December 7, 2014 marked the 25th anniversary milestone for IBM Notes/Domino (originally known as Lotus Notes). The milestone provides an opportunity to briefly reflect on the legacy of Notes/Domino, and also on what enterprises that deployed the platform over the last quarter-century are now doing to fully leverage more modern collaboration and content platforms.
Note pioneered a category — originally “groupware” — when it was released in 1989, after five years of development by Iris Associates (which had a marketing and distribution partnership with Lotus Development Corp.). Launched during a period when corporate email was still something of a novelty, when content management typically meant large and expensive host-based systems, and several years before the World Wide Web went mainstream, Notes delivered robustly useful out-of-the-box capabilities and also served as a platform for a wide range of custom application requirements.
By the time IBM acquired Lotus Development Corp. in 1995, Notes had a commanding market lead in the enterprise communication/collaboration market. Microsoft Exchange wouldn’t be released until 1996, for example, and SharePoint would follow several years later. Changing market dynamics, however, created some challenges for the Notes/Domino ecosystem. Most significantly, the shift to Web-centric infrastructure application models and browser-based client user experiences presented challenges for the originally client/server, heavyweight native client Notes/Domino model.
Lotus and IBM were somewhat successful in delivering related products on the Notes/Domino platform, including QuickPlace and later Quickr, but ultimately even IBM shifted its focus to more modern and social business-oriented solutions such as IBM Connections. IBM also recently introduced IBM Verse, which appears to represent a start-from-scratch vision for modern communication, collaboration, and content sharing services.
For enterprises that made commitments to the Notes/Domino platform, whether they plan to continue with newer IBM alternatives or migrate to competitive alternatives such as Microsoft Office 365, the transition can be a daunting proposition. In working with global enterprises in Notes/Domino-related engagements since the early 1990s, for example, CASAHL has observed several patterns:
- Many enterprises do not know how many Notes/Domino applications are active within their organizations, and which apps contain valuable corporate content
- Notes/Domino customers with sophisticated custom applications often find they no longer have the requisite on-staff skills to maintain the applications
- In most cases, transitioning to more modern platforms also provides an opportunity to revise and simplify the business scenarios addressed by legacy Notes/Domino applications, but it’s challenging to find developers who understand both the legacy apps and the new opportunities
- Modernization and transition projects can also be complicated by organizational dynamics, such as resistance from system administration teams that are apprehensive about learning new tools and techniques, even if doing so can save their employers considerable licensing and maintenance expenses
CASAHL’s Notes/Domino solutions are optimized to address these and other Notes/Domino transition challenges. In our next few blog posts, we’ll share some insights based on our more than two decades of experience in modernizing and transitioning Notes/Domino deployments.
The History of Notes and Domino (IBM developerWorks)