Tonight I reread The Difference between "Tools" and "Technologies" by a colleague and personal knowledge management expert, Steve Barth. I first read the article many years ago in the context of my KM research and PKM presentations at KMWORLD. Steve talks about tools and technology from the perspective of the knowledge worker and their different impact on knowledge worker productivity. He describes a phenomenon we have seen with our Notes customers for many years but could not easily explain. But this post is not about our product, it's about a fundamental shift in thinking that happens when the the technologies that people use become personal.

Here's an experiment for you to do or imagine doing - either way will work:

Call 100 end users of vanilla Lotus Notes and and ask them what they think of Lotus Notes.

Now, call 100 Lotus Notes end-users that use eProductivity (or any other personal application for Lotus Notes) and and ask them what they think of Lotus Notes.

Why the dramatic difference in user perspective?

Simple. The people in the second group have made Lotus Notes personal.  I know this to be the case, I've been asking people for several years and the answers are reasonably consistent.

In the first group, Lotus Notes is just a technology, imposed by the organization. They may or may not even see the connection to the work they do. When people see themselves using a technology, something's wrong.

In the second group, Lotus Notes is personal.

Technologies are pushed down by the organization. Tools are picked up by the user.

When technology becomes productive and fun it becomes a tool that people care about. It becomes personal.  

When tools become personal to someone, they care for them and they get passionate about it. Think iPhone.

The solution to making Notes users happy is to find ways to shift their perspective from Notes as an impersonal technology to Notes as personal tool to get things done.

So what can you do with this information? Think about the way that Lotus Notes is deployed and used in your organization. How do you and your users perceive it? Ask yourself what you can do to make Notes personal.

Discussion/Comments (1):

Oelita ( 7/21/2009 3:12:36 AM
Make a Notes user happy, make Notes personal.

Autonomy is important to get a technology becoming personal. In my organization, Lotus Notes was technically kept by IT developpers, and end users couldn't configure their bases easily.

Now, we started using Lotus Quickr, which leaves more freedom to simple users to add folders, create forms, (as well as change colours, add a logo) etc. I asked to avoid IT development not to over-complicate it. We'll do it for specific needs, but mainly, users just need a simple tool to "play" with. To match their basic KM needs without asking for some ressources.

And users are very pleased with that ! Less sophisticated, but personal.

Oelita, France

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