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Evernote and Notion take aim at enterprise collaboration market

Notion and Evernote -- best known as personal note-taking apps -- are pivoting to serve as enterprise collaboration tools. Are they viable options yet?

The use of note-taking apps is often a personal choice and rarely an enterprise decision. That could be changing, though. Popular note-taking apps Evernote and Notion have rolled out features and capabilities that could make them an attractive option for enterprise IT buyers.

Evernote offers Evernote Teams, which adds team collaboration, improved security and governance to its note-taking features. Notion, another well-known note-taking app, has included wikis and other collaboration features since its launch. Let's examine how these two tools stack up against more traditional enterprise collaboration offerings.

Benefits of note-taking apps

While collaboration platforms became a core part of internal communication and collaboration strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic, teams struggled with scalability and usability. The pandemic highlighted the need for lighter-weight and secure collaboration tools, which became quite an inflection point for Evernote, Notion and similar apps.

Evernote and Notion lend themselves to bottom-up adoption. All it takes is one user frustrated with a company's current collaboration tools to sell managers on an easy-to-use and easy-to-manage application that can be deployed right now versus having to put in a service desk ticket and wait for IT approval.

Evernote and Notion don't require specialized training or design skills to create and manage workspaces and pages. Each service is also rapidly maturing and iterating on features. Notion, for example, is currently offering a beta of AI capabilities.

Even if Notion or Evernote weren't official corporate tools pre-pandemic, it's easy to see how teams could look to either tool to improve collaboration and communications in their new remote world, even without initial IT approval.

Platform adoption

These tools are the quintessential land-and-expand adoption story. The move to remote work made land-and-expand adoption easier in organizations that didn't have the collaboration infrastructure to effectively support a 100% remote workforce. Even if Notion or Evernote weren't official corporate tools pre-pandemic, it's easy to see how teams could look to either tool to improve collaboration and communications in their new remote world, even without initial IT approval.

Notion is playing the enterprise adoption card well. The application is on trend, giving it influence as Notion users are on the enterprise payroll already. Notion has an extensive library of free and fee-based templates, such as a project dashboard, engineering department wiki and daily standup. Notion also makes templates from some of its customers available to its users, including Mixpanel, Loom and Headspace. The Notion Enterprise tier also offers access to a customer success manager.

Evernote, however, faces the challenge of losing user influence. Evernote Teams is making many of the right moves to drive user adoption -- at least on paper -- with an onboarding program and dedicated customer success manager for teams with 25 or more seats.

Vendor certifications may carry weight in some organizations regarding technology adoption by adding legitimacy to managers' eyes. Evernote offers an end-user certification. Notion has a certified consultant certification for more complex enterprise use cases and deployments.

Security and compliance

Evernote Teams promises two-step verification for added data security, plus in-note encryption on Mac and Windows. The plan also includes tools to maintain ownership over business data, centralized account administration and account history with detailed logs.

The Notion Business and Enterprise tiers offer Security Assertion Markup Language single sign-on and private team spaces. The Enterprise tier includes user provisioning (System for Cross-domain Identity Management), advanced security and control, and an audit log.

The decentralization of collaboration tools, even inside large companies, makes business sense in the remote work world. While these tools are promising, bottom-up adoption during the pandemic could be synonymous with shadow IT. However, the reality for many is that security and compliance teams have involvement in signing off on Notion or Evernote Teams within an organization.

Integrations and scalability

In users' eyes, integrations only improve today's SaaS applications. A case in point is Slack or Microsoft Teams, which serve as a centralized communications hub for remote and hybrid teams. Each of these applications comes with a long list of app integrations.

Evernote Teams integrates with Google Workspace, Slack, Microsoft Teams and Salesforce, making it easier to share customer and project information across your team and the entire organization.

Notion integrates with popular SaaS tools, including GitHub, GitLab and Zoom, and also offers integrations from partners, such as Lucid Software, Cisco Webex and Typeform.

Platform scalability is a natural question for these platforms. Both Notion and Evernote Teams target smaller organizations, such as startups and teams inside large companies.

Prominent startups, including Buffer, Axios and Mixpanel, are all Notion customers, while larger enterprise customers, such as Capgemini and Match Group, focus their Notion deployments on teams and smaller business units. Notion Enterprise targets large customers with advanced security, user provisioning and analytics capabilities across internal teams and guest users.

Evernote, however, still seems focused on more team-based deployments, rather than larger, companywide ones.

Evernote and Notion adoption challenges

The popularity of Evernote has been waning for the past few years, even before the pandemic. Many former Evernote champions have moved onto other platforms, such as Notion. On top of that, Evernote announced in November an acquisition agreement with app developer Bending Spoons, adding another layer of uncertainty about its future.

Adding another tool to the tech stack -- and budget -- will be a hard sell in 2023 as CFOs further question software spending. Even paying for Notion or Evernote Teams through expensing it to a departmental budget may invite additional scrutiny.

It'll be interesting to see if either Notion or Evernote will release any ROI tools, like calculators, to support the inevitable CFO discussions as current and prospective customers review their software licensing and expenses.

Notion and Evernote Teams represent a much-needed rethinking of enterprise collaboration platforms. Each app is building upon its note-taking foundations to become viable team- and department-level collaboration platforms with the features and ease of use that remote teams now require. At the same time, neither tool is perfect. However, both platforms break from the legacy complexity of enterprise collaboration platforms that some organizations struggled with in the rush to remote work early in the pandemic.

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