The future of Notion: balancing standardization and flexibility in product development


Jul 7, 2023

Knowledge management

Jul 7, 2023


As the premier Notion consulting agency, we have gained extensive experience in guiding high-growth companies to unlock the full potential of Notion. Our deep understanding of the platform has allowed us to witness the evolution of its features and updates, including the introduction of Notion's custom project template. This recent development has caught our attention and sparked a lively debate within our consulting team.

Notion's decision to lean more into projects with their custom project templates, with specific features locked in, such as the new pre-configured sprint workflow, represents a departure from Notion's traditional approach as a versatile "toolmaking" tool. Notion has long been celebrated for its flexibility, empowering users to customize their workspaces using a variety of LEGO-style building blocks. This approach allows users to solve problems in their own unique way, bounded only by their imagination. The introduction of locked features in the project template signifies a shift towards a more opinionated tool.

Simplicity and Structure

Notion's tagline around projects emphasizes "powerful project management, without the chaos." While Notion remains infinitely configurable, enabling users to work how they want, it now offers pre-designed project templates with a framework to facilitate efficient project management.

One such template gaining popularity is Notion's projects, tasks & sprints template.

The template's predefined features may align well with specific industries and their workflows, but there may be a better fit for others. Therefore taking into account the nature of the industry in which a company operates is crucial.

Here are a few scenarios where Notion's take on project management and its new project template might be an ideal fit:

  1. Non-agile companies: not all organizations operate using agile methodologies. Notion's project template can provide a simple and effective solution for companies that follow more traditional project management approaches. It offers a structured framework for managing tasks, deadlines, and resources without overwhelming users with unnecessary complexity.

  2. Small businesses and startups: the project template can benefit small businesses and startups with limited resources. These organizations often require a cost-effective, easy project management solution to set up and maintain. Notion's template offers a ready-made structure that enables teams to start quickly and focus on their core activities.

  3. Teams in need of basic project management: for teams that primarily require basic project management functionalities like task tracking and team communication, Notion's project template can be a suitable option. It offers a user-friendly interface and intuitive tools for organizing and tracking project progress, allowing teams to stay on top of their tasks.

As a company grows and its needs become more specific and diverse, a one-size-fits-all approach may no longer suffice. While the project template excels in managing projects and tasks, the sprints component in the template, while useful for basic project management, lacks the robust functionality required for more advanced agile practices.

Notion’s projects, tasks & sprints template

For those of us who have used other tools built specifically for sprints, such as Linear, the simplicity of Notion's template falls short. Dedicated agile tools like Linear are highly aware of cycles, scopes, and team commitments. They offer features beyond basic task grouping, providing detailed insights and reporting on progress. They excel at handling temporal data, effectively visualizing cycles and changes over time. These core features are absent from Notion's "sprints component," limiting its effectiveness for companies relying heavily on agile methodologies.

Moreover, the concern among our team and industry observers regarding the shift towards locked features in templates and databases extends beyond the immediate impact. There is a fear that this approach might become the norm for Notion. While the current project template provides a glimpse into this new approach, it raises questions about the direction of Notion's product development strategy. Interestingly, this scenario mirrors the implementation found in the new wiki's database, where verified pages have been established. Like the project template, this database also employs locks and includes the "verification and owner" property. By doing so, it effectively safeguards the reliability and authenticity of the information contained within the database. Nevertheless, it further amplifies the limitations imposed on us as users, inhibiting our ability to manage and customize these properties according to our unique requirements.

As such, the concern persists that these locked features, initially introduced in templates and databases, may gradually permeate throughout Notion's ecosystem, raising important questions about the underlying philosophy driving Notion's product development. Will customization and flexibility be compromised in favor of standardization and control? How will these changes impact the user experience and adaptability of Notion's platform?

It is crucial for Notion to strike a balance between offering ready-made templates and new features that cater to specific user segments and preserving the ability for users to create fully customizable workspaces.

In the context of the new pre-configured sprint workflow, it is particularly important to consider the potential consequences of locking such features into a template. The sprint workflow is a critical component for agile project management, and different teams may have unique requirements and preferences when it comes to sprint planning, execution, and reporting. Locking these features into a template limits the ability of teams to adapt and tailor the sprint workflow to their specific needs, hindering their agility and potentially impacting their productivity.

Notion should consider providing more granular control over features like the pre-configured sprint workflow to address these concerns. Rather than locking them into specific templates/databases, Notion could offer them as optional blocks or components that users can choose to integrate into their existing databases and workspaces. This approach would ensure that users have the flexibility to leverage these features without sacrificing the ability to adapt them to their specific workflows.

We're excited that Notion is taking positive steps towards focusing on project management and introducing new features in this area; however, we wonder if this shift might signify a departure from Notion's toolmaking philosophy.

As a top Notion consulting agency, we're here to help you optimize Notion's features for your specific business requirements. Whether you're a startup exploring Notion's project templates or a large-scale business needing a robust solution, we can guide you through the process.

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