I had a chance to participate in Microsoft Office System Webcast: Tips and Tricks for Groove 2007, Provide Anywhere, Anytime Access to People and Information (Level 100) delivered by Paul Cannon, Microsoft Groove Product Manager, on 09/16/2008 and help out in answering questions in the background. Paul did a great job in delivering a lot of useful information in one short hour and made it very interesting. During the session, there was a question on Groove vs. OneNote which I thought is something worth further discussion.

Based on the story I have heard, OneNote is a Microsoft home-grown product developed due to the need for a tool to quickly and easily capture, organize, and share information from meetings. OneNote to me is an effective tool for digital notes taking. I love and use it very extensively to organization the mass amount of information I need to manage everyday on meetings minutes, status reports, research and drafts, presentation story-boarding, my technical notes, personal journals, important emails, etc. In OneNote 2007, many functions and capabilities are added including sharing information and working with others, and it appears there is some overlap between OneNote and Groove which can share files as well.

One important distinction between OneNote and Groove is the fundamental issue each is trying to address. Fundamentally, OneNote is for (digital) notes taking while Groove is for collaboration. I imagine the originally design focuses or requirements, between OneNote and Groove, must be noticeably different. The ease of information capturing is, in my view, a main focus on notes taking, while seamless content synchronization is essential to collaboration. Taking notes does not necessarily imply information sharing or teamwork, while collaboration suggests there is something in common or synchronized among the team members.

I see taking and sharing notes are not necessarily the same with collaboratively developing contents. Further sharing information is one activity in collaboration, while collaboration is much more than just information sharing. Collaboration is about establishing common operating picture as it is frequently stated in the context of emergency management and military operations. Collaboration is a state and not simply a shareable file or a deliverable system. When I say Groove is for collaboration, I mean Groove is a solution to facilitate all members of a team to reach a state that is situation-aware and informed decisions can be made accordingly. It has much to do with sharing and communications. It is also about knowing, sharing, and discussing what happens, when it happens, what to do with it, who to do it, and how all within a relevant context. For all these needs, Groove offers out-of-box capabilities including presence awareness, automatically data synchronization, always-on encryption, workspace tools, instant messaging, VoIP, SharePoint and InfoPath integration, API, and SDK.  

This is not to suggest, between Groove and OneNote, one is better than the other. I see they are simply trying to solve different business problems and should be employed accordingly to maximize an information worker’s productivity.