Built For vs. Used For

"Outlook wasn’t designed to be a file dump, it was meant to be a communications tool…There is that fine line, but we don’t necessarily want to optimize the software for people that store their e-mail in the same .PST file for ten years."

The quote is from the Outlook Program Manager following the recent release of a fix that promises to resolve the Outlook 2007 performance issues. She is wrong. Period.

Software applications may be designed to one use case scenario but users end up utilizing them in entirely different capacities. That Outlook is being used as file storage shouldn’t surprise anyone, from the moment I first laid my hands on that product that is exactly how I used it, and when I found Lookout’s very cool search plugin for Outlook back in 2004 my use of Outlook went into overdrive… I started emailing crap to myself because I could more easily find it, with an associated note in the form of an email, in my inbox than I could in my desktop file system.

I’m really quite amazed that any product manager for a mature and widely used product like Outlook would have the temerity to dismiss the manner in which people are using their software as "well we never designed it for that".

This is exactly what is wrong with Microsoft and alot of other big software companies, they spend too much time building enterprise products for what IT tells them the requirements are, which in the case of Outlook/Exhange has been better security, spam protection, and admin capabilities. Microsoft should have spent a few more cycles on understanding better the numerous ways that users are taking advantage of Outlook to make their lives better and don’t involve being a "communications tools". No wonder enterprise usres are increasingly going to Gmail.

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8 thoughts on Built For vs. Used For

  1. Unfortunately, there are also Corporate IT Support Departments that share the same opinions and would rather disregard how users will use the tools they are provided than actually look for ways to facilitate better ways of working.

    From a user who is only allowed a 25 Megabyte online message file!

  2. You know, back before MS put search into Outlook, things were just fine with a giant PST. you just used X1 or google desktop and everything was peachy. Now, in order to get the latest cool features, I have to get rid of my mail. 🙂

    So, she’s basically saying “sure, it’s horrible now, but so what, you’re not supposed to be doing that”.

    If that was the case, they why in G*d’s name did they lift the 2gigabyte limit that used to restrict the size of a PST? The way she’s talking even a less-than-2GB file is a horrible user error.

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  5. Brilliant. As a user who is always taking a product and then using it so hard – and in so many nonstandard ways – that I can practically hear it creak under stress, I laughed out loud at this post.

    I STILL mail crap to myself in Outlook! Not only that, but I’ve started creating miscellaneous blogs to track new vertical market research. Today’s nonstandard usage *should be* tomorrow’s foundation for new products, although “social networking” is so much sexier (and has such nice dimples).

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  7. Well, this is true for other Enterprise applications as well. Business intelligence, is another prime example.

    The enterprise software industry need to change gears. From just being courting buyers (CIOs and IT Managers) to courting users.

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