How One Application Bitterly Split Managers And Users

Choosing new software for your business is an increasingly complex decision with a lot of different stakeholders involved, each of which has a different goal in mind.

Users want tools that are easy to use and reduce the amount of friction that gets in the way of anything they want to get done. Upper management and people in charge of the software budget want an affordable, flexible and extensive suite with as low a lifetime cost as possible.

Whether you live in Chelmsford, Southend or Colchester, IT support in Essex can help meet everyone in the middle and ensure that the right choice of software is made that keeps everyone happy and suits the working style of all relevant employees.

The importance of this is easily showcased in the story of one of the most bitterly divisive pieces of enterprise software ever made. It was a tool that purchasers, commissioners and administrators liked but end users disliked with an increasing vitriol.

This divide increased, but despite this, the program at the centre of the controversy, HCL Notes (formerly IBM Notes/Lotus Notes) continues to exist to this day.

Here is the story of the controversy and the important lessons that can be learned.

The Most Misunderstood Tool

Lotus Notes, initially released in 1989, was initially far ahead of its time and developed as a networked collaboration tool that handled server document storage, emails, instant message discussions and shared calendars during a time when businesses were only just starting to get connected.

It was another success for Lotus, best known for the 1-2-3 spreadsheet tool at the time, and IBM would buy the whole company in 1995 just to gain access to Notes, building up its server features right as the dotcom era was beginning.

This made it hugely popular with IT departments, who took advantage of its powerful back-end features and the ability to bridge it to other popular office tools like Microsoft Outlook, but end users found it increasingly difficult to navigate as applications became more standardised.

It became a regular feature of the Interface Hall of Shame, a website that chronicled difficult-to-use or unintuitive software interfaces, and the litany of issues was considerable.

The first issue is that the software had an eight-window limit to conserve the limited memory of computers at that time, but almost every single option opened a new window, making it difficult to do anything more complex than leave a note, add a contact or send an email.

The built-in spell-checking tool scans the entire email, including each email address that will inevitably be flagged as an error.

The software automatically checks for new emails but must be refreshed manually every time in order to access them. The standard window refresh key in Microsoft Windows at the time, F5, locks the screen in Lotus Notes.

These are just some of the issues users cited, which provoked confusion from IT departments who found the back end exceptionally useful.

This highlights the importance of ensuring multiple types of users are factored into any software purchasing decision so that there is not a situation where a tool works perfectly for some but is wholly unreliable for others.

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