Tools & Technologies

Response to Mike Brown re "Business Reasons for Migrating from Notes/Domino to SharePoint"

One of the comments I received regarding my post Business Reasons for Migrating from Notes/Domino to SharePoint was from Mike Brown. This is my response (and I have tried to hold myself true to my guidelines about productive discussions).

Two Points of Background
First of all, two points of background. One, the post I wrote is not an argument by me as analyst for why an organization should migrate from Notes/Domino to SharePoint. It is an outline of the reasons that I am hearing within my research and advisory service as to why organizations are considering a shift. There’s a difference between those two … the first advocates for and evangelizes for reasons to do it, the second reports on what I’m hearing. Point two: I know Notes and Domino, because I use them extensively in my current advisory service for personal knowledge management and project management, and also because many years ago I ran a Notes/Domino consultancy firm based out of New Zealand. I get the product. But … those two points in no way should diminish the message that some organizations are thinking about migrating away from Notes/Domino, and it’s in everyone’s interest to understand why … and (for IBM) what the appropriate competitive response should be, and (for Notes/Domino developers) what the appropriate career strategy response should be (further advocacy of the clear and unique value of Notes/Domino, or a re-positioning of oneself from a “I help organizations do collaboration with Notes/Domino” to “I help organizations do collaboration”).

Mike’s Comment

“they will be increasingly interested in SharePoint and Exchange, even if they are an apparently happy Notes and Domino shop”

Err… hello. Should that not be “Notes/Domino” rather than “Notes and Domino”? Your listing it as two items makes it looks like Notes/Domino is two different products, but it’s only one.

You’re correct that you do need (at least) two Microsoft products to replace it, and Exchange and Sharepoint are two different products. You pay twice for the software, twice for the servers (and client access licences), twice for the support staff and so on. I can’t believe that any sensible Notes/Domino shop can see that as a good return.

“Strategic” vs “tactical”. Do what? All that matters is this: what is it that you need to do, and does your product help you do it or not? (“Can’t use that app today, man; it’s only tactical”).

A lot of the rest of your argument is somewhat self-defining. People will buy Sharepoint because it’s “a trend”? I’m sure you’re right, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. People buy Microsoft, because they buy Microsoft, because they buy Microsoft. And in the trenches of the Western Front, they used to sing “we’re here because we’re here because we’re here”.


– Mike

My Response
Now … to Mike’s points:

  1. On the Usage of “Notes/Domino” vs. “Notes and Domino” … Actually they are two products, because the use of Notes does not in every case demand the use of a Domino Server, and the use of a Domino Server does not demand the use of a Notes client. You can use the Notes client as a personal development environment (with the Domino Designer), or just as a POP3/IMAP email client … no Domino Server required. And Domino can be used without a Notes client … think Outlook access, or Web Access. But … I do absolutely get that they are generally used together and were designed for each other. Finally, you will note if you search my blog that I go back and forth between the two usages, that the title of my post had “Notes/Domino”, and that IBM uses the “Notes and Domino” form, eg, see its January 22, 2007 press release regarding the Notes and Domino 8 Beta.
  2. On the Return of Shifting from Notes/Domino to SharePoint … I agree that there are cost implications of shifting from Notes/Domino to SharePoint, and Ed and others have recently said that it’s twice the cost. But in terms of making a decision between one or the other, cost is only one of the decision factors, and not necessarily the most important … there are others, some of which my original post outline. I will respond separately to this matter in a post that talks to the perceived net value of one vs. the other. Also, there are shades of degree in what an “apparently happy Notes and Domino shop” do with Notes/Domino. If they “merely” use it for email / calendaring / task management and have few or no applications, if they run Windows Server, if they have other core business applications powered by Microsoft technology (eg, Dynamics), it SQL Server is the corporate standard … even if Notes/Domino “works” at a technical level for that type of client, they will probably shift to Exchange at some point unless they perceive unique value in the email / calendaring / task management capabilities of Notes/Domino.
  3. On the Idea of “Strategic” vs. “Tactical” … I disagree with your characterization of “All that matters is this: what is it that you need to do, and does your product help you do it or not? (“Can’t use that app today, man; it’s only tactical”).” There is a real business difference between decisions made from a strategic rationale vs. those made from a tactical one. The former supports the overall direction of where the organization wants to go, and the latter may or may not. Consider a different example … An organization has standardized (ie, made a strategic decision … ) to use one directory server product for governing all user access, authentication and authorization requests. This will ensure that no one gets access to systems they shouldn’t get access to, that everyone only needs to remember a single password, etc, etc. Then a business manager comes to IT and asks them to support a new product for their department / division, but it does not integrate with the directory, and will require a the maintenance of a separate directory … and assume that (a) there is no work around for this, and (b) the product does offer some points of unique value. What’s the appropriate response? If the decision is made from a strategic basis, the answer will be “no” … and an alternative must be found. If the decision is made from a tactical basis, the business manager will get their system in addition to a new set of management and administration requirements. What happens regarding the next request for a non-aligned product? A precedent has been set that the strategy will be routed around in some cases … and so if this organization isn’t careful, pretty soon they’ll revert to a hodge-podge of systems with different directories, different user names, multiple passwords, and the like.
  4. On the Argument Being “Self-Defining” … I think what you are saying is that I’m trying to argue something that isn’t occurring in practice. Firstly, it is happening in practice, and secondly, I’m trying to frame why it is and how I should (a) think about it, and (b) advise my clients and the wider market in this regard. Based on tracking news on a daily basis for many years–and in seeking to become a dis-interested observer by putting aside personal product and vendor loyalties when being an analyst–I believe that one is forced to conclude that Microsoft is doing many innovative things across a wide range of domains. Notes/Domino was at one point totally unique … there was nothing else that came close. But that uniqueness has been reduced–there are still points of uniqueness, but not as many–and thus organizations that use Notes/Domino but are increasingly settling on Microsoft as a strategic partner for many of their IT capabilities must also think through and work through the question of Notes/Domino vs. SharePoint. It is happening, and both you and I need to understand why. Whatever we personally think about the rightness of the reasons for doing so ultimately may not matter … senior business decision makers think differently than IT administrators and developers.

Mike, I appreciate the questions … you’ve made me re-think through and clarify what I wrote and for what reason. Do my answers above help?

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