Lotus Notes Isn’t Just for E-Mail Anymore

FRAMINGHAM (02/06/98) - The internet - the very thing that threatened to make Lotus Development Corp.’s Notes obsolete a few years ago -- seems to be driving Notes users to use the product's groupware features in addition to its elec-tronic mail.

A recent Computerworld poll of 101 information systems managers in organizations that use Notes and other interviews indicate that companies are increasingly using Notes for more than just e-mail.

For example, 86 percent of respondents use Notes for group discussions, and more than half of them have workflow applications based on Notes. Some 64 percent use Notes as a repository for corporate know-how, and about two-thirds have built custom groupware applications.

Users cited widespread support for Internet protocols in Notes and the companion Domino server as a key factor in the growing popularity of groupware applications.

"It’s easier now to develop these [groupware] applications [due to improvements in Notes]," said Linda Kilcrease, a collaboration architect at BASF Corp. in Mt. Olive, New Jersey, which will roll out about 13,000 Notes seats. "And we now have the option of running [World Wide Web] browsers as clients with Domino applications," she said.

Kilcrease said when Notes 5.0 is released -- with an integrated Web browser in the client -- the company will make the groupware accessible to even more application developers.

"Support for Internet protocols means that we can distribute applications cheaply and easily," said Tim Page, executive director at Aon Group Ltd., an insurance company in Chicago with 30,000 Notes seats.

Besides using Notes internally, the insurer lets customers view documents stored on Domino servers using browsers.

Previously, a lot of companies installed Notes but failed to deploy the more sophisticated groupware functions. A 1996 survey of more than 1,600 Notes users conducted by Arthur Andersen & Co. indicated that about half of respondents used Notes for discussions and only 14 percent used it for workflow.

"We’re not just rolling out Domino servers for e-mail," said Dennis Murray, global head of cooperative technologies for clinical development and regulatory affairs at Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. in East Hanover, New Jersey, which has 25,000 Notes users. Instead, the company decided to leverage its investment in Notes by building an intranet application based on Domino to manage regulatory affairs, and it will eventually develop one for drug development, Murray said.

Ironically, there may be a downside to the fact that Notes application development appears to be taking off on the Web. "The continued use of Notes for collaboration and custom Notes and Web development raises some doubt about Lotus’ view of its product as a leading messaging product," said Mark Levitt, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Massachusetts. Lotus was playing up Notes’ e-mail features at its Lotusphere ’98 last month. Users and analysts said the move was a direct response to the popularity of Microsoft Corp. Exchange, which is known more for messaging than for groupware.

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