Interesting little piece yesterday about why Lotus Notes sucks which, as one of the 120 million who use it, I thoroughly identify with. Basically, web administrators/IT people love Lotus Notes because of its great back-end support, robust administration and collaborative potential. So they choose it for the organisation. Sadly, the vast majority of end users hate it, because they use it almost solely for e-mail and calendaring (if that's a verb), for which it is way behind almost all other e-mail clients...Our organisation has 10 workstations, and uses NONE of Notes' collaborative applications because it has no need to. So why do we have it? Because an IT administrator decided.
But then I began thinking about how this widened out. I've spoken recently about the need for technology usage to be driven by the end-users, to be relevant to the organisation, and not pursued for its own ends. And the same applies more widely: whether you call it "stakeholder engagement", "user-led solutions" or the New Labour-preferred "Big Conversation", involvement of those who use services is absolutely crucial. But it only works if they are listened to, and their opinions acted on. If the organisation had been canvassed on e-mail client opinions and all said "Outlook will be fine", and the IT admin had chosen Lotus anyway, then the canvassing has little point.
At a fundamental level, it is about decision-making processes being based on a real understanding of the options and opinions of those who matter, and that, where possible, the process is bottom-up rather than top-down, be that a government or a knowledge hierarchy within an organisation. It's interesting to see much of the more innovative stuff in this field being led by local/regional authorities, as with Westminster's mini-ideas bank or Braintree's subsidising of cavity-wall insulation to reduce carbon emissions. Both responding to demand and opinion from those on the ground. Both, hopefully, providing an example to others of good decisions based on user-led knowledge and demand.