Does the Notes8.x vision stack up?

It’s been a busy week here at Collaboration Matters, with our ongoing work for the company we are consulting for starting to come to fruition.  After much discussion, planning and design, their new collaboration infrastructure is being built as I write this.

As you might expect, the cornerstone of this infrastructure is Notes and Domino 8.0.1, with large helpings of Quickr, Sametime, Connections and Omnifind (amongst others) being integrated for good measure.  It has been really interesting looking at how the current line-up of Lotus collaborative products fits together to solve the needs of a new business that currently doesn’t have an internal collaboration space, not even having its own email system when I arrived.  

It is so rare these days to find this kind of “white space” in which to work, it comes almost as a shock to not have to worry about integration or migration of existing systems.  In addition, this is an organisation that embraces so many of the trends that IBM talk about on a regular basis – the move towards remote working, multi-national cooperation, virtual offices, offshoring/outsourcing and so on.  The fit of technology to culture is always important, and in this case it really could not be better.

One of the real benefits of this piece of work has been the opportunity to take the building blocks of the Domino-based products, together with the impressive beast that is the Notes 8.0.1 client, and really see how these collaborative tools can fit the existing business processes, whilst also supporting new ways of working that will help take the business into the future.  The word “innovation” is thrown around rather glibly at the moment, but it is important to realise that a well-thought out collaborative foundation really can enable innovative thinking, idea development, and solution creation.    There is no doubt that Domino, Notes, Sametime and Quickr provide a great foundation layer for a collaboration/innovation infrastructure – all the tools are there.  Put another way, no aspect of these products forms a barrier to innovation, and perhaps that is just as important…

One of the challenges that springs from working in this kind of environment has been to avoid slipping into the thought that the core of the new infrastructure will be email – it would be so easy to implement mail as the primary means of communication then add-on the rest of the collaboration suite.  They are a small business that works with a large number of outside agencies, so historically they have used email in a  big way to share plans and meeting minutes, discuss new projects and so on.   So rather than starting with email, we’re looking at a bottom-up approach of analysing what email is used for, and then providing means of completing these tasks or processes without reference to the inbox.  We are trying to make email the last option, never the first one.  Some tasks are easy to re-engineer, others are much more challenging.  We will get there!

What has been clear however, is that the vision behind Notes 8, the “integrated collaborative desktop client” does indeed stack up, especially for small knowledge-based organisations such as this one.  The ability to give users access to all their information, documents, applications, colleagues  and processes via the one tool, whichever client OS they choose to use or method of working they favour, is so powerful.  I can’t wait to see the users get access to the new environment next week….

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!