The Challenges In Getting Rid Of Lotus Notes

The Challenges In Getting Rid Of Lotus Notes

Lotus Notes was once a dominant platform for database-centred collaboration applications, but these days it feels outdated. Gartner has some useful suggestions on how to make the move if Notes is still in your working life.

Picture: Paul Hudson

Yes, I know: technically I should be calling the product IBM Notes, or IBM Domino if I’m referring to the server version. But let’s not kid ourselves. Even though IBM acquired Lotus way back in 1995, it was the Lotus branding that remained dominant during Notes’ glory days. (That was equally true of Lotus’ iconic 1-2-3 spreadsheet, which IBM finally killed off last year.)

I have very fond memories of Lotus Notes. I learned to build applications on it, and it was used to generate the first major commercial web site publishing project I was involved in. Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was easiest way to get the job done — and it handled some issues like offline syncing more effectively than many modern alternatives. I also had great fun attending Lotusphere conferences, even if that meant travelling to Orlando, the worst major convention city in the US. But all that was a long time ago.

These days, most people will dive for WordPress or Joomla to solve similar problems for publishing, or will use a platform like Salesforce or SharePoint if they want to build collaborative apps. If that’s the world you’re used to, Notes can feel clunky and unfamiliar.

Notes and Domino are still technically active products. A basic Notes client costs $149.69 per seat, which seems a little steep in the modern world, especially as something else will generally be used for email even if other legacy Notes applications are considered important.

As Gartner points out in a research note on replacing legacy Notes/Domino applications, there are several incentives to move away from the platform. By Gartner’s calculation, more than 50 per cent of existing Notes/Domino applications “would be classified as fit for decommissioning”. But that’s easier said than done.

Finding staff with relevant expertise can be difficult. Migration is not as straightforward as moving from a pure database platform: “The close relationship of application code to content and deeply embedded links in many Notes/Domino databases makes migration difficult and time-consuming.”

One common mistake is to try and exactly match the functions of an existing Notes/Domino app, rather than examining more broadly the business processes involved and how they might be served. As Gartner points out:

Migration of an application presents an important opportunity to realign capabilities and processes to better serve the business needs. Ask whether the existing application capability partitioning will still appropriately deliver the business function. Combining or splitting functions may offer significant opportunity to reduce support costs and improve fit, durability and responsiveness.

Whatever approach you take, it won’t necessarily be speedy. While many organisations plan a migration in a two or three-year timeframe, Gartner says some complex environments may take up to seven years to eliminate. You may be paying those licences for a while yet.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.


  • If you’re using IBM Notes purely for email, then there’s a good case to move away from the platform and probably off email server platforms altogether. A cloud platform will probably suit most business needs better.

    If you’re using Notes for applications, then there’s really no compelling need to remove or rebuild. There aren’t a lot of services which offer the flexibility and compatibility that IBM Domino provides but the Notes client itself is very clunky.

    Instead of throwing away your investments, consider retiring the Notes client but keeping the Domino server. Domino translates its applications to the web in real-time but don’t accept the default settings. Get a decent developer to convert your existing apps to slick web applications and you can still enjoy the security of an extremely robust server with granular built-in security and the best replication engine in the industry.

    All that on any browser of your choice and the latest in industry design.

  • IBM has strategy of product and it is keeping up to it. Products are added with new functionality and in result – one product with a lot of extras. For companies that has less than 1000 users 150EUR per user one payment gives you complete solution for Mail, Applications, Mobile Mail, Chat, light version of Identity Management for free, also VPN client licence. If we compare to Microsoft to deploy just mail, you need
    1. OS licences, (Enterprise ) which is costly,
    2. OS CAL,
    3. Exchange Standard Cal,
    4.Exchange Enterprise CAL,
    5. Outlook licence,
    6. Exchange client Standart CAL
    7. on top of Standart cal, also Enterprise CAL (to have basic features like Archiving, that is out of the box in any Notes Database)

    After that you will get 4-5 bigger price, that will give you JUST MAIL.
    Want discussion database, (Sharepoint is not able to deliver more and that why it was just killed by Microsoft, seems people in Microsoft can buy companies but can just kill them. Check Yammer or Nokia example).

    ok, if you want Sharepoint old unsupported version on Premise (Premise version is no longer supported, customers are FORCED to move to cloud, and for some of them it is not possible due to legal aspects). You have to buy OS licences, Enterprise with is costly, SQL licences standard and Enterprise, share point Server licences, and CALs again.

    So in result you will pay 10 times more.
    What I like in IBM (dealing with IBM technology from 1997) is that is stable, and predictable. I had project with Sharepoint, which was just night mare, if you have wrong password to connect to database, you have misleading messages like “site not found”. Minor customisations are not as easy as in IBM, which means huge maintenance costs or expenses on Microsoft partners.

    If Company is interested in Value for money, stable environment and innovation, they will keep and choose IBM. And we see trend in Scandinavia and Baltic Countries, people move to IBM from Microsoft. Many big companies cancel they Gold Agreements with Microsoft, because why to pay subscription for 3 years, have windows XP, wait for Vista, then not use Vista, wait of Windows 7, and when it arrive you are getting new PC with Windows 7 already installed?

    Make Bloomberg/Google search on “Bribery and ” to make a guess why people make not logical decisions to move away from IBM . 😉

    See you Next Conference on IBM ConnectED, tech conference for IBM Domino/Notes/Connections.

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