on another continent a lower life form?
I restarted the whole shabadoing and had to install the latest Java Version. A little window asks if I want to start the plugin which did not start anyway (just an empty window and nothing happens) or it started and did not say so. I continued without the plugin and had sound. I missed the first 15 Minutes due to a half backed web tool.

But it got interesting in the end. I am not going to describe all the things I saw. I suppose almost everybody got invited. What struck me is the new openness of IBM. Last year there was the big silence and now Kramer and Scott show even prototypes and concepts. Scott said about ten times not to take the current design as a final version.
It is either because IBM tries a new way of promoting Mail-Next or they are just not sure, if the concept holds its promise. But the curiosity how it will look, almost kills me.
Now IBM, let me tell you this: You set the bar high by promising a new mail experience that should help all of us to keep the mail flood under control. What I have seen, there are some ideas that immediately struck me as great. Some were more like “told you years ago” and some were “great, but …”. All in all I can see some huge improvements for the mail experience.
The calendar bar (name might change … or will certainly regarding IBMs tradition of killing easy to remember names with multi word gibberish) is nice. I would like that, but I would not use it, because I still try to keep my calendar in my head. I always thought, that what it’s made for, remembering things. But it think that will help a lot of people managing their time better … as long as they can do it on the smart phone, too or the tablet for the matter.
I definitely liked the search. Finding not only mail but also links, attachments and other stuff is great. Adding the search to the bar as a single button is the way to go. I would even go a bit further and add a tagging possibility for adding stuff I know it belongs to the search but did not show up for whatever reason. That could replace folders. And to make the transition easier for every folder addicted user, call it something like smart folder. Click on it and it shows everything that is tagged and everything that is found in the search.
We can do what we want, folders are not going away. We can just stop pretending having found a better way. If we would change “Tagging” to “add to Folders”, the acceptance would be much better. The Folder Cloud with different sizes for different numbers of mails, would be a good idea, too.
Many claim not using folders but still move everything to the old mail folder just to have an empty mail box. Why not just leave it in the inbox? Because it looks tidier. I just use one folder in Notes, the inbox. Works too … as long as I remember to clean the crap out once in a while. One day I am going to add that “remove from inbox” button again.

Now what about the Notes client? Mail-Next is browser-based. The browser has become the universal framework for a lot of great tools. It works. If IBM wants to keep the Notes client, it should have the same user experience as the web client. With Mail Next for the first time the web version has surpassed the client version. Now what? Either kill it or find another solution. The only reason for the traditional client are the applications. In case of killing, the solution is either the browser plugin or move to XPages. The later even enhances the app experience and helps us developers make a few bucks. In case of matching the capabilities, IBM has a huge problem to solve. Expeditor can’t do all this very good. Rewriting to Notes client as a kind of browser and expeditor based client just to be able to do in a new client what you can do with all the other web tools already, does not make a lot of sense. What would you do? I think we all agree, building a new Notes client does not look very useful. Except IBM comes up with an idea, that is so awesome, that everybody is going to uninstall the browser immediately. We know the answer to that. And if some traditionalist thinks he can not live without a mail client, move down to Outlook and leave us alone.

I am looking forward to Mail Next and I am just now looking at Smart Cloud to get the last Domino server into its retirement home. And if I am really nice to everybody I can probably sneak my way into the advisory group and test Mail Next early.
And due to the NDA I could tease everybody that I have seen great stuff but can not talk about it.