Sunday, August 1, 2010

Back to basics with Notes: what you can do now


By Mick Moignard

Last week, what it means to get back to basics with Notes. I talked about the little things that makes Note special and how it's the users that matter.

"Focus on what makes Notes strong, not on what others claim makes Notes weak."

Next time you see a spreadsheet used as a shared database or a workflow repository, find the owner of it, and discuss with him whether a simple Notes database would fit the bill.

Take the time before you do that to mock up a form and a view in a Notes database, so that you have something to show him, too. Get a discussion going about how you can create something that will do what the spreadsheet does, but which can also email reminders, scale to lots of users quickly, doesn't require access to the shared drive where the spreadsheet is kept, and all the other good things that Notes can do.

Try to rein in the user's tendency to add all sorts of other functions that add more cost and complexity rather than added value. After all, If they can't do that piece of functionality in a spreadsheet or in a paper application, why is it so necessary to have it in a Notes app?

Chat with people in end-user departments, and ask about their everyday pain points. More often than not these aren't Line of Business applications, but are the internal processes they use every day - the NVA that we noted earlier. Mundane, yes, but still lots of opportunity to save time and money.

We need to be sure that we are focused on the business problems that we're trying to solve and not just getting off on at all the latest technology. Remember, we're looking here at the simple, and mostly mundane things that just plain get in the way of doing the work that we're actually being paid to do.

We're really not looking for the next hot thing here, though it may be round the corner, and may indeed be hidden inside quite a plain and ordinary app. Try to implement a solution with a form, a couple of views and maybe a page and the odd outline, all running in the Notes client that people already have.

I've implemented plain old Notes apps in the past that took me a less than a day to write. The business issues that can be solved with a day or so of Notes development are still out there, still looking for that solution, and just need someone to spend a little time on it.

Look back at what you know and what Notes can do.

Rather than spending time Web-enabling the application, whether that's the old way or the XPages way, get the solution working with the Notes client the old-fashioned way, and go show the end users what you've done, and how it can deliver the goods for them, starting today.

Which makes me wonder more and more whether Lotus have gone the wong way with XPages and Eclipse. Some years back, Bob Balaban said that he wanted to make Notes a kick-ass development platform again, and the end result was XPages. XPages is indeed a kick-ass development platform, but is it actually the one that Notes and Domino needed?