@Keith Strickland Re: Lotus Notes perception in the workplace…

After reading Keith’s post, I simply couldn’t fit everything I wanted to say into a Comment. And he brought up a sore subject for me…

How many times have you sat in a meeting with a business user and they said, “tell me if Notes can do this…”? I’ve been in too many meetings like that.

Lotus Notes as the development platform fell a victim to its own strength. Our strength is our weakness and the greater the strength, the greater the potential for weakness. Over the years, Lotus Notes suffered from being a RAD platform, which appeared easy to learn: create a few fields, put some labels on them, create 2 buttons — Close, Save — with simple @Commands and you have a Notes application.  And if you figured out @MailSend, you’ve got a workflow application.  This and the popularity of Notes in some markets attracted a myriad of Lotus Notes “developers”. These people would not be able to write a ‘Hello, World!’ program in GW-BASIC to save their lives, but they were a full-fledged, bona fide Notes developers. Lotus Notes allowed people who had no business being in IT an entry into the world of development and the “big” bucks that were associated with this glorified profession back in the day. They created truly ugly “applications” with functionality that did not extend beyond the basic @Functions. When asked by business units to add some features that were beyond their knowledge, they often replied, “Notes can’t do that”. It is little wonder that, with these people as the subject-matter “experts”, so many organizations came to see Notes as nothing more than email, a Mickey Mouse development platform at best and, consequently, chose to invest their development efforts and dollars, euro, marks and ringgits into other technologies.

Over the years I had to work with business users I had to beg to stop saying “tell me if Notes can do this”. It was an uphill battle convincing them to shed preconceived notions so deeply implanted into their minds by previous developers and to simply tell me what they want the application to do.

Today, sadly, the numbers of Lotus Notes developers have shrunk, at least around here, in Chicago. Luckily, the departure of those pseudo-developers accounts for a large portion of the shrinkage. Unfortunately, the damage’s been done and it is a long-lasting one. Like rebuilding a forest destroyed by the logging company, it will take time to reestablish Notes as valid development platform in minds of business users.

4 Responses

  1. I have to say this is NOT quite my experience. In the companies I’ve been involved with, most have been using Notes since v3, i.e. over 15 years, as have I (actually v2 for me…).
    Whilst I recognise the proliferation of ‘amateur’ applications in the early days time has moved on and these app’s have either naturally died,or, more likely, morphed over the years into slick, business driven tools that have evolved as the business, technology and development capability has moved on.
    It is rare I see a requirement that Notes can’t EASILY handle – A much more typical quote these days is “why NOT do it in ND?” or “here’s the solution, where’s the [business] problem”?

  2. Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve been at a KM conference all week and there are millions of Notes users represented, yet this discussion topic persists. When I have time, I’ll post my own thoughts about what I think IBM can (and must) do, but meanwhile, I’m encouraged to see people in the discussion.

    The key to your post for me is “perception” Notes is so much more than common perception. Some of the most productive people and organizations I know use it and it’s the last app they would consider giving up. Yet for the rest, we have a perception problem.

    Great post!


  3. Absolutely SPOT ON, Keith.

    We really need to “reboot” the minds of those requesting applications. Let’s get those faded yellow and pink forms out of their heads, and put some cool Web2.0 apps in there instead!

  4. The same situation applies to the Montreal, Qc, Canada region. I guess it is the general situation in most of North America.

    What doesn’t help either is that a Notes application used to be called a database. How many expense account, time sheet, order applications as we’ve seen in Notes, that really belonged in a real database? In french a Notes database is called a “Document-base”, which is a totally different thing to me. The nuance is there, and it’s huge. I think that too didn’t help Notes’ reputation.

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