Now what?

by Volker Weber

A number of things that happened today got me thinking about the future of Notes. Some of them happened at a customer, so I cannot talk about them, but another one came in as an advert with the subject "So You've Decided to Migrate Your Notes Apps to Microsoft - Now What?":

CASAHL ecKnowledge makes it easy to:

  • Migrate data and applications from Lotus Notes/Domino, QuickPlace, and Domino.Doc to Microsoft collaboration products (such as SharePoint, InfoPath and Groove)
  • Synchronize data for coexistence between Lotus Notes/Domino and Microsoft collaboration products (such as SharePoint, Exchange, and .NET)
  • Integrate Lotus Notes/Domino applications with virtually any enterprise content (including Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, SAP R/3, and more)

This is the second vendor to offer a product like this - the other one being Binary Tree. Both products probably claim more than they deliver. But if we can assume for a moment that no such product exists without a market, I would like to touch on one and only one aspect: What is the driving force behind the urge to move away from Notes? Some say, it is management decisions, like a new CIO who pushes what he has had before. But this would cut both ways, if we assume that CIOs with Notes backgrounds do not die off. This "new CIO" scenario happens, but I do not believe it is the driving force.

I believe it is the users.

I will try to make my case, and I might fail to convince you. If I can convince you, we can get to the more interesting question: What can be done about it?

The interesting case is a novice Notes user, who has been using other clients before. Sometimes it is the small things that throw them off. Here is a very simple example. Big company acquires small company. Big company has Notes, small company has Outlook. They both are almost 100% knowledge workers. Users at the small company have organized their work around file servers and directories. They produce lots of files, and if they want to document an email, they just drag it to the file server and rename it appropriately. The default action in Outlook creates an .msg file with the subject as the filename. The file has a binary format and contains the email:

If you click this file, it will be opened in Outlook and you can read it as if it were received in your inbox. Users are happy with this approach and they don't want to change their process. Since you cannot do the same in Notes, and since Notes cannot read the files they have stored so far, people cannot replace Outlook with Notes. IT management at the large company now is in the position to defend the corporate Notes environment, or to "make" the small company use Notes. For now they let them stick with Outlook and Exchange, since their work is much more important than their tools. Of course you can win this battle, but you won't win the hearts and minds easily.

The real problem lies elsewhere. Management at the big company is getting tired of advocating Notes to users who don't want it. They start reassessing their investment. How can me move things out of Notes into browsers? How can we move applications to other platforms? What would be best of breed? Can we mix other messaging solutions? The focus is not necessarily switching everything to a Microsoft platform. It is more about being less dependent on getting users on Notes.

Again, the interesting question is: What can be done about it?

I believe you have to start at the users. If Notes can reinvent itself as a tool that users want to use, then it will succeed. It does not matter if IT likes it, or if management likes it. The users need to want it. If they don't, we are going to see more of those "Now what?" questions.

Notes advocates will say that "Hannover" is going to solve this problem. I would say: It has to. I have this gut feeling that Hannover will be the make-or-break release of Notes. It has to convince right off the bat. It would be better to delay it by half a year than to make it look half-baked.

There is a lot of focus in Hannover on the integration space. Make Notes applications work with other stuff. There is innovation in the activities space. These are all good things. But I am afraid, the future of Notes depends on one thing: Users need to want it.

Faites vos jeux, medames, mademoiselles et messieurs!

Comments

Can't we get even more specific, though? Users have to want it - as a mail client!

Leaving aside the many fantastic (and equally many horrendous) Notes applications that have been written, Outlook's competitor isn't Notes, it is the mail template. If the Hannover mail experience is phenomenal, then users will want Notes. If not, status quo. Users don't "get" applications, they "get" email. I don't care how cool composite applications are, without a killer mail app we'll be having this same conversation in 2-3 years. There will be fewer participants, however.

I have very high hopes for Hannover. So high that, even though I'm dying to get my hands on it, I agree that it should ship 6 months late if that's what it takes.

Rob McDonagh, 2006-10-03

@vowe there is one fatal flaw in your logic:But if we can assume for a moment that no such product exists without a marketI don't think you can make such an assumption. Like you, there are certain things I can't say here, but for sure I can state what MS has already said publicly -- they invest millions of US$ in the "Notes compete" program, which is mostly a channel program. That includes rebates or "bounties" on a per-user basis, as well as other forms of "investment" in creating a market where none necessarily exists.

It also most definitely comes from the "new CIO" scenario. At least the impetus for looking does. I would love it to be different, but I have had hundreds -- yes hundreds -- of these competitive situations start out with "my customer has a new CIO....". In most cases, it gives IBM an opportunity to re-sell the value of Notes, and in most cases, IBM remains in place (though not all). MS has a built-in advantage in that their first conversation with that new CIO is about software only -- and two types, Windows and Office. They don't have to worry about hardware, services, business consulting, outsourcing, and everything else that IBM does. That focus is a huge advantage and one I'll never compensate for.

Having said all that, one area where we are in complete agreement is that "Hannover" gets one shot at getting things right. This is why I commented earlier today (see comments thread here that going to a full open beta too early isn't necessarily a benefit for the Notes market -- it could be too early to judge what the finished product looks like, and you only get one chance to make a first impression.

The users are a factor. There's no doubt. But when we do focus groups and market research and talk to end users of Outlook, they have the same gripes as Notes users. The usability ones vary from one product to the other, but there is no love lost for Outlook in market, either.

Ed Brill, 2006-10-03

@Ed,

Being the one who asked the question about the open/managed beta I fully support your assertion that it may have to be a managed one due to your reasoning.

Bruce Elgort, 2006-10-03

It would be better to delay it by half a year than to make it look half-baked.
I fully agree. Quality and feature completion should drive GA, not deadlines.

Tim Latta, 2006-10-03

@vowe - great article. @ed - super response...

Whilst I agree that Notes 8 (can we call it that yet?) has to ship right rather than absolutely on time, I think we all are more than happy to take MS to task when Vista ships late, or Office 2007 is delayed again, so we ought to be as demanding of IBM/Lotus - I am sure that the MS blogging community will be.

There is a tremedous sense of anticipation growing around Hannover in the Lotus community, which is great news. Having said that there are plenty of Domino/Notes users that I meet that have no knowledge of its existence, especially when compared with those that have heard about Exchange and Office 2007. That is where Vowe's assertion that we must win over the users is so right. There will be many users out there putting pressure on their IT departments to roll out Office/Exchange 2007 because they have used the betas and heard about the new features. By focusing on the users experience in Hannover (as I know Mary Beth and others are) and telling them about it, we need to get the users to be wanting Hannover on their desktops.

Stuart McIntyre, 2006-10-03

I admit it's possible that if Hannover doesn't wow the socks off of end users, Notes may suddenly die a rapid and painful death... but the reality is that I've been hearing that Notes is already dead for 9 years, ever since I took my first Notes job at a company that, at the time, had already been trying to get rid of it for over a year. To this day, that company regularly posts job ads listing Notes experience as a recommended, or even required, qualification. Not because management changed their minds and have since embraced the platform, but because the users wouldn't let them get rid of it. When presented with alternatives, they saw in a hurry that they already had a better solution.

Back then, Lotus was reporting 20 million users... last I heard, that number was up to 120 million. It would seem that the "deader" Notes gets, the more ubiquitous it becomes. Perhaps the arrival of more tools promising an automated escape from Notes will entice organizations to abandon ship, but they may find their users wanting to go back when the increased complexity (not to mention decreased reliability and security) of their new application environment reduces the level of support they've grown accustomed to. A former colleague of mine - ironically, a .NET programmer - once put our options for a customer-requested system into perspective: "well, you'd need an Exchange server, a SQL server, and an IIS server... or we could just use Notes."

Tim Tripcony, 2006-10-03

It's not very often that Volker goes in such details like *.msg, folders & organizing. But after 10 years of notes experience I must admit that the average user is the key for this "political battle".
Why battle? Hear what they are saying if they are unattended and they don't know you (as the guru/expert) at a barbecue or during lunch conversations.
They are talking about the things they don't like & they are generating a political wave (with their half knowledge) & discussion what notes can't do or maybe can do but only with complex actions. Mostly they don't want to get taught about how to use. They want to bring their half knowledge under the people to get their acceptance and they get that because there are "strange" things inside the notes environment/mailtemplate.
This negative propaganda is the crazy horse driven for more than 10 years by things like the attach reattache discussion or the "ugly" partly unusuable calendar print output.

Why? Normally everybody can tell you stories about troubles with the MS products but these mindbuilding people or political opinion leader want to demonstrate their knowledge and this knowledge is MS based/driven. This is limited but they believe that they are clever & experienced and they are experienced in the MS mind because MS is omnipresent in their living world (means windows, office, IE & finally at least outlook express but normally outlook as it is part of office) especially with their kids. These kids are sometimes the only people from whom they will learn and these kids are the first generation of real & well teached kids, unfortunatelly MS minded because the schools use the products what the industry uses (and the industry wants to get well educated kids which can adhoc use the companies tools & environment).

Back to these political opinion leader: What they seem to know is based on the experience they have @work & @home & with their family especially kids. You will see these guys only seldom at trainings you'll offer them because they are self confident, they are the experienced and can't really learn anything further with that product.
The only chance I saw is to get these guys to a hardcore session "TOP 10 tricks to optimize your daily work" within 2 hours with no word about teamwork or notes.
If these people come make a fire work of the best tipps inside Excel, Powerpoint, Explorer & Word (for the secretary) and than move slowly to notes tipps and tricks. You will get two or three hours of attention if you have a strong internal marketing and during your session the crowd will follow your presentation to 100% with ahhh and ohh. Afterwards many of them will ask for more and will go into more details. They must "love" you as high experienced MS user with a spark of notes knowledge! But don't start the thing under the Notes Brand and do not make a training - it won't work because what is a firework with a large interruption for the user exercises!
You have to win these halfblinded political opinion leaders within your organization otherwise - even if you have a good standing inside your management - you will fight an unspoken battle which you can loose at every turning point like a new CIO or that "CIO who finally brings us MS back".

That's what the notes minded community can do beyond good apps/solutions/trainings/services.
But IBM has to look closer & carefully listen every word what an average user wants to do and how he want's to do it. This would mean that
* all MS driven shortcuts have to work (of cause in the local version)
* the userinterface needs a complete rebuild
* we got better print capabilities (that's part of the daily talk regardless of the less paper buzz)
* the product is seamless integrated in the office/XP world
* there are no long complex ways how you can get the MS result (unfortunatelly you need 10 steps)

Like Volker stated Hannover must be the hit otherwise the market share will break down much faster than we saw in the past.
I hope that IBM not only listens to the things we have been discussing here for years - we need action & results to finally get most of our internal customers into that "Notes Domino Workplace" boat!

Wolfgang Andreas Bischof, 2006-10-03

Finally: Why Hannover could be the last big chance?
Don't forget the roll out time delay. Many companies need years to migrate so a cool notes 8 (released 2007) will find its roll out not before 2008.
AND: Not every company follows every Notes Release and overjumps a release what means that a release has to fit the companies needs for at least 4-5 years (R5 released 1999, R7 2005 ).
And don' t believe that you can't migrate: The customer will show you that they can - this is only a question of strong will & budget. If there's a strong will they'll even get through the complex application migration part because they will show that they are right (and they will even get a big budget for this mission, that nobody wants to talk about and if they have to they will justify that budget with reduced operating & maintenance expenses).
That's why we are waiting for the big hit!

Wolfgang Andreas Bischof, 2006-10-03

... and please, do not name it Hannover anymore. Call it Notes 8 or Notes 2008 or something that has Notes in its name !

Almost each week customers ask me whether Notes would be dead since they only hear about Workplace, Hannover and other products. Does it make sense to invest in Notes apps or to extend the use of this product if it seems to go away, they think ?

The "famous" re-naming of IBM products causes a lot of uncertainty among customers.

MS seems to spread the message: If you choose Outlook, its the right product and it has been around a long time and it will be around a long time. So your investment is fully protected.

I believe it is the little things that may drive customers to move away from Notes. Just like vowe mentiones, the .msg issue, the inconsistency between folders and views (in the eyes of an enduser), the misbeheaving blue bullets and the many other little things that drive endusers nuts.

Michael Poetzsche, 2006-10-03

Good conversation. A couple of remarks:

Rob, I am with you when you say Notes has to win users as a mail client.

Ed, the new CIO scenario puzzles me. What happened to the old CIO? Wouldn't he show up at a different company and propose to use Notes there? If this does not happen at the same level, why? I agree with you that early Hannover betas will hurt, because it can deflate the bubble of expectations. I agree that Outlook users have their beef as well, but that would not make them dump it. The only happy users I have seen so far are those who use Excel.

Tim, I do no suggest that Notes will be dead, if Hannover fails to vow users. What I suggest is that it becomes a "strategic" product. To quote a friend: "I am expecting MS to launch an all out salvo on IBM Notes shops once Exchange/Office/SharePoint 2007 ship. It's gonna be a whollop."

Volker Weber, 2006-10-03

I don't know of this post of mine is going to help anything since I have never used Notes. On the other hand, this may be its strength since it provides some sort of bottom up view.

At home I am using Mac OS X and Linux. Everything is nice and well.

On my first day of work at the ETH in Zurich I got a laptop with MS Office preinstalled. We use it to send emails, edit each other's papers, and make appointments. We can do what we need to be able to do, but we still dislike MS Office because in some ways it's just a hassle. Hence I have started using OpenOffice in this environment, too, with Outlook being my only tie to the world of MS Office.

The ETH is a very trusting employer, we can basically install every software on our laptops we want. This autonomy is further increased by IT support hardly being around, the sole contact is pretty much limited to emails saying when server X will be down for maintenance. Ihave no clue about the range of services IT can provide to me so I more or less just stick with what they have given to me by default.

I am reading vowe.net for quite a while now and I also regularly read the texts on Notes, but I have virtually no clue what it is about. In my inner eye it's some sort of Outlook clone, but it can probably do more than that. When I follow the links to IBM websites I get swamped in buzz words so my attempt to understand dries out quickly. I don't really know how Notes looks like, what it can do, and where I am able to get a preview.


That's why I am sceptic to the "we have to get the users" hypothesis in this article. Sure, the user is very important as he/she has to work with the product later. However, even educated users like me are sheep to a certain degree when it comes to IT at work. If IBM wants me to be a new Notes user, they need to make my IT support promote the option and provide me with easily accessable information about this product they are trying to sell.

Philipp Sury, 2006-10-03

Philipp, what you are suggesting has been said very often: That IBM is very bad at explaining what Notes does. I don't want to use this opportunity to educate you on what Notes is. You are right, that it widely matches the Outlook feature set, but it is not a clone.

Notes is not used outside of corporate environments. Without its own server, it is pretty useless, so you won't find it at home. I am not so much talking about building a public knowledge about Notes here, but about convincing corporate users that Notes is a friendly environment, that you want to work in. You may conclude that it is often not viewed as such in its potential customer base.

Volker Weber, 2006-10-03

Volker, I know companies who sell Apps based on the Notes client alone - no Domino nowhere - so Notes is not completely useless without its server. (Still, there is no 'Notes' in their app names...)

This is just meant as as a supplement, otherwise Full ACK of course. Win the users. Most of them are cursing at Notes a lot, but many of them are vaguely aware of 'this thing can do a lot more than meets the eye'. Strange contradiction, but I see this very often. (Users may not always be the ones behind a Notes vs. Outlook decisions, but new CIOs will come from their ranks one day...)

The only way out of this love/hate situation is to make the next generation of Notes as shiny and colorful as the rest of the OS environment. A little usability thrown in - maybe even some understandable marketing to convert new followers -, that would almost be too much to hope for, I'm afraid.

While there's life, there's hope. And there has been some UI progress since Notes 3.0 ;-)

Frank Dröge, 2006-10-03

This discussion hooks in on a subject which me occupies already a longer time. I wondered myself how IBM/Lotus gets feed back at the development of “Hannover”. What I see is that Mary Beth Raven by means of her blog is searching for customers wishes. Her initiative is perfect; she needs input for development directions from outside IBM/Lotus. But I’m afraid that she’s only getting her feed back from IT professionals. Is that the proper target audience representing customer needs? I don’t think so!

The marketshare of Outlook vs Notes in the non corporate messaging market is much higher. That offers MS a direct relationship with end users and perhaps much more insight in end user requirements/behavior. I think that end users in the corporate messaging market will hardly communicate with software vendors. That makes IBM/Lotus depending on feed back from Corporate IT/Local IT departments. With all respect, they have the pressure of delivery, security, compliancy etc. but I doubt whether they have tools and skills to provide IBM/Lotus with identification and feed back of end user needs.

I believe that IBM/Lotus and us (IT professionals) have a challenge to build up a stronger relationship with real end users. Would it be time for an IBM Lotus End user Satisfaction Program? A Program that for instance supports IT departments with end user surveys. The Corporate customers would be compensated for their cooperation. That could be done with a management report allowing IT departments to optimizing their service delivery. Or maybe a certain discount on their Notes license renewals if the (anonymous) survey results will be shared with IBM?

Coen Aukema, 2006-10-03

The the last Notes presentation we were told that Hannover even had some two (or was it three?) usability experts working on it. Two! That's laughable, if true. There should be a big team (maybe even external) working on this. Insiders and developers really tend to stick to their stereotypes. Yes, I know about the complete novelty of "activity centric" approach but still - the new shiny colors won't do the trick alone.

Josef Prusa, 2006-10-03

There is a life after Lotus Notes and Domino. If Hannover would cause Volker to switch back then I would be convinced that Hannover is going to be a success otherwise it might just be able to stabilize the userbase.

Henning Heinz, 2006-10-03

Notes 8 client (which I believe will include the word processor, spreadsheet and presentation editors) should be made available for free in "standalone" mode. Strike a deal with Dell, Lenovo etc to put it on every desktop. I doubt if Apple would participate but you could try. Pop/IMAP would be allowed in "standalone" mode. With eclipse you now have a ready-market for developers to target and profit from. Some developers can pay for the more integrated domino designer while others will/can use eclipse if they want.The built-in templates for doc managmenet etc are a bonus to get the end-user started.

If you want to connect to a Domino/DB2 server for *collaboration* you need a *license*. The standalone version would refuse to connect to a Domino server without a license.

That nicely separates the business and consumer markets and starts building a consumer side awareness with profit potential for developers to push the Notes platform. And given the true RAD nature of Notes they would eat other developers lunches in time to market. Code talks.

What's different than "previous" attempts?

Productivity editors
Eclipse
OpenSource competition
IBM
MS

Stephen hood, 2006-10-03

Volker, I think it's the IT people that *push* (ie. use their users) rather than groundswell support from the users themselves. And IT like pushing products that require months to upgrade, test, require oodles of scripts to be written because they profit from it - the business doesn't but they do.

So do the "consultants", partners that "help" with those upgrades etc. Until some business people realize how much money their IT depts are soaking them for it will be difficult to change - because the people they are trusting to make the best decision have their own agenda. Kickbacks etc. Many business people think their IT depts are working in the best interests of the business when the IT dept are often only working in the best interests of the IT dept or their own personal profit/gain. No I'm not being moralistic here, it's just what happens.

That's why MS is spending half a billion dollars on their hollering campaign - to disguise a lack of business value. IT "value" yes.

It's the same reason SAP supports MS with Duet because it only uses the latest stuff and forces upgrades of SAP licenses. They won't give the same marketing and technical support to Lotus because it works with *old* and new. Who cares about the customer - we will make more from licenses than our marketing campaign costs. It's an IT decision not a business value decision.

Unfortunately for Ed, I'm sure that there are many organizations invested in Notes that are only too happy to sit and say nothing instead of promoting Notes. Why? So they can watch their competitors bleed to death in the quagmire of licensing fees, WGA, expensive rip and replace upgrades, incompatible products their IT dept *of course* recommended. While their competitors are spending gobs of money on things like basic e-mail they are hiring people to add value to their business. Wouldn't you keep quiet?

You will also hear *IT* people say it was a strategic decision on company direction - what they fail to mention is the fact it was a strategic *IT* decision to keep themselves perpetually employed at the companies expense - not in fact a strategic business decision to add profit or value to the business.

And while yes I agree its important to make Notes 8 as pretty as possible - it's the IT people that are driving the big picture agenda, not in fact the users IMO.

Stephen hood, 2006-10-03

Forgot to mention that the IT people love to promote it as the users wanting it - because then they can hide behind the user wanted it story when the budget gets blown, products are late and they have to tell their boss it will require all new hardware. Even though IT was really driving the agenda - in the end they don't have to be accountable. From one perspective it's a brilliant strategy.

Stephen hood, 2006-10-03

Damn Stephen, you are down on “IT people”!

You know, there are some of us out there who are focussed on user needs—indeed, some of us used to be the users, something that is especially prevalent in the world of Notes and Domino.

Ben Poole, 2006-10-03

The the last Notes presentation we were told that Hannover even had some two (or was it three?) usability experts working on it. Two! That's laughable, if true. There should be a big team Interesting that even with Mary Beth Raven's blog that the perception is that we're not focused on usability. There are six full-time usability experts -- very advanced academics and practitioners -- working on Notes "Hannover". And they are working with end users as their source of test input and validation -- both Notes users as well as Outlook users, gmail users, hotmail, etc.

Ed Brill, 2006-10-03

Not all Ben, just some. Those that aren't aligned with benefiting the business but rather their own goals at the expense of the business :)

Stephen hood, 2006-10-03

Users view Outlook as a good email client. It is dominate for a lot of reasons...many of which don't have to do with quality or capability. It is fast, the UI flows well (at least for basic users), name recognition, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of hungry VARs, etc. MS will sell products at a loss for market share. Our company has used MS, open source and Lotus mail products. Several things are driving my company back to MS - The consumerization of IT - everybody an expert with plug and play, The users are driving IT direction more than ever before. Intense marketing, CXOs are getting inundated with the message, in print, in person, from VARS, me-too syndrome, etc. Even though Notes != Outlook, they ready to spend more money for less capability. Its a very competitive market.

That said, Notes is not dead. The number of seats increase yearly. Each version is better than the last. Notes 8 is not necessarily a pass-fail - but it sure needs to shine. One thing to contemplate in all of this is that it only software. Software in and of itself does not necessarily give any business an edge or guarantee success. It is the attitude of the users make it successful.

Dennis Ellison, 2006-10-03

Move the battlefield!
IBM will always be fighting an uphill battle if it decides to concentrate the battle on Microsoft's turf. And that turf is Windows. Outlook and specifically OL Express are already there. Just as IE is there and used by 80% of Windows users, despite better and free browsers. So even a free (and much better than Outlook) Notes / Hannover client would have trouble winning a direct battle.
Move the groupware business to somewhere where MS is really bad, you (IBM) did it already once with IT services, do it again. So move the battlefield away from Windows, move it to any system and device, move it to the web and don't make foul compromises, such as Notes is now. At the moment Microsoft should be Notes-happy, because Notes promotes Windows in the corporate world, for many functionalities it even demands it. Look at the success stories which happened despite Microsoft best efforts to dominate those developements such as the Internet, email, mobile phones, web 2.0.


Un-hook users!
Rather than trying war-analogy strategies to "fight" your competitor, why not look at ways to fight addiction. In the end you don't want to win against Microsoft (even though admittingly that has some appeal) , you want to win users and customers.

The Outlook hooks are: Windows, nice interface (probably by accident, not by design), no direct competitor (that integrates email, calendar and contact management), nice features and add-ons and of course for users less obvious lock-ins, such as a proprietary format. When integrating or migrating those functionalities the user will have the impression that he looses more than he wins.

Unhooking users can't be done by delivering more of the same , but rather do something interesting and different. Something much nicer that can't be done with Outlook. Show where addiction hurts. Look at why Gmail, Flickr & co are so attractive. Build engaging and open community mechanisms and services into your product. That is real groupware.

Don't create new addictions, people don't like new evil. Although iTunes may appear to be another lock-in success, I am not sure if Apple is on the right track. By not opening up iTunes, ie crippling iTunes on Motorola Rokr, limitations on copies, migration issues, being overly aggressive ("pod" is Apple), Apple is displeasing customers - not a great strategy.

Don't listen to CIOs and IT departments! (I know that one is controversial;-)
Groove was on the right track until it became clear that the Groove world would stay proprietary and closed (therefore potentially addictive and people have been burned in the past). Either buy in or stay out. Secondly Groove became fat, the future is lean (to avoid the loaded term "thin"). They listened to the wishes of the IT departments (security, administration and CONTROL!!!). The more Groove Networks listened, the more the initial attraction of Groove fisappeared - the beauty to freely create "work-"spaces and collaborate without having to ask someone. Rather than Groupware 2.0, Groove became a prototype of 1.1b and never made it.

Think of why Benq-Siemens is where it is now:" We make business phones, no cameras-phones, bad for business, spy stuff". If that kind of "rational" thinking were generally accepted, all executives of German corporations should be driving Toyotas and Mazdas (or no company cars at all) and we would not allowed to access the Internet at work. BTW, have you seen a Siemens executive in a Dacia company car?

Remember the early Notes days. The IT departments and CIOs didn't like Notes: new unproven and weird technology, additional staff, massive demands on infrastructure, intangible and difficult to explain benefits and so on and so forth. Now they like it, but users increasingly don't. Outlook and thereby Exchange are there because of user pressure, not because the IT departments like those two. (BTW I like Stephen's point of the IT department hiding behind some ominous user demand to blow up budgets.)


So IBM, please...
...make sure Hannover is really platform independant (unlike Notes) and preferably made of nice web services which also end users can access and master. Make sure people can use it without any corporate infrastructure or intervention.

...make sure it becomes real groupware that users can interlink with other networks they use (Web 2.0 stuff). Look at openBC (Xing?), linkedin, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube etc etc and some initial Groove ideas for inspiration.

...make sure people choose "Hannover" because they want it, not because they have to. Give preference to userfriendliness over IT administration demands. Build a system for users first, then think of admins.

Forget about the top-down approach. Forget the old division of customer market and corporate market. People love their blackberries, they are sexy. Forget the old consulting method of analysing, (re-)designing and implementing (IT-supported) processes, let the people design their own work-place / -environment and give them the tools for that.

Moritz Schroeder, 2006-10-03

@Volker, I love these kind of posts and discussions on vowe.net, even though I am often a bit late in joining them and my comments tend to be too long ;-)

Moritz Schroeder, 2006-10-03

@Moritz: me too. And I think your post hits the nail on the head, a number of times :o)

Ben Poole, 2006-10-03

IT is more & more driven by business demand (not by what the IT wants to play with) and controlled with Service Level Agreements (ontime, availability, $ per month/user or month&space)!
This movement is much stronger since the Y2K era. In the near future IT will be only one part of the service organization (internal/external) like other support processees and no longer a key/mayor process owner.
The influence inside the organization is going down like the budgets & the company management doesn't want to get involved in IT details, delays, problems, interdependencies, insuffient budgets and other complex arguments.
They only want reliable systems/infrstructure which can follow with the expansion/development of the core business for an affordable, year by year sinking price (space, transfervolume, accountmanagement, maintenance) and all that should work like the cleaning or security department smooth, silent & perfect.
The repeating Airbus A380 delay & its background sounds like many IT desasters of the late 90ies & Y2K era when the IT saw themself as the key department & big player!

@Ed
OK, we have 6 designers and they are working with end users, but: What have they done in the past? Do they work as in the past?
I hope not! At the late 90ies I saw many ideas inside Irene Greifs R&D Department in Boston but it took too many years to ship these as part of the product. At that time they were far beyond the product and on a good way (imo).

Wolfgang Andreas Bischof, 2006-10-03

The problem is more on of a dynamically stable marketplace.

The corporate mail world is roughly divided in half -- it varies more on who's numbers you pick than anything else. The "also ran" group can be ignored for a minute.

In each group, there are always going to be some who want to switch. It is easy for a Microsoft Mail shop to switch to Domino and entirely dump Exchange. It is very hard for a mature Notes shop to dump Domino entirely.

For the years that IBM neglected Domino's evolution (if you agreement with me that they did) Microsoft SHOULD have taken away marketshare but didn't.

I have said for years that the bias in numbers that is seemingly weighted toward those on Domino who want to switch to Exchange vs the other way, is offset by the relative difficulty of the switch.

The result is dynamically stable so long as Microsoft doesn't end up with a true replacement for Notes and so long as IBM doesn't figure out how to put the finishing touches on the product and then market it with enough success to turn the weighting back the other way.

Please note that I'm not agreeing with the bias, and I'm not placing blame for it on any specific thing. I do believe it exists and the reasons for it are numerous. A few are legitimate IBM controled issues, some are not.

Andrew Pollack, 2006-10-03

Wolfgang, I checked for some of the user interface experts on Mary Beth's blog. Alex Song does not turn out any interesting links on Google. Noy Wanderski does. 27 years old probably means she has not done UI work in the '90s.

Volker Weber, 2006-10-04

That was a pretty low blow to link to her myspace. Since she was married in the last year, and her "real" name isn't Noy (and isn't English), you may or may not find other things she's written or done. Besides, while I think online presence is an important resume component, it isn't always fair to judge someone by their online contributions.

Ed Brill, 2006-10-04

It wasn't meant to be a low blow. What I was referring to is that she seems to be quite young. That is actually a good thing, because she would then not be hampered by "business as usual".

Volker Weber, 2006-10-04

Wolfgang's comment about the late 90ies was "a good way" for the stuff from IBM research. So your comment that she has not done UI work in the '90s looked like, to a native English speaker at least, you were saying that ergo, she had not done any of that "good way" work that Wolfgang was referring to.

Ed Brill, 2006-10-04

Lots of good comments here, Volker - good topic. A lot of times people don't want to change, because change means they have to learn something new and it gets in the way of their "productivity". I learned Ctrl-X, C, V on the Mac first, and was really annoyed with Windows' early convention of shift-insert or whatever it was (in fact, they still have to support that keyboard sequence, so I guess some users got trained on it). Ultimately, users don't really care about how the software works, except as it helps them do their primary job. So, if you are used to Notes and move to Outlook, you'd probably be just as annoyed as moving from Outlook to Notes, simply because it's not the same as what you are used to.

On the topic of how we're approaching Hannover, re-read Mary Beth's blog entry on using persona's, to see how we have tackled this problem:
Mary Beth Raven Blog
We do agree that the typical business user, admin asst, and exec are the target users.

and note to Wolfgang - Ed said there were 6 usability researchers. Designers are another bunch. This is a big product!

Chris

Chris Reckling, 2006-10-04

Ed, as I explained, it was not my intention.

Volker Weber, 2006-10-04

Great debate, thought I would sit and wait to see where it went before I commented.

For me the issue is this:

"Unhappy" Notes customers believe that Microsoft has an answer to their "unhappiness".

Microsoft Outlook customers do not think that the answer to their "unhappiness" can be found in Notes.

Until IBM work out how to resolve that problem then the prevailing wind is always going to be towards Microsoft. I'm deliberately using words like "unhappy" and "feel" and "believe" because it's about feelings and not about cold rational thought.

What Ed says is right, when customers sit down and really look at their "unhappiness" they generally find that the grass isn't greener on the other side. The challenge is getting past the feelings.

Graham Chastney, 2006-10-05

I really appreciate that debate. Good point Volker !

As i have learned the hard way that in tough discussion with customers even IBMer and Lotis do not make the statement that Lotus Notes is a superior mail client due to replication, security, more reliable databases etc.

There claim has always been that Lotus Notes is more than email, it s about collaborative applications.

This was true when we were talking about reliable and costefficent Groupware Applications where Lotus Notes really rocks and there was no alternative from IBM / Lotus.
Today there are more strategic alternatives for a customer from IBM with Websphere and from Microsoft with Sharepoint/IIS/SQL.

From that point of view it was the right decision rebuild Lotus Notes as an eclipse application platform.

But most users are still talking about their "email experience". It´s about reading, categorizing email & calendar and -the next killer app- easy mobile access.

The users prefer for some understandable reasons Outlook, so Volker I absolutely agree with your statement. And I know we are right :-)

Users have loved Lotus Notes before and I am sure you can win them back.

So IBM it is so easy:
1. Compete with Outlook as an superior email client (never seen an ad communicating this claim)
2. Provide a better integration with MS Office and Filesystems to Domino Databases (like Exchange and Sharepoint)
3. Assure Lotus Notes position as an Application plattform for LN Applications and eclipse

Olaf Boerner, 2006-10-05

Yesterday I had a discussion with participant of a R5 training in late 2000 I gave for 500 CAD developers in his dept. At that time he titled himseld a "Notes hater" and he was also addictive in talking & spreading this opinion - until that training when he began to change his mind.

OK, we've had a passionate discussion about the deep gap between these haters & lovers. Mostly the haters count more than the lovers because of critics sell better (negative propaganda). Finally it is easier to convince someone with a few examples that notes is bad (everybody has made his experience) than the opposite to win someone back. It takes much time (repeat. meetings over a long time) to convice these people of the added value inside Notes.
Why? Most of the haters don't know much (even haven't thought) about the processees of knowledge creation, distribution & evolution or teamwork. They are focussed on their small daily business they do every day the same way for years and they have no understanding for the complete view of the team as a whole. They can only see the disadvantages and no advantages. So we have two parts of one problem - remove the disadvantages and communicate the chances.

Basicly the communication with these users start with a discussion of disadvantages you can't neglect. Today we can only show workarounds or teach them how they could get things done (if they were on the wrong path) and than move to a discussion about advantages.
So IBM has to remove long term barriers, tear down walls & improve much faster (remember the missing print features for years, the partly unusable/unprintable calendar of the R4/R5 era).
How often were we told by "Lotis" that notes is not a product designed to print! What? We asked for our in-& external customers for better print support and we got these answers.

Finally the cluttered menu system & the tabs inside dialogboxes (sometimes a vertical, sometimes a horizontal control) esp. userpreferences. There are too many menus & tabs to remember to optimize the Notes for an average user.
And last but not lease: Please no trial & error products/brandings! There was a "Notes" & "Domino" thing (after ten years who knows the difference) and we have seen to many prodcuts & brandings come and go. Make a list of discontinued products, ask customers how Lotus took care for them (like Components, KM Server, DTO, ...). IBM makes it customer & the users insecure about the future with these practices. These where the things we had discussed beside a nice Chianti & salad.

Wolfgang Andreas Bischof, 2006-10-08

So Hannover needs to be so irresitsably sexy when doing mail that every Joe Sixpack (new CIO) wants one?

Martin Forisch, 2006-10-10

I work in the Lotus User Experience group, along with Mary Beth Raven and Chris Reckling. A large part of our organization is working on making Notes/Hannover a success with the end user population; and not just Notes, but the Notes mail/calendar/contacts client in particular.

Mary Beth's blog is great and has been a terrific source of feedback, but as Coen pointed out in her comment, it reaches primarily the IT audience. Coen says: "I believe that IBM/Lotus and us (IT professionals) have a challenge to build up a stronger relationship with real end users. Would it be time for an IBM Lotus End user Satisfaction Program?"

We agree that we needed to build stronger relationships with real end users. As a result, early in 2006, the Lotus UX group started a program designed specifically to get end user input. We call it "Users First" and ask customers to partner with us for a year, provide us with access to end users in a variety of roles, let us do a site visit so we can understand how they work and how our software fits in with their jobs, and let us do usability testing. We thought we'd have trouble finding companies to do this - but the response has been very positive. We have 18 partners in different geographies, in different industries, and of varying sizes.

Much of the focus of Users First has been on Notes. We talk to Notes and Outlook users. We've heard about pain points, making tasks simpler and easier to find, updating the UI, and standardizing keystrokes (i.e. make them work like MS). We've started conducting usability sessions with end users at their work sites with recent versions of Hannover and will continue doing this throughout the Beta period. We bring back results quickly so designers can make changes and developers can get those into builds - so we can go out and test again.

The feedback and relationships we've started building with end users is invaluable. We are confident it will make a difference - it already is.

I also agree with Coen that IT departments in all companies should build strong relationships with their end user population. It will really change how you see things.

Merry Morse, 2006-10-11

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