Several weeks ago, my team and I set out on a mission to better understand how satisfied people are with Lotus Notes as a tool for productive work. So we did what many companies do - we set up a survey. We put together a long list of questions designed to help us better understand who our customers are, how and why they buy and what value they get from using our product. We signed up for a SurveyMonkey account and sent out invites.

A survey like that is generally not remarkable, but I think the answers to two of the questions are...

Within the first few hours of the survey launch, responses to two of the questions in the survey immediately caught my attention. The majority of survey respondents described themselves as not satisfied with Lotus Notes or neutral on the subject. Interesting...

User Satisfaction with Lotus Notes Mail & Tasks (Click for source data)

Take a look at the chart on the left. These aren't just grumpy end-users. These are senior and C-Level executives, department managers, product managers, sales executives, and IT managers from across ALL areas of their organizations. These are the pacesetters that select or influence the tools that they and their organizations will use to get things done. (When I filtered the results to examine  responses from IBMers only, the numbers were only slightly different.)

"OK", I thought, "it's early in the survey process; let's see what happens when we have a larger sample of responses."

Well, over four hundred fully completed survey responses later, the numbers remain pretty much the same. (Click the image above to view raw data.)

Here are the two questions we asked for the above chart.
(Respondents chose their answer from a 5 point Likert scale.)

Q5. "Prior to using eProductivity, how satisfied were you with Lotus Notes for email and task management?"

Q6. "When using eProductivity, how satisfied are you with Lotus Notes for email and task management?"

I'm not surprised at the outcome of question #6. I've known for years that I can change a Notes user's outlook on their tools just by showing them how to make them personal. What is surprising are the answers to question #5.

At what (low) satisfaction level does an organization jump ship?

I'm not sure where the tipping point is for when people would choose to switch to away from Lotus Software, but I suspect that the safety net is a small number, perhaps in the single digits. I'd like to change this.

Do the responses to Q5 represent the broader base of Lotus users?

I don't know. If so, it's no wonder we hear and read the things we do about Lotus software today.  To be fair, our survey is somewhat  biased because it was sent to people who contacted us via our web site. These productivity pacesetters we hear from are likely to be more aware of the tools they use to get things done, so I would naturally expect these users to be more passionate in their response. But perhaps not. The Lotus Notes Sucks and the I Hate Lotus Notes sites seem busy enough. (I'm not going to link there but you can google these yourself.) I wonder if any third party organization has done a survey of user satisfaction with the tools they use to get their work done? I'd really like to see that.

While I did not know what the survey responses would look like, I expected that many if not most people would probably have many positive things to share about the value they received from using eProductivity. What I was unprepared for was just how many people were unsatisfied with Lotus Software or how quickly our product could change that perception.

A few weeks ago, I asked the question, What if Notes users loved Lotus the way iPhone users love Apple? There were some interesting responses in the discussion. Then., Paul Mooney blogged about a Notes App store which has a lively discussion ongoing as I write this.

I find all of this interesting and while I do not have all of the answers, I remain steadfast in my belief that it really is possible to give Notes users a new outlook on Lotus Software and that it is not difficult  to do so. There are many excellent Notes and Domino applications out there and I'm sure that many of these are also accomplishing equally extraordinary results for their customers. It would be valuable to have a place to share this information. The Lotus Solutions Catalog, which Ed and Mike introduced at Lotusphere 2010 was a good start; however, at the time of this writing this catalog remains a resource largely unpromoted and unknown. As a result it's questionable just how many users know it exists.

Is user training the answer?

I'm sure it would help. We don't get many support requests for our Notes application. Occasionally, I take some of the calls myself - just so that I can talk with customers to get a better perspective. I'm always surprised just how many people - including IBMers and Lotus employees - tell me they received little or no training in how to use Lotus Software. (This probably goes for other software as well, but the context of the call is Lotus Software.)

I think back to a comment that Productivity expert, David Allen posted in a comment to this post on Ed Brill's blog:
Ed, as Eric wrote in his blog post and as I have said for years, most folks simply don't understand the power of what Notes can do for them. I'm constantly amazed when I'm in companies that use Notes that the average person has no idea of the power of what they have, which is probably why they complain or whine and pine for something bigger and better. I think there's a large segment of the market that doesn't even know Notes still exists (or is thriving).

OK, so what do we do with this information?

While I'm interested in all opinions, I'd specifically like to ask IBM/Lotus Business Partners for their input and comments on what we (or IBM) can do with this information. How can we, as Lotus Business partners, use this information to uplift our thinking about how we serve customers that use Lotus Software?

I'd like to know what you think!

P.S. If you will be attending to Lotusphere 2011, be sure to attend business development day. I'll be there. I'll be a presenter, too. Perhaps we can meet and continue the conversation in person.

Discussion/Comments (3):

Greg McClement (): 01/08/2011 6:59:12
User Satisfaction with Lotus Notes Mail & Tasks


When I transitioned from Outlook to Notes, I think I would have been one of your "neutral on Notes" respondents. I could still send and receive email, book meetings, store and retrieve contact information, and create task lists. The interface was different, but Notes did some things better than Outlook, so it was “fine”.

The reason we all have Notes, Outlook, or some other similar solution is we want to be able to collaborate with others to get things done. Getting training on the features and functionality of an email client does not do much to make someone more effective. Learning how to work more effectively makes one more effective.

Using eProductivity is training for becoming more effective (and efficient). The beauty of the eProductivity is that if you can grasp the simple, common-sense principles of GTD (Getting Things Done), Notes instantly becomes much more personal, much more intuitive and you can see yourself becoming more effective, within a few days of committing to working smarter. What’s not like about that?

While your survey results might be “remarkable”, they certainly are not surprising.

Mat Newman ( 01/09/2011 15:20:06
User Satisfaction with Lotus Notes Mail & Tasks

G'Day Eric,

Having stood in front of Notes user classes for over 15 years now, I can completely concur with your observations. I can't count the number of times I've had someone in a class complaining that 'Outlook can do this, but Notes can't'.

Most user 'issues' are easily resolved with eduction 'wow - I didn't realise Notes could do that!', but the biggest turning point with users perceptions about Notes is when you introduce applications beyond PIM into the mix.

When users see their work lives being made easier with the introduction of well designed - functional - Notes applications, and can see how it all works together in a single cohesive framework, perceptions change almost instantaneously.

Applications such as yours go a long way in helping set a positive outlook (pun intended) on Notes. Keep up the good work.

Best - Mat.

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