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Domino 10 - Should I stay or should I go now?

Our Head of Business Development, Richard Marler, explores what Domino 10 might mean for existing IBM customers and, specifically, if they are asking themselves the right questions?

 

There has been a reasonable stream of comment and information being published on the upcoming Notes/Domino 10 release. Some of the additions are obviously very welcome, although truthfully very overdue:

  • Ability to develop in Node.js on Domino
  • Better mobile platform capability
  • Increase of maximum NSF file to 256GB
  • Improved Microsoft integration
  • Updated mail and calendar features
  • Improved replica conflict resolution
  • Enhanced NSF/Database repair 
  • Improved and simplified Active Directory Integration

I can’t help but wonder whether all this focus on functions and features, however positive, is missing the point.

Here’s the hypothesis:

  • It is reasonable to assume that the vast majority of businesses still using Notes/Domino are doing so for bespoke applications.
  • The peak adoption for Notes/Domino was the back end of the 1990’s through early 2000’s. This has resulted in a lot of applications that, and this is critical, have been built over a long period of time.
  • While they may have been tweaked over that time, most have probably not been fundamentally revisited for at least the last 5 years. As businesses started to consider that migration from Notes/Domino was inevitable, they shut down major investment on their application estate.
  • In most cases customers expected these applications to “wither on the vine”, but we keep hearing that “Notes/Domino just keeps on running”.
  • Businesses constantly need to adapt to new opportunities and challenges. A lack of investment in applications will result in a disconnect between what the business needs and what the solutions provide. End users will attempt to adjust to business change through use of manual systems, spreadsheets, etc. and ultimately the business efficiency will deteriorate.

It follows then that these businesses will have a bunch of old applications on a platform with a far from certain future, that haven’t been extensively enhanced for years and, as such, are very probably unfit for purpose.

I’m not suggesting that every business is in this situation. There will be existing IBM/Notes customers out there that have remained committed to the platform and have continued to invest in their applications. These businesses may well be able to make use of the new features and increase their platform ROI. However, I maintain that these businesses are in the minority and that most still on the platform face a significant challenge with the suitability of their existing applications.

In our experience of migration projects, end users were typically unhappy with the existing Notes/Domino applications. Migrating these applications ‘like for like’ will, in most cases, do nothing more than give them a fresh coat of paint. Specifically, it will do nothing to ensure they support the current business needs. I posit that these applications don’t just need a tweak or two, or a nicer front end – they need a fundamental review of their architecture and associated data model.

If the hypothesis is correct, then a considerable investment is going to be needed in analysis, re-design and re-write. Further, I would suggest that this is true whether you decide to stay on Notes/Domino or not. Not what the IT function wants to hear I know, but very probably what the business needs.

IBM’s motivation for giving Notes/Domino a facelift is obvious. They have outsourced the development of the platform, so overhead is relatively low. If they can do enough to squeeze another 5 years of loyalty out of their customer base, then the numbers almost certainly stack up. What is much less clear is the motivation for the existing customer base to stay.

The biggest obstacle to moving off Notes/Domino that we hear is that the migration is going to cost too much for too little in return i.e. “we are just swapping one platform for another”. But in this scenario, ‘migration’ is really a red herring. Migration is indeed hard to justify when the only driver for change is moving from one platform to another platform. If you recognise that the real driver for change is the fact that the current applications no longer support your business, then the additional cost of moving to a better platform is not that great. This is digital transformation for the Notes/Domino age.

If you are in this position, I challenge you to ask yourselves this:

  • Does your Notes/Domino application estate support your current business needs in a structured, efficient and logical manner?
  • If not, are you willing to re-architect it all on Notes/Domino?

Sorry IBM - in our opinion this is all too little too late. Rather than getting excited about modernising applications on the Notes/Domino platform, the existing customer base needs to be confronting the reality of having run their applications for years on a platform that has had little investment. It’s time to focus on ensuring that their applications will support the business now, and into the future, rather than just putting a layer of make-up on the current applications.

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