Over the years, I have had the opportunity to interact with many different enterprises – a lot of them having Lotus Notes as part of their infrastructure. IT departments are varied in their characteristics, as varied as the enterprises which they belong to. There are highly proactive departments which are diligent about everything from their enterprise architecture to choosing their technology platforms to highly reactive departments which are letting others (vendors, other departments, economic situation etc.). In the middle of all this variety though are patterns that indicate that IT shops that have Lotus Infrastructure are clustered in a few groups. These clusters are highly homogeneous in terms of how they process new technology from Lotus, what kind of initiatives they invest in etc. I would not call this a scientific study though, and these are not watertight definitions. However, any industry veteran can see similar patterns in Lotus shops they deal with. The graphic below illustrates the clusters I see normally:

The four clusters can be briefly described as follows:

  • Invest: IT shops that realize strong value out of their Lotus investments and continue to invest heavily to get more out of their current investments and look for opportunities to add on technology components in the periphery/horizon for active utilization of technological progress.
  • Maintain: IT shops that are happy with what they have on Lotus environment, but wait for the world to lead before they invest more in technology
  • Hedge: IT shops that want to take part of their IT infrastructure outside Lotus environment, while still maintaining a lot of Lotus applications
  • Migrate: IT shops that have decided to move out of Lotus infrastructure.

Underlying the clusters are two dimensions that pretty much drive this whole model. Comfort with Lotus technologies and Readiness to Change.

Comfort with Lotus Technology:

There are IT organizations that are pretty proficient in understanding the concept of groupware and workflow that Lotus originally made possible. They have an intuitive grasp of distributed computing, replication, the Lotus security model, the tools and utilities around the Lotus platform. They understand why Lotus mail is powerful, the many features available in Domino server to enable scalability and security and the numerous mail add-ons that make administering Domino infrastructure a breeze. On the application development front they “get” the concept of NSFs, self-service database creation, keeping some centralized control while still enabling parts of the organization to service themselves without excess dependence on IT, and appropriate use of Lotus technologies for the many business issues that come up. For example, they don’t try to get Lotus into a transaction heavy application, while make good use of it for a workflow application. They are comfortable with the latest developments in the world of Lotus, be it XPages or Social Integration, broadly understand IBM’s road-map for Lotus technology, are active in OpenNTF and other communities. Such IT shops manage to get the best out of their investment in Lotus Technology.

At the other end of the spectrum are companies with a lesser understanding of the Lotus technology. They don’t quite understand the unique strengths of the platform, and try to keep comparing it with other technology stacks that are not strictly comparable. They struggle to apply Lotus related concepts to their business problems, and often have lesser return from their Lotus investments than their more savvy counterparts in the “comfortable” shops.

How does an IT department get comfortable with Lotus?

It is a mix of three parameters in turn: IT Leadership, IBM Sellers, Business Partners. If the IT Leader has substantially invested in understanding Lotus technologies, chances are his team will too. Organizations where a strong IT leader understands Lotus technology deeply are most committed to and get the most out of their investments in the technology. Such organizations in turn again have specialists who are deeply into the technology stack driving value for business out of this technology investment. On the other hand, organizations where a new IT leader with no Lotus exposure has taken over a significant Lotus infrastructure have the biggest problems in maintaining focus and getting value out of the investment. IBM Sellers who originally sold Lotus into the environment can have a significant impact too, in helping organizations take steps beyond just purchase of license to enable maximum utilization of the investment. Situations where an IBM seller oversells technology and leaves the organization with a lot of technology raw power, without the connecting steps to utilize the technology quite often turn into Lotus shops with low “comfort”. Same is the case with Business Partners. If an IBM Business Partner stays with an enterprise to help it extract all the value out of Lotus technology, the enterprise is much more likely to stay and use the technology stack well.

Readiness to Change:

The other dimension we need to look at is fundamental to the IT department – readiness to change. Change as we have all learned is the only constant, but something that we all avoid all too often. The change to be achieved can either be getting better results out of the Lotus platform or moving out of the Lotus platform to another platform – it does not matter. The dimension we are taking about here is the readiness to change.

Readiness to change is a pervasive attribute of the IT organization that encompasses the following:

  • A clear vision of why change is required, clear articulation of how the changes will be linked to achieving business goals and a clearly visualized end state
  • Defined responsibility for carrying out the change, a detailed road-map clearly showing the way to get to the end result, sufficient consideration to the different options available, sufficient time for achieving the goals, buy in from all stake holders
  • Champions who inspire, champions who are trained and who understand the goals of the effort, champions who communicate and involve all the stakeholders
  • An empowering climate to bring about the change

IT organizations that embrace change are likely to actively look for ways to resolve their existing sub-optimal situation into a more optimal situation. The leaders have clarity of vision, and take the appropriate action to align their teams to act proactively. This orientation is for the most part positive. It is mostly better to do something about your situation when you are stuck than just staying put. However, when I look at the many customers I deal with, I realize the truth in the words of the American novelist Ellen Glasgow: ” All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward”.

In future posts, I’ll delve more into the kind of initiatives a company in a particular cluster will be interested in.

What kind of an IT shop are you? Do you see this clustering as relevant and useful? What other information can you share that will help your peers. Please do share in the comments.