Demo '97: Actioneer cures to-do note stress

Never mind information overload, says Brian Smiga, what kills most executives is good intention overkill.
Written by Guy Kewney, Contributor

We have "to-do list stress", he says, and his Actioneer software is a new class of application designed to get to-do lists off the office server, and under the control of the user.

Smiga's company regards US Robotics' Pilot as a key element in its plans. This made life a little awkward, because (as everybody knows) the Pilot doesn't do e-mail yet; and nobody is allowed to talk, officially, about the new models due out March 10 which will do e-mail.

E-mail is key as it uses the Internet as the way of sending action plans to the people who are involved in them. Everybody automatically absorbs the new changes as they propagate across the wires.

"This is what we call peerware, as opposed to client server groupware," said Smiga "and it comes in two parts. There's KeyNote, an intelligent Post-It note system with menus, and ActionBook which is the group action processor."

KeyNote is stunning. It looks just like a yellow sticky on screen, floating on top of other stuff. But it's not just a text container; it's a "toolstrip" and it's clever. If you start typing notes about someone who's in your PIM, it will add menu items enabling you to transmit their details with the Post-It.

And it's the transmission side that is important. Once you have noted the details of what you want to do, and KeyNote has added the links to diary and e-mail and phone numbers, it can be sent to that person, and to everybody else linked to the project, automatically.

Transport really isn't a problem. It understands SMPT/POP3, plus MAPI and VIM so it works with Eudora, Notes, Exchange, Netscape Navigator, and all other standard message handlers.

Actioneer is based on a human engineering technology, Actioneering, which is almost a religion in some corporations, with 150,000 devotees inside companies like Fidelity, Lockheed, McDonnell-Douglas, Microsoft, and so on. So the personal management side of it is pretty tried and tested, and the ability to carry it around in your pocket Pilot, tied into your e-mail, could make it one of the most popular organising philosophies in the world, within a year or two.

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