Tools & Technologies

Collaborative Note-Taking and Research Patterns – Three Architectural Options

Tim argues that being successful with collaborative note-taking requires mapping the different research patterns:

Previously, we discussed how a resurgence in electronic note-taking application popularity is the latest trend to result from the consumerization of IT: employees are using note-taking apps outside of work, especially on mobile devices, and bringing their desktop counterparts into the organization.

Faced with this challenge, most IT shops will want to get ahead of the trend by investigating the more popular note-taking apps and the architectures each uses for enabling sharing of notes among employees and teams. But the key to successfully implementing a collaborative electronic note-taking solution is understanding the research patterns employed by the different employee roles that perform research within your organization. Why is this required for success? Because we’ve known for decades now that knowledge management initiatives only succeed if users are both contributors and consumers of information. You can’t be a taker and not a giver. If you try to forcefully bolt a non-optimal note taking architecture onto your organization’s research patterns, then users will not participate and will not be contributors. Game over.

Let’s examine two generic research collaboration patterns and the optimal electronic note-taking architectures that enable the patterns so that employees can both contribute and consume information through the system.

He talks about:
– The centralized knowledgebase architecture – which doesn’t work for mobile employees, or staff working from home.
– The loosely coupled peer-to-peer knowledgebase architecture.
– The loosely coupled cloud-based knowledgebase architecture.

My Comments
1. Tim raises some good points in his article, and talks about the different architectures available. I agree that IT departments need to start looking at this.

2. I would be concerned if research people were using consumer-grade tools for storing vital corporate research-in-progress. There are extra decision factors at play here – scalability, reliability, audit trails, authenticity of date/time stamps for intellectual property disputes, and more.

3. The ease of doing note taking using Internet services such as Evernote, though, and its support for a range of devices, should give vendors of “centralized knowledgebase architecture” systems cause to sit up and take note. People are mobile, and need access to their core systems from many locations. This is the point of Pillar 2.

4. I don’t see a future role for the Groove component of SharePoint Workspace 2010, which calls into question Tim’s “loosely coupled peer-to-peer” option. My bet is that Microsoft will deprecate the capabilities in the next release. In SharePoint Workspace 2010, you can have SharePoint workspaces and Groove workspaces. The SharePoint workspaces take a SharePoint 2010 site to the client, and enable synchronization back to the server. The Groove workspaces work how Groove used to work, with peer-to-peer sharing of the content. It’s still there to support the installed base, and some large corporates who still use it. I don’t see the Groove things as a long term play though. This is my opinion.

5. Evernote and its ilk are good products – I rely extensively on Evernote for a variety of tracking and research purposes. Yes, there are collaborative options, but these are at the “Notebook” level, not the item or document level. This would call into question the ability of a researcher to share just portions of their knowledgebase with others; the same applies to OneNote with SharePoint, but even then, you have moved back into a big iron / centralized approach with the inclusion of SharePoint in the mix. It’s possible to use it, but I’m not sure of the practicality.

6. An offline / mobile client, with selective replication and access control would sort out most of the challenges here. Lotus Notes, anyone?

Categories: Tools & Technologies

2 replies »

  1. Michael,
    First of all how is life ? Long time we “spoke” through comments :-).
    Hope all is well with you and your family also in relation to the recent earthquake disasters…
    On this topic. I would agree with your point 4 on the role partially.
    First of all Notetaking in the Microsoft world is spelled OneNote. One NOte has the option to store your notes locally on your PC, but also to share your Notes on Skydrive or SharePoint.
    Sharing them on Skydrive for example then allows you to access / edit notes via Offce web Apps,OneNOte PC client, OneNote Windows Phone 7 client, iPhone client. Same on SharePoint (don’t know about the iphone client there)
    So rather then zooming in on SharePoint (or SharePOint Workspace for that matter) The application itself, provides you with the choice.
    ONeNote webapp also allows for co-authoring with others who can be using the webapp or client.
    Microsoft has quite an extensive article on co-autoring which I think is essential in collaborative Notetaking :
    Some info on co-authoring and OneNote :

  2. It has been a while Peter … hope things are well with you.
    Thanks for the clarification and further insight above; in my blog post, I was responding to what the original author proposed, but you are entirely accurate in reminding us all of the SkyDrive option. I greatly appreciate you doing so.