Notes to SharePoint migration part 2, including: Comparison Notes / SharePoint, tools we use and the people we have.
 
6 months ago I wrote the first blog about this project I am working on, moving Notes and Domino applications to SharePoint (SP). We are now (August 2014) developing the SP applications, so I thought it’s a good moment to write down how this project is going. The client started with approximately 200 Notes applications identified, at the end many where archived, many are planned to be moved to SAP and 60 Notes applications will move to SP. Don’t be mislead by the number, some applications are build up by multiple Notes databases.
Let me first start with what I think of SP these days, compared what Domino can do for clients. Please, this is not a complete comparison of the two products.
  • SP has some great features. It has many out of the box functionality, compared with a Domino server on application level has none besides a few useless Notes database templates.
  • The SP user interface (browser) is great, when a new app is deployed in SP users will find the link somewhere in SP when they log in. Compared with the Notes client, the Notes database links have always been a nightmare, users have to manage the workspace them self. I understand now that IBM tried to get rid of the Notes client desktop and replaced it with the bookmark bar which was so bad people were forced to find the hidden workspace again.
  • All SP apps will look the same because of the style sheet used in the browser, I find this great and it will increase the professional look of the app environment, compared with Notes apps, they all look different and most Notes apps I have seen look from design UI point of view very bad, simply because Notes developers are no UI developers. This is where SP does a good job as well, the things you can do from designing an app are streamlined and bordered by SP. What I mean is that all views look the same, all forms look the same – when you stay in the out of the box area SP will help you in making many apps that have a consistent UI, so you users will understand them more quickly because they look and work the same.
  • You know I have been doing Domino for many years, I know this product very well. There must be a area where it’s better as SP. No worries, there is. But will this be a reason for clients to choose Domino in favor of SP, I don’t think so. Domino is better is developing complex Notes and Web applications (with help of xpages). In SP when you want to do complex stuff you are forced to step out of the save out of the box area. Sure you can still do complex stuff in SP, but the development time will become huge because SP is not meant  for building complex applications. On the Domino server you can build anything, it supports the very powerful formula language, lotus script, java script and you can even run java servlets on Domino. With xpages great Web and Notes client apps can be build. It’s nice to have the mail server on the same system as well and Domino is very secure. But why do so many clients choose SP instead of Domino? Simply because they don’t need to build many complex custom applications. When I look at this 8000 users client I am currently migrating away from Notes to SP there is only 1 Notes application that is so complex we have no clue how to build it in SP. Only 1 Notes app!!!! This is not a reason to keep Notes running compared with all the other great features SP offers. I guess the client will try to buy something of the shelf to replace this xpages application finally. Writing this I realize that these days clients can buy so many applications on the internet there is no need to maintain Domino and the developers to build complex apps.
Anyway, how is the migration project going, 6 months after the start? I have to say it’s going great. We are now actually building SP apps to replace the Notes apps. We started with the simple ones and move up to the more complex ones next year. The development time we calculated is huge, so I will have something to do in 2015.
There a 3 items in this project I have found to become very import and are a must have to make projects like this a success. I will share these with you so you can benefit from it.
  • Dell Quest NMSP. We use this product to migrate Notes apps to SP. First NMSP makes an inventory of the Notes apps you have. I use this to see which forms are used in the Notes apps I must migrate to SP. The not used forms I omit. Then NMSP creates the SP lists, it moves all the Notes app ACL, author, readers fields and other security stuff to the SP list, then it creates the columns in SP (= the Notes fields) and finally it will migrate the Notes content to SP and it will try to match all the Notes names it finds with AD user names. At this moment each app we migrate starts with creating a NMSP job. When the jobs are finalized a big deal of the Notes application is present in SP. Then the final SP design work must be done.
  • This leads me to the roles of the people you need. In our project the Notes developer does the NMSP part. This is logical because he understands the Notes apps, The Quest NMSP tool has many features, so if you find a Notes consultant who understands NMSP very well you are lucky, else he/she had to learn to use the tool which will take a few months on the job learning. On Youtube you will find 7 NMSP training sessions which are great. Back to the people in this project. Off course you need a SP developer as well. In my project I do the NMSP stuff because I am the Notes guy. I create the jobs in NMSP and I do some easy development work in SP. Then I tell the SP developer what functions we need in the new SP app. I can do this because I understand how the Notes app works. When all the SP stuff has been build I do the final tests and when the application is 100% it is moved to the client for user acceptance test and then to production. In our project the Notes guy is critical because he does the NMSP work, he instructs the SP development team had he is responsible for testing the end result. Off course the SP consultant has to do a proper job as well.
  • Dell Quest NMSP can migrate the Notes form design to infopath, but infopath is crap so we replaced it with a tool we found on the market spform.com. It’s a Russian tool, it’s cheap and we love it. It has made our live much easier because it speeds up form design work, it can do tabbed tables (which we find a lot on Notes forms), it can make fields not editable when other fields can be edited, it’s a drag and drop tool in the browser and no need to waste time on making pixel perfect forms (it does this for you). In this project we have to migrate 170 forms to SP, so at his moment my company Lialis is building a tool that can convert Notes forms to spform.com forms, this will save a lot of time because the Notes tables on the form will be migrated to spform.com and all the Notes fields will be at the right spot in spform.com tool.
I think in the next blog I will focus more on how the organization succeeds or struggles to implement all the SP apps we develop.
If you need help with migrations like this feel free to contact me at marten@lialis.com