Lotus Notes needs the shrinkwrap treatment

Lotus Notes needs the shrinkwrap treatment

Summary: Most people agree that IBM's Lotus Notes product is one of the most advanced and popular collaboration suites around, but....

TOPICS: IBM, Microsoft

Most people agree that IBM's Lotus Notes/Domino product is one of the most advanced and popular collaboration suites out there.

So how come I keep on seeing people dump it for Microsoft Outlook/Exchange?

Today brought the news that accountancy firm PKF is moving its 800 or so users across ... in March it was publisher APN News and Media.

Strangely, IT bosses at both companies praised Notes.

"Probably the product isn't quite as good as Notes as far as the feature set goes and workflow," APN's service desk manager David Slyderink said of Exchange back in March.

PKF CIO Mark Carmichael likes Notes too.

"Lotus Notes gives a lot of power in its portability, its replication features, so that staff can take information with them and still have it accessible in the office," he said this morning.

"So it's always been a powerful tool for professional services firms."

Now it's a bit tough to say exactly why some companies no longer seem to be keen on the trusty Notes, and without further data I certainly wouldn't go so far as to call it a trend.

But I would hazard a guess that it has something to do with Notes' reputation as being less of a shrinkwrapped, out of the box solution than Exchange.

People always mention Notes in the same sentence with the phrase "custom-developed applications". For modern CIOs ... that's not a term they like to hear.

One indication of this is the troubles I've been having with IBM in trying to get a review copy of the new Lotus Notes for Linux.

In a press statement on 10 July, IBM said "IBM Lotus Notes on Linux is now available as part of version 7."

Shortly after I shot off an e-mail to their local press team asking for a review copy.

10 days later ... still no Notes. They're still working out how I can actually run the application, apparently. And yes, I do have a variety of Linux desktops here ... I run Linux as well as everything else (Windows, Solaris, *BSD, Mac OS X, etc).

In contrast, testing out Microsoft's software is remarkably easy. You can simply download the latest versions of Outlook and Exchange (or anything else) from the Microsoft Developer Network and put them through their paces.

What do you think of Lotus Notes/Domino? Is it as good as Outlook/Exchange or does IBM need to put a little more work in? Drop me a line direct at renai.lemay@zdnet.com.au or post your views below.

Topics: IBM, Microsoft

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  • Notes Linux Client only became available on the 7/21

    It only became available for customers to download on 7/21 and even the announcement said it wouldn't be available until 7/24. You should be able to get it from IBM next week...if not, let me know and I'll nudge some people.

    The reason Outlook is more common is mainly because it's been bundled free w/ Windows for a while. You wouldn't believe how many new Notes users say "wahhhhh...Notes doesn't do this like Outlook...Notes sucks".

    Here's one example: in Notes, you can have a document belong in multiple folders. In Outlook, it can only be in one folder. Do you have any documents that belong in multiple categories? Which is the more useful approach? Here's the typical Outlook user complaint when they use Notes: "my document was deleted when I deleted it from a folder...wahhhhhh"....they should have used the "remove from folder option instead of deleting it.
  • Interface Sucks

    Most end users hate Notes because the interface is simply terrible. See the Interface Hall of Shame dedicated to Lotus Notes:
    Apart from the woeful interface, I believe it is a very good product.
  • Windows doesn't include Outlook

    Outlook Express is not Outlook (despite MS marketing's choice of name).

    Outlook has been bundled with Office for ages.
  • Agree..

    I've been a Domino administrator for over 9 years. Ever since IBM bought Lotus, there has been no attempt to fix basic problems that users have been experiencing for years. Instead, IBM have focused on introducing new "features".

    The company I work for have sadly migrated email from Domino (Lotus Notes) to Exchange.
    Executive management still think Lotus Notes is just email. They just don't understand that you can rapidly develop applications for almost anything and have it deployed to a Notes client or via a browser.
    Instead, our management have decided (with the help of blatant lies and ignorance from MS sponsored contractors) to migrate not only our mail but also around 300 Domino applications to .Net apps. At what cost?

    Lotus Domino is great because it is so versatile. However, IBM are stiflingly its acceptance because it does the following:
    * Sells key software like LEI, Workflow, Aptrix, separately where it should be bundled (thrown in)
    * Does not spend time understanding what users need and how to improve their UI experience.
    * Does not get input from experienced administrators and developers.
    * Does not fix known problems that have been around since release 4 (10 years ago)
    * Pricing for companies with over 1000 employees is too high.
    * Software maintenance costs too much and software releases are too few.
    * Support is a joke.

    Watch out IBM, your market share is shrinking rapidly !!!
  • "hall of shame" company dot-bombed, somehow this lives on

    that link is from a review of Notes 4.6!!! The company that did the "hall of shame" went under like five years ago, yet people keep mirroring the content. Sigh.

    Let's look at the current and future plans, like http://www.lotus.com/hannover ... instead of looking years into the past?
  • OpenNTF

    IBM has OpenNTF
  • No it does not!

    OpenNTF has no connections with IBM at all. It is a separate thing altogether. The whole site is indeed for Notes/Domino, but it's not IBM's doing.

    Developers post code/apps there in case anyone can use it themselves. Ironically, this is because you do not get apps out of the box, which is what the whole blog was actually about!
  • No it does not!

    OpenNTF has no connections with IBM at all. It is a separate thing altogether. The whole site is indeed for Notes/Domino, but it's not IBM's doing.

    Developers post code/apps there in case anyone can use it themselves. Ironically, this is because you do not get apps out of the box, which is what the whole blog was actually about!
  • It is old

    Given the age of the interface hall of shame, why hasn't the interface improved with all that time??
    We use 6.5, and I am yet to meet a user (we have >5000) who doesn't dream of the day we migrate to Exchange+Outlook.
    It's all very well to talk about roadmaps and visions for the future, but try conveying that to an end user who has been complaining for years about "...bloody Lotus Notes!".
  • Bl**dy Lotus Notes

    If the users are complaining then maybe they haven
  • Lotus Notes / Domino is one of the most advanced

    Lotus Notes / Domino is one of the most advanced and popular collaboration suites and perfect fit for custom applications. Its superior workflow capabilities allow the end user to receive greater benefits and a better productivity. The interface is a little clunky and I can see the attraction to exchanges easier user interface, however I am a firm believer that Lotus Notes / Domino, is a superior product to Exchange. It should be fact that its ability to work offline and replication / synchronisation capabilities are a lot better than exchange. The security of Lotus Notes is a lot tighter too and is less susceptible to viruses from my experience with the product.
  • I agree...training in the issue

    In my view training is a key factor in using any software. The only reason people favour Outlook is that it is similar to Outlook Express which the majority of people use for their home email.
    I've been in organisations that have used Notes extensively, and while there may be complaints about the interface not one person struggles to use it once they have been trained.
    Contrast this with my time in an "IT" company who were migrate from Exchange a couple of years ago. I've never heard so much whingeing about a piece of software in my life, and it's only email. They refuse to understand the concept of the extensibility beyond email and they struggle to understand the basic concepts.

    On another note, the funniest thing I've ever found on the Microsoft site was a tool they produced called Application analyser, which is supposed to be able to analyse your Notes database and give you a roadmap for conversion to MS. The irony is that if you try to analyse any database more complicated than a mail database it says you need Sharepoint plus "other software" and should speak to a MS consultant to sort it out. Classic !!
  • Costs heaps, achieves little

    The only reason you could assert that "Most people agree that IBM's Lotus Notes product is one of the most advanced and popular collaboration suites around" is that there is only ONE other: Microsoft Exchange!

    A typical implementation of Lotus Notes will cost several million in implementation costs, consultants etc.

    Then it leaves you with a horrid and error-prone user interface and a whole lot of things that "don't work right".

    Outlook/Exchange might be the horrid pile of band-aided mis-matched applications all tied together into a corporate productivity "suite" that we all love to hate. But you stick the CD in, load it up, and it works.

    Yes, you will need someone who knows what they're doing to get a large installation working right. But you only need one. And only for a month or two. It can take a cast of thousands six months to make Notes useful.

    Does it have to be this way? Of course it doesn't. The problem is that IBM relies on that "services" revenue like a drug. No way are they going to make the thing work, or be useful, out of the box!

    Just my thoughts
  • Things I like/dislike about Domino/Notes

    I Like,

    1. Replication - its great
    2. Easy to develop simple applications for point solutions

    I dislike

    1. It doesn't truely integrate with MS Active Directory like Exchange does. Yes, I accept it Notes ID based security is good but it needs to have a trust relationship developed with AD perhaps with AD issued certificates trusted by Notes.
    2. Poor security
    a) I cant out of the box restrict which email clients can send email to where which is easy to do in Exchange.
    b) It is too good a guessing an email recipient for its own good. For example if I have an email Name and Address entry for James Smith it would automatically match smith@mydomain.com.au as well as james.smith@mydomain.com.au (given that he was the only Smith). This basically means you get much more SPAM that you would normally get on Exchange because multiple email address for the same recipient work.
    c) I iNotes web interface is very slow compared to Exchange Web Access.
  • Well yes Notes is powerful - but!

    As someone with extensive Notes development experince yep it is all great, its a terrific development tool for workflow applications - even though change management can be difficult with. I had to develop a workflow application with Oracle not so long ago and to tell you Notes/Domino would have been the ideal tool to use.

    However the Notes interface sucks! I would do Notes development and still prefer to have Outlook as my mail client.

    From an end user point of I couldn't care less how much it could do if I had to use that clunkly, buggy and difficult user inferface.

    Give me Outlook anyday.
  • Stupid users!

    Anonymous wrote:
    "I've never heard so much whingeing about a piece of software in my life, and it's only email. They refuse to understand the concept of the extensibility beyond email and they struggle to understand the basic concepts."

    You are totally right, users don't even deserve Notes...

    You have to be kidding don't you? No amount of training fixes a terrible, non-intuitive interface that constantly spits out errors even IT Professionals struggle to understand.

    If the users dont like it, they will be unproductive and antagonistic towards the product, no matter how much training you provide.

    I started the bad interface thread, and I stick by what I said then. Notes is a good product under the hood, BUT, and this is a big but, the interface is absolutely shocking, and at the end of the day, that's what users care about.
  • That is utter rubbish.

    Back up your assertations with some facts then.

    I have worked on numerous Notes deployments where it all went swimmingly and the end users were extremely happy with the end result and it only took 2 guys a few months to completely build a new system and do the entire migration.

    You can't compare apples with oranges. Your first mistake is saying that Outlook/Exchange were collaborative tools, no they are not. The functionality of Notes far outstrips anything Microsoft can offer. Exchange and Outlook are groupware only...some email, a bit of calendaring and appointments, even the public folders is primitive in the extreme. Compare this to the rich and highly configurable feature set of Notes. Your statement that "it just works" is also highly misleading as any decent Exchnage admin will know. You might get something working for a little while, until the whole thing goes down in a screaming heap and your guys are swearing at you for having to spend ANOTHER weekend/late night fixing up the damn Exchange clusters.

    Exchange is like a 6 year old tooting on a recorder, yes, it "just works" but it'll drive you mad after a while. Notes is like a symphony orchestra, sure it might sound a bit wierd as it's tuning up but listen to the results!
  • That is just not true

    To say that Domino is not useful out of the box and takes lots of services to install is just a lie. Either that or you've never installed Domino and you are relying on MS spin. One CD, run setup and you have an installed server that can run Notes mail, POP, IMAP, SMTP , HTTP, LDAP, basic team operations applications etc. It conforms to standards and runs on a single server on th eOS of your choice. No AD required. If you think you can this with Exchange you are dreaming.
  • I can't believe people think Outlook is a good interface

    my company has just migrated to Outlook 2003 from Notes due to a take-over, and most people (in & out of IT) wish they could go back to Notes. They think Outlook looks ugly and cluttered, they can't find any options for things that used to be easy (send & file) and hate having to have open another application just for mail (we still have Notes apps, so users now have both open).

    Also - I don't know that the idea that *most* people use Outlook at home comes from. Firstly, it is Outlook Expres which comes bundled with most home PCs, which is different to Outlook. Secondly, surely these days a large number of users (particularly younger users) are using web-based email (hotmail, gmail, yahoo etc) at home and not any POP-based mail. Thirdly, large numbers are starting to use other products (Thunderbird etc) because of Outlook vunerabilities. Just because Outlook is installed doesn't mean it is used.
  • Death by a thousand annoyances

    I've seen the comment made elsewhere that using Lotus Notes is a 'death by a thousand minor annoyances'.

    There is no intuitiveness to the program whatsoever, users must learn how to work around the numerous irritations in their daily workflow.

    From error messages such as:
    "An error has occured"
    "Cannot remote NotesDocument when instantiated by NotesUIDocument"

    to using keyboard shortcuts when modern conventions exist to the contary - F5 being a refresh key in almost every application I can think of... except Lotus Notes, where for some inexplicable reason it's the logout key.

    Why do users need to be 'trained' to remember this?
    In fact, why do I need to refresh my mailbox anyway?

    Still, I guess all the problems will get sorted with Hannover. It runs on Linux too. Fantastic. It sounds like IBM really have their finger on the pulse with this one.

    I honestly can't wait to see the Office suite which IBM have knocked up for Lotus Notes. I'm sure that it'll be giving MS Office 2007 a real run for it's money.

    Good on ya IBM. I really pity the poor people of this world who will have to suffer a Lotus Notes and Lotus Notes Office all running under a Linux desktop.

    I'm glad I'm not one of them anymore.