back to article IBM email fiasco complicates sales deals, is worse than biz is letting on – sources

IBM's email migration misadventure has been worse than the IT titan has let on, current and former staff have told us. Big Blue yesterday acknowledged "some IBM employees are experiencing email service delays," and that the company is using "a variety of alternative communications tools to ensure minimal disruption to our …

  1. FozzyBear

    "a variety of alternative communications tools"

    Does this include dusting off the long forgotten IBM typewriters? and not the electronic ones either. I hope it's the 1940's versions where you had to bash each letter with a hammer

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: "a variety of alternative communications tools"

      Selectrics rock! I have one that works and one I'm trying to fix. They are *completely* mechanical.

      But why stop there? Teletypes! They were used for business for years, until these fancy computers came along. Also completely mechanical (except for the selector magnet driver card). They run over regular telephone lines...


      ...Yep. IBM's hosed.

      1. EricB123

        Re: "a variety of alternative communications tools"

        I wrote a simple program that would cause my laptop to emit a "kerchunk" after each keypress to take me back to the old Teletype days. But without my desk shaking along with the "kerchunk" it just didn't cut it.

      2. shawn.grinter

        Re: "a variety of alternative communications tools"

        Ah the 1052 - those were the days, the best 134 baud money could buy....

        (And yes I actually used one)

  2. Cynicalmark

    Not Surprising

    Considering they got rid of the older experienced staff, keeping the nodding dog yes men they are reaping what they sow. IBM leads the world yet again in failure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Surprising

      Indeed. And I can imagine a phone conversation something like this...

      PHB: Hi Bob, how you doing? It's Ian, your old manager at IBM.

      Bob: Ah yes, the one who laid me off.

      PHB: Erm, yes, err sorry about that. The thing is, we're having a small issue with a migration, and our new hires are having a few, erm, knowledge issues, and we were wondering if you'd like to come back as a contractor for a few weeks to help out. Would you be interested? Please say yes...

      Bob: Sure, I can do that for you. My rate will be £5,000.

      PHB: £5,000 a day? That's a bit steep Bob!

      Bob: No, that's per hour, you snivelling little fuckwit. And I want it written into my contract that I get to call you that as often as I like...

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Not Surprising

        Indeed. I wonder if they have tried to contact their (older and laid off) ex-workers in the hope of getting them to come and fix this issue.

        Serves them right for getting rid of more expensive, older, experienced workforce in favour of unskilled, cheaper greenhorns.

        Because anybody can just google on how to fix a Bloated Goats issue, right?

        A clear case of penny-wise, pound foolish.

        When we migrated away from on-prem Exchange to O365, the two systems was briefly running in parallel while we verified that all user data have migrated successfully, and only then did we pull the plug on the on-prem Exchange.

      2. EricB123

        Re: Not Surprising

        Will you run for president? Or PM if you are a UK guy.

      3. Aussie Doc Bronze badge

        Re: Not Surprising

        Not sure if it's possible to laugh too much at a comment but I did my best.

        Have one on the house for such an accurate statement.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Not Surprising

      I guess a lot of people in Dumbai are running around their offices screaming "the sky is falling"....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not Surprised At All!!!

    All of this happening at the same time as IBM starts using SalesForce solutions for its field personal. I am not surprised that this is hitting the fan and combined with the CSP program that they are running now, you will see a huge downturn in revenue for IBM as a whole. Clients are pissed and looking for other alternatives that are reliable, other than IBM

  4. dboyes

    Bring back PROFS/OfficeVision

    With the VM-based tools, this kind of crap DIDN'T happen.....

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Bring back PROFS/OfficeVision

      I was *very* glad to see the back of PROFS, despite Notes being only half useable at the start. But in those days, there were competent people highly motivated to make stuff work. Nowadays, the "management" believes that you can buy competence wherever it's cheapest by the square metre, and manage it by KPIs. They deserve the result, but it's bad luck on the employees and customers (if they have any of the latter).

    2. jfollows

      Re: Bring back PROFS/OfficeVision

      Yes, but in 1994 when I had a very early laptop, I had to convert my email inbox on PROFS into a single flat file and download it to my laptop (with EBCDIC to ASCII translation of course) to my laptop. I could then read my email and write replies as I travelled, then upload the replies back to PROFS when I got home to send them off ...... it could be done but it was hardly a pleasant process!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bring back PROFS/OfficeVision

      Profs was good, but then they went to that wretched Notes running under an even more wretched OS/2. Notes worked better under Windows 3.1 for Workgroups. I'll never understand why Notes wasn't ditched long ago; it seems to have infested IBM like a virus which is hard to destroy.

      1. JoeCool

        Re: Bring back PROFS/OfficeVision

        Fify ...

        I'll never understand why lotus wasn't ditched long ago. It's a virus organization that only produced bloated non functioning enterprise apps that were all banished to the zombie graveyard.

    4. Losing blueness

      Re: Bring back PROFS/OfficeVision

      Before PROFS or NOSS as HO liked to call it, some of us end-users used TSO for messaging and script document creating. We also had the benefit of being able to browse the PL/1 source code for our applications and advise ADM of code changes needed to fix bugs. Happy days then when everyone pulled together with respect to everyone; those are now distant happy memories.

  5. Yes Me Silver badge


    They scheduled a major email transition to coincide with closing the quarter? That should be a firing offence for both the CIO and the CFO. Incredible. Thank goodness I sold my shares a couple of years ago.

    1. FILE_ID.DIZ Bronze badge

      Re: Unbelievable

      I suspect that they didn't plan for failure. I mean, they spent 18 months planning this out, or six quarters for the financial types.

      Shit. If this was Windows, that's what... three feature updates?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unbelievable

        18 months but keep in mind how slow IBM internal processes are. What IBM does in 18 months, others would do in 3-4. The added months are just for the added layers of bureaucracy and beancounter approval.

        So the question would be, are 3-4 months really enough to plan for such a migration?

        1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

          Re: Unbelievable

          Not here. 4-6 weeks, and I tended to come in pn the low side.

      2. EarthDog

        Re: Unbelievable

        18 m0nths of meetings you mean

    2. gv

      Re: Unbelievable

      Big tech titan screwing up a big tech migration is not a good look.

      1. Nifty Silver badge

        Re: Unbelievable

        Just establishing a credible track record to pick up some lucrative government contracts.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Unbelievable

          I read that just as I took a swig... Comment 1 - Keyboard 0

      2. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Unbelievable

        This is IBM for the last 20 years.

        Why anyone still uses them is a mind boggling.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unbelievable

      Agreed 100%. However, business analysts get too hung up on quarterly results. If a few sales shift by a few days did your company's performance really change by much? Probably not.

      I used to work at a publicly traded manufacturing facility. Their management was focused on month-end numbers. Make your monthly target or catch hell. Result was that at the end of every month, there would be a mad scramble of overtime. After the beginning of the month, there'd be a few days where people would be sent home for lack of work.

      Always seemed to me that saving the overtime and expedite fees would be a good idea. We didn't lose any sales, they'd just occur in a different month.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Worse than Re: Unbelievable

      Oh, it's worse than just "end of quarter". They scheduled it for the last possible date before HCL shuts off the cloud servers that IBM previously relied on.

      So they left themselves with no margin to fail back to the old system, reassess, and take a second run at it, if everything went pear-shaped.

      And of course everything went pear-shaped.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They have Slack access, so not that big of a deal internally...

    As the article points out, IBMers have Slack access, so for internal communications, having e-mail servers a bit flakey is probably not that big of a deal. Probably would not hurt IBM if more of its people shifted some away from doing so much e-mail, kind of a forced learning experience. For a lot of the development areas, a Slack outage would probably have more impact. But sales & service, not-so-good to have these sorts of e-mail problems.

    E-mail (and Chat, including Group Chat like Slack/Microsoft Teams/Sametime/etc.) always seems problematical. I do not think I have run into an e-mail system that did everything I wanted. IBM sold off Notes/Domino to HCL, sounds like parts of these problems have to do with updating to current there. But the alternatives are also somewhat problematical, Microsoft Exchange/Outlook has its own set of difficulties (proprietary aspects, deficiencies on the scheduling/calendar sides, lack of decent migration support, etc.), Google Mail the same (continues to improve and has some nice search stuff, but the surrounding apps are a bit weak), and so forth. I am actually a bit surprised that after all these years that there are not better options, e-mail and chat wise, particularly cross-platform. Google and to a lesser degree Apple, when external/private are factored in, probably have the biggest market share, and the advantage of working with a lot of different clients and so forth, but it all seems a tower of babel.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: They have Slack access, so not that big of a deal internally...

      I am actually a bit surprised that after all these years that there are not better options, e-mail and chat wise, particularly cross-platform.

      There is a better option for an e-mail client (Thunderbird), the problem is more with the mail server part of it.

      1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

        Re: They have Slack access, so not that big of a deal internally...

        thunderbird is awful no matter how many times they change things.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: They have Slack access, so not that big of a deal internally...

        Writing a native mail client is complex - cross-platform even more so - and open source plus web mail killed the market for commercial clients.

        Thunderbird was an attempt - but it was ill-designed to comply with outdated mail setups nobody uses, and it requires a far more complex UI than a web browser - something Mozilla can't deliver, especially with the latest changes made to FIrefox.

        Only Outlook really keeps on because MS need it to sell Exchange. And it's some time its IMAP features have been reduced.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They have Slack access, so not that big of a deal internally...

      Many IBMers will tell you that Slack really does not work well for an organization the size of IBM. It's great for ephemeral chats with small groups or individuals, but if you ever want to find a conversation again more than a couple of days later? Hopeless.

      TBH I like Slack, but it's not remotely a substitute for enterprise email and/or document management.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Slack @ IBM SUCKS (was Re: They have Slack access, so not that big of a deal internally...

      Slack is crap, and especially as IBM has implemented it. Everyone there hates it except the IBMers who have never worked anywhere else and don't know any better...because they have never used anything but Notes/Sametime.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    usually it just works (for the end-user)

    I've seen perhaps six or seven email migrations at different work places, and they have all gone remarkably smoothly for end-users. Never been without email, even for an hour, and never had messages lost. That's included Notes to Exchange, merging local systems into the corporate system after take-overs & reorganisations, moving from on-site to off-site, and moving hosting from one continent to another. Ironically one migration handled by an IBM team without any visible trouble at all . Of course it is a difficult task and probably all sorts of trouble went on in the back-ground, but it is a task that most IT teams are totally on top of and get right - credit to them.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The best email migration is…

    … to not migrate data at all.

    Keep the legacy system around for a period of time, read only, and migrate users to the new solution.

    At a push, maybe migrate contact data.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: The best email migration is…

      That's how I've always done it.

    2. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

      Re: The best email migration is…

      Aside from maintaining legacy hardware and software, it's transforming databases between applications and even between machine architectures. The best migrations, as you say, to not migrate at all. Certainly cheaper given my rates.

    3. Korev Silver badge

      Re: The best email migration is…

      >Keep the legacy system around for a period of time, read only, and migrate users to the new solution.

      That's how my company got rid of Lotus Notes (and moved to O365)

  9. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Notes vs. Exchange

    I've administered both Notes and Exchange, and I would rather set my own dick on fire than manage Notes again, and that's not even factoring in the abortion of a client. I can't help but believe that Notes "lovers" have some form of Stockholm syndrome. Notes is a better application platform, I will grant that much, and it is certainly easier to deal with than SharePoint, but on the email/calendaring front it blows goats.

    Good luck, IBM! My years of refusing to even look at IBM technology are certainly seeming wise!

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Notes vs. Exchange

      As an email server, Notes isn't that bad, but replacing the client with something that actually works (like Thunderbird) is a good idea.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Notes vs. Exchange

      Here's a match...

      Link please. :-)

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Notes vs. Exchange

      Beat me to it. Notes was amazing.... In 1998. I last touched it in 2011. It was obsolete by then.

  10. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    So, let me guess..

    You emailed them for comment, didn't you?

    Come one, you can tell us, we won't laugh (much).


  11. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Manglement Strikes

    This fiasco is what happens when you have manglement not management. Many have migrated emails from one system to another without any issues on numerous occasions. Often this is done when there is a merger or purchase. But with the generally ineptitude at Itsy Bitsy Morons I am not really surprised at something like this.

  12. EarthDog

    Unable to schedule meetings

    Productivity spikes

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Unable to schedule meetings

      Ah I see you've worked with them before!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    can't just rip the bandage off

    Notes server is actually a very sophisticated (for its time back in the late 90s) application server and database. Yes, it also does email. But there are Notes applications and databases that require the fat client and people need the applications to do their jobs. I used to write Notes applications back in the late 90s and it was amazing what it could do at that time. Sure, email could be migrated to some other solution and probably will be in the near future. Actually, surprised that email hasn't been migrated since other internal IBM products like Sametime for chat was abandoned for a non-IBM solution (Slack).

    1. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

      Re: can't just rip the bandage off

      Yep, it reminds me of Enable, an Office app suite with a macro programming language that I used to great effect creating custom application suites.

  14. Robert Grant Silver badge

    The real story

    IBM still using email for POs, contracts and signatures. Absolutely crazy for a business their size.

  15. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    The Revenge of Bloated Goats.

    IBM = Institute of Bolloxed-up eMail

    C'mon guys, get the creative juices flowing!

    1. whileI'mhere

      Incompetence Buggers Migration

  16. spold

    Fire up the mainframe....

    VM/CMS "msg" command! (or vmsg for that matter)...

    or, if you want to tell the responsible fuckwits they are fuckwits without your sender id then "msgnoh"! (msg with no header)

    or, if you wanted to use one of the rexx utilities people wrote that would use msgnoh to translate the characters into 10+ line character high equivalents even better (bigmsg and other variants) to call them a very big fuckwit in very big letters!

    p.s. is there an EBCDIC to morse code utility?

  17. Shred

    Notes was an abomination 20 years ago. In the late 1990s, a company I worked for was taken over and the new owners inflicted Bloated Goats on us. We reverted to hand written sticky notes, because we could write a message on a note, walk downstairs, stick it on the recipient’s monitor and return to our desks in less time than it took to type up the message in Scrotes and send it. What on earth is IBM doing still using it?

    Words cannot explain how much I loathe Lotus Notes… this goes close (Hitler switches to Lotus Notes):

    1. Snark

      I think that video is a little restrained in the real reaction to being told you are going to have to use Lotus Notes!

  18. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Lotus Notes, how do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways

    Lotus Notes Sucks

    Thankfully the last time I had it foisted upon me was 15 years ago.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I know of several big accounts who set up their own email solution using O365 because the clients said Notes/Verse does not have enough security. That should have been enough to kill Notes/Verse ages ago. Part of me thinks this is intentional to have justification to get out of the contract with HCL. I’ve seen clients do this before to GTS contracts.

  20. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

    IBM has been rudderless for years.

    None of the extremely highly paid execs have ever had an idea to actually fix anything. Just like Governments, they just observe events, and call it policy.

    Hardware business going badly? Fix the bad management? Noooo... declare it unfixable and sell it off.

    Now we are Software and Services! But they can't do that so....

    Now we are The Cloud! Only they can't do that either.

    Anybody that hires IBM for anything must have been bribed.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Outlook/Exchange were NOT impacted, IBM's fiasco is exclusive to Domino/Notes...and it continues.

    IBM is the last (and only) significant tech company still using the steaming pile of offal known as Domino/Notes.

    The move is underway, IBM's entire CIO/Executive organization have already been moved to Outlook/Exchange (refusing to eat the dog food) over the last two years, and were not impacted.

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