Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Value of Lotus Connections: Activities

At first, I was not impressed with Lotus Connections: Activities, I must admit.  The idea of leaving Notes to build out task lists seemed inconvenient to say the least.  While I appreciated the cooperative nature of being able to task others with pieces of your activity, I did not see the full vision.  After using Activities here, and in Lotus Greenhouse, I now understand more about how to truly gain business value with activities.

Organize and Prioritize: The obvious benefit to any product that helps you arrange the tasks that make up your day has the potential to improve your ability to organize and prioritize these tasks.  While it may seem trivial to some, any help in setting a priority for the thousands of things vying for our time a day is a good thing.  As with any social tool, being a social task system, it can also help improve visibility into your tasks.  This can help you qualify the need for help on something, or prove a need for teaming on certain tasks.

Improved Workflow: For those of us who use Notes & Domino, the Activities sidebar was part of the initial 8.x release.  The To-do component of Notes was lacking for anyone who was looking for the ability to delegate and manage tasks within the context of their Notes calendar.  Activities fixes that.  It also enables this sort of interaction cross platform.  Outlook and Notes users can both incorporate the Activities tasks into their calendar through the use of connectors.  If you run activities in an extranet, you can even share tasks with people outside of your domain... like customers, suppliers, vendors, etc.  This can be very beneficial to relationships with these folks as it increases visibility into the process at hand.

Increased Business Efficiency: Activities introduces a concept called activity templates.  After someone in the organization has successfully negotiated a task, process, etc  through the use of an activity in Connections, they can convert their personal activity to a template.  A template can then be used by anyone else in the organization to create their own personal activity from that template.  So once the business process, project, etc. is captured one time in Activities, everyone can duplicate the success of the first iteration.  The consistent duplication of successful business process is something identified by many business analysts as a means to increasing productivity and overall business success through continuity in delivery.  The efficiency gained by every employee not having to solve the same problems for them selves, means they can spend more time executing, and less time discovering how or what to execute.

Knowledge Retention: Even after people leave their roles, or even the organization, the data they generated in activities can remain behind.  While this is true for any of the Connections tools, this enables people who have succeeded someone to see what they did and how they did it while on the job.  I know that more than once in my career people have come to me and said, "I had no idea the guy before me was doing this too." or something to that effect.  This can help bridge those gaps and reduce the time for a new employee to ramp up on the tasks associated with their new position.

I hope this has helped some of us look at Activities again.  I know the more ways I see the tool being used, the more I am inclined to use it.

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