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Zollar sharpens Lotus' focus

Al Zollar

Six months after taking the reins at Lotus, CEO Al Zollar hopes he's better defined the company as a leader in messaging/collaboration, knowledge management and e-learning. The 23-year IBM veteran also sees Lotus' relationship with Big Blue evolving, as the companies work toward a similar goal. SearchDomino News Editor Jon Panker recently asked Zollar about his early days on the job:

SearchDomino: How would you describe your first few months on the job?

Zollar: In a word, educational. There have been a lot of people to meet and knowledge to digest, but it's been a very satisfying experience.

SearchDomino: On which projects have you been concentrating the majority of your time and energy?

Zollar: The majority of my time has been spent with customers and business partners to understand their changing priorities. More recently, I've begun to spend time with the analysts and press that make up our industry. In addition, a considerable amount of my time has been spent updating our internal structures to best fit Lotus' strategic goals and initiatives. I've created three market-focused strategic business units to ensure that we offer more value to customers than our competitors in the areas of messaging/collaboration, knowledge management and e-learning.

SearchDomino: Do you feel that the direction or focus of Lotus has changed since you took the reins?

Zollar: Our direction has been consistent. We are spending more time refining our messages to the marketplace so the world can know what we distinctly offer. I would add that our focus has been sharpened, particularly with the addition of our strategic business units.

SearchDomino: How would you define the current relationship between IBM and Lotus? Where do you see that relationship going in the future?

Zollar: We have a very strong, healthy relationship that will continue to grow stronger as time goes on and we build upon the many synergies between our operations. It's important to point out that we at Lotus don't view IBM as a separate entity we need to keep at arm's length, which had been the case for the first few years since the merger in 1995. Instead, we understand that at the end of the day, we are all IBMers executing against different, yet complementary goals.

SearchDomino: We hear a lot about Lotus becoming more like IBM. How do you respond to this when you hear it?

Zollar: I smile, and often ask "more like which IBM?" The fact is, every IBM division and subsidiary has differences in its culture and operating style; it's a myth that IBM is this one homogenous organization where we all dress, think and act alike. All members of the IBM family do share one thing, and that is an overriding passion to lead our customers into e-business. In that regard, our role is to help e-businesses leverage the know-how of their employees and partners, and to do so with a style that is unique to Lotus.

Tomorrow, Zollar tells SearchDomino about Lotus' knowledge management push and its efforts to woo Microsoft Exchange users.

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