In the last ten years, this online underdog has grown from a catch-all note-bin for scatterbrained journalists to a serious collaborative business tool. Evernote’s General Manager for Europe and the Middle East expounds.
Beat Buhlmann teaches at Harvard, holds the timely degree-designation of an E-Mba, and spends his days at Evernote thinking about digital transformation and online marketing. A far cry from a four-year apprenticeship as a small-town car mechanic. For more than 15 years, Beat has been dealing with virtual teams, in theory and practice, and has published two books along the way: “Need to Manage a Virtual Team? Theory and Practice in a Nutshell”, and “Become the CEO of Your Own Life”. Ahead of his speaking engagement at Hiring Success 18 Europe, we managed to catch this fast-moving polymath and get a pulse of what he’ll be discussing in Berlin this September
With your extensive IT background, what attracted you to Evernote?
For more than two decades, I have been fascinated by productivity, by how can I achieve my goals faster, more easily, spending less money, using less resources, or a combination of these things. Evernote was the ideal place to make my passion my job.
What have been the biggest challenges?
There was a time where Evernote did too many things, like selling office supplies, bags, and even Evernote socks (no joke). Since the new CEO, Chris O’Neill, took over, we refocused on our core business: making people more productive and helping them achieve their goals. Ten years of Evernote took not only talent, but persistence and grit – and these are the values we will keep with us as we move forward. Introducing Evernote Business in 2012 has been by far our biggest change – it was a great way for us to affirm that not only are we passionate about personal productivity, but our commitment to teams and the workplace.
Given the nature of the product, are people still hesitant to go fully digital, or have you stopped having to convince potential users Evernote is safe and reliable?
There will always be skeptics saying that going digital is risky, and actually, there is no such thing as 100 percent safety. We face risk every day in our lives, whether we’re on a plane or sitting at home. A lot of people don’t fully understand what cloud means, and therefore say no to cloud technology in a business context. That’s why we wrote a cloud whitepaper to help people understand that cloud is still the safest place for their data.
You’ve also written two books. What was the impetus for that? How was that process for you?
Passion. Pure passion about two key topics: managing remote teams (book 1: link), and how to combine business and private life in a meaningful way (book 2: link).
How much of a competitor to Evernote is something like Slack?
They are two very different tools in one ecosystem. You can clip Slack conversations into Evernote or share previews of notes within Slack. Many of our users love these integrations, because their favorite tools compliment each other, and this makes them more productive.
How much has machine learning and AI become integrated into Evernote? Where do you see that technology talking this product in the coming years?
Research and development contribute hugely to Evernote’s popularity and usefulness. Many Evernote users had their first “Wow!” moment when they realized they could upload handwritten notes and search for them later. We’ve got many exciting plans for the future that will incorporate new technology to augment productivity power.