Old meets new: Lotus Domino and Atlassian

A couple of weeks ago, I caught the end of a presentation by Alek Lotoczko who runs the intranet for NYK Logistics & Megacarrier. Earlier this week, I called Alek to get more detail.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

A couple of weeks ago, I caught the end of a presentation by Alek Lotoczko who runs the intranet for NYK Logistics & Megacarrier. Earlier this week, I called Alek to get more detail. As background, NYK is one of the world's biggest shipping companies but when Alek reviewed use of the Domino intranet, he was dismayed to find that from a high of some 250 contributors, the number had dwindled to around 50. With no budget to improve things, Alek cast around for an open source solution. He discovered Ben Poole's OpenNTF DominoWiki. I was skeptical about this because my experience is that anything connected with Domino is tough work. Not so according to Alek who said in conversation with me:

You're right that developing in Domino can be hard work but DominoWiki was something of a revelation. Ben Poole has done a terrific job making this simple. It was really easy to implement and intuitive right from the get go.

That was in January, 2007. By June, still with no budget and little more than word of mouth, intranet wiki contributors had climbed to 117. At that point, Alek found the company's corporate communications staff were also looking at wiki. Working with and learning from the comms staff, Alek ran a comparison between Atlassian and SocialText's offering. He selected Atlassian on the basis it represented superior value for money even though it didn't score quite so highly on functionality. Drawing upon proof of concept success Alek was able to secure funding:

When you kick off a project with zero funding, it is very easy to achieve ROI. That's one of the hidden beauties of working with open source. So when we wanted to take the project to the next level, it was surprisingly easy to get buy in and spend commitment.

Today, Alek is implementing and rolling out the Atlassian system which will be 'pumped' by data from the Domino intranet. The Domino system isn't going away because that's NYK's corporate comms standard. Instead, it is being used to prime the wiki project which Alek hopes will eventually reach about 2,500 employees. Since the projected numbers have grown - the initial license was for 250 users - NYK is bringing Atlassian in-house rather than continuing with the hosted option.

This story is fascinating at a number of levels:

  • Current project success was driven by tools that deliver immediate user value
  • Open source can open the door to commercial solutions
  • Cross functional cooperation between IT and comms staff are ensuring the project takes off
  • There is no requirement to ditch incumbent applications that continue to deliver value
  • There is no formal IT involvement because budget considerations are relatively small and IT impact is low
  • NYK is identifying numerous opportunities to proliferate and re-use information across the business, breaking down data silos while finding new ways to collaborate.
  • Implementation and rollout will require traditional consulting activity. Although it is an 'under the radar' project, the Atlassian/Domino implementation doesn't dispense with the need for traditional consulting support

In the rush to embrace all things Web 2.0, we run the risk of throwing babies out with the bathwater. In this case we are seeing how existing technologies can happily co-exist. I'll be following this one with interest.

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