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Don't let the IT department stifle Social Computing as they did Lotus Notes!

Posted to Gurteen Knowledge-Log by David Gurteen on 13 December 2007



Don't let the IT department stifle Social Computing as they did Lotus Notes!
WeblogGurteen Knowledge Log
Knowledge LetterAppears in the Gurteen Knowledge Letter issue: 90
Posted DateThursday 13 December 2007 23:17 GMT
Posted ByDavid Gurteen

Ten years ago or more when I was working as a Lotus Notes consultant and developer, I saw IT departments effectively emaciate Lotus Notes by insisting that Notes applications be developed by a centralized team and driven by a rigorous functional specification. This was not the way to develop Notes applications - it curtailed its widespread use and ensured the development of unusable applications. I wrote about an alternative to this back in 1998!

Its still my belief that it was the IT departments that effectively stifled Lotus Notes. IT would bar users with technical skills from developing their own applications though they did not prevent them from developing Excel spreadsheet applications that would have been better implemented as a simple database or a Notes application. I can recall several occasions where I turned a complex, bug ridden Excel spreadsheet that had taken weeks of development into a simple robust Notes application in a couple of hours. And then everyone with appropriate access rights could effectively share the application on a central server rather than share it in turn on a shared file drive or by passing the Excel file around by email!

So this blog post by Lee Bryant although not focused on IT development as such caused me not only to smile but to remind me that given their way most IT departments will try to kill social computing in the same way they did for Notes. Here is the passage of Lee's that got me chuckling:
The same IT folks who rail about the "risks" of sharing and online social networking are also responsible for creating systems so unusable and inflexible that they lead users to dump entire databases onto CD and lose them. I think it is fair to argue that IT systems that do no understand people are a bigger risk than human-scale web computing that treats people as adults.
It reminds me also that the main feature of a Wiki is that documents can be edited online by multiple people. This causes some people a lot of heartache as no one person is "in control". And causes IT departments more heartache than most. Lotus Notes first shipped in 1989, almost 20 years ago and one of its major features was the ability to edit shared documents. The "problem" is not new! In fact its not a problem at all - its the major benefit!

If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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