Can't we just turn off Lotus Notes?

This blog post is an extract from an interview held with our CTO Francois.

Q: Can’t we just turn off Lotus Notes?
A: Many organizations believe that if you freeze new development, cut off support and wait long enough, the problem will go away.  Problem is, Notes as a platform is very resilient to neglect.   And app owners don’t easily give up on 15 years of using their apps.

Q: Aren’t all those Notes apps mostly unused?
A: Turns out that only about 10% of the Notes apps are obviously obsolete.  That little activity could be important – think corporate lawyers or HR’s occasional use.  It could be a career limiting move to simply shut off those apps and wait for them to scream bloody murder a few weeks or months later.

Q: Fundamentally what is so unique in Notes?
A: Just about all platforms are relational.  In contrast each Notes app is its own object database.   Notes data is anything but rigorous and consistent.   Notes apps evolve over many years independently of their data with convoluted custom code.   Notes uses a unique approach to implement business logic.   Notes data almost always requires some level of cleansing to use in other platforms.

Q: What is so complicated in Notes app migrations?
A: Keep in mind that just getting in front of the stakeholders of any app is hard.  In 99% of the Notes apps there isn’t one line of documentation.   So the first step usually is to reverse engineer the business processes, some of which will turn out to be obsolete.   Most IT personnel are better at collecting new requirements than reverse engineering.   That could take weeks if not months longer than planned.

Q: Wouldn’t IT allocate more budget if they feel they are upgrading their Notes apps and bringing them back into the fold of corporate IT.  That seems like the right way to do it.
A: Yes but it is a lot of work.  An average medium complexity app in Notes will have 20 forms and up to 2000 fields total.  On average, the new app will have 4-5 forms, 10 dependent forms with 500 or so fields total.   You have to map the Notes app to the target app, one field at the time.  For many fields it isn’t a one-to-one match requiring pre- or post-processing to migrate the data.  And for many fields the data must be cleansed before the new app will accept it.  Again, it doesn’t matter what is the target platform, the effort is the same.

Karen Thurman