Lotus Notes Application Migration

Introduction

When companies approach us to assist in the decommissioning of their IBM Domino & Notes application environment it’s not unusual that we encounter some resistance in our advised Lotus Notes Migration approach. Typically, a Notes migration is a one-off exercise and companies need time to understand how to best do it. However, once we show and explain the added value of our approach we observe a different attitude.

Our Notes Decommissioning Method (‘NDDM’) 

Every Notes decommissioning project starts with an ‘as-is situation’. To get this we scan and analyze your existing Domino environment to gain more insight and scope the magnitude of your decommissioning project. To do this we bring our own Lialis Domino server application scanner. The key difference with other scan tools in the market is that it does a usage – AND content scan. Other tools typically only look at the usage of Notes Databases. Only looking at the Notes database usage will move you in the wrong direction.

Once the scan is completed we analyze the output (‘Mastersheet’). We classify all Notes applications in decommissioning targets ‘delete’, ‘archive’ or ‘replace’. A scan and analysis of your environment is the first step in the process. The next step is to start closing unused Notes Databases in batch using our ACL close tool. After that we will help you find the Notes application owners and start communicating with them to verify the targets using an in-built mail tool and communication templates.  These steps are all part of our unique ‘NDDM’ approach.

At a certain moment the scope of your project will become clear which allows you to create the right budgets and project team. Sometimes we enter into a project where our clients already have this insight so we can skip this work which is great.

Typically there are 3 targets for Notes applications:

Target I – Remove. .Many Notes databases are not in use any more. NDDM can be used to ‘close’ these Notes databases in batch in a few mouse clicks. You can simply reverse this action with one mouse-click. After closing we advise to leave the Notes databases on the Domino server till the moment you stop the server. Then you can copy the files to a backup file location just in case.

Target II – Read only archive. In all our projects we encounter Notes databases where the content is only read. These Notes databases are typical archive candidates to a platform like SharePoint Online (‘SPO’). We offer an efficient/automated solution to archive Notes databases on SPO while keeping the original Notes structure (Rich Text, Response structure, Metadata, Attachments, etc).

Target III – Replace. Certain Notes databases are still heavily used by our clients. They need a replacement by another application platform. This is the trickiest part of part of your Lotus Notes to SharePoint migration program. In fact, often these are seperate projects affecting and involving your core business. Our website Lialis.com describes how we can help develop new SharePoint applications using Shareflex. We will explain our unconvenional way to replace Notes applications in the next section.

Replace Notes applications – How?

Notes applications are very annoying to replace with other solutions. In Notes you can basically program anything, anywhere. Therefore we come across some very sophisticated, functionally rich Notes applications that you cannot simply convert 1:1 to something else by using a conversion tool. This is effectively why many Lotus Notes Application Migration and Notes decommissioning projects fail or at least consume tons of hours and shiploads of money.

This is exactly why we like to avoid the word ‘MIGRATE’. Even replacing a simple Notes document library in SharePoint might be more difficult than you expect. For instance, a platform like SharePoint does not support the great Notes Rich Text features.

It’s not useful to scan Notes application functionality. Assigning a complexity factor to the Notes design elements does not say much on how difficult it is to replace a Notes application with something else. For instance, a Notes document management system typically has many design elements because you need a lot of coding to realize versioning in Notes. Scanning this type of Notes database will tell you on the surface it’s very complex. However, replacing it with a SharePoint Library is very easy because SharePoint offers a lot of out-of-the-box document management functions. In other words, our advice is to ignore Notes database design scanning. Another reason for this is that often Notes applications are very old and are typically not well-maintained or documented. So you simply can’t tell what functionality is really in use in the specific Notes application.

Assign an owner to each Notes application! Somebody who knows in detail how the application support his/her daily business. Interview this owner and ask the simple question “what do you really need”? In our experience not all Notes functions, buttons, agents and so on in the Notes database are needed or they need to be changed.

Design how the replacement application should function on the target platform and Simplify! This is where Lialis brings a lot of  value. We not only understand Notes in detail  (we built Notes applications for decades) but also, in most cases, the target platform. This way you avoid a design that is not feasible or is simply too expensive to build. We help you find alternative approaches with the owner for typical Notes features that are difficult to replace by alternative platforms like SPO. Such as instance scheduled agents and mail in features. Our starting point is always to ‘give the user a bike instead of a fancy race car’. In other words, we will play devil’s advocate to safe time and money. Simplification is the key word here. We have seen too many projects fail since clients ended up in endless development projects.

When the design scope is 100% clear the next step is to decide on the target platforms. We encounter different options:

  • Standard solutions from the market like visitor registration or holiday request applications. The easiest and cheapest way is to buy some ‘off-the-shelve’ solution in the market instead of doing custom development projects.
  • Existing applications in your company. The interviews with the owners on how the replacement applications should function will help moving certain Notes functions to existing company platforms (e.g. CRM; ERP; HR).
  • Other platforms. Some complex Notes applications become a nightmare to replace because no existing replacements can be found. Building a new custom solution can take a lot of time, effort and money. That’s why we advise to have these applications on your radar in the early phases of the project. In our experience these applications always remain the last to migrate before you can shut down Domino.

For this last category ‘other platforms’, most companies choose to move to SharePoint Online. However, this poses challenges since SPO lacks certain required functions to build complex applications. There are several add-on business application platforms on the market that offer out of the box functions to replace typical Notes functions in SPO. For instance; Nintex, Shareflex and K2. We feel that Shareflex is best suited since it offers great Notes replacement capabilities. Additionally it has an attractive pricing model. We are already successfully using Shareflex in several Notes decommissioning projects.

Choosing the right business application platform has a massive impact on how much time and money is needed to build the replacement solutions in SPO. Our advice is to test one of these solutions in a Proof of Concept (‘PoC’). Run the PoC with the application owner with whom you agree on a simplified application design.

So far, we talked about replacing or designing a new application but what about the existing Notes database content? Well, it might sound strange but try to convince the Notes application owners to start with an empty, new solution in SPO (e.g. with Shareflex). Do NOT migrate Lotus Notes content unless it is really required because it is difficult and can be very costly. An alternative approach is to archive the existing Notes content to the SPO site where the replacement solution is rolled out. This way the users can still view the original Notes database content in read-only in a SPO library. Usually owners are quite happy with this approach.

However, in some cases you can’t avoid migrating the Notes content to the new SPO replacement solution. We use the QUEST Notes Migrator for SharePoint (‘NMSP’) tool to do this. We offer many out-of-the-box Quest NMSP migration scripts giving you a jump start should you desire a content migration to SPO.

Conduct a PoC for the replacement applications! We always give our new clients the opportunity to see how our replacement approach works. Typically, we choose a few Notes applications that need to be replaced in SPO. In multiple short calls with the application owner we train your staff on how to conduct these design calls and how to create simplified application design documents. We also provide sample design documents. Hence we guide you along the way.

Once the PoC application designs are created we will create these applications on a Lialis SPO/Shareflex platform. We grant you access to this environment so you can check the result. To make a good comparison we advise you to also review other SPO business application platforms or other non- SPO solutions.

Please contact sales@lialis.com to check out how we can make your Lotus Notes Application migration easier.