I just met someone who loves Lotus Notes!

Friday, October 24th, 2008
I've frequently complained that when I meet people who use Lotus Notes, they are often polarized in their extreme like or dislike for Notes. In recent years, it seems that the more outspoken folks are in the latter group.  I've shared that I've found many things in common about this group.

1. Notes thrust upon them by IT or Management with little explanation of why they are using Notes

2. Limited awareness of what Notes can do or even how to use simple features like
       Document Library
       Personal Journal
       Domain Search, Full-Text Index, etc.
       Off-line Access, Replication, etc.

3. Little or no training provided, sometimes only PDF guide

I've also shared that I've been successful - often in just 10-15 minutes - of giving these people enough new information to cause them to walk away understanding a) the value of Notes  to the company and the value of Notes to them, b) what they can do with Notes right away. It's really quite easy and I'm surprised that more companies or even IBM doesn't do this. (It would certainly save their company help desk a lot of grief.)

For many organizations, for whom Notes simply works, there's no rush to upgrade to a newer version. I understand that and I even recommend, sometimes, that clients hold off on upgrades until we can identify a business case for the upgrade. Unlike other software companies that will change file formats so that everyone is forced or annoyed into upgrading sooner or later, Notes does not work that way. There's nothing wrong with using an  older version of Notes as long as you are content with the feature set. As a result, we see a variety of Notes versions out in the workplace.

Sometimes, I've found, that when people say "Notes can't do that" they are referring to their version of Notes , which may not be a current version. As a result, things that they say Notes "can't" do may indeed not be possible in R5 but may be things that have been around in R7 for years. There's a problem in the naming of Lotus Notes. I've been using Lotus Notes since 1992. Since then, the product's been called, well, Lotus Notes. There's little distinction between versions. I stated at the tail end of the R2 days, got serious with R3, and I have used every version since. But it's still called Lotus Notes. From a branding perspective, I think that's a smart move. From a user perspective, I can understand where some of the confusion comes from. When I think of Lotus Notes, I think of the most current version, (or at least R7, which I choose to use for performance reasons). However, when I talk with someone about Lotus Notes, they are thinking about their version, which these days could be anything from R4, R5, R6, R7, or R8. As a result, there's potentially a big disconnect. So now, when someone says "I dislike Notes" I try to determine what version they are on so that I can understand their frame of reference.

OK, back to the title of this post.

Last night, I taught the final night of a business management course on "business driven technology." The course covers the business thinking that needs to drive technology decisions. Over the weeks that I taught, I mentioned from time to time how I organize my projects and actions and personal as well as company information. Naturally, I had reason to mention that I use Lotus Notes. After class, a management student came up to me and told me that she works at a large mortgage lender (that was recently purchased by a major Bank in America) and that she's used Notes for years. Before I could even ask her what she thought of Notes, she said: "I love Lotus Notes." She then went on to tell me about what she does with Notes and how it makes her life easier.

I was so pleased to hear this that I forgot to ask her what version she was using. Unfortunately, due to limited time at the break, I was unable to ask her about whether she was trained or not. I should have asked her what were her reasons that Lotus Notes was so great and what kind of training or support she received from her organization. I'm sure I could have learned a lot. Next time, I'll try to remember to ask...

Meanwhile, I'm excited to learn about Ed Brill's new position as Director, End-User Messaging and Collaboration at IBM Lotus software. I've spoken with Ed many times about the user experience and perception of Notes and how to change it. I know that Ed's even more passionate than myself about wanting people to understand the capabilities of the tools that they use and in his new area of focus on end-user experiences, I'm sure we will see some exciting developments and many more users loving Notes as a result.

Discussion/Comments (1):

Ben (): 11/5/2008 7:29:14 AM
I just met someone who loves Lotus Notes!

You touched briefly on the business case for an upgrade. Can you expand on that? For CEO's looking to understand why they should upgrade to a new version of Lotus Notes, it's tough to justify with hard savings. How can you quantify something like productivity and put a value on it?

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