Monday, June 9, 2014

Lotus Notes Is Not Dead Yet

It’s well known that most users do not have the fondest regards for Lotus Notes due to its unfriendly and unintuitive interface. In fact, this might also be one reason that IBM recently retired the Lotus brand. However, despite this commonly-held sentiment, CIOs might be very surprised to learn that ripping out Notes can be a career-killer.

Notes is far more than just an email client. It is used for many purposes like applications, databases, documents, sharing files, communication, calendaring, and activities management. It includes a reliable, full featured, and stable development platform which allows complex applications to be built that meet the exact needs of the business. It supports both SaaS environments and offline use as needed.

On the surface it may seem to be a good idea for IT managers to get rid of this old Notes dinosaur, they may be in for a surprise when they get in deeper. Many migration projects have failed because IT managers underestimated the cost of moving from Notes.

In one case the business was trying to move Notes apps to SharePoint, but even after several years the migration remained incomplete, and had grown into a multi-team project across several countries, and users complained that the migrated apps lacked the functionality they had previously enjoyed. In another case, a migration away from Notes, initiated due to a merger, was cancelled because user requirements for apps were too difficult to meet with other systems.

Also there is the financial strain caused by migrating from Lotus Notes. The savings in annual maintenance fees by switching to Outlook or Google is often offset by the costs of the conversion project. Even after deploying a replacement suite (which by itself can be a lengthy project), the legacy Lotus Notes apps need to be rewritten at extra cost and this requires different skills than those held by the existing Notes team.

While full migration away from Notes may not be the best option, all Notes organisations still need to make a change. Why?

Simply put, the Notes client uses too much system memory, rendering both it and the user’s system painfully slow, and it has a user interface that looks like it crawled out of the early 90’s. There are also numerous minor bugs that make use of the system frustrating, and upgrades are considered to be slow and unreliable when pushed out to desktops, especially in locked-down environments.

Then there are the numerous workarounds users need to know just to complete the most mundane computing tasks, such as import/export to or from Word and Excel. There is also the lack of plug-ins to other enterprise systems.

More importantly with the rise of enterprise mobility, Notes users want to use Notes features on their mobiles. This renders traditional desktop Notes interfaces, based on navigating through multiple windows with a keyboard and mouse, unusable.

Now that mobile devices are commonplace at work single-finger input and touch screens are the preferred interface and employees are demanding these capabilities because it enables them to work faster and more conveniently. In addition, workflows will need to be re-examined and redefined to take advantage of the mobile workforce.

The good news is that it’s possible for organisations to leverage all the good things about the Notes platform, including its stability and all its import and logic and data, by using process-based integration and multi-channel application development platforms to create modern feature-rich apps with intuitive and optimised interfaces that match the needs of today’s mobile enterprise users.

Process-based integration involves setting an integration layer above enterprise systems, where workflows and business logic are defined. These workflows can connect to whichever back- or front-end systems they need and share data between these systems in real time. Mobile application development platforms give IT the flexibility to push the new mobile apps, built with simple, intuitive screens, to different types of devices including smartphones and tablets with minimum additional effort and costs.

Best of all, these integration and mobile application platforms can be used to integrate and mobilise multiple enterprise systems – current and legacy. So, while CIOs can use them to leverage the rich Notes functionality and provide updated and relevant mobile experiences, they can get an even greater return on investment by doing the same for many other applications as well. 

David Akka is the Managing Director of Magic Software (UK) Ltd and have worked with Magic Software for over 17 years.
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This article was originally posted on BCW