Notes to SharePoint: Migrating Applications Away From Notes – Part 2

IBM Lotus Notes Domino app to Microsoft SharePoint Migration

Part 2: Including Comparison of Notes to SharePoint, Tools We Use & The People We Have

Six months ago I wrote the first blog post about this project I am working on, moving Notes and Domino applications to SharePoint (SP). We are now (August 2014) developing the SP applications, so I think it is a good moment to write a progress report on how this project is going.

The client started with approximately 200 Notes applications identified, although ultimately many were redundant and archived, many are planned to be moved to SAP leaving 60 Notes applications to migrate to SP. Don’t be mislead by the number as some of these applications are built up by multiple Notes databases.

Let me first start with what I think of SP these days, compared with what Domino can do for clients. Please note this is not intended to be a complete comparison of the two products.

  • SP has some great features. It has a lot of out of the box functionality which compares favorably with a Domino server which on application level has none besides a few basically useless Notes database templates.
  • The SP user interface (browser) is great; when a new app is deployed in SP, users will find the link somewhere in SP when they log in. Compared with the Notes client, the Notes database links have always been a nightmare, users have to manage the workspace themselves. I understand now that IBM tried to get rid of the Notes client desktop and replaced it with the bookmark bar, which was so bad that people were forced to find the hidden workspace again.
  • All SP apps will look the same because of the style sheet used in the browser; I find this as a great improvement that will increase the professional look of the app when compared with Notes apps which all look different. From the UI design point of view, most Notes apps I have seen look very bad, simply because Notes developers are not UI developers. This is where SP does a good job as well, the things you can do from designing an app are streamlined and bordered by SP. What I mean is, all views look the same, all forms look the same – when you stay in the out of the box area SP will help you in making many apps that have a consistent UI, so your users will understand them more quickly because they look and work the same.
  • You know I have been doing Domino for many years, I know this product very well. Surely there must be an area where it’s better than SP? No worries, there is. Domino is better in developing complex Notes and Web applications (with the help of XPages). However, I don’t think this will be sufficient reason for clients to choose Domino instead of SP. In SP when you want to do complex stuff you are forced to step out of the save out of the box area. Sure, you can still do complex stuff in SP, but the development time will quickly become huge because SP is not meant for building complex applications. On the Domino server, you can build anything, it supports the very powerful formula language, Lotus script, javascript and you can even run java servlets on Domino. Great Web and Notes client apps can be built with XPages. It’s nice to have the mail server on the same system as well and Domino is also very secure. But why then do so many clients choose SP instead of Domino? Simply because they don’t actually need to build many complex custom applications. When I look at this 8,000 user client I am currently migrating away from Notes to SP, there is only one Notes application that is so complex we have no clue how to build it in SP. Only one Notes app!!!! This is not a reason to keep Notes running compared with all the other great features SP offers. I guess the client will try to buy something off the shelf to replace this XPages application finally. Writing this, I realize that clients can buy so many applications on the internet these days that there is no need to maintain Domino and the developers needed to build complex apps.

Anyway, six months on, how is the migration project going? I have to say it’s going great. We are now actually building the SP apps to replace the Notes apps. We started with the simple ones and will move up to the more complex one’s next year. The development time we calculated is huge, so I will have something to do in 2015.

There are three items in this project I have found to become very important and are a must have to make projects like this a success. I will share these with you so you can benefit from it.

  • Dell Quest NMSP. We use this product to migrate Notes apps to SP. First NMSP makes an inventory of the Notes apps you have. I use this to see which forms are used in the Notes apps I must migrate to SP. The unused forms I omit. Then NMSP creates the SP lists, moves all the Notes app ACL, author, readers fields and other security stuff to the SP list, then it creates the columns in SP (= the Notes fields) and finally it will migrate the Notes content to SP and will try to match all the Notes names it finds with AD usernames. At this moment each app we migrate starts with creating an NMSP job. When the jobs are finalized a big deal of the Notes application is present in SP. Then the final SP design work must be done.
  • This leads me to the roles of the people you need. In our project, the Notes developer does the NMSP part. This is logical because he understands the Notes apps. The Quest NMSP tool has many features, so if you find a Notes consultant who understands NMSP very well you are lucky, otherwise he/she has to learn to use the tool, which will take a few months on the job learning. On YouTube, you will find seven great NMSP training sessions. Now back to the people needed for this project. Of course, you need an SP developer as well. In my project, I do the NMSP stuff because I am the Notes guy. I create the jobs in NMSP and I do some easy development work in SP. Then I tell the SP developer what functions we need in the new SP app. I can do this because I understand how the Notes app works. When all the SP stuff has been built, I do the final tests and when the application is 100% done, it is moved to the client for user acceptance testing and then to production. In our project the Notes guy is critical because he does the NMSP work, he instructs the SP development team and he is responsible for testing the end result. Off course the SP consultant has to do a proper job as well.
  • Dell Quest NMSP can migrate the Notes form design to Infopath, but Infopath is crap so we replaced it with a tool we found on the market It’s a Russian tool, it’s cheap and we love it. It has made our lives much easier because it speeds up ‘form design’ work, it can do tabbed tables (which we find a lot on ‘Notes forms’), it can make certain fields non-editable while keeping other fields can be editable, it’s a drag and drop tool in the browser and there is need to waste time on making pixel perfect forms because it does this for you. In this project we have to migrate 170 forms to SP, so at this moment my company Lialis is building a tool that can convert Notes forms to forms; this will save a lot of time because the Notes tables on the form will be migrated to and all the Notes fields will be in the right spot in the tool.

I think in the next blog I will focus more on how the organization succeeds or struggles to implement all the SP apps we develop.

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