I've recently become aware of one of Australia's large Notes/Domino clients moving to the exchange platform and have been thinking about what that move, in these troubled times says about their corporate direction and their local Notes/Domino support.
Such a move could have been forgiven about three years ago when IBM was still floundering in it's Domino roadmap. At the time, it may even have seemed to make good business sense but the computing landscape has changed drastically over the last few years and Google, Apple and IBM have all emerged as leaders, leaving Microsoft behind.
Why do People Migrate?
So what are the real reasons behind migrations. I suspect that many are due to the defective notion that "nobody ever gets sacked for buying Microsoft" and others are due to belief in Microsoft's FUD (fear, uncertainity and disaster) campaigns.
How anyone could actually believe that marketing tripe is beyond me but since there are still people who think that Elvis is not dead, I probably shouldn't be surprised. There are probably people out there who believe that Coke actually does "add life" too.
Microsoft also offer some pretty compelling cash incentives to migrate. These are always offset by the long-term costs of their solutions but I can see how some short-sighted CEOs and CIOs could be persuaded to make a grab for those "immediate benefits".
In my opinion though, the main reason for migrations away from Domino is a lack of understanding about the product and more importantly, lack of internal and external champions.
The Need for Champions
Why Champions? Its a question I'm often asked with puzzlement. After all, we don't have "champions" for any of our other software. "Well actually", I'll often reply, "you do.".
I'll usually follow this up with a question like "who do you ask when you need help with tables in word?". Sometimes they'll suggest that I'm their main means of support but often they'll mention a power-user secretary or the office manager. When they do, I reply - "there's your word-champion, where is your notes one?"
Notes is infinitely more complex and more capable than word but unlike word, it thrives on customisation. It's strange how many new staff members we hire who, when asked whether they have used Notes before talk about the "screen with the Giant Icons". It never ceases to amaze me how many companies do no customisation to Notes at all but simply drop the desktop on them. That may have been acceptable 15 years ago but it isn't now - and it hasn't been for at least the last 5 years.
Users should expect to either start Notes in a custom welcome screen (for customers on mail only) or in a full-blown corporate portal, if they use applications as well. If the business isn't doing this already then it's really up to the business partners to explain the value rather than simply serving up "more of the same".
I've also noticed that many business partners seem content to sit back and simply "code for the current version of domino" or "just add a database here and there". The approach to Domino in the organisation should be a holistic one. It should start with the user clicking into their corporate world (in Domino) and should end with all of the information and tools they require for their day-to-day duties being close at hand. Anything other than this is simply ad-hoc development.
There is nothing that says "wasted opportunity" quite like having a fully-paid up maintenance agreement with IBM and then staying on Lotus Notes 6.5. I have a real problem with Business Partners who let the clients stay in this condition without putting up a struggle. After all, it's your livelihood.
A year in the computing industry is close to about ten in most other industries, but even if we accept "actual years", the lag is considerable. Lotus Notes 6.5 is a 2003 product and it's now 2008 - that's five years. Now, suppose you were comparing two cars, your trusty 2003 Falcon versus the new 2008 Holden. If they were both the same "cost", which one do you think you'd choose?
Of course, looking at it the other way, what if your company had paid for your 2008 Falcon but although it had been delivered, they decided to put it in storage and let you keep driving your 2003 model. How do you think you'd react?
If your company had a good quality multi-function printer, scanner, copier - why would you consider replacing it with a device that printed but didn't do anything else? If all of the functions worked well together, why would you buy three devices instead?
The answer - because you weren't aware that it could do all those things.
The same goes for the idea that Lotus Notes is just an email package. IMHO, it's the job of internal IT and their IBM Business Partners to promote the versatility of Notes.
One thing I'd love to see would be either an IBM follow-through with sales, or a Business Partner introduction to a new client, where they say. "Ok, you've got Notes installed for Email", how about we show you a few "Free" off the shelf solutions to common business problems.
There's enough free stuff in the default templates and on OpenNTF that a business partner could provide most new clients with at least one "wow" application that would convey the message - "Domino isn't just email".
Do that, then hint at the possibilities if you did some development work and you could easily find a lot of development heading your way.