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Perhaps an omen... Is it time to retool the skill set?

Bill Malchisky  April 30 2011 09:30:00 PM
Feels good to get back to writing for myself again. Lots of work the past six weeks with Lotus Education and THE VIEW journal, plus corporate tax season. All combined, they consumed my schedule for any writing here. Happy to have some time again. During the window away, I noticed what might be a trend in recruiting projects. I typically use job site postings as a barometer in establishing market tolerance for consulting opportunities in areas of interest to me. Has worked well the past 14 years.

On the development side, I am receiving a significant number of requests for Domino development, with decent rates attached. Overall this is great. As I no longer code outside of my own needs, these positions are better served for someone else; but good to be considered regardless.

On the administration side, I have been receiving Notes to Exchange project requests in much higher numbers. Is this an omen? Ever since I started to work with Lotus Notes in 1993, I loved the product and all that it could do. As such, I have been a strong loyal advocate of Notes and Domino for over a decade. In fact, I have made it a policy to eschew any Notes to Exchange projects, instead opting for Notes upgrades, architecture, and migration projects from non-Notes environments to Notes. I have been offered, many lucrative contracts over the years to the contrary and even an executive slot at a consulting firm that decided to work more on the Microsoft side by actively moving businesses to Microsoft Exchange. Although flattered, in each case I tactfully declined.

What I find curious this month is that firms are offering rates to move companies from Notes to Exchange at double the bill rate I could get as Notes Admin or engineer performing an upgrade or migration to Notes. Usually, the rates have been comparable all-around. For me---like many in the consulting field---business has been slow the past two years, and I have also seen an increase in clients either questioning or not paying their bills. Three instances occurred in the previous 12 month window: more than the past eight year aggregate.

The business climate is in a state of flux lacking a clear direction one way or another. Much uncertainty exists domestically, causing firms to seek stability and safety in whatever means necessary. Smaller firms now appear as expendable to larger firms, and corporate taxes are increasing in many states. All combined, businesses are on-edge for several reasons. One great aspect that helped provide some certainty for my Lotus customers was the Lotus Knows campaign. My Lotus clients liked it a lot. As it was slated for an 18 month to 24 month duration and received significant praise from the community...oddly, it died-off in less than a year. On this, I can only offer conjecture. In April 2010 one client with whom I spoke mentioned how thrilled the firm was to be on Notes and loved the marketing campaign witnessed in their city. The company wanted to upgrade later in 2010 or early 2011. I tweeted the success of this with the "lotusknows" hashtag. To my surprise, in March 2011 the same client thought of leaving Lotus Notes. I had to reassure said client of their investment plus the costs for migrating.

Back to the primary topic... in terms of business opportunities. the market appears to be changing. Firms are staying with Notes apps, but moving away from Lotus products. (You might see a different trend from your perspective.) I wish this perceived trend would change for the better, as I find it difficult to assist a firm with moving to a product that will cost them more to administer and upgrade than Lotus Notes. Worse to me is suggesting a product that restricts hardware and operating system choices; this can hardly be considered open and innovative. Yet, people seem to be moving in droves. Lotus is releasing new versions of Notes and Domino, plus additional products under the brand. They are being improved all the time through fix packs, critical fixes, quality support and development. Additionally IBM Lotus is actively seeking customer input -- like a recent session at VCU. Great components of a long-range strategy, from my perspective.

Overall, the Lotus marketplace state is creating a conundrum for me. Slow business previously with the glimmer of anemic growth this year, passion to move businesses forward with Lotus, changing product perceptions: it is difficult. Few enterprise software products experienced the run that Notes has enjoyed and continues to do so. Where to go from here with the business, to ensure profitability throughout 2011 is a challenge. I remain loyal to the brand that gave me a livelihood for so many years, and associations with so many wonderful business colleagues along the way. Perhaps I am over thinking this as a whole. Several BPs do a significant amount of Microsoft work. To that point, do I start moving companies that request it, from Lotus to Microsoft?

Perplexing decision...
Comments

1Henning Heinz  5/1/11 3:20:01 AM  Perhaps an omen... Is it time to retool the skill set?

This normally is a decision nobody can make for you. Broadening your skill sets with migration experience never is a bad idea.

But if loyalty is a problem for you and you ignore the fact that IBM themselves are doing Notes to Exchange migrations then I expect there will be work for some years to come.

I normally like migration work. You get new hardware / infrastructure, a fresh budget and the possibility to change some things that never got fixed in the old environment (this has nothing to do with Notes and Domino in general).

2Flemming Riis  5/1/11 12:35:36 PM  Perhaps an omen... Is it time to retool the skill set?

well most of us uses a majority of our time desiging around single point of failures.

adding or expanding a skill set would prevent a single point on failure over time.

3Len Berg  5/1/11 8:48:13 PM  Perhaps an omen... Is it time to retool the skill set?

I have noticed the same trend and am also considering developing skills for migrating infrastructures off of Notes/Domino. I think MS has won the marketing campaign!

4Mike Wissinger  5/2/11 8:42:33 AM  Perhaps an omen... Is it time to retool the skill set?

Its hard to turn down work, especially at double the normal bill rate. If you have a hand in the migration, you can at least rest assured the client won't be fed misinformation about Notes & Domino. You'll also be able to make contacts that could come in handy should they decide to migrate back later on.

I've helped out on migrations to Exchange and learned stuff by doing so that has been very useful in other migrations from Exchange to Domino.

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