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So if you're a "Notes person", what would you want to know about SharePoint?

Category IBM Notes Domino SharePoint
It seems like every Notes/Domino/Lotus/IBM person has an opinion about Microsoft SharePoint. Unfortunately, most of the opinions that I run across are based on the ingrained (and incorrect) notion that Microsoft is evil, IBM Notes/Domino is on the side of the angels, and SharePoint sucks.

The reality of the situation is that SharePoint is alive and well in businesses worldwide, you don't build a billion+ dollar business based on smoke and mirrors, and at some point you're probably going to come face-to-face with having to either interface with SharePoint at a customer (or your organization), or actually migrate off your beloved Notes/Domino platform to something else (usually (and again incorrectly) assumed to be SharePoint).

Welcome to my world since 2009. I work at a company who started using Notes in 1995 and built a substantial portfolio of critical and valuable business applications on that platform. Like many other organizations, the decision was made to move away from Notes/Domino for mail and applications, and move to "something else". In the case of mail, it was Exchange and Outlook. In terms of applications, there's a variety of options.

I used to deride migration companies when they said that 65% of Notes applications in an organization are not used. I "knew better" in my company, and we were nowhere near that... until we ran an analysis and found that 65% unused/abandoned Notes databases wasn't that far off the mark. In terms of migrating, the key phrase is "off of Notes". Most people assume (and migration companies reinforce) that migration means "to SharePoint."  In reality, it means just what it says... "off Notes". If it's an old application that hasn't been used, that may mean you obsolete or archive the application (I have recommendations on that process if you're interested).  If you run Remedy, that might be a valid option for some of your retiring Notes apps. Same with Salesforce.com or a myriad of other platforms. Bottom line, the business wants to just shut off Notes. If SharePoint takes over that role, great. Salesforce.com? Rock on... Remedy? Start coding... It doesn't matter... Business just wants to shut off servers, quit spending maintenance dollars, reduce risk, and lower the overall IT cost of ownership.

Having said all that, I want to start a thread here to find out what types of questions my Notes/Domino colleagues have about SharePoint that they hesitate to ask about in "mixed company". No, I'm far from a SharePoint guru, but I have no problems telling you my opinions, thoughts, or "I don't know" based on the last four years of straddling the fence. I've told myself over the last two years that I want to start a series of "SharePoint for the Notes/Domino Professional" blog posts, but I always have something else to do that keeps me from starting it. But I had another person ask on Twitter today what I would recommend for learning resources for picking up SharePoint skills.

Fine... I get the hint, universe... step into this niche that's being dangled before you. Do what you've always done... share what you know, and make yourself available.

So, the comments are open. What are your questions about learning/dealing with SharePoint in your Notes/Domino world? Feel free to fake names and addresses. I don't need to know who you are and where you are coming from. I just want to spend my time answering questions that are being asked, not ones that I imagine people might have.

THE MAIN GROUND RULE (and it's my blog, my rules, and I will be painfully ruthless and unapologetic about this...)

This will *not* (I repeat... *not*) become a thread for defending why Notes is better than SharePoint or SharePoint is better than Notes. They both have pros and cons. If you step outside whatever evangelical or cloistered world you're in, you're in for a rude shock... Neither side is evil or righteous. In the end, it's technology and business. You may like and prefer one over the other. That's fine. But in this thread, that argument will not be allowed. This is to deal with real-world questions about real-world issues that affect real-world paychecks of people you've known and worked with for years. I will delete without hesitation. warning, or apology anything that even hints of "x is better than y" in this thread. This is strictly "what would I like to know if I could ask any question of a SharePoint person who knows Notes, and who won't judge or out me to my colleagues who think I completely and totally bleed yellow". I may have to summarize a number of questions under "I don't know". But the best way to learn something (as in me) is to figure out how to teach it to someone else (that's you).

And in parting... if you think I'm being overly dramatic about people not wanting to let others know they're looking at SharePoint, think again. Because of who I am and the openness I've displayed during my 17+ years in this community, people are very open about reaching out to me in private to ask questions that they wouldn't dream of asking anyone else (and not just tech. :) ).  I've held confidences, given honest answers, and helped people decide directions both on a personal and professional level. I don't take that responsibility and privilege lightly, and I understand the personal angst that it can cause. Been there, done that. But once you remove the peer pressure and look at things from a non-"evangelical" perspective, there are some interesting conclusions you come to. Yes, the IBM/Lotus community is *very* special. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have been so shredded and ripped up inside over the last two weeks of IBM Connect-o-sphere 2013. Most of you will never know the personal hell I've felt over what I felt was a "goodbye" (in terms of real-life face-to-face contact) to many who  have been my family and shaped who I am (at the absolute core of my being) during that time... my last blog entry, while open, honest, and painfully and brutally blunt,  still doesn't communicate everything behind it. But with distance comes perspective, and once you see the "rock star"/insider group of people in other communities (like SharePoint), you realize that the same sense of community and passion is not completely unique to IBM/Lotus. Yes, you have to work to get back to that same level of comfort that you enjoy now (but that took you xx years to get to and you've forgotten the pain and awkwardness that it took to get here). Welcome to what newcomers in the Notes community feel when they look at you/us. Don't minimize what the IBM community is... it's incredibly special. But don't be blinded to the fact that you can have that same sense of community regardless of the vendor name attached to what you're doing. Bottom line... it's the people. You know that, and you've said that. Now you have to realize what that really means when you carry it to its logical conclusions and implications. It's not comfortable, is it?

And with that late-night and somewhat Glenfiddich-inspired (and I'd like to think uniquely Duffbert-esque) opening, the comments are open.


Gravatar Image1 - You touched on it already, but resources for the Sharepoint noob / Notes guru. What tech do we need to learn, how do things map between Sharepoint / Notes & Domino, etc.

Gravatar Image2 - Well, after reading through "From Zero To Social Hero" for Connections... the first 20 or so pages prompt me to ask whether a primer on what parts of the MS stack are required to get things started?

Gravatar Image3 - For me, I've been a Notes guy for over 10 years, but as an IT professional, what I do day-to-day ultimately feeds my family. So, that in mind, why would I *not* want to improve my tool box? That said, what languages are predominantly used to extend sharepoint sites? Should I focus mainly on C# or is my time better spent elsewhere?

Gravatar Image4 - We are in the early stages of migration from Notes where I work (I am a Notes dev/admin), so any insights you have would be very interesting to hear. In particular mail migration (we have around 44,000 active users), how to implement mail-in databases, and if it's possible to customise Outlook to add special actions to the inbox?

Gravatar Image5 - For me, I've been a Notes guy for over 10 years, but as an IT professional, what I do day-to-day ultimately feeds my family. So, that in mind, why would I *not* want to improve my tool box? That said, what languages are predominantly used to extend sharepoint sites? Should I focus mainly on C# or is my time better spent elsewhere?

Gravatar Image6 - The three biggest topics that interest me are developer productivity, understanding at what point you need to move out of " native" SharePoint and onto .net , and the impact of upgrades on your applications.

The context is an ISV where there are only 5/6 sells of each app ie. almost bespoke

I suppose another topic is at what point people typically go for a 3rd party workflow engine which seems to be a more common approach with SP .

not really SeanEmoticon

Gravatar Image7 - Extremely well said, Sir Duffbert. Eloquent and to the point as usual.

So. Lets imagine we've never touched sharepoint in a meaningful manner before. What would I - as a Notes guy - want to see?

Well, I'd like to see - blow by blow - what I need to do to set up a development environment. It'll probably live on a VM on my Mac (some things I'll never give up ;) ) but you get the idea.

Then I'd like to see who to develop a single form and view style application. Lets imagine its something like the worlds simplest fault tracking system.

Once you've done one of those, then at least you've got enough groundwork to start fiddling, to add the odd bit of slightly more complicated code to bits of button, etc.

Along the way, it'd let us get a little more comfortable with all this stuff, and hopefully start to make it more of a skillset than some form of ecumenical-divide-crossed..

The fun part of this is that none of this stuff does NOT exist already, I'm sure. But if you've ever navigated the MS Tech support site (or the IBM wikis, Business Partner sites) then you'll have quickly found (as I have done) that they're almost all useless.

I think thats why you've nominated yourself as our native guide.

So, Pith Helmet and machete in hand, lead the way, Sir Duff!

---* Bill

Gravatar Image8 - All good questions, and this will help be figure out how best to proceed.

Bill... being your "native guide" usually ends up in one of two ways... either you're knighted by the Queen and truly *do* become Sir Duffbert, or you're tossed into a black cauldron of boiling water, becoming Roast Duffbert with a vegetable medley on the side, lightly seasoned with local herbs... :)

Gravatar Image9 - One thing I found when I delved into Sharepoint development three years ago was the help available on the MS Web Site (video tutorials etc) far exceeded anything IBM ever offered for Lotus Notes/Domino Development. I don't know if all that stuff exists now (I'm no longer looking at Sharepoint) but it was a great help to me when I was trying to get started.

Gravatar Image10 - Tom, we're about to embark on this ourselves. After 4 yrs, do you 'still have a notes server in the back room'? Or are you all off? If you didn't migrate to share point, did your app go to pure .net or to another platform altogether? At the front end of this, I'm curious ( but not worried about ) how this will go. I'm already disenchanted with notes and IBM's vision for it, so I'm anxious to get started!

Gravatar Image11 - A side note, so people have some perspective, we're talking a global company with 28000 seats plus a a couple of thousand shared mails accounts and 12000 + app db instances.

Gravatar Image12 - As a Notes guy, who turned into a Sharepoint guy, and after 5 years, am now back to being a Notes developer, I would just like to throw one thing out there:

.NET customizations of SharePoint add a ton of complexity to your environment. You can get way more done without going to .NET than most people realize. SharePoint has Web Services which can do most of what .NET can, and can be called via AJAX, so a strong jQuery/JS developer can take SharePoint a very long way before you have to switch to .NET.

I point this out because once you go to .NET, your deployment, testing, and maintenance become 10 times as complex, and you need to maintain a much higher skill level on your staff to do well with SharePoint.

It also greatly increases the chance that a patch from Microsoft will break your code. That does happen.

Moving to .NET within SharePoint is less of a technical decision, and more of a strategic one, thinking about your staffing, and how robust your deployment and change management processes are.

Gravatar Image13 - Tom: Sounds interesting.
Notes/Domino/Sametime/Quickr was always easy for small organizations to manage with minimal requirements for server platforms and development; most of it was in the box. It's becoming less so these days. What does the MS stack offer for the "under 100 users" crowd?

Gravatar Image14 - Tom, What I would love to see honest objective posts about are the TRUTHS of what each platform can and cannot do. So many times the zealots (on either side) mistakenly deride other platforms. "Oh XYZ can't do THAT". I would love to hear actual things you've found that Sharepoint CAN do that Notes CAN'T and vice versa.

Gravatar Image15 - Removed by Duffbert... Sorry, Palmi. This thread is for questions someone might have, not an open discussion of what's better. When you started to use the term "lock in" and such, you stepped over the (albeit) arbitrary line that I'm using in this posting. Actually, your comment wasn't as bad as ones I still expect to show up. However, if I had left if out there, someone would have started a comment tangent on your comment, and that's not going to happen in this particular post.

Gravatar Image16 - Hi
We have done migrations in both ways, off and on to Domino-small and large scale projects, so
having worked with companies in a similar situation a lot still leaves the question:What is it that people dont like(in Exchange/Sharepoint and Domino )?? Customers I worked with were not able to articulate the proplem which they were trying to fix. Sometimes pointing to license cost, sometimes just due to a political decision. (Note:we are still talking about both directions!)

So can you please tell the audience a little more on the reasons for any move? Please, both ways!!!

I believe a lot of that is driven by emotions. Once they arise it does not even matter how much 'it' cost, as long as its called "new". New is always better, because it must be. So please write some articles about technical facts that will build a business case for moving(D>S and S>D)

on top of that, here comes my wishlist:

I would like to see your (=a vendor neutral) TCO comparison. Not only pointing out license cost and marketing stuff. Really a TCO study which includes hardware, storage, backup, OS, software, 3rd party tools required, development platform needs, licenses, operation and maintenance cost...

Furthermore I want to see blog you posting "Domino for Sharepoint guys" which provides a certain understanding of the Notes/Domino basics. Helping to avoid common mistakes(like copying files while Domino is running) in projects. or development starters for getting started interfacing Domino.

Thank you!

Gravatar Image17 - Kathy... I had to laugh at your comment based on an incident over the last week. We have a set of Notes applications that use a 3rd party plug-in to crawl the Notes content natively and pass the results to a Google Search Appliance we have. Long story short, when it came time to switch back to Notes-based search until the application is retired, there was a lot of... "concern". One of my favorite arguments about the change is that "Notes can only index the document title, so unless the person searching knows that title, they'll never find it in search."

Sigh... and this was after writing about four emails over the last week listing *explicitly* what would and wouldn't change. "Yes, Domino search indexes the entire document content, and if you search for anything in that Notes document and there's a match, it will be returned."

Head... Wall... bang bang bang. :)

Gravatar Image18 - @Thomas (comment 16) - Thanks for your input. I'm planning on covering some angles of what you mentioned, so there'll be some information there. What you *probably* won't get from me is the full-blown TCO study.

I'm a developer, and decisions to move to/away from Notes are, as you acknowledge, are made for many reasons. Occasionally, technical reasons enter into the discussion, but for whatever reason, the trench-level people get left out. Because I'm not a consultant, nor do I have access to various studies from vendors and analysts on the topic, I probably won't go there. Besides, for every TCO study that's published, there's an avalanche of competing information from each vendor stating why the numbers are wrong. Not my job, and I don't want to go there.

You do mention an interesting twist... Notes for the SharePoint person, instead of just SharePoint for the Notes person. I'll definitely add that to the list of possibilities. Most of my contacts have been with people who are starting down the mysterious SharePoint path. That makes sense that I'd get calls in that direction, as the Notes community is where I'm best known. Honestly, I haven't had a SharePoint person approach me and ask "what is Notes?" Before anyone starts with "because SharePoint people aren't moving to Notes", just stop right there. People move both directions, or there may be someone moving jobs, and they find they're now looking at a Notes environment for the first time. Personally, I think the more valid reason is that my visibility in the SharePoint community is not even remotely close to what it is in the Notes community. These articles may help me along the SP visibility path, which would be great.

Thanks for the input and comments.

Gravatar Image19 - I consider myself a decent xpage developer, but we are deploying sharepoint, so I should have some insight into this in the coming year as well. I look forward to your series

We are planning on keeping a xpage server for quite a while

Gravatar Image20 - Hi, Mark... Depending on where this goes and unfolds, I could see myself being very interested in having you do a post or two on comparisons between XPages and similar SharePoint constructs. Since I never went down the XPages path, that is a gap I wouldn't be able to answer too well.

Just keep it in mind...

Gravatar Image21 - If your a Notes/Domino developer and want to achieve the same results while developing SharePoint apps - learn .Net, InfoPath from the MS Stack. Quest if you want to migrate the apps using this "automated tool" (still lot of custom development if source apps is more than a basic Discussion Library). I would also suggest 3rd party workflow engines like Nintex (you will probably see how limited SP workflow engine when developing your first app)

(deleted second half of your comments)

Again, this veered into the politics of migration and this isn't the place for it. It's to gather questions that people might have about what SharePoint is if you're coming over from the Notes world. I'll talk about some of the things you mentioned in the first paragraph, but this thread won't be the one that provides answers.

Gravatar Image22 - I managed a SharePoint migration and project team for 5 years. I don't like SharePoint, but I have a mass of experience to draw on to come to that conclusion.

I think notes developers who have not seen SharePoint need to understand what a great user experience it is.

Regardless of functionality it looks great and is simple to use (at the out of the box level). The integration with MSOffice is unparalleled.

Gravatar Image23 - I'm a Notes person for over 14 years and have over the last 2 years become a Force.com person aswell.

I found getting started with force.com (ie the where do I start stuff) completely painless and free. I would love to see a Duffbert post on How to get started with Sharepoint.

Force.com can integrate with existing Notes databases - so it allows for extending legacy Notes databases not just replacing them. Many companies can't afford to just put their investment in Notes in the bin. How can Sharepoint integrate with other platforms, like Notes?

Gravatar Image24 - Very much agreed, Mark. That's an angle I definitely will be covering. When asked which is "better", I usually say there's good and bad for each. But if you've bought into the MS stack for email and Office, SharePoint is a no-brainer based on integration alone. And you're right... "generally speaking", users understand the integration aspects pretty quickly. And I as a developer don't have to do much to leverage it. It's just there.

But, enough of that, as I said I wouldn't do that in the comments. :) But integration and user interaction will be covered.

Thanks for commenting.

Gravatar Image25 - I have the same interest as Bill in #7...

Today I have a Domino server at home (running on a AMD X2 with 4GB of RAM and 200GB harddrive if I remember correctly). It is not doing much, just mail, 5-6 low traffic websites, and serving some plain HTML files using the Domino HTTP task). I just use it to host my own domains and of course my own Notes applications.

I understand that I would need more server for Sharepoint, but what do I actually need, assuming I want to build simple applications?

What client do I use? Is Outlook the client for Sharepoint applications? Or are they 100% web? What about mail, is that also Web then? How does that integrate? In Notes, mail is just another application, is tha true for Sharepoint as well?

It would be very interesting to learn what is required for a simple application. When I first met Tanya, I showed her Notes/Domino and demonstrated it by building a simple (typical) Notes application, a recipie database.
One form, with a few fields:
Title, Category (Apetizer, Main Course, Desert), originating country, creator name, ingredients list (just a text field) and directions (also text field). The category would be a combo-box/dropdown box.
Then I created a few views, showing the recipies sorted/categorized by type, country and creator, with the Title being displayed for all of them.

I then challenged her to build the same in php/mySQL (the tools she used), as a comparison, just to see how it would be done there. Emoticon

So I would love to see how a basic application like that would be developed in Sharepoint, at least the basic concept/steps.

Gravatar Image26 - Hi, Karl... I'll definitely cover that angle. Before I decided to open up the question to a larger audience, the series was going to be one that explained the basic building blocks (lists, items, columns, views, sites, etc.) and then a basic side by side comparison between a simple Notes app and a simple SharePoint app.

Barry... thanks for the input. I can start thinking along some lines there, too.

Gravatar Image27 - I will be glad to follow that topic.
How to set up a sandbox for learning / experiments would also be my first interest and what tools do I need at all?
Are there resources like the Domino Designer free download?

Also it's a good idea to stop any "is better" discussion straightforward Emoticon

Gravatar Image28 - First, I think you are spot on. We need to look at what our customers (internal or external) need to run their business.

In relation to Sharepoint, I think Bill (#7) sums it up very nicely <<< +1.

I know you have stated "Sharepoint" as the MS technology in this article. However, I am looking for a similar source to getting started on the "client" equivalent, i.e. OutLook/Exchange development (triggers etc.). Any idea where to find a "start guide" on that?


Gravatar Image29 - A lot of the "good to know" items have already been asked/pointed out. What I also would be interested in is your take on the archiving of applications. This is not only a discussion point before a possible migration but also during regular reviews or clean-up tasks and often neglected.

Gravatar Image30 - That will definitely be covered, Andreas. Since 2009, I've archived or obsoleted over 2000 Notes databases. Many of them were old with few clues as to who might or might not still need them. I set up a process whereby I could "ask forgiveness rather than permission", knowing I could have them back up and running in the same location within minutes.

Gravatar Image31 - this is exactly what I'm doing right now.. a customer had setup a team for an application clean-up on their servers and they defined the ones to be "removed". Now we're dealing with several user requests about the whereabouts of some databases Emoticon

Gravatar Image32 - Tom:

I'm interested in a comparision of Sharepoint vs Connections.



Gravatar Image33 - We are currently in the planning/pilot stages of moving from Domino to Exchange. I know we're going to have to move our mail-in d/bs to Sharepoint but I don't know if that will fall to us as admins or if they'll hire a Sharepoint person. So I'll be watching this discussion but probably won't have much to contribute right now.

I am interested in what tool you used, or would recommend, to tell what group/dbs are not being used.

Gravatar Image34 - 15 years Notes, about 4 Sharepoint.

Actually doing a migration as we speak, Notes to Sharepoint.

When I first encountered Sharepoint(2007) I tried to develop like the book says. Hated it.

Then Sharepoint 2010 happened, quantum leap, expect 2013 to be another huge leap, and I remembered that I was a developer. I hadn't developed in Notes by the book for over 10 years, so throw the book away and just develop, and now I don't mind Sharepoint at all.

You need external tools like Visual Studio, maybe Infopath. Us Notes developers are used to it all being in one box.

Sharepoint doesn't have the instant gratification that Notes does. You can't just write and run an agent. Things need deploying in Sharepoint.

However Sharepoint looks great out of the box, is familiar for users because of the Ribbon etc, and users seem to like it.

As you say they are both great products with their own strengths and weaknesses.

This migration has reminded me just how unattractive some Notes Apps can be.

I'll throw a theory out here, which you can shoot down, but remembering my courses all those years ago, I think the IBM training of the time didn't promote 'pretty' development, and this is what I think led partly to the I hate Notes movement. Maybe the training has improved now.

Microsoft Sharepoint training material is generally superb, and their default forms etc are eye-pleasing. No cyan forms in Sharepoint land!

Me? Still prefer developing in Notes for the moment, but that could change with familiarity.

Looking forward to your series.

Gravatar Image35 - A question.

Sharepoint is great for some workflow and doc apps, but not all. .Net is powerful but a little pricey for some soltuions.

Has anyone found any other products out there, perhaps open source, which have a development environment similar to lotus where one can quickly assemble simple applications for small team use.

Gravatar Image36 - First, awesome idea for a series! Very much looking forward to it.

Second, pretty much what others have already said: a true comparison of what each can/can't do, and how to get started for someone who has been writing LotusScript and JavaScript for the last millenia. Walk me through the process of migrating a Notes app into Sharepoint.

Gravatar Image37 - I've been a Notes developer for 19 years, since 3.3. The reality is Sharepoint is what's needed. If someone was just getting into Notes, there are 5 or 6 different major "courses" one would have to master to learn what is needed. I'm seeing similar issues with getting up to speed on the MS side. My question is, and there may not be a single answer, what to learn first as a prerequisite to having skills to develop that custom functionality that Notes has but Sharepoint, etc. will necessitate. Not getting much in blogs and things I've seen so far.

I have some definite suggestions on what IBM needs to do but maybe for another blog. But if they can change the mindset of "Notes to Sharepoint" to "Sharepoint/.NET to Notes", there could be a resurgence of Notes, but there is a lot of education needed in the IT world. Off the soapbox.

Gravatar Image38 - Thomas, I take it this never got off the ground? Any insights as to why?
(sorry if you mentioned why somewhere else, Twitter et al).

Gravatar Image39 - Just in a bit of a writing "funk"... it'll get there at some point (hopefully soon).

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