Adam Gartenberg's Blog

Business Analytics and Optimization, IBM and Social Marketing

Lotus Symphony


I found myself in the middle of an interesting discussion on Lotus Symphony at breakfast Thursday morning at Lotusphere.  I just happened to sit down at a table with 4 people that work for a community hospital, and they were in the midst of a discussion about if and how they could get their constituents (hospital workers, doctors, etc.) using Open Office or Symphony.  

From the sounds of it, some of the people had been trying to make a push for it for a number of years now, but always faced resistance from their users (like the person who will find the most complex spreadsheet they can, and come in pointing out how when they try to print it, it takes 187 pages in Open office but only 10 in Excel).  While they all seemed to be in favor of trying to move people over, there seemed to be some disagreement between those on the team that were optimistic that they could make it happen, and those that felt that they would never really be able to fully get everyone on board.  

There also seemed to be some misconceptions about the software itself (some of their users thought they had to save things in Office 97 format to transfer back and forth between Office and Open Office, which really shouldn't be necessary), but the issues they surfaced were very similar to ones I've heard before over the debate on whether to ask people to give up Microsoft Office or not.

I sat there pretty much eavesdropping for 5-10 minutes as they went on discussing this (and it was pretty heated - I would have had trouble breaking in even if I wanted to), and then broke in and introduced myself as someone that worked for Lotus.  I was particularly curious to hear what they thought we in Lotus could do to help organizations like themselves that want to move their users off of Microsoft and onto alternate solutions.

What they said they really needed was someone to come in and demonstrate the products live and show people what they can do (or, short of that, videos of people speaking about/using the product).  There was some debate on whether it would only with live demonstrations or if videos would work (they all agreed it was better than nothing).

There was also an interesting discussion on how to treat the power users - and whether it would be possible to win them to over.  Again, there was agreement that if you get the power users over, then the rest will follow, but the real question is, can you get the other users over without the power users.  (Personally, I'm guessing that there are "hub" people that may not be power users but that sit in the middle of all the action - the people who may be sending around simple documents, but sending around a lot of them - that would be key people to win over before the power users.)

They also raised the possibility of passing on the charges for Microsoft Office on to the individual departments so they can see the costs broken out (as opposed to today, where all expenses are carried by the central IT department and so below the radar of the individual departments).

They didn't reach any kind of final conclusions - or at least not until I had to excuse myself and head off to the first meeting of the day - but I found the conversation fascinating, and the idea that they really were intent on moving people off of Microsoft Office and onto Symphony/Open Office very encouraging.  I think we'll see more and more people having conversations like this as Symphony progresses through its beta process and continues to mature.