Thursday, 30 August 2007

Happily surprised by OneNote

Now those who know me know I'm no fan of Microsoft and I certainly have not been convinced by SharePoint but today I saw OneNote being used by a team to capture the day to day project thoughts, decisions and activities. This was done by using OneNote in combination with SharePoint. I have to say for the day to day transient project information this was working really well. The analogy is that they used OneNote as a project notebook that everyone has access to. It was organised by work area and had sub sections, essential a hierarchal file structure. What the team loved was the ease with which they could 'drop' information into it and the ability to move away from email.
Interestingly the person showing me this admitted that this was just a glorified file share. They also thought that OneNote only really worked for the project team. For those on the outside this environment is just too unstructured, maybe a little better than looking through someone else's file share but still with a lot of the same problems.
Now I've been trying to get people to use our corporate wiki to capture their project information and my first thought was 'Wow maybe I've got this wrong and wiki's aren't what is required!'. Then I recognised that different tools are needed for the capture of different levels of information. In this example the OneNote/SharePoint combination was capturing transient day to day information very well. However to capture the more persistent decisions and to support collaborative authoring of project documents then a wiki makes more sense. Finally as the project pass significant stage gates then the wiki page or sections of it can be published into a document repository to give a permanent snapshot of the project status. This model is very attractive as it seems to offer a way to manage the different requirements associated with the capture and sharing of different levels of information. I need to remember that one size does not fit all.

7 comments:

Jason Marshall said...

Hey Ben, good to see you have taken the blogging plunge!!
Its great to something useful come out that uses Sharpoint - I have always said that I haven't got a specific problem with SP - just that I hadn't seen anything that impresses me yet!!!

Natalie said...

What wiki are you guys using? From the reserach I have done it seems that there can be several wikis in use depending on needs: TWiki for project management; MediaWiki for Library and knowledge base; Confluence for external portal consumers.... and lastly sharepoint for those that know no better. Ok, I'll behave now. I'll be launching a wiki later this year and know that adoption is very hard, as well as encouraging edits. Any suggestions?

Natali said...

I took a look at OneNote and if MS could add this kind of interface and functionality to Sharepoint and its wiki, then it would be much better. The concept is very good and seems to be ideal for projects; more so than SP2K7. The user admin options (creating columns, views and webparts and BI) are rediculous and need to be simplified and more congruent like OneNote. I am actually impressed.

Ben Gardner said...

Natalie,

We are using MediaWiki at the moment. The corporate wiki was got off the ground as a skunk works project and utilized a spare server sitting under the persons desk. Hence the need to use free open source software. We've stuck with this on the basis that if it ain't broke don't fix it. Over the next year we will have to review the situation and decide if we need to move it. Certainly I'd say Confluence is a good candidate and possible SocialText but MediaWiki keeps getting better and the open source add-ons are very attractive. If we could solve the lack of LDAP integration, single password and account, then I'd say we had a obvious winner. As for the minimal wiki features in SharePoint enough said, a classic MS stall.
On the OneNote/SharePoint integration we are going to be pushing this hard. I think it will work well for small & medium teams but anything larger I suspect it will breakdown.

Natalie said...

For a broad topic wiki that acts more as a knowledge base, I think MW is perfect. I have a 1.9 version on my laptop, but have been thinking of upgrading. For small project or team collaboration, others may fit the bill better. I had to work with SP2K7 all day and am drained. If it wasn't so slow, it wouldn't be so bad. I am disappointed that more of the Onepage features were not brought into Sharepoint. Overall, I am not very pleased with the support model required for Sharepoint as opposed to other solutions. This is one consideration when moving away from more of the stable open-source packages.

wellsmall said...

I'd love to see a mock-up (by Microsoft or whoever) of how companies can use OneNote. I've looked around Microsoft at the different features, but it still just seems like Word with tabs. It seems like a great tool, but it looks like it could get very messy very quickly. I'm still iffy about it but I'm glad to hear a company is using it effectively, as opposed to one person just keeping notes organized. Thanks.

Ben Gardner said...

Wellsmall, your point about the space getting messy very quickly is spot on. The first piece of advice we give to a new team adopting a shared notebook is to assign responsibility for maintaining order within the different section groups of a shared notebook. The second piece of advice is to add one or two lines of context to each file they add to their notebook. The interesting thing is we find they are doing it. This is effectively creating a human readable fileshare. One that people can return to in the future and actually find relevant content even after a team has disbanded.