Tools & Technologies

How to Make the Most of Lotus Notes/Domino

There are many organizations that use Notes/Domino that are considering a change to other things — including Microsoft’s stack. Of those, some will decide to stay with Notes/Domino … either they don’t see the net business value in changing, a migration of their Notes/Domino applications is going to cost too much, or the impact on end-users is too much to ask. If you are one of those organizations that decides to stick with what you’ve got, you have two choices: (a) be grumpy about it, or (b) maximize the opportunities that Notes/Domino presents you with. In other words, you can either accept the status quo as a bad thing and wait until the next strategic review in three years, or you can leverage the decision to stay the course and see what new cool / helpful things you can do with what you’ve got. Therefore, building off some of the ideas that my eProductivity specialist buddy Eric threw out about how IBM could make Notes work better for end users, I have some ideas in terms of what people at organizations can do to make the most of their existing investments in Notes/Domino …

  1. Understand What’s Possible … There’s so much that Notes and Domino can do … it packs an incredible array of capabilities that apply to a broad range of business needs … and definitely so much beyond email, calendaring and task management … actually, I don’t even use the standard Notes capabilities for those functions! So it’s time to expand your horizons and look at what is possible with this platform. Ways to do so: bring in some external people who know about making the most from Notes/Domino, bring in some IBM/Lotus people who can talk about the possibilities of Notes/Domino within your organization, engage with other organizations that you know are doing cool things with Notes/Domino … in other words, dream a little. Understand what is possible / cool / forward-thinking. Don’t settle for standard, out-of-the-box things … which get a bit dull after a while.
  2. Fix What’s Broken about Notes/Domino … If your suite of Notes/Domino custom applications have grown a bit long-in-the-tooth, or they look ugly, consider a user interface upgrade to make them look more attractive. There’s been new design capabilities built into recent editions of Notes, and your internal (or external) developers have learned new things since they built those applications. So let them go back and bring your custom applications suite up-to-date.
  3. Engage with Business People about the Power of Notes … Notes is much, much more than email, calendaring and task management … there’s personal productivity possibilities, team collaboration options, and departmental workflow ideas that are fundamentally helpful to achieving mission and vision. But you’ve got to cultivate the ideas of how and where Notes could be used for business success … and that starts by pairing a business-savvy developer with business people that have things to get done. This business-savvy developer should become embedded in a business unit for a while, and have a broad mandate to help “get work done better”. Yes, there will be some policy elements that have to be followed, and you have to be clear on reporting structures, but the idea is to gift a business unit a person who can help them achieve their goals.
  4. Empower Power Users of Notes … Speaking in very broad terms, I see two main groups of Notes users: the end users who hate it, and the developers who love it. What’s the difference? The second group actually understand the possibilities, and have embraced what Notes/Domino can do for them and their colleagues. The first group just sees Notes as “thing”, and doesn’t have any existing frame of reference to understand what it can actually do. Identify your power users, and either give them preferential access to a Notes developer for building some cool applications, or give them developer training, give them a Domino Designer Client, and let them build their own personal and teaming applications. A second thought: many people say that Notes is “ugly” … I’ve been using Notes since 1997, and I don’t find it ugly at all. It’s … different, But I “get” what it can do, why it is “different” from the Microsoft suite, and I find the different user interface elements of Notes very compelling … because of what it enables me to do.
  5. Let People Do more than Email, Calendaring and Tasks … If there’s a common theme emerging from this post, it’s that there is much, more more to Notes/Domino than the three things that most people are limited to. Stop that already!
  6. Provide Training … This recommendation overlaps with #1 to some degree, but you have to provide both (a) conceptual training on why Notes is being used, and (b) technical training on how the different applications you use within your organization actually work. No mere “throwing of apps out there”.
  7. Upgrade to the Latest Version … There’s been new eye candy delivered in recent editions of the Notes/Domino client, and definitely the forthcoming Version 8 is going to make that a whole let better. Get off old versions, and get up-to-date with the latest. Yes, there are solid business reasons for upgrading (actually, I wrote an independent paper on that during my Shared Spaces days), but don’t discount the power of a prettier interface for bringing users along.

In summary, this isn’t really about Lotus Notes … it’s a broad and general framework for getting the most out of whatever collaborative technologies you have in place.

And finally … this type of possibility and horizon-expanding work is exactly what Eric and I do when engaging with clients. Call this a shameless self-promotion, but dem-da-facts.

Categories: Tools & Technologies