The following may be of interest if you are considering Lotus Notes as a groupware product or if, having made the purchase, you are unsure how to proceed.
What is Notes good for.
Notes enables users to work independently, in a coordinated way on a common goal.
Applications: Sending Email ticklers as information changes.
Many times I have relied on Notes' ability to generate tickler Emails. A good example is a request tracking database. Someone submits a request into the database via email. Based on the topic, the database determines who should be informed of the submission. An email, with a doclink to the request, is sent to the chosen individual. Upon receiving the email, he or she links to the request and assigns a technician. The database generates one email to the technician and a second email to the user updating them on the status of their request.
In the first, Notes sends all the information, stored in a form, from one person to the next, based on the workflow path. Each person performs the required action and the form is then forwarded to the next person in the path.
The second approach is to keep the information stored in a central database and only send a tickler email (with a doclink to the information) whenever an update is required.
In most cases, our users are connected via network, so I have tended to use the "central database" and email ticklers approach. If your users are on the road and communicating via email, I can imagine the other approach, embedding all the information in the email itself , may be a better solution.
actions based on exception criteria.
Imagine monthly financial statements are being imported from the accounting system into a Notes database. At the beginning of the year, budgets were loaded into the same database.
The Notes database can now determine the variance, actual to budget on these accounts, and a flag may be raised if the variance is found to lie outside an acceptable range.
If an account raises too many flags, the database can send emails to those who should be informed. Views can be made based on the number of flags set, how the number of flags has been changing over the months, etc. Accounts that generate many flags may require the creation of a specific action plan (in Notes) to address the problems.
I have developed mission-critical databases, to the point where a manager's compensation is determined by the total number of flags set on his portfolio.
When Notes may not be the best choice.
The very strengths that Notes possesses makes it unsuitable for some tasks:
work alone, or with one or two others.
Notes allows individuals to coordinate their efforts. It follows that if you work alone or with one or two other people you will probably not reap the full benefit of Notes. Initial setup/administration costs are not small and your return on the investment will be disappointing unless your productivity can be increased by working as a team.
depend on accurate, up to date, information
Through replication, Notes allows users to work independently, on their own version of the information. One of Notes strengths is its ability to quickly resynchronize two or more versions of a database. However, until the information is resynchronized there can be conflicting data. The most obvious example is an account balance in a financial system. One version of the database may have been updated to show the account is overdrawn, while another copy still shows the account in the black.