For those of you who have read Lessons Learned Replacing Lotus: Part 1, I have a small confession to make. I do not really own a yellow 1989 Lotus! I wish I did, as it would have been really cool to turn up to Lotusphere each year in one of those. What I do own is a 2011 Lexus RX 350. Its a really great car, but being six years old now it does have a similar story to tell as a 1989 Lotus. I have tried to keep up with maintenance but even the latest GPS upgrade doesn’t have the street on which I have been living for the past 18 months and yet my iPhone does! I know its past its prime and I need to start looking at what comes next.
Being a technologist I love to stay on top of emerging technologies, especially as they relate to business and applications development. I know that technology is about to become a major disruptor in the car industry. Traditional players such as Ford, GM, and Toyota are under threat from a new batch of companies such as Tesla and Google. hmmm…. Does anyone remember BUNCH (Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR, CDC, and Honeywell) the fabled competitors to IBM in the mainframe market back in the 1970s before the mainframe was challenged by new technology? The long anticipated move from petrol/gasoline to electric vehicles is now upon us. In Irvine CA, where I now live, electric vehicles are everywhere. And what has really begun to emerge much faster than I had anticipated is the self-driving vehicle. Added to that we have the rapid emergence of the connected car. The emergence of companies such as Uber and Lyft is even challenging conventional wisdom about the need to own or lease a dedicated vehicle. Not only the type of car, but the features we look for in a new car are going to change dramatically. Its an important decision for me, not only in providing transportation for me and my family, but also for my job. As a technologist I need to understand up close how these new vehicles are going to transform the way we work. The smartphone has dramatically changed what we look for in applications, and the car may have a similar impact. As a CEO I also need to understand what the opportunities are for our employees to get work done in a self-driving connected electric vehicle while being stuck in the middle of Los Angeles or Atlanta traffic.
So what is my strategy? Having just moved into a new home last year and being in the middle of a major landscaping exercise at the moment I have decided to hold off on buying a new car for a while. My Lexus is still performing well having taken me safely and comfortably from California to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone over the Summer break I feel I can wait a little bit longer. Based upon my research I have a clear understanding of what I am looking for and I figure I am about 1-2 years out from getting what I need, as an early adopter, but at a more reasonable price. I am sure it will be electric and connected. It may not be allowed to drive itself but it will most likely have at least some of the components to support this. I am quite open to the brand, but I am noticing that Tesla seems to be as well placed as anyone and is perhaps the current benchmark if I was to buy today.
As I wait there are still things I can do to prepare for the change that I know lies ahead. I have recently added solar panels to my home and ensured I will have the capacity and space to charge two electric vehicles in my garage overnight. I have also started to invest in home automation to get on-board with that part of the IoT in preparation for connecting my next car. As a company Red Pill Now is already starting to give thought to policies that might apply to smart cars, especially incentive it can offer employees to make themselves more productive when they are driving to/from work or on work-related trips. Each month I commute from Irvine to Atlanta, a six hour commute each way thanks to Delta. I suspect travel on a plane will not be that much different to travel of a self-drive car and so some of the same approaches I am learning to getting work done on trips like this will also apply.
Note: Preparation is important, but it is almost impossible to prepare well in the absence of a strategy.
You knew I was going to get here eventually, right? Yes, the yellow 1989 Lotus that many of us still own and remain quite passionate about is more likely to be Lotus Notes than a Lotus Excel (thanks Dan). Yes, I know its name has been officially changed to IBM Notes, but all of my customers still refer to it as Lotus Notes and so I will too. Lotus Notes is an application development platform that empowered businesses to develop around 20 million applications that automated (often for the first time) a wide array of important (and not so important) business processes. IBM Notes (at least according to IBM) is an “e-mail client”.
There are a lot of similarities between the 1989 Lotus car and Lotus Notes besides their age. Lotus Notes still does the same things now as it did back in 1989, 1999, and 2009. Its just that (especially) over the past 10 years we have seen a lot of changes in application development that are not being applied to Lotus Notes. Not the least of which is the death of thick clients in favor of Web browsers. A new coat of paint or even the addition of an MP3 player in place of that 8-track tape deck is simply not going to be enough. So we have tough choices to make. Keep the old gas-guzzler and hope that it becomes a classic one day or look for something new that the gold-club valet will proudly park at the front for me. i.e. Something that you as a developer, development manager, or CIO would be proud to deliver as solutions to your customers.
In Lessons Learned Replacing Lotus: Part 3 I will outline some of the key questions, strategies, and tactics that should be considered when planning your next steps. These will be based upon my experiences as a developer, development manager, and CEO associated with Lotus Notes over the past 25 years and not so much on my experience as a Lotus car enthusiast.
Lessons Learned Replacing Lotus: Part 2 (The other car)