Thursday, April 29, 2010

White Space? Doesn't everyone have an Email system?

Evidently not.

Yes, there is life on the planet that does not have a corporate email solution in
place.

Sure, there are some small outfits or startups who don't have anything, but this is a company doing some serious business with offices in 3 locations, 2 in the US and about 100 people.

But they use FREE tools. How cool! How cheap! How....frustrating!!!

Seems the IT person/people had a great idea to use web tools (not ones I even know, but to each their own findings) and Linux file servers running some homespun email, and well, you get the picture. They have serious issues with a failure of various services, some web 2.0 software they used going under, their file server platform needs to get restarted daily, they use an ISP mail server, they have no calendaring/scheduling, they use a (1)Google calendar for everyone to manage their calendar, but send invites via an Outlook like program and track other bits of meeting info in a spreadsheet, which is shared between the AA's and... well it's amazing they get it all done.

We were asked to discuss LotusLive(LL for the rest of this post).
We ruled out LLiNotes because they also want a full client, they can't depend on Internet access for everything all the time.
LLNotes was deemed appropriate because of their need for a mixed client and browser requirements to accommodate everyone's way of working, I can appreciate their forward thinking on this.
LLEngage was included as they want collaboration, sharing of files(inside and out), Meetings and parts of the Lotus Connections which is in the offering.

After meeting with the executive in charge, we sat down with some people who setup meetings and we learned how they work and their frustrations. Something I learned over 15 years ago is always ask the administrative assistants if you want to know what works or doesn't in a company and just what they do every day, because these are the 10% of people who use 90% of the product, really, so befriend them if you know what's good for you...and them. Done with lesson.

So they proceeded to detail how they set a meeting.

First, they go to the great Google calendar they use to see what time is free...for everyone. Yes, most of the employees time is kept in there. Then they find a time(somehow)that works for everyone.

Second, they must find a phone line which is available for the conf. call. They use...a spreadsheet to track this. Evidently their Google calendar does not have a resources option. They provide a line they think might be open based on anything scheduled around the meeting. I kid you not.

Third, they have a location which uses....Outlook. Not Exchange or so I was told, just Outlook for their calendar and email. So these poor AA's have to send an Outlook invite to those people and a Google one to everyone else, I gave up asking why after a while. Suffice it to say they need a little direction as they are expected to double in size next year.

Fourth, they then have to track everyone that accepted or not to merge the 2 different calendars plus outside people. I immediately thought of Tungle and advised them to use it. And save a huge amount of time and effort, but they don't want to learn something new and then another thing after(the LL they meant). While I explained it works together, decided it better to push forward.

Fifth, there is the problem with seeing someone's email, especially if there is NO server for email. Sorry did I forget that part? All emails are downloaded to each person's pc. Never mind Business Continuity or Government requirements(we also discussed what they should or should not do, I suggested their corporate lawyers provide a guideline and then we can discuss it, I am not a lawyer and can not advise on that properly). So they almost have to play phone tag with people to verify times/dates, some people seem to use an IM or Skype but not enough.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Now, after all this, I sat down with my laptop and showed them 3 different ways to create those same meetings requests. I used LotusLive, Notes and the Domino iNotes clients. Imagine their faces, and comments, as I showed them the meeting options in the Notes and iNotes side include the LotusLive details for dialin and meeting details, Group Calendar option, colored layers(they have that in Google but not one for themselves and everyone else), free time lookups, resource reservations, auto processing for meetings and a few other items they asked about.

Happy to hear them say things like "Something really does all of that?" or "OMG, we don't have to deal with 4 different lookups and systems?" and my favorite "We can't do this in Outlook!".

At no time did anyone voice a bad opinion about Notes or IBM. True the exec was in the room, but even after he left, everyone was just amazed and impressed at what they saw.

Next thing is to setup a demo for the AA's on some items they asked about so they can walk through a few meeting setups on their own to make sure we have all the pieces they use/need.

So the next time you hear there is no new opportunities out there, just remember, you see what you want to see.

Did I mention these guys have an office inside a building where Microsoft has offices. I almost went to the MS office just to go talk to their local evangelist but as our meeting ran over by an hour or so had to get home. Maybe next time I will check it out. That might be an interesting post.