With good information delivery increasingly seen as essential to a good channels strategy, a number of major vendors have been turning to Lotus Notes as a way to bridge the gap. Compaq and Lotus have close to 100 per cent of their resellers connected through Notes, while other vendors such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard are on the verge of rolling out projects. Digital and Intel both use the product in-house, and Com Tech organises its systems through a Notes-based product called Com Talk. Even Digital is believed to be on the verge of joining the Notes revolution.
For resellers, the benefits appear to be many, with the negatives few. Peter Kazacos, managing director of Kaz Computing, is very happy to have Notes as an information delivery system. "I think it's excellent. We sell a lot of solutions, but Notes is one of the few products that we actually use ourselves. So we've implemented a number of systems in Notes ourselves to assist us in our business. Even if we didn't sell the product we'd still use it," he said.
According to Lotus channels director Gordon Makryllos, the roll out of Notes to the reseller channel is much a case of vendors seeking to gain maximum value from their internal systems. "As those companies use Notes they think, 'Why don't we extend it to our partners and give them a subset view?'. It is natural to extend this to an outside partner. In fact, our research shows that of the Notes customers who have had Notes for more than two years, over 60 per cent have connected a partner, a supplier or a customer," he said. One example is Price Waterhouse, which has made numerous connections to its clients through Notes.
Makryllos says Notes has primarily been used as an information exchange mechanism for such things as e-mail, product updates, or pricing and availability lists. He says that more and more applications are now appearing using such systems as workflow and electronic document exchange.
IBM is rolling Notes out through three different projects. Software partners and networking partners will have access to Notes-based information systems through the BESTeam and NETeam programs respectively, while the company is also connecting up its mid-range partners through a program called Get Connected. According to IBM's national channels sales manager for the Software Business Unit, Julie Yardley, the company hopes to have around 180 of these partners connected, free of charge, via Notes, over the next six months.
Yardley says IBM will also connect another 30 of its BESTeam program partners by the end of the year.
The Compaq component
Compaq is further down the track with its implementation, having signed up almost all of its partners to its Notes program. Sales director Paul Brandling says Compaq Link provides an electronic facility for distributing all of its information to its resellers. "It means that we can e-mail each other, and we have pricing files and so forth. But I think what is perhaps the more exciting thing is all of our product availability and our own order backlogs - they [our partners] have access to it in real time, so they can see the status of their orders and so forth," he said.
Brandling says Compaq Australia's Notes program is one of the most advanced and developed of Compaq's worldwide rollout. "Compaq is also trialling EDI outside of the Notes program with a handful of resellers at the moment," he said.