Friday, October 30, 2009

The Death of Outlook Calendar

How do you schedule a meeting? Pretty straightforward question it is, right? Send the person a meeting invite on MS Outlook or any other calendar program. The whole purpose of sending the invite is to block her calendar and not give her a last minute surprise.

However, the question becomes pretty difficult to answer if we ask it in India. The possible answers would be: Inform the person about the meeting time in a mail; show up at her desk; give her a call; call her on your desk, etc. Notice that there is no mention of sending an Outlook meeting invite. People in India do have access to Outlook but it is about the culture and traditions.

In India, the office culture is pretty informal. People do not manage their day to day activities on calendar. In fact, they tend to keep things in their head. My parents never had any notepad on refrigerator to create grocery list. In fact, on Sundays, my father would sit with all of us and brainstorm about all the things we need for home and create a list impromptu. He never used calendar and marked times on it: Take dog out for walk or Dinner at In Law's place. This is not just my parents story; it is everybody's story in India.

In India, we do not call people before we go to their homes, we just show up and surprise them. Since, it is part of the culture for thousands of years nobody gets offended or angry with this practice.

IT revolution took place and globalization happened in a split of second. People were exposed to lucrative jobs and started working with global teams - US in particular. In US calendar is non-separable part of the culture which is not true for India. The teams in US always schedule meetings in advance with Indian teams using Calendar. However, teams in India would either not accept the invite or accept it without ever checking their calendars back. In short, even if there is an invite sitting in the calendar people are least bothered about it because they never see it.

Intra-team collaboration in India using Calendar is even more pathetic. Nobody ever uses Calendar or creates meeting invite. Most of the people have never created meeting invites in their entire lives.

Take my example, I was afraid of creating meeting invites initially because nobody around me ever used it or taught me how to create one. As a matter of fact, I created my first invite after spending 2 years in full time job. Today, I cannot do anything without Calendar and depends solely on it. Part of the reason for this change is my US exposure. I have spent significant time working with people in US. When you work in a new culture you learn new things and "adjust" yourself.

Slowly things are changing in India as the exposure to outside culture is increasing more and more. Hopefully, one day people in India would start using Outlook Calendars. That day Microsoft would be happy to see rebirth of Outlook in another culture.

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