Outlook’s Shortcomings – Part 3

outlook-ms-office-2003-outlook-256x256.pngIn my prior post I brought up the notion that Outlook was designed to solve user’s problems with email, rather than the bigger problem they have with time demands.

I also mentioned that the company that understands this shift would be able to produce radically different software.  Not just different, but better.  It would help users do the job they are really trying to perform.

I would call this a change in “philosophy,” and not just clever marketing or repackaging.

Having a  philosophy about how people manage time, and how they learn time management skills is also important, because this also influences the way software is designed.

For example, in the 2Time approach, there is a clear path that users take as they advance from one skill level to another (as measured by belt levels.)  One skill that changes over time is the way that the practices of Listing and Scheduling are used, with the higher belts doing much more scheduling than the lower belts.

A decision to develop software that reflects this progression in skills would have to contend with this particular philosophy, and not just for intellectual reason, but for practical reasons.

The current philosophy that underlies Outlook seems to be “more features are better than less.”

I’m not a software expert, but I suspect that the reason my Outlook 2007 runs so slowly is because this philosophy has run the show for too long.

An unfortunate by-product of this particular design decision is that a White Belt is given the same interface as  a Green Belt, even though they use the software differently.  It also has meant that the interface is cluttered with bells and whistles that a user must navigate, and always be selecting from.

Many of them have nothing to do with time management, making the interface (to repeat the mantra) a clumsy one.

Perhaps a better  philosophy might be “give the user only what they need to manage their time, and produce peace of mind.”

My point here is not that this particular philosophy is better, but it IS that Outlook seems to have stumbled into becoming a time management tool with the addition of lots and lots of features.  For all I know, it may have stumbled into other things as well (a dashboard, contact manager, etc.) but I am convinced that a different philosophy would yield different (and better) design.

This much I know — starting with a particular, and well-defined time management philosophy would help Outlook to become a better tool for time management.

I think Gmail’s success has not come because Google employs smarter people, but instead it comes from teams working with a different philosophy about email. (Plus, they were able to start from a blank sheet of paper.)

I suspect that  a company that does the same for time management will also produce a breakthrough of sorts.