HCL Software, Day One

July 1 2019

Today is the day that many of my friends and community members started a new journey. HCL Software closed their deal with IBM yesterday, and today my LinkedIN, Facebook, and blog feeds are filled with people announcing their new roles. I am overjoyed that so many of the people I have worked with for years at IBM on the Collaboration products are moving to HCL. It's very rare that this kind of opportunity happens - and I hope all those involved celebrate properly.

I also think this is a real opportunity for HCL Software to start clean. Now only do they have a new Software group, they have a new partner program, and let's be real - a whole new business model. They are not just selling services, but software, to their customers. They just gained a lot of new customers in their systems - which comes with relationships. This is the time to view every one of those relationships as an opportunity. I would recommend that the new sales team at HCL make it their number one priority to touch every one of those relationships in multiple ways in the next 90 days. Beyond emails and calls, there needs to be face to face meetings. Not just with the IT team, but with leadership at those organizations. Hear their story, their vision, and their plans. Focus on that - especially in the US.

I have no doubt that the teams of people at the new HCL Software are going to work and deliver amazing products. Domino 10 is proof that can happen. But I also think this is the time to do some major strategic thinking. Here are a few ideas:

1. First, every product acquired needs a roadmap. For sure, the next 365 days. I would suggest a three year roadmap. And make those public and online - like what many other companies do. Pick a day to publish those, commit to it publically, and meet or beat that.
2. Look at partner relationships in new ways. I think we are seeing that across the board already, but you aren't IBM. You don't have the IBM baggage. Showcase that.
3. If OpenNTF.org is going to be the premier delivery model for HCL delivering out-of-cycle product code, then fully fund it. Keep the infrastructure and the partner and customer involvement, but give them the financial backing to never worry about it.
4. Every product needs a major version, not some CF or point release. In the next year. I am looking at you Connections and Portal.
5. Announce a conference for the products. ASAP. January in Orlando sounds ideal.
6. Get HCL marketing behind a strong campaign announcing the move and the long-term support planned. I am not saying it needs to be TV Commercials, but something major. On the level of the Lotus Knows campaign in terms of investment.
7. A strong development roadmap that answers things like the success of low-code solutions, RPA, and on the other end, enterprise development that is taking place in the PaaS world - cloud based development using CI/CD and all the bells and whistles of AWS/Azure/Google Cloud/etc. Domino needs a very clear direction in the space.

I think we are going to see a flurry of hiring on the sales side, as HCL doesn't have the sales organization and they haven't sold software like this before. And give those sales professionals the power to get out and inside their client's & prospect's offices.

There are two more suggestions I have, both which are a bit more personal.

First, HCL needs a XPages roadmap OR a definitive statement that it's not strategic and a path to the other development options. I know they are working on this - I have been involved in some of the conversations. But something specific needs to happen here.

Second, HCL needs to figure out how the collaboration ecosystem it now owns competes in the Office365 and GSuite environment. I know that there are plenty of customers outside the US who don't want to use a cloud-based collaboration platform, but in the US, it's a large part of the equation. The sheer numbers of customers who migrated to Office365 is astounding. Yes, there are a lot of Notes & Domino (and even XPages) applications still out there. But HCL needs a strategy on how to compete with the sheer weight that is Office365. And I don't just mean email. I mean SharePoint Online, Flow, PowerApps, PowerBI, OneDrive, Teams and everything else that comes with it. HCL has the pieces, but they need to get them all working together seamlessly and with a easy to use, admin, and configure package in the cloud. But most importantly - how about enabling the HCL components to work with Office365 better? First of all, make it easy to connect Domino data to Flow, the CDS and PowerBI. Second, enable Domino apps to work inside Microsoft Teams with the proper extension points. Third, make Connections work smoothly within the Office365 world, again with Teams enablement and integration with SharePoint. And Last - make all of the HCL collaboration tools work with Office365 Exchange email as well as Domino mail does.

I am excited about the HCL stewardship of the IBM software, including Notes and Domino and Connections. I am also eager to help our customers navigate the changes and make the best decisions for their business going forward. Those won't always align, but the future is bright for all involved. See everyone at the Factory Tour.

4 Responses to “HCL Software, Day One”

  1. 1) Ben Langhinrichs says:

    Very well put, John. I think #7 may be a challenge and may take a little longer, but it is very necessary. I wish the Office365 integration didn't matter as much as it does, but playing well in that space is critical. I think HCL should try to find ways it can play better in parts of that space than Microsoft does. Similarly, I think HCL needs to find ways to both integrate with and challenge Salesforce so it does not encroach further from that side.

  2. 2) Ben Langhinrichs says:

    I almost forgot to mention that there is another huge issue HCL has to deal with quickly. They need to get an updated version of the Notes C API toolkit out and avaialable, and make it clear to the ISV community that they will be supported. One of the early keys to Notes success was strong support for APIs to allow third party products to fill gaps Lotus and then IBM could not possibly all fill. HCL can't do this alone, but they'll have to if they don't support ISVs. This is personal to me, but honestly I need it less than some other ISVs because of how much of what I do isn't changing rapidly. We need a third party ecosystem, and HCL hasn't yet shown it can support that. They have to step up.

  3. 3) John Head says:

    @Ben - agreed. The SF competition is big, especially with a LOT of former IBMers there and them doing things like buying Quip (Hi Alan). Also, the API stuff is something I should have mentioned. Might I suggest you blog on that directly? Your voice will have far more weight than mine here.

  4. 4) Ben Langhinrichs says:

    You have a point. I wrote a post about it. Thanks.

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