Evernote CEO Chris O'Neill believes technology should be multipurpose – not strictly for business or personal use. He also believes you shouldn't dictate how users interact with technology. How people use it will vary based on their needs now, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's those two philosophies that have led to his company's success.
Unlike other organizational tools on the market, Evernote makes it particularly easy for users to maintain their personal and professional lives side by side, according to O'Neill. He said 70 percent of Evernote users like the organizational aspect of the service, and 50 percent use the program for lightweight task management or storage.
O'Neill sees this trend of cross-life, multifunction tech tools as part of a larger change happening in the American workforce. He describes it as the Hollywood model, wherein lots of different people come together to create or manage something, and then disband. You might know it as the gig economy, and it's requiring companies to look at technology adoption differently.
"There's a blurring of personal and professional context. It's hard to disentangle the two, but [with] the freelance movement and gig economy … there's all sorts of trends that point to say, 'Hey, people are going to be working on their own terms; they're going to be distributed all over the world.'"
Indeed, current statistics support the notion that the developed world is moving away from a standard employer-employee dynamic and toward an independent contractor-based workforce where individuals use their own technology to get work done. Freelancers currently make up 35 percent of the U.S. workforce and many analysts predict that number will grow to reach a majority of more than 50 percent within the next decade.
Because of this trend, greater numbers of professionals are looking for tools they can use across devices and areas of their lives. That's a good thing for companies like Evernote.
"In almost every industry, you formerly had gatekeepers … That's not the way things work these days," O'Neill said of the adoption of past technology products. "People want to use the tools that bring them delight and joy, and it's a very personal thing."
According to O’Neill, learning how small businesses are using Evernote is driving innovation at the company. "What we see are people stitching together different products and services … The product wasn’t designed initially to do [the things people are doing], but that's what I mean when I say we're understanding [user] behavior, and what they're trying to do, and then invent on their behalf and make it even better."
So what's next for Evernote? O'Neill believes features like additional hierarchy options, dashboards powered by machine learning, more task management and workflows, live collaboration spaces, new templates, voice commands, and better keyword search functionality are key. He explained, "The biggest bid we're making as a company is to make the product more powerful when you use it with other people, team settings, group settings, nonprofits."