It's no secret that I think Lotus Notes is an amazing program. I've been working with Notes for 15+ years and in that time, I've yet to find a product that can do as much with so little, for so little cost. Yet, I routinely hear the "I hate Notes" cry from the uninformed or worse - people who've had Notes thrust upon them with no training or support. It's no wonder that these people don't think the same about Notes as I do. I have a well known client in the productivity business that uses Notes. People often ask him why he doesn't use Outlook (or many other products), to which he responds with a list of features that Notes has and that he relies upon that other programs, like Outlook, can't touch.

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..."

Embrace community

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?

Discussion/Comments (37):

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Good post, and your point about Designer harks back to the glory days of Notes 3 and so-called "corporate developers". In fact, that's how I started with Lotus Notes development, moving into the other technologies I develop with today.

To be fair to IBM, the Designer lock-down has a lot to do with corporations not wanting end-users developing stuff, rather than a conscientious effort on IBM's part to dismiss these users. It's interesting that with the new stuff coming out (Lotus Component Designer et al), IBM are not discounting lightweight "script development" (their words), and seek to have development platforms for three types of developer:

- Lightweight script development

- Heavier "corporate development"

- Full-on power development with the Rational toolset

Posted at 06/30/2007 2:36:11 by Ben Poole

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Here's what I think IBM should do to improve Notes: Make it suck less.

Now, I know that that's very flippant, and you can definitely count me down as someone who is not a fan (I'm forced to do it at work). But what I'm talking about are the little things that improve the usability of the program on a daily basis that just irk people when they don't work. Such as...

If I highlight a word to edit it, add the space back at the end of it, like Word.

Give me a format painter, again like Word, or at least let me put common text formatting options on the toolbar.

Why must I open a meeting request just to accept it? Let me do it from the preview.

Same thing with a meeting cancellation. In order to process it, I have to open it, click on a stupid dialog box that tells me that it's being processed, and then close it again. Stupid.

Let me sync my address book and journal to my Blackberry automatically, instead of making me do it manually (and only from the Inbox, no less!)

I could go on and on...

I don't know how much of that stuff is fixed in version 7 or the 8 beta (we're stuck on 6.5), but fixing some of the relatively simple things like that would go a long way to improving the average user's perception of Notes.

Posted at 06/30/2007 6:25:11 by Perry Reed

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Great post, Eric, and excellent comments already! Like you, I am a Notes evangelist. Having seen the transformative capabilities of Lotus Notes in terms of business collaboration, I've made it the focus of my career this last decade. Even so, I know that it is necessary to take a step back and evaluate the tool from the perspective of the general user and Perry rightly points out that much of Notes is flawed from the user point of view. A big part of that has to do with the interface (hence why I started my blog). Luckily, IBM has realized the importance of the user experience in the use of Notes, and I believe Release 8 will be a huge step forward.

Regardless of the version, Lotus Notes is too big an animal to just throw at users without any training. I've seen this scenario play out time after time at various companies and it's probably the single biggest reason that people hate Notes. Within my environment, I started the "Lotus Notes Power Hour" ({ Link } ) to help rectify this situation. The response was great and had a side benefit of making the users more interested in custom application development. I encourage everyone who is a "Notes person" at their company to try and do something similar. What's the worst that can happen?

It is interesting that so much of the talk of "Enterprise 2.0" is about empowering users to build their own solutions. This is how Notes started in many enterprises, slowly working it's way up the hierarchy. IT has worked hard to centralize over the years and now to do what you suggest means wrestling some of that control back from them. There is certainly value in both approaches, and it will be an interesting challenge over the coming months/years to help bridge those two worlds.

Posted at 06/30/2007 6:49:49 by Chris Blatnick

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

In my opinion Notes need an important functionality:

Extend the current rapid development form Notes client to be used with IE o Firefox.

Mainly the use of forms.

When a Notes App could be used with no changes in browsers, many users and deveoppers will look at Lotus Notes with googd eyes.


Posted at 06/30/2007 8:07:35 by Chema

re: What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Chris, I could not agree with you more, that one of the key problems I find whenever I meet someone who says that they don't like Notes is that they were never taught how to make use of the product. It seems that companies will spend small fortunes on technology deployments only to sabotage them by not equipping their people to make the most of the tools. In the 1980's when, PCs were new, I had a company that provided specific applications training to do just this - show people how to get the most from their tools. By the early 1990's we saw companies spending less and less on training. As an eProductivity Specialist, I work with companies -- I work with people actually, who work for companies - to show them how to make technology work for them, rather than the other way around.

I suppose a follow-on post that needs to be written is all about what companies can do to help their employees get the most from what technology has to offer, and I'm not just speaking about Notes. Perhaps another late night, when I'm cranky enough, I'll write one. Meanwhile, let's see where this discussion goes. I invite folks to respond here. I know that several IBM folks read my blog daily. It would be great to get their perspective. I'm sure they face their own set of challenges.

Posted at 06/30/2007 10:00:42 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes


When I hear about Enterprise 2.0, I get the legendary "deja vu all over again" feeling. Oooh, look, power users and business developers - exactly the way Notes got started in most organizations. heh. The bad news is, that phenomenon played a large part in the negative reputation Notes has had among IT pros: there were a million databases, all designed horribly by people who had no idea what they were doing - and I'm not being snide, I was one of those power users myself. Those databases were very effective, and great ways for departments to get things done. But they fell apart when people tried to grow them beyond the scale they were originally designed for.

So on the one hand, this Enterprise 2.0 stuff seems likely to be very successful at the department level. Less so at the, ironically, enterprise level.

And I always wonder, when people talk about putting this sort of power back in the hands of the business developers: how will this be affected by the wildly rampant application design and rollout lock-down that's being forced on IT departments in all major corporations? You know, that great big elephant in the corner: Sarbanes-Oxley; Auditors; PCI Compliance. Professional IT Developers aren't allowed to roll out new applications or change old ones without jumping through a million hoops controlled by auditing firms. Why will business developers be any different?

All of which sounds very negative, but isn't meant that way. I'd like to see IBM do a lot of work aimed at users, too. I just don't think giving end users application development capability is practical in most corporations. In small or medium sized businesses? Absolutely! And maybe that's a change IBM could institute in its SMB approach, which we all know could use work in many ways.

Posted at 07/01/2007 8:56:23 by Rob McDonagh

Companies are partly to blame, but there’s lots IBM can do to influence their thinking

Rob, you bring up some valid points, and yes, I too would probably lock down some aspects of what users could do. My post,however, was focused on a few quick thoughts on what I think IBM could do to gain end-user traction with Notes. (I've got more) Of course, there's another side to this - what the companies will do. I've blogged about how some companies sabotage their Notes investment (See: { Link } ) I'll blog on that again, I'm sure. I think that there are some things IBM can do - regardless of how users (or their organizations) respond - to gain end-user traction with Notes. I hope they do. Notes is great.

Posted at 07/01/2007 23:23:55 by Eric Mack

A Lotus Notes MVP program would be nice, too.

I just read that Michael's been made a Microsoft MVP for his blogging and writing about Microsoft Products. (Michael is a die hard Lotus Notes user BTW) See: { Link }

I can think of many bloggers (e.g. Bruce Elgort and friends) that deserve similar recognition, if it existed.

Posted at 07/01/2007 23:38:14 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

I second that emotion. It would be nice to be able to recognize if the person writing about a Lotus product has a certain level of expertise.

Posted at 07/02/2007 8:37:15 by Sean Burgess

On Notes MPVs

Indeed, Sean, I think the Notes community could come up with a list of Lotus Notes MVP nominees easily enough.

Posted at 07/02/2007 8:42:51 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

I am sure we can, but, and this might sounds a little bitchy, I am tired of the community having to take the lead on everything. Does IBM want Notes to succeed or not? I know that Notes is all about 'empowering people' to do what is necessary to get the job done, but at some point in time I just want to be handed a fish instead of a fishing pole.

Posted at 07/02/2007 11:45:12 by Sean Burgess

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes


Here's what IBM should really do if they want higher penetration with end-users - make it accessible.

After reading your blog (and subsequently others) and obvious satisfaction with this program I naturally got curious. Curiosity quickly led to frustration after a simple trip to the IBM website to download a trial version turned into an exercise in pain. THAT'S where you see IBM marketing to companies (and IT) most. 90% of the links under Trials and Demos are Demos and a search for a specific trial (notes 7) turns up 0 hits.

If I want to try a new MS product, I simply go to and download a trial. Clear, concise, quick. Download and go.

I have looked for 2 days now and still not figured out which Notes, Notes w/Domino, w/o Domino, w/Dev Package or w/o I need in order to evaluate.

And the pricing is equally ambiguous - is my $104 license good only for a year?

The end result is that while I am intrigued by this program you obvious love so much and would readily swith from Outlook, IBM is losing a potential sale (granted, only a single user, maybe a family) because I have several questions before I buy and no way to get them answered.

So I will continue to use Outlook while gazing admiringly at your productivity tools from the other side of the fence.


Posted at 07/02/2007 11:51:08 by Trevor Nelson

re: What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Sean, as a technologist and eProductivity specialist, I subscribe (and pay for) membership in many vendor programs, including those from Lotus (IBM) and Microsoft. (I've been a Lotus BP since 1993 and I was a cc:Mail BP for years before that.) Anyway, it's interesting to see the difference not only in what each program provides me to support my clients but in the tone of their written communication and the ease of use of their respective web sites. I'm not passing judgement - at least not in this comment - but there is a wide range of difference in what the various vendors do.

Posted at 07/02/2007 11:51:55 by Eric Mack

Trevor, I agree, the IBM web site could use some help

Sadly, I go there as little as possible. From a productivity perspective I can say that everything I could possibly want is there - BUT it is very difficult, in my experience, to find what I want.

Interestingly, a reader of my blog called me this weekend to say that he, too, was inspired by my posts on Lotus Notes and that, because of them, he wanted to download and play with Notes for the Mac. he said that he surfed for an hour to find it before he gave up and called me. I told him not to use the IBM site but that I would send hm the trial and help him through the setup, which is actually easy.

In December, I wanted to re-join the Notes developer program. It took several attempts, emails to Ed Brill and Alan, and even a few calls to a some person in Pakistan to get it sorted out. In the end, I did get signed up but the process was so challenging that I rarely use the site. This frustrates me because its a classic knowledge management problem: I know I could get more value from what they have to offer but I can't find it easily so I don;t look. I think IBM would benefit greatly from a site make-over. I say this not to bash IBM just to tell you that I share the frustration you've expressed at trying to find what you want.

Posted at 07/02/2007 11:56:34 by Eric Mack

I wish companies would give their users more training on Notes functionality

You wouldn't believe how many Getting Things Done classes I've done for companies on Lotus Notes and the majority of people in the audience have no idea what Notes databases are. Shocking but true, there are companies who only give their Notes users access to email and calendar--no databases, personal journal or many of the other powerful features of Notes. I'm a huge Notes fan, thanks to Eric Mack.

Posted at 07/02/2007 12:20:53 by Kelly

Thanks, Kelly, that’s why David Allen is one of my favorite clients.

David's shared the same with me, more than once - that he's gone into companies and demonstrated his personal Notes setup only to find people surprised and even shocked to learn that Lotus Notes had things like discussion databases, document libraries, a personal journal, or even doclinks. That's really sad. Imagine - companies spending $$ for what I think is one of the best productivity and knowledge management tools around and then breaking most of the functionality or not training their people to use the rest. Amazing. No wonder that employees of some of these companies say that they dislike Notes. They don't even know what Notes is! (Before the Notes bashers chime in, let me say that I see the same problem in Microsoft shops, too.) Companies sabotage their IT investment by not developing internal champions and providing training. (That's why I'm building my eProductivity consulting practice, just to help companies in this situation.)

Kelly, you know that David Allen gets Notes in a big way. (In fact, David Allen was one my first Notes deployments, many years ago.) One of the reasons that I enjoy having The David Allen Company as my client is they get the value of using productive technologies and they encourage me to show them cool ways to use these technologies to support their mission. I'll see you this week!

Posted at 07/02/2007 12:34:55 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes


Thanks for the response. I'm not knocking IBM either, nor specifically their website design.

Just pointing out that if it were easier to get hold of trial versions, eval copies, and more easliy get answers to questions they would have a much bigger market shape.

You pointed it out yourself in a previous topic - { Link }

Microsoft makes it easy to try their products - IBM makes it next to impossible, especially for single end-users.

To have such a (I assume) powerful tool and yet make it inaccessible to the average user seems counter productive.

This raises another question, perhaps a follow-up to yours - does IBM really want individual users, or only business? You make suggestions as to how they can better market and increase the use of Notes - in my opinion, succeeding at that would only lead to further problems. If you create a product that people love, but can only use at work, are they really going to enjoy the product, or become even more frustrated? If you were only able to use Notes from 8 to 5 and then had to switch to Outlook every evening would you still be as enamored (and skilled) with Notes?

Posted at 07/02/2007 12:38:58 by Trevor Nelson

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

I agree about IBM missing out with the Express program. Part of the issue is how notes is preceived. It's always sold as email first and collaboration software second. It's a *very* effective small database application system as well but its looks poor in user interface features compared to ms access a lotus approach.

Small companies need an all-in-one package. The best features of PC packages is allowing easy to setup printing - After 15 years notes still has no native report writer. We're talking simple page header/detail/page footer + page numbers type printing.

It's non trivial to setup notes to provide simple lists to mail merge or produce labels. Small companies don't spend time on IT stratagy. A person with a task finds what works for them and sticks with it until something better comes along.

Pick some common office tasks and make notes easier to use.

Shared contacts list, mailing labels,Vendor addresses, employee lists, etc.

Posted at 07/02/2007 14:24:56 by Wayne Sobers

re: What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Good points, Wayne. I always think of Lotus Notes as a powerful database and collaboration tool first and then an e-mail client. (Which is the way it was designed). I forgot that many folks - including, possibly IBM as you have pointed out - may think of Notes as an e-mail platform that happens to have great collaboration and database/KM tools within. A totally different perspective.

Posted at 07/02/2007 14:35:11 by Eric Mack

What can organizations do to help their user’s "Get Notes?"

Michael and I have had a running conversation about what we think organizations can do to help their people "Get Notes." Michael's posted some of these thoughts on his blog: { Link }

Posted at 07/03/2007 0:12:04 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Eric, great post and great comments. I'd so much rather be talking about this than typing, but here we go.

I agree, we should make the barrier to entry to get Notes and Domino trial code easier. Yes, finding it can be hard, but should not be impossible. On the left side of the Lotus Notes home page there is a link "Demos and Trials". After a few clicks, you should be at Trial: Lotus Notes, Domino Designer, and Domino Administrator clients V7.0.2. It is for Windows, I don't know if there is a Mac trial, but there certainly should be. The annoying part is you need to create an IBM web site ID/PW in order to download. I disagree with this policy and have fought against it many times, but it is not something I can get changed. If you would like to try Lotus Notes 8 instead of 7.0.2, then you can get the code from the Notes 8 Beta home page.

On to Lotus Notes and Domino Express. For around $100 USD per user for the power of Notes/Domino is an amazing deal, but unfortunately not enough of the world knows about. Reaching accounts of under 1000 people has traditionally been an area where IBM relies on our vast array of Business Partners world wide. There are many marketing and sales programs in place to help them with this. Since the SMB world is not dominated by Notes/Domino, I have to assume this has not been an affective approach. I can't imagine a single SMB that could not benefit from using Notes.

Domino Designer, I agree it should be made available to many more people, especially Express customers.

In regards to complaints about the Notes user interface, I'm not passing the buck here, but often the experience users have with Notes is based on "ugly" applications created by their company's developers. If anyone has seen applications created by people such as Chris Blatnick or Nathan Freeman, they would be very happy with Notes. That said, we (Lotus) need to make it much easier for all developers to create good looking applications.

As far as "features", I think Notes 8 is a monumental leap from the Notes client people use today. I only hope that companies make Notes 8 available to their users asap, so they can reduce the "I hate Notes" bad karma.

You might get mad at me for this, but I'm not going to jump onto this "recognition" bandwagon so quickly. I don't think it is without merrit, but I think we need to be careful. The Notes community of bloggers, conference speakers, article writers, etc. is already "too inner circle". We spend a lot of time catering to the already faithful, we need to find ways to grow the community. That is not to say we should ignore anyone that is helping us! I want to keep our faithful happy as well.

Both Eric and Michael have mentioned business value. I want to make sure everyone knows that with their Lotus Notes licence, you get not only email, calendar, and all the collaborative applications you can build, but you also get Sametime awareness and chat , integration with SAP, as well as document, spreadsheets, and presentations in Notes 8, and later this year Quickr Personal Edition. That is A LOT of value for your purchase!

I wish I had the magic answer as I'd love to see the entire world using Lotus Notes, and can't for the life of me understand why companies are even thinking about spending huge sums of money to migrate to anything else.

Posted at 07/03/2007 8:08:03 by Alan Lepofsky

Good points, Alan.

Thanks for your thoughtful response and the links. This is a complex issue and I've not even addressed what I think organizations could/should do to to help their users get the most from Notes. Perhaps you'd be willing to do a podcast on this in the future?

Posted at 07/03/2007 9:06:51 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Alan, a question for you:

Eric's original post was a call for IBM to educate more "individuals" on the power of Notes and spread the word. He outlined several areas he felt should be touched on to show "people" rather than companies what Notes is capable of.

As an IBM employee and argueably closer to the source, is this a relevant topic? Is the end-user even a target for IBM?

Given IBM's obviously business-centric advertising, and your own comments it would seem that IBM really doesn't want individuals. The policy of shunting (my word) any account under 1000 users ($100,000/yr licensing) to "Business Partners" would seem to suggest that anything less than that "isn't worth their direct involvement." While I'm sure that's not the intention, and your words weren't meant to convey that, to an outsider, just the idea that there is a bottom limit to what they will directly engage in seems to say that individuals/small business isn't a target.

I've worked in several small to mid-size ($25M - $500M & 100 - 5000 emp) const./development companies over the last 20 years and I have yet to even meet anyone who uses Notes, in fact, my first exposure to it's capabilities has been through Eric's blog, and associated links/references.

So, the question as I see it would be, should IBM work on "end-user traction" or just better educating the Fortune 500 on it's capabilities?

And just to be clear - I'm not bashing IBM. I'm just curious from a single-user perspective. If I'm not the intended user/target, then there's really no point in my evaluating Notes.

Thanks for the discussion.

PS: regarding IBM's website and trials - as you said, the trial is accessible through "several clicks"(4 I beleive), but I found it with only using YOUR website. :)

Posted at 07/03/2007 13:12:23 by Trevor Nelson

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

"Is the end-user even a target for IBM?" Of course.

"I'm sure that's not the intention, and your words weren't meant to convey that" Correct, they were not. Your interpretation slants towards the negative, but I feel IBM's use of Partners is very positive. There are thousands of Lotus Partners around the world that make a living selling Lotus software and services to customers. Typically small customers don't have their own IT departments, and prefer to outsource. The Partner would be able to help them setup the hardware/software, deploy it, train their users, create some customer applications, etc. This is not something an IBM sales rep would do. Does that make sense?

Posted at 07/04/2007 6:14:55 by Alan Lepofsky

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

BTW, here is the Notes client trial for Mac:

Trial download: Lotus Notes 7.0.2

AIX 5L V5, Apple Macintosh Operating System, Linux for System x 86Series, Linux for System z, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, Solaris (Sun Microsystems), Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP

{ Link }

Posted at 07/04/2007 6:51:31 by Alan Lepofsky

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes


Yes, you make sense. And I assumed that was the case. Sorry if it sounded negative. It wasn't intended that way. I actually like IBM and what I've seen of their products, but I haven't actually used them.

And that's part of the problem. I don't feel that IBM considers me a customer. The marketing (from what I've seen) is specifically towards business and IT depts.

Say what you will about MS and their marketing/OEM tactics, but I can walk into any Staples/Best Buy/Circuit City/etc. and but a copy of Outlook (I'm using this an an e-mail/calendar client comparison.)Not so with Lotus Notes.

So, to Eric's topic, he points out several ways to show EXISTING users the power of Notes. Is part of the 'traction' problem perhaps not so much that "users" don't understand all Notes can do, but rather that IBM Partners aren't adequately trained/promoting these capabilities themselves? Most Outlook users (and some IT depts.) don't know it's full capabilities either, but it's the standard today.

As I said earlier, in 20 years I've never seen (nor know of) a single deployment of Notes in any company I've dealt with.

I don't wish to belabor the point, nor take up any more of your time. It just seems to me that the larger problem with Notes traction isn't so much one of existing users being comfortable with it, it's the lack of consumer awareness. I think most 'employees' are by default resistant to using/learning corporate mandated programs, especially if they're only available at the corporation (office.) If Notes was more readily available commercially and marketed to the PUBLIC as an Outlook alternative (and in the publics eyes there really is no other comparison) you would enjoy greater success and "traction." If Joe Public was able to walk into any store and see Outlook and Notes side by side and cost the same, after comparing features, which do you think he would choose. Right now that (easy & quick) comparison doesn't exist.

Thanks for your time.

And thanks for the link. :)

Posted at 07/04/2007 7:56:27 by Trevor Nelson

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Trevor, I understand your point. You are right, Notes is not as easy to obtain as Outlook. IBM does not sell packaged software in stores, I wish we did. Of course I don't agree that in the public's eye there is nothing to compare to Outlook! :-) Gmail, Thunderbird, Eudora, Apple Mail all come to mind! This thread is excellent, and lots of people at Lotus are reading it.

Posted at 07/04/2007 9:01:42 by Alan Lepofsky

re: What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Alan, when I first read Trevor's comment about Notes not being available to end-users in stores, I thought, "of course not, Notes is a serious product for getting real work done and it requires infrastructure and IT and all of that..." Of course, that's wrong. I know of many people that use only the Notes client as their communication and information management tool. I wonder if IBM ever thought of selling the Notes client by conventional means as a way of gaining traction and awareness in the market place. Notes 8 certainly brings much to bear in this space and IT or a consultant is no longer required for basic setup and use...

Posted at 07/04/2007 13:43:24 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes


Good point regarding alternatives, but it kind of reinforces mine.

As I understand it, Notes does e-mail, IM, calendar, tasks, browser interface, notes, etc. None of those alternatives (except Eudora) does all of them, except Outlook and Notes. In addition to what you named you would need Google Cal, iCal, IM client, etc. So really Outlook IS the one to be compared to. At least from a private user standpoint.


You hit on my point exactly.

I have 5 home computers for my family, but no server set-up. So is Notes even a viable option for me? Would the stand-alone client replace Outlook for me, my wife, my kids? Without having to set-up a server?

Posted at 07/04/2007 15:20:28 by Trevor Nelson

re: What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Trevor, you could use Notes with five clients only, BUT you would get SO MUCH MORE if you choose to set up a simple Domino server on a machine. (Under the Domino Express program, the server licenses are free.) This is precisely what we have done in our home. In addition to the business databases that I have, we also have several family discussion databases and document libraries that we share between us. These include: Homeschool, Recipes, Travel, Emergency Preparedness, Household operations, Mack Family Reference, and Eric & Kathy discussion. My older children use Notes and, in fact, they are learning to use my eProductivity solution for GTD in Lotus Notes as a part of their work. of course, you could do all of this with individual clients but the server will allow you to share the information and even take it off-line. Finally, you may choose to use your server to make any or all of this web-accessible.

Posted at 07/04/2007 15:54:06 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes


First, I really appreciate your time. Thanks.

From your comments it sounds like Notes, in the server set-up, replaces not on e-mail et al., but My Docs, My Pics, My Vids, etc. All could be stored on the Domino server for the family to share. And all could be updated/modified for all at the same time. Close?

I'll admit I'm still not clear on "replication." I'm not sure how all my docs reside in my server but are still available on my client machine off-line. I just read through Alan's tips on Notes and he stopped just before he explained "local vs. server" replication. :)

If I'm correct on Notes replacing the various folders then I think the real "miss" in Notes gaining acceptance IS in not going after the home market more aggressively.

If Notes can do all you say and more, if the general public had it on their home machines wouldn't they be more inclined to demand it on their work ones? And having it available at both both places, wouldn't that encourage experimentation/discovery? No ones really going to experiment with their work computer.

Isn't that what MS has done with Outlook/OL Express?

And the pricing faces the same problem. I'll agree with Alan that for the functionality that Notes provides $100 is a fair price. But not $100 per year. When I buy Outlook I own it. I don't have to renew it yearly, just update it every few years, and even then only at my choice. I've been using Outlook for 6 years, but have bought only 2 versions (2 fees.) Asking the public to adopt a complicated/powerful program and then to pay for the use of that every year isn't going to draw anyone in.

Maybe a slightly stripped version (no collaboration, sametime, etc.) for the public at a one time purchase price? This would at least get people to try it, and perhaps lead to a greater understanding of it's capabilities, leading in turn to more demand in the workplace.

My $.02

Posted at 07/04/2007 17:28:27 by Trevor Nelson

re: What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Trevor, Notes will replicate (think sync across any number of computers/locations) information contained within its own database. A Domino server handles this process. A Domino server (a software process) could be used for file sharing, however, you would not want to use Lotus Notes/Domino to share your pictures/video, etc. That's best left to a file server and there are many low cost ways to do this. As far as the price issue if you are comparing Notes as an email client to Outlook as an e-mail client for individual use that's one thing. If you are comparing Notes as an information management tool that also happens to have PIM and email against Outlook as an email with PIM that's another thing. I suppose at the end of the day, what you think is a fair price is about the value you perceive that you will get from it. I've have no objection to price for personal or business use, because I've found ways to get tremendous value from my use of Lotus Notes. I hope this helps.

Posted at 07/04/2007 17:45:51 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes


Having never used Notes I can't speak to whether the license is fair or not. Given what you've said it's capabilities are I imagine it is worth it.

Your original post was a question on how Notes could gain "more traction." My comments have been those of someone who has never used, nor even seen Notes, and what my view of why this is and why I, as a general user would at first be leery of using it. Hopefully they were not interpreted as negative or IBM bashing.

Thank you for your responses. You are truly a wonderful advocate for Notes. I am planning to evaluate the trial version, both for myself and my family, based solely on your descriptions of it.

Posted at 07/04/2007 18:28:35 by Trevor Nelson

Notes for the Home

Well, Trevor, yours was an unexpected outcome of this blog post, but I hope you find it worthwhile. Fortunately, IBM provides free evaluations of their products so your investment is only your time. Take your time to review the information over at Alan's blog as he has many wonderful tips & tricks. You might even encourage him to blog a little about the personal side of using Notes. I wish you the best of success.

Posted at 07/04/2007 18:37:44 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

I'll try and respond to a few points later, but one thing I want to make clear, after the first year you purchase IBM software, for each following year the "maintenance" is much less than the full price. For example, IBM Lotus Domino Collaboration Express User License + SW Maintenance 12 Months is $137.00, and renewal is $35.50.

Posted at 07/04/2007 20:57:40 by Alan Lepofsky

Yes, Mark, Lotus Notes can do that, too.

Michael just posted a great summary about how a former Microsoft Manager moved to an organization that used Notes and thought to change the organization to Microsoft, only to learn how much Notes could do. yet another example of an opportunity where IBM [and its business partners] can improve the awareness of what Notes can do. See

Posted at 07/06/2007 21:09:34 by Eric Mack

What IBM needs to do to gain end-user traction with Notes

Just to be clear Eric ... Mark isn't a "Microsoft manager" in the sense of previously working for Microsoft the company. He's an IT manager who has previously worked a lot with Microsoft (and Citrix) products. Sorry if I wasn't clear in the original article.

Posted at 07/08/2007 22:02:14 by Michael Sampson

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