Its time for Novell to get GroupWise on a War Footing.


Once upon a time there was a product called WordPerfect Office. It was DOS based and it contained a basic menuing system and one other very important feature, and that was E-Mail. For those of you how are not intimately familiar with the history of the product here is the Wikipedia entry: Novell GroupWise. Give it a read for some context.

So whats my point... GroupWise is losing the Enterprise E-mail battle on several fronts:

  • Integration: How many times do we ( the people in the trenches selling and supporting it ) have to tell the GW Product Managers that the lack of integration with 3rd party products Is killing GroupWise? We keep hearing about things like SOAP and XML and just all this great stuff, and how SOAP has attracted 3rd parties in supposed droves, yeah?, well show me the droves 'cause I have yet to notice them myself an it is not for lack of looking.

  • GW System Management:Is this just schizophrenia or what? We keep haering that is will be Console One, but maybe parts in iManager or as yet some other unannounced interface. We need to pick ONE that will handle it, do it correctly and will not be full of the problems Console One currently has. Also we need to stop this insane split between config files and NDS, it nees to be one or the other, my choice, use the config files, keep them human readable and just go from there. The new Management Tool should be able to read and parse them wihout fail and also be able to show non-conforming entries. This is not a new thing to do, INETCFG.NLM and FILTCFG.NLM have been doing it for YEARS I think the tech is pretty well worked out, use it.

The biggest problem that I see is that there seem to be two very distinct camps at Novell these days. We have the people who develop for windows who are doing a great job. We have the people who develop for *nix and they to seem to be doing a great job; however, the two of the must be in separate universes or at least galaxies.

The GroupWise Clients are being developed in two very different languages, and that is the problem. One group is using Java, and Java at the desktop / UI level just does not work, sorry all you Java fans but it just does not, its slow, the UI elements are horribly implemented. The other is using C ( I like to call it C-- ) but hey, I am a programmer and I like just plain C or Object Pascal, but that is beside the point.

On one hand we have a GW Client using Native windows components, on the other we have a mashup of Swing, Awt, god alone knows, because I don't and I don't really care, but the thing I really care about is the problems it causes with GW being accepted in mixed OS environments. The Windows Client always leads the Java Client. Why IS that so? I don't know, but it is detrimental to GW's future, this I DO know. What must be done is to seperate the underlying engine from the UI and then build the UI's for each OS that GW wants to compete in. The OSX Native UI is simply stunningly beautiful, Linux's Gnome or KDE interface is solid as is Windows, build to their individual strengths, just do it.

Integration. I have said in replies to Dean Lythgo's blog entries that we must completely and utterly abandon OLE, it was a broken technology before it even hit the street. It has to go and it has to go NOW! If any of you have ever tried to develop to the GW API, you know the pain, you know the frustration. MAPI is over, MAPI is dead, not even MS uses it any more. ALL major 3rd Party vendors that integrate with Outlook / Exchange do with either VBA or .Net, that is the reality, nothing more nothing less. We need the API's to be concrete, with bindings for C, Maybe C and C# ( aka .Net ) and thats it because the rest of them, Java, Python, Perl, yadda yadda yadda, will ALL use those bindings. The API calls MUST be simplified to the point of being able to make single call to insert AND reference a Gw Message Type or Document in the Libraries.

Battles are won in many ways, but at the end of the day, the Army with all of its various Units MUST come under a unified command structure. GroupWise needs a "General Patton". An individual with guts to get out in the field and tell the troops how to fight this battle and kick their butts up the hill if required. That individual must in no uncertain terms give the battle orders and see that they are followed.

In war, and make no mistake, this IS a war for the hearts and minds of Corporate America, Europe and everywhere else, nothing can be taken for granted.


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    Check out the discussion in the NGW List on this blog.

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    Absolutely right
    This has been a problem for years. I've made many comments about ConsoleOne being an "End of life" product, and yet Novell has products that have not even shipped yet which can only be managed by it. That's great news for companies running Vista who need to keep an XP machine to run C1 on because they aren't going to develop it further so it works on Vista or uses Java Runtime 6. You've locked your management platform for your new not yet shipping product to an OS that Microsoft will not even sell you anymore by the time your product ships. Sure there's ways around that with Vista downgrades but what message did you just send out to the world? The message that you can't keep up. That's HUGE. Some people will downplay this and say, well most people don't run Vista, or why do you need Vista. That's a distraction argument from the real issue of not keeping up. They could also run C1 from Linux as an option, but If you have GroupWise on Netware or Windows, that's not a great option to pitch.

    We have ZCM one place, GroupWise in another place, iManager for some things (it was supposed to be all things, remember?), ConsoleOne for others. I can create users in iManager, but then I need to go to ConsoleOne to do the groupwise portion, or i can just skip iManager completely and use C1. I use iManager for configuring iPrint and that's about it.

    Groupwise 7 should have been off of ConsoleOne if they were going to EOL that for a management product. This has been discussed at Brainshare for many years and yet Bonsai is still on C1. Are cell phone numbers part of the system address book yet or do we still have to jump through hoops with schema maps to make it work? I suppose we can blame that one on E-Directory/C1. I mean this is 2008 right? I haven't looked at 8.8 yet, perhaps it's in there, but it didn't work with many of my existing Novell products at the time (another gripe) it was released so we stayed on 8.7.x

    I think the biggest thing that kills GroupWise is the CRM aspect. People are using software like ACT, or SalesLogix, or Goldmine etc. Is there a CRM or two that work with GroupWise well? Yes. Are they CRM's most people have heard of? No, or I can use it if I buy company 3's integration product. So I need to get 3 companies involved to make 2 products work together, or I can just use Outlook. If we're an ACT shop, ACT integrates with Outlook, we're probably going to be going to Outlook. GroupWise and Outlook have similar mail/calendaring functionality. There are some small things that one has that the other doesn't but those things don't override the fact that one product doesn't integrate with a companies mission critical contact management system. We were told the enhanced MAPI in GW 7 was going to solve a lot of that, but I have not found that to be the case.

    GroupWise seems content to play catchup to Outlook. Unfortunately they always seems to be playing catchup to the version that's been out of date for 3 years. The address book was horribly neglected for years. The UI was only slightly tweaked from 6.0 to 6.5. In Bonsai we can add photos to the address book. I don't know anyone who does that even when their e-mail product has that capability. It's a "cute" feature, but I'd rather have a few bugs squashed instead.

    How long did it take to get phone/pda sync to be useable? This is a mission critical corporate function. PDAconnect was thrown out there almost completely unsupported from the day it was released until the day it died. People spent more time fixing duplicate contacts and what not than they benefited from having it. GroupWise Mobile Server works a lot better but support on it doesn't seem to get the same respect that other Novell products do. It also has some glaring issues, such as existing palm (and possibly windows mobile) contacts not being sync'd when you add Intellisync to the device. If I join your company and I have 300 contacts in my phone, I'd like the option to be able to sync those, not be told I have to hand edit each one and save them in order for it to work.

    Novell needs to look at what people need. I know they say they do, and maybe that's a turning point with Bonsai, but it certainly has not been the case in the past, or we would have had functioning phone/pda sync much earlier.

    Here's an example of a feature that I think really added value. Multiple calendars in GW 7. I have a decent percentage of staff here using that feature extensively and it's a godsend. To a lesser degree the ability to have multiple signatures also was a welcome addition.

    I've had requests for e-mail "templates" that have a certain format to them for marketing purposes. Not saving a draft and keeping a copy, but actual templates.

    Another issue is stupid bugs that carry forward from version to version to version. For example:

    If you have a rule that moves an e-mail to a folder, and you delete it via the Notify screen, it doesn't delete. Is that ever going to get fixed? Most of my staff has a rule that keeps internal e-mail in the inbox and puts internet e-mail in an internet folder. The user receives internet spam, they hit delete, and it's still in the internet folder, because it was moved by a rule. I can open it via notify despite it being moved, so Notify knows where it is. It should be able to delete it as well.

    Why do all day appointments automatically default to "free", even overriding your setting before you checked the all day option? I'm happy we finally have an All day option but that "feature" is annoying.

    Groupwise has it's archive function, but the biggest complaint I receive is that you can't see both the archive and live areas at once as you do with Outlook and PST's. Why do I have to take an e-mail out of the archive to reply to it? If you have auto-cleanup rules, and you forget to put it back in, it's going to get nuked if the message is old enough.

    Novell did this before and I think they need to do it again and keep at it: A blog from the developers requesting ideas from users, and then responses as to what the top submitted feature requests/bug fixes are and if Novell is going to act on them. Make it extensive. Not just the top 5 requests, make it the top 50 or so. I pick 50, because the top 5 in Novell's mind may not be the top 5 in other peoples mind. Likewise my top 5 may not be someone elses top 5. We want to know that you're listening and the way to do that is to respond to our requests so we don't think they are going to an inbox that's being emptied without being read. Replying to everyone's e-mails individually is not a good use of time, but gathering a large list and publishing with responses is.

    Do Novell product managers lurk in the Novell support forums? They should. They don't have to reply, let the Sysop's handle that (they do a fantastic job), but just read. You'll see the same things brought up time and time again.

    You started the blog section going, it's time to utilize it. Tap into your customer base and use that communication power to help shape products. We know what we want and we're more than happy to tell you given the chance. Not just for GroupWise but everything else we partner with Novell on.

    I know the GW team is doing a lot of hard work on Bonsai and I know we've had new product managers leading those efforts but from an administrator as well as an end user effort, a lot of us feel that Novell is very unresponsive to our concerns. We complain because we care. At first it's suggestions, then it's constructive criticism, but ultimately after the same things go unaddressed version after version, it's complaints, and deservedly so. We want success for the product and Novell because it brings success to us as as a customer/administrator/user. When you look good, we look good. The better your products work, the more time we get to spend working with them rather than working on them.

    You are probably laying the foundation for the version after Bonsai already (Cedar? Aspen?), now is the time to be getting all of this info. Bonsai is too far along in development for major changes. Updates can be done in service packs, but if there's architectural changes, those would be in the following versions. Novell is all about Teaming lately, lets get the collaboration going between Novell and the customers to benefit everybody.