I saw a note a couple weeks ago marking the 15th anniversary of Lotus Notes going on sale. Now for most of you, that
mean absolutely nothing. To those of us who were systems integrators back then, it was a big deal. To my company
MicroSolutions, it was HUGE deal. It also marks, what I think was one of the greatest missed opportunities in the
history of personal computing.
Lotus Notes should have been the front end and backend for the internet. It should have been the first
WebServer. It should have been the first browser. It obviously wasnt.
It was the first collaborative computing application that could allow people around the world to share information.
Touch informatin one time, make it available to everyone. Unfortunately, it was priced as if it were a
proprietary mainframe application from an era when closed systems were considered a good idea. Prices started at
Even at that price, it was an amazing application that changed the way my and our customers businesses worked. It
made us all dramatically more productive, and accelerated the acceptance of multimedia and email into corporate
America. It set the precedent of connecting companies electronically with their customers.
Below, is an article that I wrote for Computer Reseller News. From 1992 through 1995, when AudioNet was really
kicking in and I didnt have the time, I wrote a weekly article for them. This is the one I wrote about Notes. I thought
i would bring it back in commeration of its birthday. Below the article, I also added my “resume” from back then. Talk
about a blast from the past, but its funny to look at now. So enjoy the laugh !
Why You Should Be Selling Lotus Notes.
When did you decide to sell Local Area Networks ? Why ? Was it in 1983 or 1984, and you were
convinced that LANs could be of value to your customers ? Or did you wait until 1988 because
your customers didn’t start asking you about them until then. Or was it 1989 because you had no
choice, it was the only way to make any margin dollars on a sale ?
The dates will be different for most, but the point will remain the same for all; either you had
the vision, or you followed the pack. Those with vision recognized the value of LANs to their
customers and made the investment to learn ,understand, then master and sell the technology. The rest were dragged in.
Some by customers, others by vendor requirements for authorizations, the rest probably out of desperation .
In my experience, the strongest competition I faced was from those with vision, the early
adopters. Not only did they have a long list of references, and were financially stable, but
because they knew the base technology well, they were easily able to adapt to new enhancements and operating systems.
This enabled them to compete in new arenas of were margins were strongest, and competition was at a minimum. Places
were there was plenty of business for the few resellers able to provide the technology.
What does this have to do with Lotus Notes ? LANs were the first way a company could share
peripherals, and to a lesser extent, share data. Lotus Notes is the first application that
allows those users to collaborate.
Where other applications provide quantitative information such as numbers, dates, times, Notes
allow users to collaborate and provide qualitative information. Groupware and forms routing
applications allow for emulation of the way a company has always done business. Lotus
Notes helps companies to reinvent themselves and develop a competitive advantage.
If you have the chance to talk to a company that has fully implemented Notes, do it. The impact
is phenomenal. Without exception I have seen success stories. New ways of doing business. Links
to customers. Applications developed in hours. Reduced layers of management. Michael Dell in
the New York Times said that he used Notes instead of holding meetings. Compaq is using it to
communicate internally and with customers. Intel is using it in dozens of ways, and its Chairman
Andy Grove has gone on record as saying that Collaboration software , beginning with Lotus
Notes is the way of the future.
I’m not trying to sell you on Notes, I’ll leave that to Lotus. The critical point is that Notes is
the first of a genre of software that fosters collaboration. It will not be the last. Those
resellers that make the investment to learn the software, and more importantly use the software
internally , will find themselves in position to make sales and significant margins TODAY.
Those that succeed with it, will be the leaders in selling a software technology that in 1990’s
will surpass the impact that LANs had in the 1980’s.
Those of you who would like to discuss this column, your ideas, feel free to email me on CompuServe at
In 1982 I founded MicroSolutions Inc. in Dallas, Texas. MicroSolutions was a Systems
Integrator that specialized in providing objective solutions to business problems. Our mission
was to improve the productivity and profitability of each of our customers.
We began as a systems house, developing database applications, and accounting
systems. In 1983 we began our course into the Systems Integration market by becoming one of
Novell’s first Netware resellers. In 1984, we sold our first LAN, and by 1990 we had sold
well over 500 networks, ranging in size from 2 to more than 1,000 users, and from not only
Novell, but also, 3Com, IBM, Banyan, Applleand Sun.
Among our strengths were :
– Our ability to be objective with our customers. Our analysts were trained in all
leading Network Operating Systems and were able to recommend the best solution rather
than the most popular.
– Our Investment in Leading Edge Technology
We made significant investments in technology so our customers wouldnt have to. While our
competitors waited for their customers to ask for a given technology, we made the effort
to learn and demonstrate them so that when they became viable, we were ready to support
– Our dedication to our Customers.
More than 70% of our business was repeat business. We tried to keep our customers for
life. We also invested in technology to improve our ability to support them. We were
early adopters of online support systems such as Carbon Copy in the mid-1980’s, and
Lotus Notes and CompuServe in the late 1980’s.
Among our projects and accomplishments are :
Developed an EDI application that automatically routed shipping questions and requests
from Neimans Shipping Department to the UPS data center. This application reduced
package tracing time from several days to several hours.
In 1989, MicroSolutions installed what was at that time the largest Netware for
Macintosh installation, more than 150 Macs on two Netware servers. We knew it was the
largest , because its complexity required that the orginal developers of the code,
Dayna Systems come to the client site and recompile modifications that enabled the
server to handle the required number of workstations. These modifications were later
added to the release version.
MicroSolutions has been recognized as the primary Network Support Organization for
MEPUS since 1990. We have been responsible for their Banyan and IBM Lan Server
installations supporting thousands for workstations around the country.
In 1988, Developed an imaging system that recorded images of jewelry and integrated
them into a purchase order request system. This allowed the buyers of the organization
to view jewelry as they were defining purchase orders, and dramatically reduced the
multi-million dollar samples inventory required, as well as the time to complete a
All of this allowed MicroSolutions to become a $25mm company in 1990. Among the
accolades we received were to be named to the Inc 500 three years in a row, ranking as high as #
39, the Lan Magazine Lan 100, ranking as high as # 19, and we recognized in the trade press as a
leader in the industry many times.
In July of 1990, I sold the company to CompuServe Inc, a subsidiary of H&R Block. It
has since been renamed CompuServe Systems Integration Group.
Lotus Notes Resume
In October of 1989, I saw Lotus Notes for the first time at Comdex. The potential of
this software struck me immediately. Where software in the past allowed individuals to
automate tasks, Notes allowed organizations to collaborate. Where software in the past
processed quantitative information, Notes handled qualitative information.
The value to MicroSolutions customers would be immense, so I wrote a letter to Lotus
senior management asking for the opportunity to become a VAR. At the time, Notes sold
only by Lotus directly, and really had not been marketed to more than a few select
I visited Lotus in November of 1989 and attempted to sell the Notes team on our value as
part of their Strategic Alliance Program. Because of our extensive networking
expertise in a variety of network operating systems, and our ability to test the product,
we became a beta test site.
Our first step was to install Notes at MicroSolutions in early 1990, and begin our work
as a beta site. We not only used the product internally, with well over 50 users, but
also developed quite a few applications in it. We began experimenting on ourselves. We
held brainstorming sessions on Notes, reduced the number of meetings we held, implemented
a Service Dispatch and Tracking System, a Technical Document Management Systems, a
Service Request System and much more, all within the first 6 months.
From a technical standpoint, we were very active with Lotus in enabling Notes to run on
Banyan networks. Initially, Lotus did not want to support Banyan because of Banyan’s
limited netbios support. Because of our experience with both Notes and Banyan, we were
able to design enhancements to Banyan’s NDIS driver, and contract Banyan to make the
modifications required to allow Notes to run on Banyan. This change led to
MicroSolutions signing up MCI as Lotus’ first Banyan based Notes customer. Since
then, Banyan has become such a popular platform for Notes, Lotus modified Notes so
that Banyan is the only native protocol supported.
In February of 1991, MicroSolutions become one of Lotus’ first VARs. Since then we
have sold Notes to an every expanding lists of clients, including The Thomas Group,
Mobil, Johnson & Johnson, Chevron, Coopers & Lybrand, Maxus Energy, Michaels
Stores, Young Presidents Organization and many more.
Among the Notes services that we have provided are:
– Application Design and Development
– API Programming Services
– Implementation Planning Services
– On Line Support
– Customer Interface Applications