Lotus announces it will restructure

Lotus Development is being restructured, with the bulk of the reorganisation due to occur this quarter, a company official confirmed last week.

Details of the reorganisation were not provided, and won't be until the company's annual US user conference, Lotusphere, the week of January 14, according to Mary Rose Greenough, director of worldwide public relations for the US-based software maker.

The company management team decided that because of "evolving market needs", and to "enhance performance" and meet customer demand, Lotus should be restructured, she said. The bulk of the changes will occur this quarter.

News of the restructuring was provided to Lotus employees worldwide in an e-mail last week from company chief executive officer and president Al Zollar, according to sources close to the company. Zollar is a long-time employee of IBM, which owns Lotus.

Zollar took over the Lotus helm a year ago on February 1, when Jeffrey Papows resigned. Zollar's first major public appearance after being named for the job was at Lotusphere 2000, a few weeks before he took charge.

In a speech, Zollar then tried to assure Lotusphere attendees that the company wasn't about to drastically change under his leadership. "I want to answer that [question] for what I hope will be the last time with a simple but resounding, 'No, it isn't'," he said.

But speculation has been rampant since then that Lotus would be absorbed fully into IBM and lose its brand identity.

"Lotus will continue to have dedicated sales development, marketing and service in support of the Lotus business and brand," Greenough said last week. She emphasised that that remark was the most important aspect of what the company had to say right now and that the Lotus brand will be preserved.

Apparently Lotus isn't going to say much more for a while. The e-mail Zollar sent to employees is being kept internal and details of the restructuring won't be provided until Lotusphere.

"Al will address this issue, I'm sure" at Lotusphere, Greenough said.

The company's top executive usually handles the show's opening keynote address, but Zollar will also discuss the matter during a news conference with reporters on January 16, Greenough said, adding, "that will be topic number one".

IBM acquired Lotus in 1995 and largely had a hands-off approach to its operation. But industry observers started to notice a couple of years ago that approach was changing, with much more emphasis being placed on Lotus as an IBM company.

Fanning the flames was news that IBM and Lotus had agreed to jointly quicken the integration pace between IBM WebSphere and Lotus Domino.

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