So what's the problem? I'll tell you. IBM sells Notes to companies. But people use Notes - not companies. It's time, in my humble opinion, to put Notes in the hands of the people. I mean really put it in their hands - in a way that they can use it and innovate with it. My wife uses Notes and loves it. She doesn't really know what Notes is or does. She just knows that Notes is the tool that lets her have her information anywhere, any time, period. And she knows that it is what makes her paperless filing system possible. While she hasn't designed any databases, she's thought up many. Fortunately, Kathy has me to help her. Many Notes users are not as fortunate.
I just spent a week in Boston at the Enterprise 2.0 conference. There was a lot of discussion about how tools that enable productive work and collaboration are in the hands of the people. Well, sort of. Everywhere except where it's locked down and where end-users are prohibited to innovate with their desktop tools. Imagine Microsoft or a company locking down Excel so that no one could write a formula? That's how I think Notes must feel to many. They read or hear comments from guys like me who tell them all the wonderful things Notes can do and then they point out that it does none of those things for them. That's too bad. It's no wonder that despite the significant and deserved growth of Lotus Notes, many people don't know about it. Or worse yet, think poorly of it.
It's late, I'm tired and cranky. Here are a few quick thoughts - my $.02 if you will - on a few things I think IBM could do to help end-users get Notes.... But first, a disclaimer: I like Notes. I like IBM. This is not a rant against IBM. Just a rant against what I think is a missed opportunity. I think there is MUCH that Iris, Lotus, and now IBM did and does well. Lotusphere, Ed Brill, and Alan Lepofsky are just a few examples. So, that said, here's a raw list and a few thoughts off the top of my head ...
Don't hide the Domino Express program
The Domino Express program is an incredible value. Many small businesses that were scared off by the original $62,000 license fee for Lotus Notes may be surprised to find that, using the new Domino Express program, they can deploy a small Notes infrastructure for a few thousand dollars. At a cost of ~ $150 per user (Server licenses are free in the Express program) I think Notes is easily the best value per dollar for an information/knowledge management program.
Give away the designer client
In fact, make it a part of the Notes client. Get users developing applications themselves. They already do this with other tools, why not Notes? (I know that many companies lock down Notes but even those that don't wouldn't spend $ to buy the designer client for their users.) Give away the designer client. Make Notes the Excel or Access of Information management.
I remember when VisiCalc and SuperCalc came first out. (I still have my SuperCalc manual and disks) These tools put a powerful development tool into the hands of the average user. What happened? The PC era was born as people and businesses hungered for the computers on which to run these applications. I made a lot of money in the early 80's (pre IBM-PC) designing and deploying computers and then doing modelling simulations in SuperCalc. I want to see the same thing happen in Notes.
Notes has some powerful features: Take replication, for example. Why not make it easy for end-users to set up a 3 user home network with Notes. Just last week I met with my good friend, Marc Orchant, and he showed me his innovative solution to getting his data onto each of his devices and having it everywhere. Marc's done an amazing job getting data to move between disparate systems. While listening to him, however, I could not help but think... "Notes does that..."
Make it fun to develop and share applications in Lotus Notes. Bring back LNN big time, but with access for END-USERS. Sponsor user initiated communities and then get out of the way. Take a look at what Bruce and Vince and others did with OpenNTF. Now, imagine what could happen if you truly embraced the people with the innovative ideas.
OK, there you have three ideas to get this discussion started. I'm sure I could think of more if it were earlier in the day... I can imagine another post on what organizations [that already use Notes] can do to help their users really get Lotus Notes. Perhaps another time.
What do you think IBM could do to help gain end-user traction with Lotus Notes?