Wednesday 3 January 2007

My experience of Lotus Notes at Ernst & Young

I continue to enjoy Rod Boothby's Innovation Creators blog, but I do agree with some of the comments in this recent post (about the growing success of Google's enterprise email service) that he has misrepresented Ernst & Young's use of Lotus Notes.

Firstly I should say that I'm not surprised that Boothby honestly says that "While I worked for EY, I never saw Notes used for anything other than email". This is probably because the Financial Services area he worked in was the smallest group (Accounting and Tax being the largest) and they simply never invested in enterprise-wide Lotus Notes systems as much the other areas. They typically had business requirements that were different from the larger areas who did build customised Lotus Notes applications and databases.

My experiences with Lotus Notes at Ernst & Young on the otherhand, where I worked in their global knowledge management and extranet teams between 1999 and 2004, were very different. As well as working with their global knowledge management tools, also based on Notes, in Australia I was also involved in developing some innovative tools with Lotus Notes. This included a portal in the Lotus Notes client ("EYA.Zone") that looked as good as any Web-based intranet I've seen since and a hugely popular wiki-style tool called "NavigatorLite" (we hadn't heard of wikis then, and thought of it as an electronic knowledge map that any team could manage themselves without needing a developer). In fact it was the experience of watching how NavigatorLite was used that first started my interest in user-generated software tools like Quickplace (a Web-based Lotus Notes application often used for projects - see my case study published here), EMC's eRoom, and more recently the whole Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 space.

However none of this really changes my earlier comments about Boothby and the future of Lotus Notes. However I should add that even in my time at E&Y it was clear that Web-based clients were quickly becoming the preferred user interface, and its important to recognise that in a Web browser end-users don't really care or know what platform the systems is running on - which bring us back to my much earlier posts about the grey area of form versus function in social software and here. Its not important what it runs on, its what you do with it that counts.

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