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Taking notes from Lotus: groupware is becoming the rage for business.

As business is increasingly conducted across state lines and time zones, people need better ways of communicating. This is particularly important in the '90's global economy, where the emphasis is on competition, cost-cutting and team-building.

Lotus Notes, the bestseller in a new category of software called groupware, can help you in this new environment. Groupware allows users to share information, transforming the workplace by reducing paper-shuffling and eliminating endless meetings. Businesses use Notes to conduct discussions, process time sheets and expense accounts, and call up databases. Also, you needn't be a programmer to create your own applications.

Large corporations are embracing Lotus Notes in a big way. Since its introduction in 1989, more than 7,000 companies and more than 3.3 million people are using the program. Among the companies are such household names as Chase Manhattan Bank, General Motors, 3M and Coopers & Lybrand.

Notes is cross-platform software, meaning you can install and run it on any operating system--Windows NT, Macintosh, OS/2 and Unix. James Grigsby, a product manager for Lotus Notes, says if you use Notes in Windows, you can hold a discussion with someone who is on a Macintosh. Notes also uses "client-server technology, which allows your company's personal computers to communicate with your central computer. The server acts like a central file cabinet, allowing employees to create documents and file them. Later, other employees who have access to the server can retrieve the same document, edit it, and put it back.

Michael Collison, a software engineer with Integrated Computing Engines in Waltham, Mass., explains the value of Notes. "I could put a document in my Notes database and my employees could call up the document from wherever they are, make changes in it and put it back for everyone else to use. Without Notes, I'd have to print the document and mail it to everyone."

Notes was the answer to Dana Thompson's dilemma. Thompson is president of ESRA, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that prepares minority students for careers in science and engineering. Thompson was moving from Massachusetts, where ESRA is based, to Oakridge, Tenn., where the nonprofit was opening a new affiliate office. He feared he would have to set up conference calls and electronic file transfers to conduct business between the two offices. But Notes provided a much easier and efficient answer. Using e-mail, he could attach files, such as proposals or statistics. He also held discussions on Notes, allowing him to shorten the time needed to plan the organization's Summer Learning Camp by several weeks. "Notes has helped us do our work faster and present a more professional interface to the public," says Thompson.

Notes can help eliminate paper bottlenecks through an application called work-flow computing. For example, Edward Howlette Jr., president of NEXGEN Solutions Inc. in Washington, uses Notes to process travel authorization forms. His employees enter their travel expenses in Noes, which automatically forwards the information to each person required to review it--the form is never printed.

In a network, Notes can copy information from computed to computer. When new information reaches the server, Notes adds, deletes or updates all the information in the databases.

Managers can decide who should have access to the databases. They can also decide who may actually change the material, and who many only read it. Notes also has a new database, which allows companies to access up-to-the-minute information from The Wall Street Journal and other news services.

The full Lotus Notes package, which allows users to develop applications that are specific to their business, costs $275. Lotus Desktop ($69) does not allow users to develop any applications. A stripped-down version of Notes, called Notes Mail ($55), allows access to e-mail.

The popularity of Notes has spurred a cottage industry in which companies help business get the most out of the product. For sales or product information, call Lotus at 800-346-1305.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Lotus Notes networking software
Author:Collison, Michele N.K.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Mar 1, 1996
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