How to send doclinks outside of Notes

A client of mine was in the process of migrating from Notes to Exchange (don’t ask, they really had no choice).  The migration was supposed to be pretty quick, so we didn’t bother with coexistence: just use SMTP to forward emails between systems.

They have a couple of applications, mainly a CRM system, in Lotus Notes, which send out email notifications with doclinks to documents in question.  When the email would show up in Outlook, instead of a doclink they saw plain text listing the database, the view and the document — no doclink.

I was ready to modify the app to start sending notes:// URLs instead of doclinks, but first decided to dig around in Router configuration settings.

Under the MIME – Conversion Options – Outbound tab I found a field labeled “Message content”.  It was set to “from Notes to Plain Text”.  I changed it to say “from Notes to Plain Text and HTML” (one of the available options) and, as if by miracle, Outlook users started seeing active clickable doclinks coming in from Notes.

In all our tests, the only mail platform that didn’t want to recognize clickable doclinks was Yahoo.  Otherwise — Exchange, Gmail, outside Exchange servers — everything was showing a hot doclink, which would take the user into Notes and to the right document.

A bit of Router magic saved me from changing code in an ugly app.


Moving on up to the Exchange side

I took the plunge.  I finally did it.  I moved.

As some folks read and reacted with disbelief on Twitter, I switched my email platform from Notes to Exchange.

We, at PSC, have been running both systems in parallel for quite some while:  Exchange for the Microsoft team, Notes for the IBM/Lotus team.  And as a Mac user, I just wanted to use Mac Mail and iCal.

Sadly, Lotus continues to take the high road when it comes to allowing people to use clients other than Notes with its Domino servers.  And Exchange 2010 integrates rather nicely with Apple and its native Mac apps.  I’ve been tempted to make the switch for quite some while now.  End of the year, my calendar being pretty empty, seemed like the right time to do it.

I am rather impressed how simple and uneventful the move was.  I had to setup some general mail settings (signature, refresh frequency), configure appearance and configuration of my BlackBerry, that was about it.

I used IMAP to download email from Domino into Mac Mail.  That way I still have easy access to all my messages from Notes.  Mac Mail allows me to easily move things around between accounts as does iCal and Address, making populating my newly minted Exchange account a snap.

The biggest issue I had were my contacts.  For some odd reason, Mac Address would not import all contacts exported from Notes in a VCF file.  Out of 300-some contacts, it would only import 13 – 15.  I had to resort to the magic of Outlook 2011, which imported everything perfectly and synchronized with Mac Address.

If I think about it, I’ve never ever used anything other than Notes for email in a corporate environment.  We’ll see how this experiment (pardon, “move”) works out for me.  I yet might switch to Outlook 2011.

One thing I miss already is the ability to be prompted whether I want to save a copy of the message in my Sent folder.  Not happy about my Sent folder filling up with silly 1-line responses.  Anybody knows if Mac Mail can be configured to prompt?


Lotus must get customers to upgrade

As we’re going into 2010, Lotus is faced with numerous customers evaluating their email infrastructures.  While Lotus reports record-setting rates of upgrades to the latest version of Notes and Domino (8.5), large numbers of customers are still running older versions of the Lotus software, with some of them going as far back as release 5 desktops and mail templates.  Lotus knows that customers on versions earlier than 8.5 are more likely to migrate to a different mail solution (Exchange and Outlook) as compared to customers who went through the 8.5 upgrade. The R5 mail template wasn’t all that pretty when it came out 10 years ago.  It looks absolutely horrible when you compare it Outlook 2007 and the likes.  Lotus’ latest release of the Notes client 8.5 looks and feels so much like Outlook and offers so much functionality that it makes it hard to defend the migration argument and the associated costs.

What Lotus needs to think of now is how to encourage its customers to upgrade.  Over the course of 2009 a great deal of effort and money — sales activities, SWAT teams — was expended on defending Lotus at existing customers.  Often these very costly efforts were not successful and the battle was lost.  Perhaps the efforts were pointed in the wrong direction.  Offense is the best defense.  Instead of trying to convince customers to stays, Lotus should make staying so appealing that customers don’t even entertain the thought of leaving.  Instead of defending against Microsoft, Lotus should look at making the 8.5 upgrade financially appealing to the customers by offering deep discounts on license renewals under the condition that within 6 to 9 months every Domino server and every Notes client will be upgraded to 8.5.x.  The somewhat successful V2V (Version To Version) campaign conducted at the end of 2009 could’ve been more successful with a simple phone call to the CFO: “How much will you be spending on your license renewals with IBM this year? How would you like to spend 50% less?”

This might be a hard pill to swallow for the sales force.  The initial impression is that they would be losing 50% of their commission and making 50% of their quota.  To address the concern and to keep the sales teams motivated, IBM could apply the customer discount after the commission and the quota fulfillment have been calculated.  And to overcome all internal objections, IBM can treat this offer as a competitive upgrade price situation.

This practice is not unique.  It is widely practiced by consumer services companies in markets where there’s a lot of competition.  Cell phone carriers, TV cable or satellite providers and even some credit card companies routinely offer credits and discounts to long-time customers who are considering canceling their contract and taking their business to a competitor.

Before it’s too late, IBM, should figure out how to get the existing customers to upgrade to 8.5 and upgrade quickly.  Making it a financially appealing decision, is a good first step.

New opportunity – moving from Exchange to Lotus Notes

It is not often that I get to talk to companies looking to move from Exchange to Lotus Notes.  Every such conversation is a special treat to me.  So when I had one this week, I felt that I should mention it.

A partner of ours engaged me in a conversation with their client.  The client is an IBM shop (a bunch of AS/400s) when it comes to the back office.  They use or rather used to use Microsoft Exchange for their email.  Apparently, 2 weeks ago they got hit by a Windows virus that effectively shut down their email.  The virus affected them so bad that their email has been down for 2 weeks.  As the result, the words “Microsoft” and “server” are some of the dirtiest words known to the president of the company.  

We are now talking about deploying Lotus Domino and Lotus Notes on a couple of iSeries boxes.  The powers to be made the decision to switch without ever seeing a Lotus Notes client.  I walked them through a demo of Lotus Notes 8.5.  We mainly looked at email, calendar and contacts.  The initial reaction: this does everything we want, it looks good and it works well.  The biggest selling point — if they ever get hit by another virus, the iSeries and Lotus Domino will remain unaffected. 

Right now we are working on sizing the hardware and estimating the effort involved in moving 1000 users from Outlook to Lotus Notes in fastest possible way.  Can’t wait to start this project.

Bad news, good news

We are continuing to bring you the news from the Lotus Notes/Exchange Chicago front. I wish I could say that it was all quiet on the Chicago front. But the battle rages on.

One of PSC clients has just completed migrating all of their email users from Lotus Notes to Exchange. They are keeping Notes for now — a lot of their business uses a Notes application, which was developed over many, many years. However, even that application is scheduled to be replaced by a 3-rd party .NET application. Although it is not clear at this point when the replacement will actually take place.

Another PSC client has just decided to stay with Lotus Notes. Looking at Notes 8, they determined that it offered UI improvements enough to pacify the end-user community, complaining of the “horrible” Lotus Notes client. The perceived advantages of an Outlook client vs. Lotus Notes were not enough of a business case for them to justify spending a great deal of money on a migration project. I am glad to be able to add this to the list of stories of companies choosing to stay with Lotus Notes based on the merits of Notes 8.

It’s the same old song and dance…

And once again, my clients, long time Lotus Notes users, are talking about moving to Exchange.  Their reasons is the same old song and dance: we hate Notes; our users hate Notes; we don’t use Notes for anything but email, so why keep it; we don’t use any other IBM products; nobody uses Notes anymore…  Etc., etc., etc.  I can probably continue for a while.  Ed [Brill], you already know about both of these places, we’re talking.

Why is it that around here, in Midwest, Lotus Notes is a perpetual uphill battle in the SMB arena?  There may not be any real business value in migrating, no ROI to speak of, but people still migrate.  The greatest ROI is possibly a very intangible one — happy users.  Organizations appear to be willing to spend lots of dollars just to avoid hearing for the umpteenth time, “Why are we using Notes”?