While interviewing a senior IT architect at a large firm a few weeks ago for my research project on e-mail systems management, I gleaned an interesting insight into how they have been successful in using an alternative e-mail solution (other than on-premises IBM Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange). They disconnected calendaring from e-mail culturally, socially, in processes, and even sometimes technically.
It is an interesting idea. For some, this may seem like a step backward.
The calendar has changed. What is in today’s e-mail clients is a technology derivative of the old paper planners. As such, it does not work well in the mobile device world where calendars are more dynamic and represent a filter for a person’s time and effort that spans their work and personal lives.
I have since spoken with a couple more organizations that have done the same – separated calendaring from e-mail. For each, it appears to have given the organization more flexibility in its choice of e-mail solution and made the possibility of changing that solution a less expensive migration situation.
However, there are issues with this approach. It usually requires users to interact with multiple interfaces. Interoperability between solutions can be a challenge. And, it is generally administrative users (who are usually the calendar power users) who will feel the most pain as they are the ones that manage multiple calendars for groups and executives.
Calendaring is something that has been neglected by the major e-mail vendors and numb point for enterprises – meaning that while calendaring functionality often doesn’t meet the needs, the pain of the work arounds hasn’t been enough for enterprises to seek or develop other solutions.
There are some attempts to fix calendaring. CalConnect, the Calendaring & Scheduling Consortium, is working to promote calendaring and scheduling interoperability and enhancement. There are calendaring and scheduling web service start-ups that are trying to address the numb points and get the attention of users and the enterprise (e.g. Doodle, TimeBridge, and Tungle).
However, until the enterprise recognizes the pain of the current calendaring and scheduling solutions available in e-mail and pushes for change, it will continue to be a numb point. Meetings will be missed. Admins will spend time on the telephone calling to coordinate schedules. Time zone snafus will disconnect participants. And users will be frustrated that their mobile calendar doesn’t provide the filter on their life that they need.