Recently, I talked to a colleague who I worked with several years ago. The project we worked on was based in Lotus Notes/Domino. At the time, the Lotus products were fulfilling a need that wasn’t matched by any serious competitor. In fact, year after year, the marketing team at IBM/Lotus touted the millions of customers that utilized their products on a daily basis.
Like just about every aspect of technology, the Lotus Notes/Domino bubble eventually burst as newer technologies entered the market. As I moved on to new technologies, I figured everyone else had followed suit — just maybe not at the same pace. In fact, the last I had heard, the client I was referring to was already planning a series of projects to migrate away from the Lotus Notes/Domino products.
I recall at the time thinking to myself that the client managed to run their suite of applications for 10 years on the Lotus platform — which is really quite impressive for a corporate application.
In talking with my colleague, I found out that the migration project never actually started. The client never migrated away from Lotus Notes/Domino. Checking in with other Lotus Notes/Domino shops, I was surprised to hear that most were still had applications running on the legacy platform.
This made me wonder: Is now the time to finally migrate those Lotus Domino applications?
From Lotus to Where?
The biggest challenge organizations face when considering a migration away from Lotus Notes/Domino is figuring out the new landing spot. After all, Lotus Notes/Domino provides an ecosystem that can quickly spin up self-contained applications without requiring a development team, DevOps, and a database. One considerable drawback is that the applications can appear to be dated in both design and approach, not to mention very proprietary.
In the past, there were some open source projects that sort of met the needs Lotus Notes/Domino provided, but they were far from being able to produce rapid results as new applications were required. Some considered Microsoft SharePoint an alternative, but out-of-the-box SharePoint applications paled in comparison to what Lotus could offer — requiring a significant investment in custom development.
What About Salesforce?
I first learned about Salesforce during an Application Architecture summit hosted by Gartner Group in 2008. When I first saw Salesforce from a technical perspective, I saw a lot of similarities to the Lotus Notes/Domino product I spent a portion of my time supporting as a consultant.
At first, it truly made me cringe to see some of the same aspects that were being repeated. I thought to myself, why would anyone want to repeat some of the design decisions that were made -— that, in the end, placed limits on the Lotus Notes/Domino product? However, as I dove deeper under the covers, I saw that similar concepts were employed to the end-user but were well-thought designs on the back-end. In the years since that first exploration, I have gained a stronger appreciation on what the Force platform can offer organizations of any size.
If I were in a position where I had one or more Lotus Notes/Domino applications to convert, I would take a serious look at using Salesforce. If the organization has already licensed Salesforce for use, then using Salesforce as the target platform is even better. Simply, the ability to create applications rapidly in a self-contained, cloud-based ecosystem is truly a step above what IBM/Lotus has to offer.
Email Not Being Addressed Here
While Lotus Notes/Domino includes the ability to provide email services, conversion to alternative email systems is not part of this article. I strongly recommend considering the email migration a separate project — focusing on the needs of providing email services. After all, URLs have been used effectively by modern applications, so the need to provide Doclinks (Lotus Notes-specific links) is truly not as beneficial as it once was — especially in a world driven by responsive and mobile applications.
In the coming weeks, I am planning to introduce a series of articles stepping through the process of converting a legacy Lotus Notes application into the Salesforce ecosystem. Now that I am back into a full consultant role, I feel like my team at CleanSlate Technology Group can provide a great deal of expertise converting legacy Lotus Notes/Domino applications — considering the vast experience/certifications we maintain with Lotus Notes/Domino, Salesforce, and object-oriented programming.