IBM/Lotus and managers of Notes shops face a big challenge:
There would appear to be a HUGE disconnect between the way that IBM/Lotus markets (or doesn't market?) the Lotus Notes product, the way that managers of enterprises that use Notes roll it out and train (or don't train?) their end users, and the way that end users are actually using (or not using) the product.
All of this has a big impact on end-user perception and satisfaction.
Taking Notes on the issue...
This weekend, David Allen and I recorded a 45 minute podcast with Bruce Elgort, and Thomas Duff on the Taking Notes Podcast. The planned agenda was to talk about David's new book, Making It All Work, my plan to introduce eProductivity at Lotusphere, and the session that David Allen and I will be presenting together at Lotusphere. At least, that was the agenda.
But, that's not what happened...
At about 30 minutes into the podcast, things took a sudden change when the conversation focused on the fact that many people think Notes sucks and they are not afraid to say so. David Allen shared that he hears many people say that Lotus Notes sucks but that he's yet to hear anyone say "I love Lotus Notes." He then asked "Why is that?" The conversation got real interesting, then. (and I thought we were on the podcast to talk about our session at Lotusphere.) This of course begs the question, if most people think Lotus Notes sucks, why has one of the most productive people in the world, David Allen, raved about it and recommend it so much over the past 15 years. David even pointed out that most of the Notes users he speaks with have no clue of the power of the tools they are using.
Clearly there's another story here.
I think the problem is not the product. As I said earlier, the IBM Lotus team has done an outstanding job of listening to customers and improving Lotus Notes. Just look at current releases of Notes. One problem, of course, is that not everyone is using that latest versions. Lotus Notes works so well and they are so good about compatibility that it's easily possible to run a 7 year old version of Notes and be productive. (I admit that I have continued to use Notes 7.03 as it has been the fastest and most productive for me, but this week I will switch to R8 full time.) I think this a perception problem and one IBM/Lotus needs to address with marketing. I think that the change required for a renaissance with Lotus Notes will be to focus on what end-users are DOING with Notes. Come on, We now live in a web 2.0 world - users expect to have a say and they want to take ownership of the tools that they use. Here's a quote from my session description for Lotusphere that says what I think about Lotus Notes and user perception and how that affects productivity: "As long as end-users perceive Lotus Notes as something pushed down from the top, part of the 'system,' the tools won't become personal. When tools become personal (and fun) people will use them and they will become more productive, which leads to more productive workgroups and ultimately more productive organizations." I've proven this to be true, many times over. When I listen to people's concerns and then show them how to address their concerns, most of them go away pleased and pleased to know that the product that they already have on their desk is a powerful one for managing information, communications, and actions. This is the message I try to get across when I talk with people who say they hate Notes or who tell me that Lotus Notes sucks. (This is perhaps a bit self-serving, but I can say that I have not heard these remarks from Lotus Notes users that use eProductivity. I think the reason for this is that our users now see Lotus Notes a personal tool rather than a company tool.)
In any case, I began the day by writing a blog post to announce the Taking Notes podcast but along the way I got passionate about this topic myself.
My notes from this weekend's Taking Notes Podcast (Listen here.)
Introductions... David Allen, Eric Mack Bruce Elgort, and Thomas Duff
Getting Things Done - where did that come from?
Bruce asks, Why does David Allen love Lotus Notes, David?
Lotus Notes is an amazing powerful tool for personal productivity
Lotusphere session: BP304 "Maximizing personal productivity with Lotus Notes"
[Then the conversation took an interesting turn...]
Lotus Notes Sucks! I've yet to hear anyone say "I love Lotus Notes." Why is that?
"I don't want Lotus to crash and burn because their users think that Notes Sucks"
There's a big gap in perception at the user level
How do we SAVE Lotus Notes?
How to get the nonbelievers to understand the power of what they already have on their desktop? Show them
David riffs on managers of companies that have Lotus Notes that are misallocating the resources of their organization.
Bruce asks, David, what would he like to say to Bob Piccione?
Any my favorite quote of this podcast, "Hey Ray, did you give up?"
After you listen to the podcast, I would like to know what you think:
- What do you think that managers need to do?
- What do you think we can do as a community?
- And what do you think IBM/Lotus can do to help change people's perception about Notes?
As I mentioned earlier, this is a post I have spoken publicly about for many years. In fact, I've sort of made it my personal mission to help change people's perception about what Notes can do for them.
Here are some more recent posts that you may find interesting:
08-27-2006 - Ed Brill GeekTD: Why don’t people get Notes? (72 Comments!)
09-08-2006 - Lotus Notes Email vs. Microsoft Outlook
06-30-2007 - What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes
08-29-2008 - Does the world really hate Notes? I don’t think so
12-09-2008 - 7 Things IT Managers Should Know About Lotus Notes
12-15-2008 - David Allen Asks "Why do end users hate Lotus Notes?"
12-15-2008 - Ed Brill on Taking Notes Podcast episode #92
I look forward to the discussion that will surely follow and I will certainly all comments in my preparation for Lotusphere and other writing/speaking engagements. If you plan to attend Lotusphere 2009, I hope that you will come attend our session. I look forward to meeting you.
Update: It's no secret which camp I'm in. If you happen to be in the "I hate Notes" camp and you are still reading post, I invite you to contact me by e-mail. Perhaps I can help you see some things you haven't noticed before.