Every trip I take there are moments of apprehension. I won’t call them fear; it’s not that strong a sentiment. I just say to myself “Well, I wonder how this will turn out.” And this trip had a few of them, the first of which happening at the Düsseldorf train station trying to get a ticket to my final destination in Gelsenkirchen. I got the English version, but there were 2 choices for “Single Adult Ticket” and I pressed one of them, which dumped me into a deeper cave of pages. I think I chose the right ticket but went to pay for it with my credit card but it insisted I needed a pin. My card has a chip; there is no PIN. So, exit. And I kept fumbling for minutes.
I was soon joined by an elderly man who excitedly told me (in English) that I didn’t need a ticket; that he had one for me. He was insistent till I told him my company insisted I buy a ticket. He left. Then a lady, smelling heavily of tobacco smoke, asked me where I was going and pressed the right buttons in milliseconds and I paid with Euro bills I had gotten in London. Ticket! She asked for a Euro or two for her trouble and I obliged and I was on my way.
I arrived at the Maritim Hotel only minutes before being contacted that there was a group going out to eat. I was moderately hungry (traveling east so far you don’t even know what day it is) and I met my host, the wonderful Rudi Knegt (here seen about to eat Nutella on a roll in a vintage T-shirt on the morning I left)
Rudi is “the real deal” – authentic and brimming with energy and enthusiasm. He runs a great conference and I’ll plug it as a very valuable time for anyone who works with Domino. And .. speaks German of course. He’s done it for years with great success, excellent repeat attendance and he continually flows with the product, its developers and most highly skilled business partners and users. It was my joy to meet and talk with several of them at AdminCamp.
Any time I engage with people who use what we build I want to see how it’s really going where they work and in the field in general. I wanted to hear the sentiment of attendees towards our product. At dinner I heard testimony of how much more economical Domino was to operate in an enterprise but also lots of talk about the prejudice against it. It wasn’t quite that people were fighting for their jobs, but they were often fighting to get Domino into consideration when new initiatives were being proposed. Well, some were in fact fighting for their jobs.
The next day, I quickly found myself wishing I knew even a smattering of German. Rudi began addressing the attendees in what I learned later was “Rudish” – his own Dutch/German combination, but of course I had no idea. I just followed the slides (as much as I could – I guess Google translates from pictures now, but the slides went too fast). But I get it; it’s Germany; die leute sprechen Deutsch.
Uffe Sorensen gave the keynote, talking about how HCL is truly turning things around, that it really is a new day for Domino and its users everywhere. I don’t know how people took what he was saying, but certainly I resonated. Suspicion abounded (more on that later) but the business facts are plain – HCL has invested where IBM ceased to.
Gary Rheaume and I spoke on Domino 10, 11 and AppDev pack topics. Sorry if this disappoints but I won’t go into conference content here but will do so in some detail later.
What I really wanted to do was to connect with our faithful customers; those who have stayed with the product through the lean years. More than connect, I wanted to assure them things are different now, not just for business reasons, but because for me, people are why I do what I do. If I can write software that makes people more productive, more powerful and helps their business if feels great. I guess I just want to be a hero.
Therefore as I wrote above I wanted to gather the attitudes and sentiment of people. I was happy to see there was a solid feeling of commitment but also one of reserve and even skepticism. I completely understand it; I have openly state that Domino customers have been neglected, strategically so.
And at this point I need to relate a small story to tell people “we (product development) get it“.
There were lots of projects that went on and products that went by during our time at IBM. At one point, my boss told me of a management meeting where the Director was whipping up his managers, challenging them (direct quote): “Is there anyone who thinks we can’t replace Domino in 2 years?“ No one except my boss dared to raise a hand. The berating he received in front of his peers was probably bad enough for a lawsuit but he didn’t bother. He didn’t have to. 3 years and $2B (my (perhaps conservative) estimate) later, the massive effort proved a dismal failure and Domino went on. One can guess where the funds for that debacle came from. There was true internal tribal animosity towards Domino. Indeed, our own director wanted to get rid of us and our product.
Anyone even idly watching the ICS division knows this didn’t just happen once. Many inside the Domino organization knew about waste and lamented not only at the mistakes but the overall business ethics that left our install base bereft. But at this point of time, and at the Gelsenkirchen AdminCamp, one of my main goals had been to attack any residual division between technical people because both product and application developers need each other. We’ll see going forward but there is evidence that it’s working.
My trip ended with another apprehensive moment when I found I had left an internal light on in my car at the airport, completely running down the battery. I went to the MassPort office at the garage exit and they called one of their service people who was waiting for me when I returned to my car. And home I went.
It pays to push through our apprehensions and fears. Every time.