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A call for Champions: Black and Blue and Yellow Too!

I'm currently on a consulting project with a large organization (I won't name any names), wherein I'm the first "Lotus Notes consultant that [they've] had in [there] in years". Of course, Lotus Notes is thought to be a sluggish, archaic, beast of a mail server - with hushed whispers of moving to Exchange for messaging and "something else" for their internal applications. I was brought in to work on a few of the "grandfathered" projects - grandfathered in that they are the last new Lotus Notes development to be performed in that organization pending a complete review of said organization's current technology investments and their forthcoming architecture plans.

As this organization is launching a company-wide Windows XP migration, they are also updating the Lotus Notes clients from release 5 to ND7... so I'm honestly not too sure if the FUD-fueled "writing on the wall" for our beloved Lotus Notes isn't written in disappearing ink just yet. But you can't mistake the general feeling for the product.

Now, this dislike of Lotus Notes is due (in my opinion) to several factors - from an often complete lack of knowledge of the fundamental built-in functionality of the Lotus Notes client to those poor fellows on the development and administration teams that are unable to implement many of the excellent features and functionalities that are available to them due to corporate IT standards (read: red tape) and legacy support issues. For instance (regarding legacy support issues), application development standards are to mirror previously deployed applications - which in this organization resemble circa R4.x Lotus Notes client development. The developers and administrators know how to do the amazing things that can be done - they can make breathtaking, fully functional UIs - but such actions would require re-writing other applications to mirror such functionality while additionally retraining the user community on the "new" applications.

This is where being a consultant comes in handy. While it was recommended that I comply with the current development memes, I instead was able to recommend fresh, new, and completely functional solutions. The development team grew excited at the prospect, while I was able to sell the venture based on some "prior art" - several applications that I keep with me for such a reason - to show management what I was referring to with my suggestions.

The good news, is that this was successful. The users are seeing applications that look as though they're not written in Lotus Notes - at least what they know of Lotus Notes applications - and this has afforded me to work on more and more projects within the organization.

As a consultant, I was able to be a product champion for Lotus Notes/Domino! Sadly, however, most of us are unable to be thought of as a product champion when we are an employee of an organization.

Years ago, I worked as a Lotus Notes administrator in an organization that couldn't stand Lotus Notes. I was frustrated at having my hands tied. I was being ignored. I was being overlooked. And it wasn't until we brought in a consultant (by way of purchasing a Lotus Notes-based SFA/CRM solution) that the company began to listen and understand just what the solution that they had in-house could do.

John mentioned in a post recently that we as a community (and I'm including IBM in this community here) begin to provide product champions with industry recognized and supported solutions - beyond the scope of OpenNTF.

It's with the above two references that I make the following statement: a downloadable and deployable solution alone will not work - what we need to ensure that Lotus Notes/Domino is being adopted, utilized, and embraced are authoritative champions!

Should we build foil-applications in Domino for all Sharepoint solutions out there? Sure we could, and it ultimately wouldn't be that difficult. But I don't think that having these solutions, especially as freeware is the answer here.

Other technology vendors are bombarding the decision-makers in these organizations with their products, their solutions, and their added spin on IBM's previously wishy-washy futures for Lotus Notes/Domino. We'll have Joe the Notes Admin say, "Well, I just downloaded some freeware for Domino that'll do that very thing!" - there's no contest! The other vendors win in this case because, in my previous history, Joe will be ignored. In fact, how the hell did Joe know we were talking about this particular business need? Shouldn't Joe be making sure I don't get Viagra ads?!

I suggest that IBM start pushing through their sales channels, business partner channels, and the OpenNTF and what-is-to-come-of-John's-call-to-arms solutions with the same fever that they pushed Workplace down their Lotus Notes/Domino customer's throats.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that IBM is planning rNext Lotus Notes/Domino releases, but we've still got to do something for the legacy shops that 1) hate their current technology investments because they don't see what they have and 2) are being blasted with Sharepoint, et al marketing!

... or am I just drinking too much caffeine lately?!

About the author: Chris Toohey

Thought Leadership, Web & Mobile Application Development, Solutions Integration, Technical Writing & Mentoring

A published developer and webmaster of, Chris Toohey specializes in platform application development, solutions integration, and evangelism of platform capabilities and best practices.

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