I've been following with interest several recent blog posts about Microsoft's missteps with the introduction of Vista and with IBM's move to make Lotus Notes Eclipse based. I see valid arguments for why Microsoft or IBM would introduce the products they did and, as a user myself and consultant to clients that use these products, I have my own experiences from which to base an opinion.

When I consider a new tool or an upgrade, what do I look for?

As an eProductivity Specialist - someone that makes a living by showing my clients how to apply Information, Communication, and Action tools and technologies to knowledge work - I get to try all kinds of hardware and software tools. Few of them make it on to my production computer.

Here are some of the questions I ask myself:

1. What will this new tool DO  to my personal productivity?
2. Will this new tool give me a capability that will increase my ability to get things done or to innovate?
3. Will this new tool make my work more enjoyable?

If I see the opportunity for even a reasonable boost in productivity, capability, or fun, I'll often try it.

What is my current desktop work solution?

In case you are curious, here's what I'm currently using to get things done...

Lenovo T60p Wide-screen, 2GB RAM, 160GB Disk.
DELL 30" monitor in landscape mode, connected to the advanced mini-dock
DELL 24" monitor in portrait mode, via StarTech USB2VGA2 adapter
Windows XP, SP3
Lotus Notes 7.03
eProductivity for Lotus Notes - this, and Notes are my core productivity tools.
And, occasionally, Microsoft Office 2003. Mostly, I live in Lotus Notes.

These are the applications at the core of my productivity toolkit, the ones I use daily. (You can see others in the "productivity toolkit" sidebar on my blog.) I have to say that this has been the most reliable and powerful computing system that I have ever experienced. There's probably better and faster out there, but what I'm using simply works.

Sometimes newer isn't better - at least not with early releases.

Recently, I did an upgrade for a client. I had the choice to move him to Notes 8 or keep him on R7. Ultimately, I decided to leave him at R7 for the present. Why?  Because he pays me very well to keep him at the leading edge of productivity. Could R8 have served him well? Possibly, but why change what was already working so well? He already spends most of his day inside of eProductivity for Lotus Notes. Earlier this year we skinned eProductivity to follow the IBM Notes R8 Design protocol so it even looks like R8 (except that it's faster than R8 and will run on R6.5x, R7x, and R8). I suppose the more we build productivity features and functions into eProductivity the greater the value they can get from their existing investment.  Please note that I am excited about Notes R8 and the future that eclipsed-based computing has to offer. I'm just not convinced that there's a compelling reason for most end-users to switch yet.

What do I think of Windows Vista?

We can get this one out of the way quickly. Last year, Lenovo generously sent me a new X61 Tablet PC with Vista preloaded. As a tablet OS, I think Vista is the finest implementation of a Tablet OS I have experienced to date. For all other applications, I "feel" less productive. I have not done any scientific tests but my user perception is that it takes me longer to do the things I used to do on my older XP based machine. Will I buy a Vista-based computer? Not unless it is a Tablet PC. I'll pay extra and downgrade to XP. XP serves me well and lets me focus on my work rather than on my computer.

What do I think about Notes 8?

This has been a little harder for me. I'm excited about what Notes 8 has to offer, but  I'm so focused on productivity that I am very careful when it comes to adding new software, even upgrades, to my production computer. I have tried Notes 8 and even deployed it for clients who were investing in new Notes deployments. For me personally, Notes 8 has slowed me down, and I've had some issues with Eclipse. Did Notes 8 work? Yes. Did it work well? Yes. Was I more productive as a result? Not really, at least not yet. I know the Notes 8 team is doing some wonderful things so I plan to revisit this as each release comes out.

As a creator of productivity software, what lessons have I learned from this?

As the author of eProductivity, I'm always looking for ways to improve the product and to learn from the lessons of others. Here are three simple rules I've learned from studying the successes and failures of various software companies:
1. Always, always consider users needs very carefully (or risk ending up with a Vista)
2. Make sure that when offering a new version that the end user sees the benefit for them. Even if the upgrade is free, do they see a compelling reason to switch?
3. When in doubt about anything, go back and revisit rule #1.

Earlier today, Andrew Pollack had this to say about
what makes Vista so painful and what IBM can learn from it.
1: Nobody was asking for it.
2: It hasn't added much that anyone wanted yet.
3: The new features and functionality are thus far poorly integrated with what came before.
4: To do the same things, users had to buy more expensive stuff
5: For each of reasons 1-4, Apple did a better job -- and sold that message

I agree with Andrew's points and note that for each of his reasons, he provides examples from the user perspective. I encourage you to read his blog.

Ok, enough rambling, it's time for me to get back to work.

Discussion/Comments (7):

Kevin (): 10/7/2008 10:31:48 PM
Will Vista or Notes 8 make me more productive?

ActiveWords? Why not PhraseExpress?

Just a few examples why I prefer it over ActiveWords:

* ActiveWords cost $50. PhraseExpress is FREE for personal use.

* PhraseExpress supports text formatting. ActiveWords doesn't.

* PhraseExpress allows you to re-use the same abbreviation multiple times and then pop up a menu to choose the desired entry

* It is much easier to create new items in PhraseExpress. Highlight text, hit CTRL+ALT+C. Done.

* PhraseExpress includes a full-blown clipboard history manager

* The ActiveWords user interface is very "Windows 98" and quite scattered across multiple windows.

* PhraseExpress has a smaller footprint.

* PhraseExpress can import MS Word Autocorrect entries you already have and use them systemwide.

My 2 cents. ;-)


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 10/8/2008 12:19:54 AM
re: Will Vista or Notes 8 make me more productive?

Hi Kevin, I have a simple answer:

For people that use eProductivity for Lotus Notes, Activewords is fully integrated into Lotus Notes.

Otherwise, I'm sure PhraseExpress is a suitable product.

Thanks for your post.


Jean-Francois Arseneault (http://arseneault.ca): 10/8/2008 6:02:09 AM
Tools vs Methods

I can understand you bias given your work with Lotus Notes. Heck, I work for the company that makes the thing - I DO understand.

At the same time, I find that we often are guilty of focusing on the implementation (tools, OS, apps) vs the guiding principles at the heart of productivity.

Yes, at one point, we need to discuss the tools themselves, but reading your post, I couldn't help but notice the underlying tone that newer isn't better often times (I mostly agree). Still, shouldn't the implementation (eProductivity?) be flexible enough to accommodate changes in its environment (OS, middleware, working styles, etc)?

Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 10/8/2008 10:11:34 AM
Absolutely! re: Tools vs Methods

Hello Jean-Francois,

Yes, the implementation should be flexible, but my driving point - and perhaps I did not make it well -- is that developers must stay focused on the users because there's often a big gap between what the user's want and what the developers, or in this example Microsoft and IBM, may want them to want. To me, the key area of focus needs to be on results accomplished or, in some cases, making the work more pleasant by building in either an element of fun, feedback, or hopefully both. In eProductivity { Link } we have tried to do both. Still, as I pointed out in the post, there's potential for us to get distracted by what we think is cool and not what our customers think is helpful. Thank you for your comment. - Eric

Kevin (): 10/8/2008 1:21:55 PM
Will Vista or Notes 8 make me more productive?

Mmmh, there is no need for PhraseExpress to 'integrate' as it works system-wide. It serves any application running on Windows.


Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 10/8/2008 1:31:28 PM
re: Will Vista or Notes 8 make me more productive?

That may be the case, but my experience with most tools like this is that they can launch Notes just fine, but because Notes is itself a windowed environment, they are unable launch or control specific functionality within Notes. In eProductivity, I had to create hooks inside of Lotus Notes to allow ActiveWords to fully control functions of Notes from anywhere in the system - even when Notes was not running.

You posted your web site - this this your product that you are promoting? Fine by me, just trying to understand context of your post as you raise some good points.

Karsten Lehmann (http://www.mindoo.de): 10/8/2008 3:21:27 PM
Will Vista or Notes 8 make me more productive?

As a solution provider, feel free to MAKE USE of the new features and possibilities that Notes 8/Eclipse has to offer you. If enough solution providers develop products tuned for R8, there will be a demand for customers to upgrade to R8. Someone just has to start this.

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