Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

Modernizing Notes applications - lessons from the trenches

Not only since mobile first became fashionable corporations are trying to ditch the Lotus IBM Notes client - for various reasons.
These efforts were branded " modernization", " web enablement", " mobile enablement" or if a competitor had a word " migration". Initially there was hope that this would be a short, painless and automated process (the upgrades, not the migrations that is). But reality taught a few facts that you need to consider:
  • A Rich Client is based on RichText, a browser client on HTML. There is no 1:1 mapping (otherwise one format would be superfluous), only some approximation (just ask Ben about it). Much more: there is no 1:1 mapping of the event models and APIs. So any automation would lead to incredible hacks
  • The Notes client's and Domino server's LotusScript runtimes are, while dated, incredibly robust and forgiving. The amount of OMG code I've seen in Notes applications (including my own ) tops any other platform.
    Still that code gets the job done and out of the way. However that doesn't translate into another language in an automated fashion, but rather demands the repayment of quite some technical debt
  • Code that gets a client with one user huffing and puffing can't simply be expected to run for hundreds or thousands of users on a single server
  • Users expect web (and mobile) applications to be fresh and modern. If Jack Sparrow couldn't find the fountain of youth, how can an automated tool do that?
    This is a clear conflict of interest between the users ("shall be modern and fresh") and the ones paying for it ("make it work in a browser, fast & cheap") - a classic for Why enterprise software sucks
    John D. Head clearly outlines expectations and possibilities for modern user interfaces. Teamstudio provides a nice set of modern mobile controls (that even work offline for a fee)
  • The amount of Notes applications mostly get underestimated greatly. Use a scientific method to create evidence
So damn if you don't, damn if you do? Not quite. In an approach Peter calls Asymmetric Modernization you step back from the tree to see the forest. Instead of looking the usual Notes way " application-by-application", see the sum of the applications and wipe them out, all of them modernize them all in one go (it is called economy of scale).
Nathan and Peter share a video, the modernization of the nifty-fifty, a recent case study and the service offering. Go check them out.
The biggest issue I see with this approach is the usual cautious stand in IT today:" let us do one (insignificant) application first and see how it goes. Then we linearly extrapolate and get scared" That is the total opposite of Asymmetric Modernization, so it will require clever persuasion to get a project approved.
As usual YMMV

XPages application in a browser

XPages app in a desktop browser

XPages application on a tablet

XPages app on a tablet

XPages application mobile phone view

XPages app on a mobile phone

Posted by on 09 May 2013 | Comments (5) | categories: XPages


  1. posted by Patrick Kwinten on Friday 10 May 2013 AD:
    Is mobilization just not speeding up the process of companies moving from Notes and what is IBM's answer on it?
  2. posted by Nathan T. Freeman on Friday 10 May 2013 AD:
    Get me off Notes
    @Patrick of course it is. Why would IBM care if customers are moving from the Notes client to XPages-based mobile apps? A CAL is a CAL.
  3. posted by Craig Wiseman on Friday 10 May 2013 AD:
    Why would IBM care? Because they have (A)"portfolio of mobile solutions can help your business turn each interaction into an opportunity. Read about our newest software and services."

    And they'd much prefer to sell you NET NEW CALs on their preferred platform.
  4. posted by Stefan Sucker on Friday 10 May 2013 AD:
    Hi Stephan,

    you forgot us Emoticon biggrin.gif

    We4IT delivers with our docLinkr-solution Link a native app for Android and Apple devices to bring IBM Domino applications to mobile devices. Often you can run them without coding and touching the existing application. All you need are the 2 docLinkr .nsf-files. If customers run IBM Traveler, docLinkr is working as well Emoticon laugh.gif We're mobilising small applications in minutes and for a complex CRM-System (15 databases)we only needed 3 days to have all you CRM-data on your mobile device Emoticon cheesy.gif

    With Aveedo we offer an application framwork to build new XPages applications without using the IBM Designer. Everything runs in a browser. So our customers could be existing Domino customers or competitive customers using the new XWork-server.
    To modernize your exisiting client applications we have a small wizard which helps you bringing up forms and views in our framework. But all of you are right... there is a lot more work to do then just using a wizard. Emoticon cry.gif But you can reduce your development time. Emoticon cool.gif Our target is not to move application 1:1. We really want to modernize them by moving them to a webbased Xpages-frontend.
  5. posted by Giulio Campobassi on Saturday 11 May 2013 AD:
    @Wissel. Well said. Customer likes "iShiny", but also wants cheap. Domino's development model still hasn't been effectively replicated in any other enterprise technology. Mobile technology is clearly the farthest from "rapid" as you can get when considering business function and enterprise data.

    So, this is where myself and others are trying to fill the gap. Modernisation is merely a way of deferring your "technical debt" payment ? Nothing wrong with that, in fact it's giving new value to an existing investment, depending how you look at it. Glass is half full Emoticon smile.gif

    @Patrick. IBM isn't trying to move companies off Notes via a mobile strategy, they're just following the mobile boom, and I see Notes being more of a casualty in the chaos as it's "too hard" for them. Besides IBM now markets Notes as an email technology not a rapid business app delivery platform. A gross oversight, but I admit I'm biased.