At the recent HCL Factory Tour in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, USA, there were a number of large roadmap presentations followed by smaller, more focused presentations covering specific topics and products. Slides from all these should be forthcoming soon. But woven through these presentations were some key concepts that both reveal how HCL perceives the software landscape and suggest how the various products will develop under HCL's ownership. Some are explicit, while others are a little more subtle. Obviously, these are my interpretations, some backed up by fairly explicit statements by HCL, others more of an intuitive leap.
One key concept which is more aspirational and long term is the concept of Unification. While the near term goals are to get each product updated, polished, and competitive, the goal of unified interfaces or interoperability is not fully mapped out yet, but it is a goal. The importance for this is to foresee where overlap between products is likely to be either standardized or eliminated. Having multiple ways to do the same thing may be necessary in the near term, but once HCL gets over the hurdles of the next year or so, there is going to be a sharp focus on how to get the most out of the products with the least conflict and overlap. so, watch for that. There was a commitment to the idea that it should be more seamless and coherent working between the different products. One way that unification is impacting current decisions is an effort to unify the code base for cloud/on prem offerings, and similarly to unify as much as possible the client/mobile/web code while customizing the specific experiences. As an early prediction, there were definite rumbles about a rebranding of all the products, not the piecemeal HCL blue-washing seen so far. HCL was openly asking whether it would bother customers to lose the Notes/Domino names entirely.
A more solid near term concept to watch is Containerization, mostly obviously with the use of Docker containers to run Notes/Domino and other software products. When seen this way, containerization is mostly a way of virtualizing installs and spinning up instances, but the deeper concept is that products and components of products will be contained and handled as separate services. HCL is fairly explicit about moving toward a concept of micro-services (more about that a bit further down), but their direction also seems to imply a direction where different products could almost be defined as macro-services. While micro-services are an increasingly popular way to break down tasks efficiently. macro-services could also be thought of as various products playing nicely with each other.
Another concept that is somewhat aspirational but also important in the near term is Standards-based. There is a recognition that IBM often talked the talk, but didn't always walk the walk. Standards allow for micro-services and macro-services to play well with others, a key concept itself. This allows third party micro-services that aren't HCL-owned to work within that environment, but also to allow HCL micro and macro-services to work within other systems by other major vendors. Focusing on standards is risky and means giving up some control and some product lock-in. But it also allows HCL and its customers to pivot as conditions change. A clear case of where you will see this is in the cloud. IBM had a huge stake in owning the cloud, but HCL is winding down its current cloud offerings, and focusing on cloud offerings that can be hosted by a number of different private and public clouds. This offers customers an opportunity to meet specific regional needs or shop around for better prices. HCL is left with less control, but they are confident enough to accept that, and know the opportunities presented are worth that loss of control.
The focus on standards also means further embracing development by those who may not know Domino, but will be empowered to use a NERD/DERN stack as easily as a MEAN stack, and generally to use development methodologies and technologies that have emerged as standards. This perforce means a move away from reliance on XPages, but it doesn't mean a move away from traditional LotusScript and formula language for mid-code developers.
Which brings us to another key development concept HCL has talked about a lot, which is the embrace of low-code development. One purpose is to reintroduce citizen developers scared away by the complexity of Domino designer or steered away by the licensing that only installed Designer on some desktops. A critical, secondary purpose is to give companies a way to bring unregulated Excel applications into a more regulated and empowered development environment. This is particularly key in Europe, because GDPR and other regulations require far tighter control over personal data than can be exerted over Excel spreadsheets. There was a very overt appeal to this with a LEAP demonstration showing how easily an Excel spreadsheet could be converted to a Notes application by a business user. A great business opportunity for business partners might be figuring out the next steps possible after that import. While the first wave will be simple one-to-one imports, there are some obvious benefits to being in a Notes environment that those business users aren't likely to recognize for themselves.
One final concept that is less concrete but worth noting is that HCL seems to be recognizing the power of Experiences. In the consumer world, the idea of experiences is often told in terms of why Starbucks can sell coffee at far higher prices than the local mini-mart, and the idea of selling the experience rather than just the product has flourished. But in the corporate business software world, that idea is growing more slowly. Salesforce seems to moving in the same direction, which is why you get things like the Lightning Experience. HCL talks a lot about experiences, both in terms of the Digital Experience product but also in terms of how the micro-services work together and how LEAP brings people into the development experience. For ISVs and partners, I'd start thinking about how your products and services can be crafted, or at least framed, as part of the experience. My prediction is that this concept will become extremely important in timeframe right after V11 releases, and will encompass Sametime in a strong way. Look for unification and experiences to drive a far more user-friendly UI powered by Domino underneath, even if none of those names are still used.
I'll admit it, I'm starting to get excited.
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Tags: HCL Lotus Notes Domino Sametime Digital Experience