Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Collaborate From Anywhere...The Value Proposition of Lotus Quickr

If I had to pick a common Achilles' Heel among the various collaboration systems I've worked with through the years, I would probably point to the fact that each system usually has a single point of entry. That is, you have to (virtually) leave the place you are currently working in order to go to the "place to collaborate". I've found this to be true of Lotus Notes document libraries and Team Rooms, Documentum, Quickplace and other web-based repositories and even Sharepoint (depending on the tools you are using). This creates a barrier of entry for a lot of people. They just don't want to have to open yet another window on their already crowded workspace in order to use collaboration tools. In addition, having to leave the context we are currently working in in order to share with our colleagues interrupts our flow state and makes us less productive. Just as effective collaboration has a cultural component that is vitally important, so too must the tools facilitate easily contributing to and consuming from the collective knowledge pool. Thus, one way to shore up that Achilles' Heel is to provide multiple entry points into the collaboration tool of choice. Lotus Quickr has introduced such mechanisms and by doing so really provides a compelling value proposition for team collaboration.

One of the driving goals for Lotus Quickr (and indeed the entire line of Lotus products) is the concept of collaborating in context. Collaboration in context is all about integrating content, tools and people (all the important components of the collaboration equation) within your business process. A great example of this is the Sametime presence awareness capability. If I'm in a TeamRoom and have a question about a document, I can immediately see if the author is online and can initiate a new chat session with them all from the place where my attention is currently focused. Quickr takes this idea to a new level through the Quickr Connectors.

If you've seen Quickr out in the wild, you've probably seen the web-based UI. While certainly shiny and new, this UI only shows one facet of the product. If you choose to, you can access all of the collaborative features of Quickr by opening your browser and navigating to your Team Place, but the beauty of the Quickr Connectors means you don't have to. Instead, you can access Quickr content and add to Team Places from where you already are. This includes:

  • Lotus Notes

  • Microsoft Office

  • Lotus Symphony (coming soon)

  • Windows Explorer

  • Lotus Sametime

Quite an impressive list! IBM rightly realized that when people collaborate, there is usually some artifact that prompted the collaboration process. For most knowledge workers, this means we are authoring documents, usually in one of the tools listed above. Rather than making users take extra steps to get that content to the "place to collaborate", Quickr was designed to meet people where they are actually doing their work. This is a huge leap forward in my mind, as it removes that big stumbling block that plagues many collaboration initiatives.

Let's look at a couple of simple scenarios so that you see the power of Quickr. I think these will help in articulating the value proposition.

Scenario 1: Jim is an HR employee responsible for updating the company policy manual. This process involves making the changes in MS Word and then getting feedback from his colleagues before the changes are published.

Old Way: Jim has to locate the current, official policy document, copy it to his hard drive and open it in Word. He then makes the necessary modifications and makes sure he saves a new version on his computer. In order to collaborate with his colleagues and get their feedback, Jim then opens the Lotus Notes HR TeamRoom and creates a new document, attaching the Word file to it. This process, while not difficult, is inefficient and requires that Jim do a lot of task switching.

New Way: With Quickr, Jim's life will be a lot easier. If the HR policy exists in a Quickr site, he can open it directly from Word, make his changes, and save a new copy back to Quickr...collaboration in context.

Click to enlarge

Scenario 2: So much collaboration takes place today by people sending attachments back and forth in e-mail. This is extremely inefficient for many reasons. For users, attachments are the single biggest cause of being thrown into "mail jail" (i.e. exceeding quotas). In addition to the requirements from a storage perspective, there can be version find yourself wondering if the version you have is the most current one. With the integrated Quickr shelf in Notes 8, you can solve these problems. The Quickr shelf allows you to see all of your Team Places and access data from them directly from Notes. You can drag and drop attachments from an e-mail message into a Place. You can also drag an attachment out of a Place and into an e-mail message. Quickr is smart enough to add this attachment as a link rather than an actual attachment.

Click to enlarge

To help you remember to use your collaboration tools when you are sending e-mails, Quickr will detect if you have any attachments in your message and will prompt you to save them into Quickr. You can select the Place to move the attachments into and then the attachments will be replaced with links to the newly added Quickr content.

Many of the other integration points work in the same way, utilizing common actions that meld very nicely with the system we are interacting with (drag and drop into Quickr from Windows Explorer, for example).

In my experience as a collaborative technologies consultant, once you get people on board with the idea that collaboration is important and valuable for them, the next hurdle is getting them to actually use the tools. Lotus Quickr with the Quickr Connectors makes a very compelling case for simplifying adoption and helping your users get over that hurdle. I think we'll see this idea of collaboration in context start to embed itself in more and more collaborative tools and I am really looking forward to that experience. I know for me that working with Quickr has been a pretty enjoyable ride so far.


tbahn said...

My preferred workflow for scenario 1 would be: Jim opens his company policy manual - a Lotus Notes application. It's a kind of an electronic "book". It has an approval workflow and support for discussion between authorized people build in - as automatic versioning and archiving (for compliance). The content is directly written within a RichText field and therefore directly readable without opening another (office) application.

And for scenario 2: At least for content in Notes database no documents have to be "thrown around". The application should contain an action to create mails with links.

You still seem to think in "documents"/files, but information can also be stored directly in a collaborative environment like Lotus Notes. Thus no change of "place" ;-)

Thomas Bahn

Chris Blatnick said...

Thomas...that's the ideal scenario of course! :-) Unfortunately, many of the customers I come across are still document-centric where the documents are Word files, Excel spreadsheets, etc. Until we can get them to shift their mindset to your way of thinking (which I agree with whole-heartedly), Quickr with the Connectors is a great alternative.