Those who know me in real life know I’m something of an Evernote fan. An Evernote evangelist, even. I’ve used the app for years and spent quite some time singing its praises on this blog and elsewhere.
Over the years, Evernote has helped me get more organised when traveling for business; it has helped me complete my doctorate in psychology; it has even helped me get more reading done. It’s just an incredibly flexible and useful application.
But recent developments have me worried.
Evernote seemed to venture out into unconnected areas of app development (an app to track your meals?) and launched a bunch of physical items like bags and desktop organisers. It’s all very well to diversify like that when your core product is working (and selling) like a dream.
Evernote, however, is still a work in progress and is far from perfect.
Recently, they lost their CEO Phil Libin and his replacement fired over 10% of the workforce and seems to have put in place some cost-saving measures, including office closures. Talent is apparently leaving the business in droves and while the app is wildly popular, only a minority of users are actually paying for it.
It’s not all bad news, however. The new CEO, Chris O’Neill, has written about his plans for the company and it sounds like they’re planning a return to their core focus:
I joined Evernote as CEO two months ago because I saw the rare opportunity to help transform a product I rely on into a world class business. Since starting, I’ve gotten to know the amazing people here and have met many of our loyal users. This team has achieved three incredible feats: they’ve created one of the most important productivity tools in history, established one of the strongest personal success brands, and built a real revenue-driven business. My goal is to dramatically increase the impact of this solid foundation.
Evernote’s strength is in its core: notes, sync, and search. That’s where we’re going to focus. Achieving that focus means making some difficult decisions. Today we let go of 47 people from the Evernote team and announced the closure of three of our global offices. We are grateful for the immense contributions of each and every affected person.
I believe that a smaller, more focused team today will set us up for growth and expansion tomorrow. Here are two things that you can expect from us over the next several months: we will launch major foundational product improvements around the core features that you care about most, and we will pull back on initiatives that fail to support our mission.
Sad job losses aside, there’s a glimmer of hope in that message. A return to focus on what made them great and planned improvements to the app across platforms.
Why such passion and anxiety for a computer app? I suppose it’s because I use it so much and it’s become so central to how I organise my life. Knowing “stuff” is in Evernote reduces my stress, allows me to keep on top of work and really (I’ve said it before) serves as my “outboard brain”.
For someone whose epilepsy has left me with a less than perfect memory, an app like Evernote is more than handy. It’s crucial.
When Apple announced the massive upgrade to their own Notes app, my first thought was “that’s nice… but it’s no Evernote”. Maybe in time, it’ll become a realistic alternative to Evernote, but I suspect it’ll always remain on the Mac and iOS platforms. Evernote is basically platform agnostic and therein lies a good chunk of its flexibility.
As someone who organisations pay to advise their employees on personal productivity, I can attest to the difference an app like Evernote has made to employees’ ability to keep on top of workload and the psychological release it gives people. Yes, maybe a well-organised list on paper would have the same effect, but I’ve yet to see it.
My plea? Well, I hope Evernote follow through on their CEO’s promise and work hard to improve the stability and functionality of their core note-taking and information-organising app. All of that should come before new apps and any other diversification. I also hope that all of you who find Evernote to be useful think about upgrading your account to pay for the tool.
That will make Evernote the sustainable business it needs to be, for some time to come.