I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… I love Lotus Activities. One of the main reasons I love Activities is that (despite loving the Notes 8 experience) I hate getting lots of e-mail. So much so that I listed my top e-mail hates at a recent event we did with the Butler Group. In no particular order:

  • I hate having a vertical scroll bar in my inbox.
  • I hate anyone who forces me over my mail quota.
  • I hate anyone who sends me two e-mails when only one was required.
  • I hate people who mark every e-mail they send as high priority (but I get my own back by not treating them as high priority… unless they really are, but that’s up to me, not you).
  • I hate e-mails that start with “I was give your name by…” – and if you think it’s amusing to send me an e-mail like that after reading this, forget it, it’s not amusing.
  • I hate e-mails that start with “I know you’re busy but…” – but what? But you don’t care?
  • I hate anyone who sends me an e-mail and then immediately phones to discuss it. Just phone me.
  • I hate anyone who continues to reply-to-all way after the point at which I’ve ceased to be involved or interested.

Now I’m not one to complain (no, really). Don’t take that list too seriously. Some bad habits there, but often trumped by people who place the location of a meeting in the subject of an invite (here’s a wacky thought… try the location field). Or include a conference call number for every country on the entire planet for a team of people who all work in the UK.

Lotus ActivitiesWhere were we? Ah yes, Lotus Activities. Most of the world’s knowledge workers work with teams of people, and they share information, content, dialogues (conversations), tasks – what I call ‘information artefacts’. A business activity will include many information artefacts, and these really shouldn’t live in your e-mail. I don’t want to start a debate on whether e-mail is collaboration or merely communication, but let’s just say it’s not the best way to collaborate.

The Lotus team in our region, UKISA, have been using Activities since before the release of version 1. This year we used an Activity to plan Lotusphere Comes To You, and we were able to share presentations, agendas, media, lists of attendees, tracking of tasks – barely an e-mail was sent on the subject. It worked extremely well, with one important caveat in mind – you have to define which tools you’re going to use and make sure that the team are clear on this. Like the old adage about leading a horse to water, you can throw the best collaboration technology on your Intranet, but people need to understand the value and the ‘why’.

Recently our Connections infrastructure was upgraded to version 2 – presumably a late beta, but it works flawlessly. There’s improvements all round, but I’m now getting to use the great stuff I saw at Lotusphere – namely Activities version 2. Although there’s heaps of new capabilities, the one I like most is very simple – the ‘entry templates’. I’ll give you an example…

My partner-in-crime, the legend that is Brendan Tutt, and I are scheduled to record some podcasts for IBM’s General Business Services team. A very nice lady sent me an e-mail which included the subjects and the synopsises. For this I forgive her, and I prompty created an Activity and invited her (and tomorrow I’ll explain Activities to her). I created an entry for details of the first podcast, and using a new feature in Activities 2 I added two custom fields – speaker and recording date – to go along with the title, details and tags. Ah, but the other three podcasts would also require these details… so I saved the first podcast entry, with it’s custom fields, as an entry template. For the other three I created a ‘Podcast overview’ and the structure of the entry was there waiting to be filled in. Simple, but very effective.

Entry template

I’ll leave you with a thought… e-mail will probably never disappear completely, but there are many people who believe it will get side-lined. Maybe one day Activities will be the collaborative tool you focus on all day, rather than living in your inbox and being reactive to what arrives (even if those e-mails are trivial and less important than your business activities, you feel compelled to act upon them and head your head above the water). Lotus are ready for that day.

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