I hear the "I couldn't find a Lotus BP in my area"  at least once a month and for the last few weeks I've been giving serious thought as to why. I actually think the answer is complex and I can't really do it justice in a single post, but hopefully this will provides food for thought.

Prologue

Over the last 5 years I been lucky enough to be part of a team that has built a reasonably successful Lotus-focused business. As with most Lotus BP's when we started out, we were not a dog turd on IBM's shoes until 4 years in. There is a reason for that, but that is not for a public post. After much work, 14 hour days and gnashing of teeth hoping we'd be able to pay the mortgage we've, at least in my mind, "arrived".

Prior to 2005 I worked for on the of the bigger Lotus consulting shops in the SE USA, the now defunct Eagle Technology Consultants. I started there in 1999 and there were literally a plethora of Lotus BP's in Atlanta. At least 6-9 I can think of even now. Now I can think of 3, two of which are multi-national conglomerates, and my company. So in the space of a decade the number of BP's in the Greater Atlanta area that I can rattle off has decreased by 50-75%. Why?

I also think this somehow plays into the "No Notes jobs" fever going around right now. Who do you think hires Lotus peeps? Lotus BP's and customers.

The Bigger Problem

There is no single reason for this rather sad state of affairs. There are many. And I'm pretty sure you'll add some more in the comments section.

1) The IBM web site

I remember when Lisa started at the company back in 2005. She was tasked with, and has done an incredible job of, building the IBM relationship. We sat down and went to the "Locate an IBM Business Partner" area on the IBM site and entered a search criteria of Atlanta, GA within 25 miles and selected Lotus as the technology. Of the top 10 (at the time) 6 of them had disconnected numbers. I can only imagine what it must be like being a customer trying to find an IBM sanctioned Lotus expert.

Even today, the same search brings back 34 results. 34? Hum.....OK, let test. The top one returned is a company called "PeopleTrain". I tried their phone number, disconnected. OK, next one, "Emtec". I went to their website and not a single Lotus related item out there. Nada. Dick! Then Softchoice, Ho-hum, only one of the largest re-sellers of Microsoft technologies in NA, and (thanks to LinkedIn)  the place most people go to work for after Softchoice? MS . Now you know how that customer phone call will go, right? Rounding out the top 5 is an IBM hardware vendor with no Lotus skills. How many more calls is this customer (or potential customer) going to make?

Mr Customer, you are "shit out of luck" on finding an IBM sanctioned BP that will be able to answer any questions you should have. It is the equivalent of telling the customer not to bother. Call MS, call Booble. *shakes head*

IBM you need to clean up the partner page. You need to start making mock calls into your "Premier" BP's as potential customers and see where the conversation goes. Prepare to be surprised and angered. I would love to know how many migrations are kicked off by talking to the wrong BP.......I know of a few.



2)  The Walmart effect - reverse it and support a "real" Lotus BP

If all you really care about is price, use SendMail. My value to a customer is provided at various levels:
  • I'll make sure you are licensed correctly either up or down (we saved one customer over $20,000 on stuff they didn't need)
  • I can get you what you actually need, as opposed to making some "sales quota"
  • I am you advocate with IBM
  • I can absolutely make your stuff work or work better. On any platform. Period.
  • You read this blog, download my presentations and white papers, listen to This Week In Lotus and watch Tips In Two

All of the above is a massive time and education investment. As a customer, I respect your decision to purchase from CDW, Softchoice, Agilysis  or some other corporation (be aware a puppy dies each time you do), but don't be surprised that when you need expert help, it is not there. You are effectively voting with your money and that is why "You can't find a Lotus BP in my area (worth a crap)". If Mr Customer continues to purchase or re-new Lotus related products from the Walmart's in the software business then eventually, the skilled BP's will move elsewhere. I guess to make up for the loss of revenue I'll need to raise my services rates.

Mr Customer, support a real Lotus BP with your purchases and renewals.



3) The IBM renewals process

By far the most irritating part of being an IBM BP is that IBM insists on elbowing their way into the renewal. Get this, if you come to STS for, I dunno, let's say a new 500 seat Domino install, we'll we fulfill both the services (as we are experts) and licenses on the deal. In fact, most of the time it is STS that created this opportunity, directly from the ground up. You know what happens when the renewal is due on year 2? IBM send the "new" customer an invoice for the renewal a whole 30 days before we can even get a price. My customer is now being invoiced for stuff I sold directly from IBM. How f'd up is that? I guess to make up for the loss of revenue I'll need to raise my services rates.

That's right, a customer we developed, from the ground up, is promptly stolen by IBM. Symantec send us a nice little spreadsheet each quarter with our up and coming renewals. IBM just steals them. Trust me IBM, it is because of STS, and not because of IBM, that my customer is using your software.

IBM you need to stop stealing the renewals. Every piece of revenue you take from partners makes then look elsewhere.


Epilogue


When I started this post, there were 9 reasons. On reflection the final 6 were just re-iterations of 1-3. Basically IBM and Mr Customer are both, in part, responsible for the issue of "I couldn't find a Lotus BP in my area".

Until you both change, don't be surprised if you have even further deterioration in the next decade. Just saying.
Darren Duke   |   July 7 2010 05:25:16 AM   |    lotus    |  
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Comments (35)

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1 - Stuart McIntyre    http://blog.collaborationmatters.com    07/07/2010 7:29:52 AM

Wow Darren, bang on the money, sir...

A few points:

IBM you need to clean up the partner page. You need to start making mock calls into your "Premier" BP's

And don't confuse "Premier" with large! Most of the factors used to calculate Premier and Advanced BPs are all about scale - numbers of employees, numbers of certs, volume of licenses. That all plays into the hangs of the big multi-vendor resellers, not those partners that live or die by their Lotus businesses. There is no way that Collaboration Matters will be a Premier partner any time soon, but I'm willing to be we do more to sustain Lotus technologyin the UK than any of the large license-shifting players. Theere are many more folks like us that dont get the support of IBM.

Mr Customer, support a real Lotus BP with your purchases and renewals.

You are so right. One thing worth noting is that your local loyal Lotus BP can always offer the same pricing as IBM itself, so if IBM sells you on a "drop your trousers" deal come end of a quarter, ask them if you can push it through your local BP. That way you will get the best price, and the best support for your organisation.

IBM you need to stop stealing the renewals. Every piece of revenue you take from partners makes then look elsewhere.

Absolutely right, darren. First they dropped the margin on renewals, then created a renewal team in the major geographies, then started sending out the invoices. All these moves have further diminished the partner base. This needs to be changed ASAP.

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2 - Henning Heinz       07/07/2010 7:32:45 AM

You are aware that IBM never confirmed anything like a deterioration? IBM only had one message over the years:

Revenues up, customers up, licenses up, overall Lotus business up since 2004, making this a 6 year period of constant growth.

I do not know what is wrong and what is right but if IBM's version is true then it will be a tough job to change anything because it is not broken for them.

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3 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    07/07/2010 8:08:04 AM

@1, Stuart I had actually been thinking about the partner levels too. It's almost like it is still structured like a hardware company, when in fact IBM are mostly a software and services company in terms of revenue and profit.

I really think they need to have tiers (Premier, Advanced and Member) inside of each brand (Lotus, Tivoli, etc) and associate partners that way. I know controlled distribution and Business Partner Vitality is supposed to help there, but it doesn't. Not one bit.

As for the margin changes it caused a few four letter words to comne out of my mouth too. They actually gave use a bigger renewal margin (still smaller than the average tip you'd leave a waiter), but then promptly re-allocated all the customers to another band that had less margin. WTF? Is this process designed by MS and Google? Just to piss off the partners and force them to move elsewhere?

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4 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    07/07/2010 8:15:09 AM

@2, as someone way smarter than me said today, "If things were going well Lotus Knows would not have happened".

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5 - Nick Halliwell    http://www.comware.net    07/07/2010 9:07:26 AM

I support you 100%. I have been on about the Partner website to my Local IBM (Thailand), Its a terrible place to dump a potential customer, or anyone come to that.

Also the Renewals situation. I have complained in Thailand and AP all not no avail. I have even complain to Ed Brill and for the 1st time, I got a less than satisfactory response.

There is a BP / IBM partner dialogue channel is there not. Cant we get it raised there?

The situation is stupid here. We have all the problems that you mention, then we have a currency and tax problem. The Invoice comes from IBM Singapore in Sing $. We then have to convert to Thai Baht and add a 15% tax to it.

So when the Customer see our Quote, he thinks we are trying to fiddle. Then we have to go through a massive story as to Why and then get IBM Thailand to confirm it. That is not easy.

We like you generate the sales from nothing and it Pi**** me off a lot that IBM end up stealing MY CUSTOMER.

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6 - LongLiveLotus       07/07/2010 9:20:19 AM

...point them at your partner web page, they ring one and get "Lotus whaaattt???" - you need micro$not sharep*ss, I'll be be with you tomorrow. BTW, do you know it's free????!!!!"....

basic business processes IBM - get your act together - Quickly!

awesome, just awesome...

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7 - Rob Novak    http://www.lotusrockstar.com    07/07/2010 9:33:45 AM

Good post, Darren, and timely as well. I've not paid much mind to the IBM website as I know it's not reliable - but it's good to point out for customers. Customers - read the bottom: "* These items have been self-proclaimed by the partner. IBM has not verified the information and IBM is not responsible for the correctness of the information."

And, I don't do a lot of local work at all. Heck I have way more business (and an employee...) in Atlanta than anywhere near Kansas City!

I searched within 25 miles of my office, with an additional criteria of Lotus Software. 12 results, of which I know 6 are defunct. Of the remaining 6, only two have current skills and services. One is us, one is a solo consultant I've known for some time who is at the Member level (no requirements or fees, just join - it's how most of us started). The four "Premiers" that show up have no Lotus skills and at least two are cold-calling sales sweatshops - I've been to them. One is a former Informix-only shop as they (Informix) had a large presence in KC.

Two of the results in a wider search (leaving Lotus out) are customers, a little trick some companies still play to gain access to development code and squeeze the entire margin out of the license sale. If you can get or hire the skillset and set up a "division" whose only customer is internal, and qualify as a VAR, you can sell your own company software and zero out the margins - and pay for the employee with the savings.

The partner program is not ideal. Stealing renewals - which Lisa recently called the "tip jar" - impacts us slightly because while it is not profitable as a main business line, it's a nice way to keep communications open and help clients figure out ways to save money.

IBM's problems are systemic in this area. Their internal churn produces new partner-facing employees all the time, all with good intentions, but limited by budget, scope, and relevance of what they can do. The minute you have a two year relationship with a program, product, or development manager, they're gone. To another job, or out of one.

I won't even get into direct competition for services...a topic for an upcoming partner council call I believe.

About renewals, they send out renewal quotes -- with the tiny print that says you can order through a partner -- because, as you and I discovered, their network of partners is itself in constant churn and they have no reliable way of making sure a partner still exists, is able to resell, etc. Partner reps (a mythical beast from medieval times) could do this, but I haven't seen one in 8 years. There are partner enablement folks, and I'm lucky to have a good relationship there, but that is usually very focused on a particular topic, product line or ISV issue.

A partner ecosystem has to have a win-win-win construct that serves the vendor, partner and customer. It has never been perfect with IBM and has a long way to go.

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8 - Bill    http://www.billbuchan.com    07/07/2010 10:07:01 AM

Nice one - congrats on saying out loud what has been shouted at the IBM BP Program for years.

Two years ago, 40+ of us partners got together with IBM at Lotusphere and put these points across.

Nothing has happened since.

---* Bill

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9 - Peter Presnell    http://www.yellowverse.com    07/07/2010 10:15:08 AM

Its been a while now since I worked as a Business Partner but you story does remind me a lot of my own experience. My company developed knowledge management products, and yet the only time I ever got leads from IBM it was always along the line "could I send somebody out to take a look at their IBM PC that didn't work the way it was supposed to". It was frustrating as I did not have the skills to help them and I knew they would not be happy when I told them I could not help them. It was a lose-lose-lose for the person needing help, my company, and IBM. I had hoped things had improved since then.

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10 - Pete McPhedran    http://www.corefusion.com    07/07/2010 10:53:18 AM

Well said Darren, I have been asking about the renewals for over 5 years. The usual response from IBM is along the lines of: "You should have a better relationship with your customer so that you quote them before we do" and "We only send the invoice when there has been no activity"

All of which is bull.

IBM sends the notices to my customers 2 and sometimes 3 months in advance of the renewal date. If IBM is able to manage the number of customers they have, as a result of us, then they can surely manage the fraction of partners that bring these customers.

Here's an idea, send the renewal notice to the partner that sold the license, you have that information and if the partner hasn't updated their info, then feel free to contact the customer directly 30 days later if there has been no activity. You are IBM for cripes sakes! You have the technology to do that, we've seen it. Actually, as I write this, I recall that the Foundations guys do a good job of renewals, they contact me first, I wonder how long that will last?

We are a hosting company, we aren't that interested in selling licenses in the first place and then when we do, they steal the renewal. I have gone horse telling IBMers how great their competitions' hosting programs are. Then they pull Lotus Live on us. But as @7 Rob Novak said, that's for another post/call...

I hope this thread gets some eye balls at IBM, I'm tired of experiencing it, yet alone stating it.

--Pete

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11 - Dale Johnson    http://www.jconsult.com    07/07/2010 11:06:04 AM

Been there done that, Lotus/IBM was doing this in the cc:Mail days. they wanted you to do the work, but wanted all the profit and if they could make an extra cent in anyway, they would dump you by the roadside.

I also hear the same thing from other IBM resellers/BPs. Make very good friends in IBM or become road kill at some point.

They will never change, DO NOT put your whole business in their charge. Make sure you have ways of making money that are not based on them or you will do what msot every consultant in their charge has done, gone out of business.

Dale Johnson.... The last cc:Mail consultant (Still in business doing something completly different)

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12 - Lotus Partner       07/07/2010 11:26:57 AM

good post, the IBM website needs work. But among other things, the primary reason you cant find a Lotus Partner in your area is that most are going out of business. Its a shrinking market and If IBM can't make the Lotus brand work, a partner isnt going to be able to make it successful either. WebSphere Portal was moved to the Lotus brand to give it CPR, and it worked for a while, but it seems that run is over. Look for some big shakeups coming in the Lotus brand. Maybe an intra-brand merger in the next few years? the Lotus brand cant sustain these sales for much longer.

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13 - Bill Malchisky Jr.    http://www.BillMal.com    07/07/2010 12:09:09 PM

Nailed it. And I would add on the licensing, that some of the quotes I've seen were just rubber-stamped from previous years and were wrong. I then had to inform the customer that they have been under buying licensing and to be legit, they would have to pay thousands from their budget this year.

Lotus BPs understand the needs of clients far better than the Wal-mart type firms, or even IBM themselves. We are the ones who create many of the opportunities, find new value-added initiatives, and save opportunities because we have the local relationship.

IBM states they love their partners and that greater than 75% (conservative estimate) of business comes from partners...so why perturb or compete with them?

And as @8 mentioned, I expect little to change either...partly because IBM sees nothing wrong with how things are going--therein lies the true source of the problem.

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14 - Nathan T. Freeman    http://nathan.lotus911.com    07/07/2010 12:10:37 PM

{ http://www-2000.ibm.com/partnerworld/pwhome.nsf/weblook/pat_sw_lt_lotusknows.html }

"Due to the Lotus Knows campaign, this is the best time to be a Lotus partner in 10 years! We are looking forward to strong growth in 2010."

— Darren Duke, Technical Lead, Simplified Technology Solutions, Inc.

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15 - John Head    http://www.johndavidhead.com    07/07/2010 12:18:48 PM

Sigh ... not at Darren or the other commenters ... good Post Darren, but this is not IBM specific either. I see this with every company we are part of their partner program in various levels.

Put an anonymous comment by "Lotus Partner" claiming for the doom and gloom of the brand? Are we really at the point where people can't put their name against their thoughts? Geesh.

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16 - Craig Wiseman    http://www.wiseman.La/cpw    07/07/2010 12:26:02 PM

@14

The issues reported here do not contradict Mr. Duke's quote.

If he'd said "least worst" instead of "best", I don't imagine that IBM would have quoted him.

There are profound, systemic, issues within IBM - both in the treatment of partners and in the "sales and marketing" (sic) of Lotus Notes & Domino.

I really don't see them being addressed, because it works ok for IBM.

It would take someone pretty high up the food chain to see that it could work FAR better done other ways.

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17 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    07/07/2010 12:51:18 PM

@14, Nathan (and as pointed out by @16) I don't see these statements as contradictions. It is the best time to be a Lotus BP in the last 10 years, but not a whole lot of other, non-Lotus BP's are showing up to the party (all the MS partners coming over for Foundations notwithstanding). I firmly believe any environment, be it software platforms, automobiles, etc need a vibrant and active partner community. Right now I don't think IBM Lotus (or any other brand for that matter) has a growing eco-system of qualified, professional, expert partners. Why not and where did all the partners go?

Maybe they went out of business solely because they were crap (and deservedly so if that were the case), maybe they went to something else thinking the grass was greener (which as @15 points out it usually is not), maybe it is the shear number of ways IBM makes it difficult (the term "systemic" has been used in the comments quite a bit). Whatever the "reason", how do we get "good" partners in the community and/or keep the current "good" partners in place, making money? As usual IBM had more leverage on this than the partners as do paying customers. We just have substantially more skin in the game than either.

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18 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    07/07/2010 1:23:37 PM

@15, John I don't see every other company we partner with doing it this way. Symantec (recent voicemail spamming events notwithstanding) are a probably the best to work with as a partner, VMware too (although they are about to jump the shark a-la RIM I fear). The point is if you treat your partners like shit, don't be surprised if (a) the partners who remain are shitty or (b) there are no partners left. As they say cream floats to the top, but so do some turds.

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19 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    07/07/2010 1:34:56 PM

I get why, it would be very easy for the hand that feeds us to stop...

--------------------------------------------------

 

I cannot tell you how many times my phone rings because I was referred to a company. When I ask about the BP pages on ibm.com, every customer had no idea that they were there. Much like you, after the last one, I did a search in my area ([actual town redacted] somewhere Midwest USA). It was as pathetic as your search.  

But this goes back to my main problem - the IBM website is so overwhelming, customers have no idea where to start. So, most simply give up. We, in the Community, come from a position of knowledge. We know where to look (or how to start to look), we know that PlanetLotus will probably help in some fashion, and we know the people to ping when things get really bad.  

The normal customer has no clue.  

I can tell you of two customers of mine that renewed their licenses with IBM only to discover that I could have saved them money. They absolutey abhor working with IBM now. Try cancelling a renewal and getting your money back. That is not fun.  

And lead generation from IBM? The only leads I have ever received was from the old Lotus Foundations people. Now that IBM has totally absorbed them, I get nothing. I am used to nothing from the IBM reps and Business Partner people, so this is "business as usual" for IBM.  

I am so glad that I am not the only one that has a similar experience with IBM. Unfortunately, I have no answers.

The really funny thing was that a year ago, on my way back from the customer who couldn't find any BP's in the [redacted] area and called me, I actually thought about blogging it. But, I never wrote it down, so I didn't have a reminder. When I showed up, their comment was "there are no Lotus people in our area." It was at that point that I realized that a normal customer has no idea how to find help. What this company did was make calls to all of the IT people they used, past and present, until one of them mentioned me. I drove nearly 2 hours to see them.  

I am certain that this happens all the time. But how to fix it? There's the real question. Is it up to the BP to canvasse an area? IBM? If it's the BP, how do we get a list of all Lotus customers, past and present? If it's IBM, they need to hire more people. This is a very difficult question.

--------------------------------------------------

DD - I asked to post this for two reasons:

1) "The normal customer has no clue". Indeed. I can only imagine how many minutes it would take be before I migrated forever. Why is this not on the front page of the IBM site?

2) Lead generation. This was one of the 6 points I'd actually dropped, both to make the post more readable and to reduce the size. Somewhere deep in the IBM bowels there is a tool called the "Lead pass generation tool" (I believe that's the name). It analyzes all types of partner activity then promptly assigns the lead to a "screened" partner. I'd be surprised if any non-Portal Lotus BP has ever received a lead this way. The truth is we do our own lead gen, which further infuriates me when the renewal is stolen from me

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20 - Nathan T. Freeman    http://nathan.lotus911.com    07/07/2010 1:39:50 PM

@17 - I wasn't criticizing your point. I just thought it was a funny juxtaposition.

Not being involved in license sales EVER, I have no input to offer on your actual points. :-)

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21 - Gregg Eldred    http://www.ns-tech.com/blog/geldred.nsf    07/07/2010 2:23:37 PM

The past few months have proven very interesting in the Lotus Community. This just continues the same theme, but focusing on a different area.

First, @16. What is up with you? Your comments lately (here and other places) have me in stitches. I probably could attribute it to the crying that occurs when you head to the beach, but, damn, you are on a roll.

What Darren has posted is what I have witnessed. My problem is that I have no solution to offer. All I can offer is additional criticism with no possible resolutions and I don't like that. What I can say is that some people in the community have been shown to be remarkably prescient.

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22 - Richard Moy    http://www.dominointerface.com    07/07/2010 3:18:57 PM

Darren,

Your point in this blog is well taken. Unfortunately, we have experienced all these issues including IBM trying to take away the renewals, IBM trying to take the deal away from us. We got it even worst when IBM comes out with a competing product and tells us that it a fair and competitive market. Yea right. It is hard to compete when IBM knows all the customers who are buying that their product and pushing it at every event.

The IBM web sites are so massive that it is hard to address the needs of partners and small businesses.

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23 - John Head    http://www.johndavidhead.com    07/07/2010 3:24:47 PM

@19 Darren, PSC is a non-Portal Lotus BP and we get leads from the system. I think it is more a Premier vs Advanced issue or a personal relationship with the region's IBM Partner reps vs the products. Maybe something we should talk about on a BPAC call

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24 - Keith Brooks    http://www.vanessabrooks.com    07/07/2010 8:51:42 PM

Lisa and I and others recently discussed some of these points and came to the conclusion that unless you are a premier or advanced partner, until the new RAGS deal, you didn't see any leads.

Now under RAGS we are supposed to see leads BUT if your local sales rep or whatever IBM calls the SSR or regional person does not want to work with you, you are SOL.

There was also a mandate a few months back that any deal valued under 50K(I may be wrong with the number) MUST go to a BP. We await any of these deals too.

But as I posted a few weeks ago, we get more leads from the other IBM pillars and we aren't even certified(yet) to all of them. Why? Because those reps of the other pillars need local BPs because they have so few sales/tech people inside now(at least in our area).

As to the renewals, that does cause issues and most clients let me know when they get them as we warned them about them previously.

There have been MANY discussions over the years about the partner lookup, in fact if you read your email today from IBM there is, a new partner lookup...but ONLY inside Partnerworld.

Don't think it is any better updated.

And for the record, we have 100's of BPs listed for South Florida and only a few of us are Lotus brand, a few hardware and the rest like the above answers, dead, no phone, website down etc..

Good post although I'd imagine a few people would have suggested it be posted internally. :-P

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25 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    07/08/2010 2:28:02 AM

@7 Rob, our Partner Rep is fantastic (and not at all mythical, except in her exploits for us). It did take us 2 years and a "churn" to find out who it was, but she is one of the best things to happened to us. Looking back there were things I would have done differently to have addressed that issue earlier.....maybe I need to start an IBM New BP Boot Camp? Competitive was one of the 6 items I dropped of be brevity (sic), but is a valid point nonetheless. I think there is some correlation between IBM morphing into a true services company when IBM-GS (Global Services) was split out to the ISSx (ISSL, ISST, etc) model and the "strange" disappearance of quality Lotus BP's. Also worth a notable mention is the Workplace era, although we will never truly know the impact of that "debacle".

@10 Pete, apparently your idea is what is "supposed" to happen according to IBM who contacted me after the post. Obviously something is seriously amiss. The disconnect seems to be worldwide too, as there are comments on this very blog from far and wide. I'm guessing at some point I'll have an update on that.

@12, really? If all the partners that are part of the community stopped doing IBM Lotus, IBM would hardly notice. The cash cow (for now) will keep rolling. See @16 as to why.

@16 Craig, you hit it. "I really don't see them being addressed, because it works ok for IBM"

@23 John, yes I think this is a BPAC topic. Lead-pass is non-existent from an internal IBM system standpoint. Several other notable BP's have also emailed me that they also have this situation.

@24 Keith, we have been working behind the scenes with various IBM sources for 2 years on this issue (at least items 1 and 3). In reality no one gives a flying rats arse as (a) they have no power to address it, or (b) why address it at all (see @14). As Rob suggests, you start to make headway and then, ka-poof, like a genii your contact disappears into another role.

@All, I just re-read my post and it maybe a little "waaaah, me makes no money" or "I'm the little fish that cleans the big shark's teeth". If that's what it sounds like that was not the intent, although fixing 2 of the 3 issues would make me a happy camper. As I said in a response to Nathan (in @17) I really brought this whole thing up because I believe a vibrant and successful business partner eco-system is essential to the success (and therefore failure) of ANY PLATFORM. Right now, at least in Lotus, although I suspect other brands too, it's in a bit of a piss-poor state. That state is not necessarily a new thing, but it ain't a good thing either.

The word "systemic" is used in the comments a whole lot.........if that isn't sounding at least the smallest of tiny, tiny alarm bells within the belly of the shark then nothing will.

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26 - Craig Wiseman    http://www.wiseman.la/cpw    07/08/2010 6:18:26 AM

@21

The best way to say it that I think I've reached "Acceptance"

{ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stages_of_grief }

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27 - Lisa Duke    http://www.simplified-tech.com    07/08/2010 7:31:54 AM

With regards to leads, I've always said I don't expect IBM to pass me one single lead. STS is my company, and prospecting for new business is my job.

However, if IBM are giving out Lotus leads in the Southeast and the Carolinas, I do expect to be near the top of a very short list of businesses able to successfully progress those deals. That list should be made up of people with full time, permanent, dedicated, educated Lotus sales reps, technical sales reps, and people who can do the installation.

And those companies should be founding and supporting their local user groups, blogging and podcasting, and helping to educate their clients like we do. Again, we don't do the free stuff because we want to get love from IBM - it's one of our core values of service, knowledge, and education. We just really believe being of service, being knowledgeable about the product, and educating our clients and communities is the right way to do business. But having done it, it would be cool to get some love. Personally, I'm holding out for an award.

There were some exceptions taken to Softchoice being on Darren's list above (via Twitter), so to clarify, there are some individuals inside Softchoice who are doing their best to meet this criteria. Softchoice as a corporation does not. I am pulling for those people, because if we could get the world's largest Microsoft reseller turning SharePoint deals into Lotus deals (rather than the other way around) that would help the entire community. Until then, I think Darren's point is valid.

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28 - Nathan T. Freeman    http://nathan.lotus911.com    07/08/2010 9:03:51 AM

To reiterate, I'm not involved in license sales and have zero interaction with IBM reps, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of anything said here.

But there is one interesting aspect to me. "This won't ever change because it works for IBM." If having unsuccessful channel relationships works to IBM's satisfaction, it's because what satisfies them is insufficiently ambitious. As long as they continue to accept revenue growth in Lotus as if they were selling hardware, this is going to be a problem.

So perhaps rather than fighting individual battles about individual aspects of the BP program and renewals process, the partner council should just be asking for a giant increase in IBM's goals for Lotus products. If there's 6 years of 10% growth, ask for a year of 20% growth. That's what a channel is FOR, isn't it? To accelerate growth by expanding new opportunities?

The one thing I do know about the sales process is that licenses have to be ordered through a distributor, which is about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Why IBM needs a middleman to issue someone the right to use something they download from ibm.com is utterly beyond me. But if they really need to cannibalize partners for margin, then maybe they should start by eliminating useless middlemen who bring zero value to the process. (Unless they already have and I just didn't know about it, which is quite possible.)

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29 - Frank Paolino    http://Http://www.notesappstore.com    07/08/2010 10:41:41 AM

Darren,

Reliance on IBM as the only source to list your company is not ideal. Sure they should have a catalog, but BPs like you and me (maysoft.com) need an independent presence. That is why I created the Notes App Store.

STS is listed there:

Http://Www.notesappstore.com/appstore.nsf/productid/85lkke?opendocument

I think both are needed: an IBM offering and a BP / ISV / reseller catalog that serves our specific needs.

I don't think they compete - they serve different needs. Which is why I built it and continue to grow it to make sure it is very easy for a customer to find my company or yours.

It would be great if IBM looked at it this way and linked to it...there must be 20 sharepoint sites and all of them indirectly help Microsoft by exposing the vendors that support the main product offering.

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30 - Craig Wiseman    http://www.wiseman.La/cpw    07/08/2010 12:28:51 PM

@28

I think what's wrong with your view is that I don't think IBM (from IBM's perspective) has "unsuccessful channel relationships".

I think that from IBM's perspective, their relationships meet the goals and expectations that IBM has.

BPs, OTH, may perceive them as "unsuccessful".

And that's the problem.

"Resulting in success; assuring, or promotive of, success; accomplishing what was proposed; having the desired effect; prosperous; fortunate; happy"

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31 - Nathan T. Freeman    http://nathan.lotus911.com    07/08/2010 2:17:03 PM

"...from IBM's perspective, their relationships meet the goals and expectations that IBM has."

Exactly why IBM needs to have more ambitious goals when it comes to software. WAY more ambitious.

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32 - Charles Robinson    http://www.cubert.net    07/09/2010 3:19:02 PM

When I was a customer we bought our initial Notes licenses in 1999 from a BP. They were not local but they came out on site and did training and we were very happy. The next year when our renewal came due the BP was out of business. I got in touch with the trainer, who recommended another BP. A year later they, too, were gone. I continued this pattern for four years before I finally gave up and did renewals through IBM directly.

Every year I would go through the BP Directory and spend a couple of hours trying to track down someone to simply renew my licenses. In the vast majority of cases either the number didn't work, the BP no longer sold Lotus licenses, or the BP didn't have a relationship with IBM. In a few cases the BP said they didn't want to deal with the hassle unless I had some other projects I could give them.

I don't have an answer, either, but I can attest that from the customer side of the equation it's an awful experience. If IBM can't maintain their BP directories any better they shouldn't have them. It's not helping anyone.

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33 - Darren Duke    http://blog.darrenduke.net    07/10/2010 11:17:31 AM

@32, Charles, alas I fear your story is not dissimilar to many customers trying to locate a Lotus business partner. Either they have moved on, been acquired by another company or were so bad they eventually bit the dust.

I do think you are right, if IBM can't maintain the "Locate a partner site" then it needs to be removed.

IBM has done a lot to make sure "only qualified" partners can sell licenses but we'll see how long it is before they issue dispensations to the larger, mini-IBM one stop shops. Sadly they seem to have gone full bore into "controlled distribution" without any impetus on the "how will customers find these 'qualified' partners".

For those that don't know, "controlled distribution" is the mechanism to ensure partners are qualified to sell, implement and support a particular "stack" within a brand. "Controlled distribution" is not the name now, as it has changed 3 or 4 time in the last 12 months, but you get the idea.

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34 - Lisa Duke    http://www.simplified-tech.com    07/16/2010 11:36:03 AM

Just a quick update - IBM have stated they are working issue 1 (partner listings) & 3 (renewal stealing).

We will continue to follow up and let you know if the issues are resolved or not.

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35 - Craig Wiseman    http://www.wiseman.La/cpw    07/19/2010 12:26:41 PM

I hate to be all negative here, but to my (not-complete) knowledge, IBM's been working the partner listing AND renewal stealing issues for at least 5 years.

I truly hope we see a different result this time.