Monday, January 09, 2017

New Year, New Directions

2017 marks the beginning of a massive shift in technology at work. We’re re-branding,  we’re moving office and we're changing our technology from IBM to Microsoft. It's going to be a wild ride and I hope that you’ll stay with the blog as I delve into the new world and try to figure out what works and what doesn't. 

I've been on Notes/Domino since version 3.0 and I haven't used outlook at all, apart from a week in 1995 when I decided that I hated it (plus of course, the regular interactions with outlook die-hards where I've had to fix their computers). My personal favourite mail client is Gmail though I've been forcing myself to use Google’s inbox for the past three years. Of course I've used a lot of other web based mail systems over the years.

IBM Connections

Last year our company made the leap to IBM Verse and Connections.  It was a disaster. IBM connections is a very powerful and capable product marred by a terrible and inconsistent interface. The choices that IBM have made regarding security are very protective but unfortunately affect usability to such a degree that we were unable to use even the most rudimentary collaborative features. It didn't help that we got a new management team who are determined to “get rid of IBM and replace it with Microsoft”.

IBM Verse

Verse is where we really hit the wall.  On the surface,  it feels like a great new way to work but because we already had an archiving solution in place, we didn't opt for IBMs one. For various reasons, we experienced a very high bounce rate and frequently got bounce reports from mail that actually made it through. We also discovered that we couldn't find mail that was more than a few months old. Additionally,  we discovered that our address book groups were not being updated and in many cases were missing altogether.  This created a lot of addressing issues. Finally, we discovered that if a user leaves the company and you remove their email address, it also deletes their mail, Permanently. IBM’s support teams can’t recover it. For a company like ours who are used to being able to restore from backup months and even years down the track, the loss of an overnight restore is a pretty big deal.

We spent a lot of time with IBMs technical support team who were excellent and did their best with a product that wasn't performing well. Unfortunately the support teams were also struggling with the English language and communication was difficult at the best of times.

IBM Domino

Our domino environment is extensive and it really was really the star of last year.  We threaded bootstrap and FontAwesome throughout our sites and demonstrated that there is a lot of life left in the system.  The facelifts we did on our systems left them barely recognisable and indistinguishable from modern apps. I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing if there is anything that Microsoft has that can match it for versatility.  That's going to be a really interesting journey.


Unfortunately for Domino,  I can't blame my company for its failings.  That's entirely on IBM. They've spent the last decade downplaying Domino and trying to replace it with various things (websphere, workplace, connections and verse). They had a brilliant product but they've done so much irreparable damage to it with their mismanagement that I don't think it can recover.

I  think that one of the most telling examples of this was during a meeting with the IBM sales team where we were investigating a migration to bluemix in the hope of better utilising our domino services.  We asked about “domino in the cloud” only to be told that there was no option for this  - and that there was little likelihood of one in the future due to a lack of interest in Domino. I  exchanged glances with my team at that point and we collectively acknowledged this as the point where IBMs softlayer and bluemix services had failed to offer us any significant advantages over AWS or Microsoft Azure.

I'm sad to be leaving the IBM world, though I'm sure that we’ll be retaining our Domino servers for a while yet. We can't do too many changes at once and we still need to find and learn appropriate replacement technologies.

Whatever we do, 2017 looks to be a very challenging and interesting year. 

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