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Opinion: Lotus' executive shuffle makes perfect sense

Don't be surprised by the timing of Al Zollar's departure or IBM's choice for a replacement. According to expert Scott Lemieux, the reasons for the change are abundantly clear.

Scott Lemieux

There is nothing curious about IBM's timing on replacing Al Zollar with a new chief at Lotus. Like many loyal followers of a particular technology platform or strategy, the Lotus community of customers and partners is a sensitive group. Having been closely involved with Lotus since 1993, I was also once well planted into this very group. Consider the reaction if this was initially announced at Lotusphere or, worse yet, sometime shortly after the conference ended? If the news was not announced or leaked now it would hit like a bombshell in Orlando. If it was announced following the conference then we would all be wondering why IBM was "hiding" the news from us.

Ambuj Goyal, formerly the general manager of IBM Solutions and Strategy, is now taking over. He'll complete IBM's mission to weld Domino and WebSphere together to continue growing market share in the Web application server market, as well as the messaging and collaboration space. IBM has rarely made mistakes when appointing someone to its top-level positions. Just consider the challenge Zollar faced in easing the pain and disparity between the Lotus and IBM cultures as Lotus became truly another division of IBM. Given Goyal's experience and success so far with WebSphere, we can all expect to see the convergence between Domino and WebSphere continue -- probably at an accelerated pace.

This is a good time to remind you of IBM software leader John Thompson and the fumbled attempt to communicate how DB2 would become the data store for Domino. You now probably remember the call-to-arms reaction from customers who cried "No way, never!" -- even if they already ran DB2 somewhere in the server room. This integration strategy is and has been on the proverbial "IT wall" for quite a while. Why do you think there had been such an emphasis on Lotus' Domino Enterprise Connection Services (DECS) and Lotus Enterprise Integrator's Virtual Documents and Virtual Views that shipped with Domino 6? For IBM, tight integration of its entire software product suite is its anticipated key to success. It's a pretty safe bet that Ambuj Goyal will not drop the ball when he starts making announcements about IBM's continued and forthcoming product integration strategy. After all, that is the skill set he brings to Lotus Software.

Furthermore, IBM's product integration strategy really should not be a surprise to anyone. When I worked in Lotus' Architected Solutions Group in 1996, which from a technology perspective seems like two lifetimes ago, our managing director casually said, "Everyone in this group needs to learn Java." This was not something either IBM or Lotus had etched in stone, but it was very clear to the 80 people in my group where things were headed. Ambuj Goyal will most likely not be carrying a tablet and chisel, but we should all realize what his role and responsibility will be at Lotus: to propel further sales of Domino and WebSphere by leveraging the strengths of both to create an unbeatable Web application server! For all of us who are fans of Lotus Software, and or Lotus software, we should wish him luck and hope he is successful. I know I'm hoping that some additional lifeblood will be pumped into Domino's veins. Aren't you?

Scott Lemieux is president of Stone Pond Consulting, which specializes in providing integrated solutions for the Domino platform and offers an XML import tool that converts XML data into Notes documents. Lemieux has been working in computer science since 1985. He has 10 years' experience with Domino and Notes technology, including a three-year stint working at Lotus.

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