How I got started with Lotus Notes

Ed Brill wrote about Lotus bloggers examining their roots in Lotus Notes. I think its time for me to do so as well.

I think it was end of 1993. We just started a consulting company in the human ressources business offering trainings and organizational development support. Always looking for new business opportunities a manufacturer of modems and fax equipment offered us to start a new business as a reseller of his hardware solutions. Unfortunately we did not manage to sell even one of these high priced fax cards. But there was a large benefit of this adventure: To stay in sync with the manufacturer and its organization we had to install a CRM solution – based on a product we never heard of: Lotus Notes, I think it was the 2.1 release. We never used e-Mail before for business communication, we never used a distributed database which replicated data and application design through a telephone line. All we had was a fax machine and two or three PCs in a Windows 3.1 network with a Microsoft Works application that served as a CRM application. So we were thrilled by that stuff. I started to write my own applications in the evenings, at home, at the sea. I designed all our business processes in Notes. It was easy development of applications, the replication feature allowed us to work offline with all that stuff – it was the time I spent lots of time in Hamburg and not in Berlin. But: At this time we had no idea how to build a business around that – we were still focused on the human resources business.

A good friend, who has ever been a mentor for me and my business, suddenly called me in 1994. He was an executive director at a SIEMENS business unit and his boss just acquired a US company which used Lotus Notes – amongst other use cases as a Kanban system for production control. So as his boss mentioned to introduce Lotus Notes in his business unit my friend remembered me talking about my Lotus Notes experience. His boss was a visionary who wrote lots of the mission critical apps by himself for the VAX system in the past. He realized the power of Notes for his business immediately. So the first meeting was held, the first contract was signed. The rest is history. We founded a new company focused on Lotus Notes with a new partner as managing director, became Lotus business partner. I wrote many of the new applications we sold by myself even though I never had a professional software development education. From day one we had to fight the Microsoft evangelists (and Microsoft Mail was introduced at this time at Siemens!) and we had to learn to fly under the radar – to finally build tons of applications. As our partner and managing director left to take a job opportunity at the Lotus Professional Services organization this job became my main profession.

Today nobody in our company would allow me to write my own apps any more. But I still work every day with Notes, sell services around Notes and could not manage my daily work without Notes.