Notes to SharePoint: Migrating Applications Away From Notes – Part 1

IBM Lotus Notes Domino app to Microsoft SharePoint Migration

Part 1: The Work We Have Done To Date & Our Experiences In The First Three Months

A real-life large enterprise decided to move away from Lotus Notes/Domino. I am part of the Notes to SharePoint migration team with a particular focus on Notes application migration. The client has already carried out the mail migration to Exchange (which is comparatively easy with the right tools). I don’t know why they decided to move away from Notes. I do know IBM renamed Notes to Domino but don’t care and will stick to using the Notes name when mentioning Notes client and browser apps running on a Domino server.

In this blog article, I will share the work we have done so far and other experiences that might be important for you. I will write further posts about this project in the period of 2014 to 2016.

My background is 100% Notes before I started this project I had never touched SharePoint or installed Active Directory.

We are now three months into this large project and so far we have completed the following tasks.

  • 1. Notes application inventory
  • 2. Quest Notes Migrator For SharePoint evaluation and test
  • 3. Notes app to SharePoint conversion documentation

Phase 1: Create a Proper Inventory of Your Notes Applications

A. Get Rid of Unused Notes Applications

You will see that many Notes applications are no longer used and do not need to be migrated. So the first task is to get rid of the unused applications. Knowledge of the client’s Notes administrators and developers is needed for this phase. In addition, we used Quest NMSP to scan all Notes databases on the different Domino servers. This scan gives a great insight into the application usage. This task will take a considerable time because you will have to talk to each application owner to see if the application may actually be removed.


B. Collecting Information About The Notes Applications In Use

In this task, you must collect information about the Notes applications that you will need during the migration process. We collect information like Application name, Notes databases used within this application, owner, size, short description of application function, usage, and some other organization related details.

In addition, we will aim to group several Notes application with similar functions into one group. The goal is to create one new (SharePoint) application for all these similar Notes apps. You don’t want to end up with five different, almost equal form functions point of view, document libraries in SharePoint.

We categorize the Notes applications complexity into low, medium or high. We created rules for this job. The reason for this categorization is because the client wanted to get this insight. In addition, it’s always wise to start with the simpler Notes apps.

The most important job of this phase is to decide where to move the Notes application. You can migrate to SharePoint, Intranet, MS Dynamics, SAP and other platforms within the organization. You can even decide to host the application externally or buy something off the shelf. The client creates the criteria to make this decision.

Collecting all this information will take quite some time as you must wait for the various application owners and architects to respond. I would recommend starting this phase as early as possible because most clients can manage this phase themselves without the help of external technical consultants.

Phase 2: Install the Proper Tools to Migrate the Notes Applications Away From Notes

In this case, for this particular client, we will start with the migration of Notes applications to SharePoint. Approximately 40% of the Notes apps will go to SP, the rest, to other platforms. We will start with the tools we need for the migration to SP. Later during the project, we might need other tools to migrate Notes apps to other platforms (like MS Dynamics), something to worry about later on during the project.

For migrating Notes apps to SP we have chosen Quest NMSP. The reason for this choice is that Quest is capable of migrating Notes content, migrating Notes security (ACL, roles, reader-author fields), the Notes doc link tracking support inside, and migrating forms and views. However, as it turns out we will not now use Quest to migrate forms and views because recreating these from scratch in SP seems to go faster than fixing the Quest mess in the generated Notes forms and views (no offense to Quest). I must say we did not do a proper assessment of the other tools on the market.

In this client’s case getting an SP 2013 test environment is taking some time. So we decided to create an SP 2013 environment from scratch for testing Quest and development POC in our own environment. We needed this environment because Quest needs you to install software on the SP server for link tracking and to speed up the content conversion. Randy Rempel of Dell Quest has written a great blog post on how to set up all the servers needed for SP 2013 environment and how to install the Quest tools on it. As a Notes guy, I followed this guide and succeeded in getting these servers up and running and to get Quest NMSP services installed and configured. Here is the link to Randy’s blog.

The great advantage of having these servers is that you will understand what it takes to install the Quest tools on SP 2013 server in order to explain it to the client. You can use this environment to give the first demos to the client and also use it to evaluate the Quest tooling. So far I like what I have seen from a Quest point of view.

Phase 3: The Phase I Am In Currently

We (client) have made a very good inventory of the Notes applications that are actually used and must go to SP (and to other platforms used by the client). We have grouped similar Notes apps, from a functionality point of view, together with the goal of creating one SP app for these various Notes apps. We have an SP 2013 server environment with Quest tooling operations and we can demo it for the client.

Now we need to break down, the functionality for each Notes application. We must write down details of the content in the Notes application and other details like security. So I started writing Word documents for each Notes application and capturing the functions in this document. By capturing I mean creating screen captures of all Notes forms, views, actions and so on. The goal of this approach is to create a mid-level document explaining the app functions. We will not dive too deep into the application script libraries that are created to get a Notes workflow in place as this code will not be used because the workflow will be created in a different manner in SP. I hope you understand my approach.

So bottom line is, I create a document with many screen captures which quickly show the functions of each application. The client then reviews this document in order to ensure no functions were missing.

When approved by the client, it’s time to enter the SharePoint details. Imagine a table with two columns; the left column drills down the functions of the Notes application (without going into the coding and field level). The right column will explain to the application owner how the Notes functions (like screens, forms, workflows and so on) will be recreated in SharePoint. The finished document with Notes and SP functions is then sent back to the application owner for approval. When approved, the development of this application can then start in SP.

At this moment we are starting the development of the first SP apps to replace the Notes apps. So far I can tell that SP has many more default features and functions included out of the box in comparison with Notes. This means power users can use the browser to modify views, add columns and do level designing of forms with InfoPath.

With Notes apps, you need designer rights and a Notes designer client to do similar work when compared with SP (which is too difficult for power users to do, so you need a Notes developer). On the other hand, it seems that creating simple and complex applications is easier and faster in Notes than in SP. The main reason for that is that in Notes you have the Notes designer client which is a very powerful development tool that can do all the development work, compared with the various tools you need in SP (which are InfoPath, SharePoint Designer, and C#) which work slowly and are not designer-friendly. InfoPath can be used to create SP forms but when you create a form you can’t snap the fields to a grid, so it’s a nightmare to create pixel perfect forms compared with Notes form creation. Anyway, I will keep you posted about the things we learn when moving 60 Notes applications to SP and another 100 Notes applications to other platforms.

It won’t be a walk in the park – that’s for sure!

Thank you.

Lialis can help you with the migration of Notes applications to SharePoint, please contact us here.