I'm only into my first day at the KMWORLD conference in Washington DC and I've already met several folks that told me (unsolicited) that they hate Lotus Notes with a passion. They are everywhere. If you've read this blog for any length of time you know I have a field day with this. It is frustrating -- that IBM does not appear to do much to change user perception while Microsoft markets like crazy to convince organizations that SharePoint will solve all of their problems. It's also exhilarating - that I can help show people how their investment in Lotus Software is a good one and that in fact, Lotus Notes is quite capable. The problems are not Notes as much as they are how Notes is frequently deployed, managed, or supported -- or not.

SharePoint isn't the solution either.  (If this blog were about using SharePoint, I could have lead with the title "Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates SharePoint?") Two years ago, at KMWORLD, it seemed that SharePoint could do no wrong; in fact, the answer to every ill, it seemed, was SharePoint. Now that organizations have had some time to work with SharePoint, we see the same issues and hear many of the same complaints about SharePoint that we have heard about Notes. And, of course, we have the cloud vendors telling us that they can fix the problems of SharePoint and Notes. Yeah, right.

The problem is many organizations are lazy, often too lazy to think seriously about the tools their people use and how they use them. These organizations expect the tools to do the thinking.  Sorry. I've got news. When we get to the root of the problem, in most cases, it's a problem of not thinking enough about the problem and the key elements required to solve it. Replacing a technology isn't always the best solution. In fact, as you will see below, replacing the technology without. addressing the areas of knowledge and methodology first will  often make the situation worse.

Today, on several occasions, I met with folks that told me of their dislike for Notes. I asked what their stated problems were and what they were doing about it. Some had already migrated away, some were in process and some were still praying for the day. I then asked the people in the first two groups how the migration to SharePoint was working out and whether it had solved the problems -- specifically the things they hated most about Notes. I bet you can guess the responses....  I bet they will soon be looking for a cloud solution to replace SharePoint.

I took a napkin and wrote out my formula for value creation: V=KMT and then proceeded to explain the value equation and why ripping and replacing technology alone will likely not ensure a positive outcome. They all agreed.

There's obviously much more to this story and, time permitting, I will try to share it when I get back to California. Meanwhile., I will leave you with this thought.

Value created (V) is the result of  Knowledge (K) x Methodology (M) x Technology (T).  They are all multipliers - that is, any one can improve or worsen the outcome. You can rip and replace the tool but if your methodology of working with those tools is poor, the result will still not be pretty.

Case in point: One person, when I asked what they disliked about Notes said: "We have so many databases, we can't find anything and we don't know where to look. And, if I want to set up a database, I have to get the Notes admin involved" That's not a Notes problem; it's also not an IT issue alone. It's a knowledge and information management issue. There are many people with expertise that can solve those problems without replacing any hardware or software; many even read this blog.

I then turned to a SharePoint user at the table and asked "How are things working for you in SharePoint?" to which they responded, "We have so many databases; we can't find anything anywhere and, users keep creating more and more SharePoint sites. It's a mess." Sound familiar? Another SharePoint user said that their site had the opposite problem - their admin had locked down SharePoint to the point that no one could create a new site. You can't win.

At least not without an understanding of the elements of the value equation.  

My point here is not to say that Notes is better or SharePoint is better or that the cloud is better. These are all just tools.

The key is understanding the problems you want to solve and then learning to use the tools available to create greater value. I'll have more to say on that soon. At least now, I have a working example to include in my KMWORLD presentation on Future Formulas for Enterprise KM Success later this week.


Update: One of the people I spoke with said that they would like to learn more about how their organization can maximize their investment in Lotus Software. We will talk soon. Made my day.

Discussion/Comments (16):

Fred Janssen (): 11/15/2010 23:53:23
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

"Value created (V) is the result of Knowledge (K) x Methodology (M) x Technology (T)"

I must remember this. Very nice. This might be an eye-opener to a lot of people.

And of course this is not only true in our world, but applies everywhere.

Christian Herø (http://snillhund.blogspot.com): 11/16/2010 3:56:06
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

Hear Hear!!

This is so to the point. IBM Lotus Domino shops faced with customers wanting to migrate should focus more on wanted outcome instead of technology. Focus on business processes instead. The decission to stay on existing platform may suddenly be clear as day....

Peter Presnell (http://www.bleedyellow.com/blogs/dotdomino/): 11/16/2010 4:03:16
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

Great observations Eric. You could almost argue that making Lotus Notes (or $harePoint) better only contributes to the problem. Better functionality leads to more silos being built. Better administration tools and policies only makes it easier for admins to tie it all down (should they choose to). Maybe something like Project Vulcan and its focus on the use of Analytics will prove be the difference. I doubt many companies will ever invest enough to make KM work without a significant reliance on automated solutions to catalog, store, and retrieve all the information relevant to any given decision.

Michael (): 11/16/2010 6:27:03
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

I hope you're talking to some government people there. They seem to be the ones who hate Notes just because. That's why a lot of them are moving away from it. They don't realize it's a information management issue. I deal with that all the time. They do see Sharepoint as the answer to all their problems. Anything you can do to convince the govvies that Notes can be great with better management would be a good thing.

Keith Brooks (http://www.vanessabrooks.com): 11/16/2010 7:12:05
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

Well said Eric. As I posted also it's not always IT and it's not always the admins, but locking things down too much will always drive people insane.

wesmorgan1 (http://wesmorgan.blogspot.com): 11/16/2010 7:59:39
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

We're running headlong into the oldest conflict in IT: admin/security vs. users. If you stop to think about it, almost all of the most highly-touted software solutions of the current cycle focus on devolving a great deal of control to end users. It's "Oh, you can dynamically create [blah blah] without a lot of admin overhead" and "Move information to where you need it, when you need it," but--at the same time--corporate concerns about information security and intellectual property tend to throw roadblocks into that very approach.

If you don't address this fundamental business conflict--and, make no mistake, it's a BUSINESS conflict at its root, NOT an IT conflict--you'll continue to hear the horror stories.

I'd almost add another T to your equation, for "Trust"...

Jack Dausman (http://www.leadershipbynumbers.com): 11/16/2010 8:51:12
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

This is a l-o-n-g discussion. At my current site, over the last 5 years, I've weathered two separate, complex (and funded) projects to replace Lotus Notes with Exchange. I've also kept the trains on schedule for two other projects to migrate to GMail.

Lotus Notes is staying because it delivers.

But, the perspective on Lotus as a messaging platform is led by corrosive sarcasm. This slant is fed by competitors (correctly doing their job) and a "consumer" focus on business applications. Lotus Notes is not widely accepted as socially current, and it struggles for a position in that stream. All the Loti want carpet-bombing marketing. But, advertising is not much of a winning strategy for increasing mind share. There is no fix, there is only the long haul. Put in the oars and pull.

Nat S (): 11/16/2010 16:11:36
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

I have been using Lotus Notes at work for the last few years, and never liked it, until I learned about GTD a few weeks ago. (I wish I came across the GTD methodology earlier...) I still think Lotus Notes is slow and unfriendly, but now, having a GTD-oriented mindset, I view Lotus Notes not merely as an email client and calendar, but as a GTD tool. It is very rewarding to feel in control, not to be stressed, and to have an empty inbox, whether I use Lotus Notes or Gmail. It is helpful to shift one's focus to Getting Things Done from Lotus Notes' flaws.

John Turnbow (http://www.recondite2.com): 11/16/2010 18:23:41
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

Well said Eric. It's amazing that IBM/Lotus ever let the KM banner get away from them. At one time, a part of Notes was all about KM and it still can be with the right GTD and application management and sharing management. Connections is another layer that can help with that in many ways.

Eric Mack (http://www.EricMackOnline.com): 11/16/2010 18:43:16
Great discussion

Hi folks. I'm not ignoring you. I've just returned from day 2 at KMWORLD to read these responses. Good discussion. In response to @John, there was only one mention of Notes that I heard today. I sat next to two people. the guy was running SharePoint and the lady next to him said "What's that" and he said "SharePoint". She replied that she used Lotus Notes and had not heard of SharePoint. Interesting discussion. Nothing negative. They just compared experience.

What was interesting was that there was no visibility of IBM or Lotus anywhere. Not a single product or vendor in the showcase with anything related to Lotus Solutions (including Connections. That's too bad. Microsoft made sure that folks knew about SharePoint, though. I could share more but I need to go get ready for Day 3.

Eric Mack (http://www.EricMackOnline.com): 11/16/2010 19:08:22
I wonder if IBM Knows there is a National KM Conference just blocks away from its DC offices?

I wonder if IBM Knows there is a National KM Conference just blocks away from its DC offices? I doubt that the thought leaders, C-level execs, CIOs, CTOs, and CKOs that are in attendance will be going to Lotusphere. So, why isn't IBM here?

Last night, I walked from the KMWORLD conference to the new IBM offices. They are just a few blocks away. I wonder if they even know this conference is going on and that at one time IBM Lotus was synonymous with KM?

I should not speculate too much. What I do know is that apart from two very favorable but brief comments about Lotus Connections by conference speakers there has been no mention or reference to anything IBM or Lotus. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Giulio (http://www.buzznotes.com.au): 11/16/2010 19:13:01
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

Well put Eric...

Ian Randall (): 11/16/2010 19:55:42
Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

Like the post Eric,

Another formula that I find useful is N to the N-1, where N is the number of different technology platforms that must be integrated in order to provide a technology solution.

With Notes you can do so much with just one product.

With most competitors systems, you need many different products working flawlessly together to achieve a similar level of functionality. When something changes in one of the underlying systems, it can have a huge unexpected knock-in affect to many other parts of the system, and upgrades with so many dependencies is a nightmare.

With Notes, for the most part, it just keeps chugging along.

I look-upon Notes as the Ugly Betty of the IT world. Smart, flexible, reliable and a great asset to help you achieve remarkable things when you know how, but a little fat around the middle and it has some terrible dress sense. Some of it's competitors look pretty, but underneath they are cantankerous, inflexible and ultimately very high maintenance.

Swapping vendors is like getting remarried, sometime it works out OK and sometimes it doesn't. But if you don't learn from YOUR mistakes then you are most likely to repeat them.

Kevin Pettitt (http://www.lotusguru.com): 11/17/2010 6:32:57
Another Equation

One of the points in my Speedgeeking session offers another succinct equation to make essentially the same point:

Write Check != Magic Bullet

The rest is here: { Link }

Great post Eric. See you later today at DCLUG :-)

Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 11/17/2010 9:55:55
re: Is it just me, or does it seem like everyone hates Notes?

@Nat, if you haven't already done so, be sure to check out eProductivity http://www.eProductivity.com. Its the application that David Allen and team use to get things done with Notes. Happy to answer any questions you may have.

Discussion for this entry is now closed.