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.