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Addressing ill informed opinions of HCL Domino

Something that has been discussed with HCL Ambassadors, HCL and within Domino People on an ongoing basis is ill informed opinions of HCL Domino.

Get the name right for a start.

Firstly this might seem like a particular pet peeve of a pedant who is working deeply with the technology but it’s not “Lotus” or “Lotus Notes”. I can understand why end users are attached to the name and why it stuck. But it hasn’t been Lotus Notes for a long, long time. It’s like calling Firefox, “Netscape Navigator”. The primary brand is HCL Domino. Even if you never picked up IBM Notes. It’s been HCL Domino (and Notes) for nearly 2 years.

So when someone with a Microsoft hat on asks sneeringly “Are you still using Lotus Notes?”, you can smugly answer: “No, Lotus went out of business 20 years ago. I use HCL Domino”. This is coming from someone who worked on the old Lotus European Headquarters in Santry, Dublin and has fond memories of that brand and that time. Times move on though.

Two years of Innovation.

The last two years in particular have seen a massive amount of development on the platform, where we can call it cutting edge technology (yes really). Yes there are some things that could be improved like any set of products. But I do have confidence that HCL are triaging all of our ideas, and implementing the most important ones as soon as they can. I’m not talking vaguely or generally here, literally on a webinar this week HCL mentioned my name and idea from a forum they did a couple of years ago that they are implementing (they’ve implemented half a dozen more too #humbleboast).

If your idea makes sense, is viable and is popular, HCL more than likely will implement it. They are approachable and accept criticism and new ideas with equal gusto . If you put feedback in the beta forum for Domino 12, a developer will reply to you promptly. They are refreshingly appreciative, honest and realistic. They’ll tell you honestly what’s not going to happen or if it won’t happen just yet. They regularly have events with the people who developed the platform giving the demos. They’ve another online event at the beginning of March. Digital Week Comes to you -EMEA

HCL are a massive multinational, with a industry leading reputation in Digital Transformation (If you don’t believe me ask Forbes magazine )

HCL have chosen HCL Domino as a core flagship product for a reason.

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HCL have delivered so much in recent times and are continued to do so. Below is a sample of what’s being delivered and what is on the horizon:-

These are not small fringe add-ons. Many are significant innovations.

And much more to be honest. Technology wise it’s the most exciting time to be working with the products in 20 years.

What Domino Looks Like Today?

We’ve non-domino developers (Java mainly) on our books who work for us and connect a multitude of different technologies to Domino databases who couldn’t tell you what a Domino designer client looks like. They don’t need to. JSON is just there with two or three clicks. That’s not even touching the native proton/NodeJS support.

Citizen developers can get up on running on complex workflows from excel without knowing a thing about Notes with Domino Volt.

If your users are indifferent on the Notes client, they don’t actually have to use it as there are tons of options in this space for both mail and apps that are straight forward to implement with more and more coming down the tracks (Open Client Strategy anyone? Meaning native Outlook/Apple Mail/Thunderbird support straight to your Domino mail files out of the box).

Every release HCL have had, has made me stop and say WOW, I can’t believe how good this feature is or how much of a game changer this is (check out cert manager in the upcoming Domino 12, or Nomad Web likely coming later this year for cases in point).

Undercooked Apps? Give them some heat

I’ll be blunt here – If your apps are in “Lotus Notes” and they look like and perform like a website from 2001, that’s because they haven’t been developed since 2001. It’s often said that if you developed a website in 2001 and hadn’t updated it would look woeful today. But you wouldn’t say Chrome is terrible because the website looks terrible in Chrome, or the Internet is terrible because the website looks terrible on the Internet. The same sentiments are true about HCL Domino and “Lotus Notes” applications that haven’t been touched in 20 years. Properly developed HCL Domino apps are modern, can be accessed securely by a multitude methods and can integrate with any other technology.

Invest and modernise your Domino apps and you will get a massive Return on Investment.

Plus, the core fundamentals with Domino are still there. It is the most secure platform of it’s type. HCL continue to invest heavily in Security. Replication in Domino has often been copied but never equaled. With every release HCL have had, they’ve been adding layers on top of the replication stack, particularly within clusters. The Domino Console is the single best thing about being a Domino Admin, no other technology gives you what it gives us. Domino is the original Low Code No SQL platform and still the best by a long way. And it is easier than ever to develop, low or no code on Domino.

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A real life example of migrating Domino applications.

I’ll give a case in point out of one reasonably sized customer of ours who several years ago made a strategic decision to move away from “Lotus Notes”. They have over 100 mission critical Domino applications that run their business. Guess how many they’ve migrated to new platforms in that time despite spending millions trying to do so?

Zero applications. 0, nil, zilch.

4 years ago, they targeted one Domino application, which in the Domino world was of medium/high complexity and was the low-hanging fruit that the customer were “reliably” informed by their Microsoft technology specialists would take 3 to 6 months to migrate. After 4 years and millions of Euro spent, the application isn’t even nearly migrated. Replicating basic functionality that Domino just “does” is easy to do on the sales pitch but isn’t that straightforward when the customer is paying for it apparently.

This organisation still have well over 100 mission critical Domino applications running their business. Had they invested a tiny portion of the migration cost for the one application that they are still trying to migrate, they would have a new unbelievably fresh and modern UI on ALL of their existing Domino apps currently running their business, with integration with whatever technology they wanted. Remember, nobody complains about Domino as a platform (not even hardcore MS heads) and users don’t care about the underlying technology.

If Domino applications are looking dated (which happens with every single technology over time), the push to migrate make absolutely zero business sense when you could achieve better and faster results for 5%-10% of the cost by investing in your existing Domino applications.

That’s not just one customer with this “elephant in the room” issue. We know of many more. I’ve blogged before about our experiences on mail migrations. Application migrations tend to be much much worse.

But customer X and customer Y have migrated? Good for them. Try to find out how much they spent and what they actually tangibly gained as a result and how long it took. You will never get a straight answer as with most projects that go over time/budget with little or no gains.

I am yet to hear of one credible story about a swift cost effective migration of Domino apps. It will take years longer than expected, it will cost multiple times more than budgeted, the new technology partner will completely (and purposefully in most cases) underestimate the complexity/functionality of the Domino applications just to get the sale. They also won’t mention that it will take 10 servers running different technologies just to do what one Domino server can do out of the box.

In the vast majority of cases, there are no overriding technological or business reasons to migrate applications from HCL Domino to what is often a less suitable platform(s).

And what do you get at the end of your “strategic” migration that has gone way over time/budget? The same application looking pretty via a browser running on a different technology. That’s it for the majority.

There will likely always be opinions to the contrary online and in real life, but to be honest, there’s always noise under every article about anything that is contradictory just for the sake of it.

Don’t be caught out in a news story because you haven’t invested in modernising your apps but bought the sales pitch from Microsoft and then it took 10 years to get half way to where you started.

Don’t get left behind. As Uffe Sorensen said recently – this not your grandfather’s “Lotus Notes”.

Domino is as modern as you let it be

Cormac McCarthy – Domino People Ltd

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