Tuesday, December 1, 1998

A guide for comparing Notes/Domino and Exchange

INDUSTRY ANALYSIS

By Bart Myers

Clients frequently ask me for my perspective on Microsoft Exchange vs. Lotus Notes and Domino. They ask me which is better, why Lotus would try to compete with Microsoft, if it makes a difference which one they choose, if they're both just email, and lots more questions.

Lotus and Microsoft have positioned these two products as similar competitors. In so doing, in my opinion, Microsoft and Lotus have shot themselves in the foot, because Exchange and Notes are very different products with very different capabilities. Until we are able to convey that message to our clients and understand it ourselves, we are in danger of putting in place solutions that are not effective or appropriate.

The central problem here is that most discussions about these two products examine their similarities and often ignore their many differences. In addition, customers often get the impression that Exchange and Notes are email systems and really little else. As a result customers misunderstand the products and, in many cases, put in place the wrong products for their needs. Understanding the differences between these products is critical to getting past the email dogfight and into real solutions.

The problem in depth

Lotus Notes has always been a confusing product to explain. I've spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to get around this. Explaining Notes is all the more complex when the first image that a customer conjures is email and/or the Exchange comparison. Were you to venture to the Lotus and Microsoft Web sites you might see why. Both sites dedicate quite a few pages to their competition (this is not a bad thing in and of itself) and a great many of these pages dwell on the messaging debate and tend to ignore the major differences (which we'll get to).

Every quarter, studies commissioned by both Microsoft, Lotus, and independent groups, give us a status report on the "battle". This month Exchange outsold Notes or vice-versa by so many seats. These studies further the confusion and serve to continually re-emphasize those few similarities highlighted by the messaging debate.

A vicious cycle ensues. Microsoft publishes one report commenting on their growing lead in the messaging market, the popular press publishes another, Lotus responds and then we're back to the beginning. On and on it goes. Sooner or later the purpose of the debate is lost and it becomes a fight to, well, win -- but win what? Once we lose our focus of providing solutions to our clients and customers and are more interested in strict competition, we aren't winning.