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Our very own Julian Woodward went to Engage.ug, and writes…

My previous trip to Benelux was to Engage in Arnhem in March 2020, just as the pandemic was getting going properly. So it was a delight to be back at Engage, in Amsterdam this time, after a three-year gap and having missed 2022. There were 300 attendees, including about 100 customer organisations.

Some things about Engage haven’t changed. Theo is still a superstar; the community is still awesome; the venue was, as always, splendid and unique; the catering was faultless; the vendors were numerous and enthusiastic; and the session content was varied and informative. What has changed is that the negativity of the dark years, which was already diminishing in 2020, has been entirely dispelled, not least by HCL’s drive and vision for progressing the product portfolio. The absolute underpinning of this portfolio is, as it always has been, Domino. There they continue to press onwards, with a major-release-per-year strategy that ensures that the former neglect can very much be consigned to history: HCL will “repair some of the damage of the past” and “remove business debt”. Both Verse and Nomad will become first-class citizens in the Domino world in the next release (v14 - they’re skipping 13 in order to not scare the superstitious) at the end of 2023, and will no longer require a separate installation step. There’s a lot of focus on Nomad, and it was good to see our friends at The Turtle Partnership getting opening-session coverage for the Nomad iOS work they’ve done with MacLellan. Nomad marches on, and there’s even a promise to start bringing Designer features into Nomad Web in v14. There was a very useful session on some of the technical underpinnings of Nomad - one of the highlights of the learning for me.

Another focus is licensing, both in terms of moving customers to simpler CCB (per user) licences and in terms of ‘Restarting’ dormant customers and getting them to move up to current versions. With the new release strategy being more aggressive, so is the end-of-life strategy: versions 9 and 10 will be end-of-life in June 2024, and version 11 won’t be very far behind.

As well as the core products, there was a lot of talk and content about some of the newer products and architectural components. Here we have a slightly IBMesque word soup of product and feature names: HCL Leap, HCL Volt MX, HCL Volt MX Go, HCL Foundry, HCL SafeLinx, VoltScript, Volt Formula, ….. While it’s possible to cut a path through this forest without too much effort, nonetheless it could do with some simplification. If Volt MX Go is such a core focus - as it does seem to be - why on earth does it need a three-part name? All of these are worth keeping an eye on, definitely, and the technical work that’s gone into Volt is genuinely impressive, but a little more clarity would help. Hopefully that will come as these products mature and find their niche in the HCL customer and partner worlds.

All in all, Engage was everything I hoped. A really positive story from HCL, lots of energy from them and in the community, some great learning, and a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

On a sad note, Theo announced that 2024 will be the final Engage to be organised by himself and Hilde. I wouldn’t miss it for the world - see you in Antwerp - and I’m sure he will work hard to make sure that there is a noble successor for his splendid and unique legacy.