Close the Deal on Lotus Migrations

With every Exchange release, Microsoft touts the opportunity for Lotus conversions. Now that SharePoint is in the mix, partners see more potential than ever before.

Intellinet Corp. has done e-mail platform migrations from IBM Lotus to Microsoft Exchange for years. The part of the business that has eluded this company -- and other Microsoft partners -- has been convincing customers to migrate their Lotus-based applications to the Microsoft platform.

"The application migration toolsets and target platforms were either too limited or too expensive for our customers to feel compelled to migrate their applications," says Jeff Dimock, vice president of consulting operations for Atlanta-based Intellinet, a Gold Certified Partner. "This left a lot of companies running Exchange for mail, and legacy applications were left on Notes/ Domino servers."

With Microsoft's current wave of new releases, including Microsoft Exchange 2007, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and new migration tools, Dimock believes things have changed.

"The latest tools and servers from Microsoft are showing the promise of a brighter future for application migrations to SharePoint, SQL Server, Exchange and the rest of the Microsoft platform," Dimock says.

Leaving Lotus

Following are four Lotus migration options:

  1. Convert to the next version of Lotus later this year
  2. Convert mail to Microsoft and leave applications in Lotus Notes/Domino
  3. Convert mail and all applications to Microsoft
  4. Convert mail to Microsoft and applications to another platform (Oracle, SAP, etc.)

Every release of Microsoft Exchange gets a similar marketing treatment from Microsoft, saying, in effect: "This release of Exchange is the one that will give customers a reason to move collaborative applications to the Microsoft platform from IBM's Lotus Domino server and Notes client." This time, with new migration tools and, especially, with the simultaneous release of SharePoint, the collaboration piece may be in place to attract application migrations.

Lotus shops frequently rebuffed the collaboration pitches of Microsoft partners in the Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003 product generations. At the time, CIOs' cost/benefit analyses still tilted in favor of keeping Lotus-based collaborative applications on the Domino/Notes platform. Tipping the scales toward Lotus was the need for partners to create custom .NET applications with SQL Server to replace the Lotus-based collaborative applications. Lotus evangelists within IT organizations also pointed to weaknesses in Microsoft's collaboration story, including concerns about search capability, security and scalability.

What's Different This Time?
Since 2003, Microsoft has invested substantially in collaboration technology. In an August 2006 report, Forrester Research Inc. analyst Erica Driver noted that "Microsoft is setting the bar in the collaboration platforms market" by investing about $1 billion per year in Office and collaboration technologies. All that spending culminated around the beginning of this year with the release of Office 2007, which includes SharePoint and Exchange, as well as a number of tools and technologies specifically designed to help migrate collaborative applications from Lotus.

This list of features added to SharePoint Server since 2003 is huge, including improved integration with Exchange and Outlook and the addition of all the functionality previously in Content Management Server. From a Lotus collaboration migration standpoint, three features are essential in wiping out customers' major technical objections to swapping out Lotus apps: item-level security features, the user interface-trimming features on the search engine and a new workflow engine.

After addressing technical hurdles, Microsoft also needed to address cost-of-migration hurdles. The positioning of SharePoint presents a big cut in those costs by replacing the need for custom SQL/.NET development in many cases. Additionally, Microsoft is releasing a number of migration tools, further simplifying migrations and lowering their costs. New resources include a suite of tools for managing transitions from IBM's directory, messaging and application solutions, as well as new templates for SharePoint products and technologies. Together these tools are making it easier for IBM customers to manage transitions to Microsoft's integrated platform (see "Third-Party Tools" below).

"Even some of the latest Notes features, such as team rooms, are going to have better migration support through the upcoming point release of the application migration tools," Intellinet's Dimock notes.

Third-Party Tools

Following are resources from several third-party suppliers that can also help streamline customer migrations:

Quest Notes Migrator for Exchange: This mail-migration-only tool comes from Quest Software Inc., a Gold Certified Partner based in Aliso Viejo, Calif. It differs from the Microsoft resource by migrating encrypted mail, archives, personal address books or groups.

BinaryTree: Binary Tree Inc., a Gold Certified Partner based in Newark, N.J., provides tools for both the mail and the application migrations. The app migration tool, CMT Inspector, can analyze the entire Lotus Notes environment and provide detailed information around database design, usage, security and content. Unlike Microsoft App Analyzer, CMT Inspector is able to bring back complete usage, as well as all of the Lotus code behind all of the applications, and is also able to flow-chart the code for easy migration. For mail migrations, Binary Tree's CMT Universal aims for 100 percent e-mail and calendar migration fidelity. It includes built-in user provisioning and distributes migration workloads to multiple machines from a central interface.

Casahl Technology Inc.: San Ramon, Calif.-based Casahl, a Certified Partner, concentrates on Lotus Notes application migrations to SharePoint, InfoPath, .NET, SQL Server and Groove. Its products support all application and security structures found in Notes, QuickPlace and Domino.Doc. Casahl's flagship product, ecKnowledge, which has more than 1,200 enterprise customers, is a server-based product with a wizard interface.

Metalogix Inc.: This Charlotte, N.C.-based Certified Partner's product line includes List and Library Migration Manager, Website Migration Manager and FileShare Migration Manager, all for SharePoint.

Proposion Inc.: This Newburyport, Mass.-based Certified Partner's solutions are designed for migrating advanced Lotus Notes content to Microsoft SharePoint (2003 and 2007). Products include Proposion Portal Migrator, Proposion N2N, Proposion On Demand, Proposion Portal Adapter, Proposion Report Adapter and Proposion Identity Adapter.

-T. D.

What's the Opportunity?
Microsoft is pouring all this new technology onto a messaging market, at least, where IBM has been losing share, and its customers have been uncertain about Lotus' future.

Analyst Sara Radicati, who is president and CEO of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based market research firm The Radicati Group Inc., says that by itself, SharePoint won't be pushing users off the Lotus platform. "I don't think the release of a new SharePoint server makes migration from Lotus to Exchange more compelling," she says. "Companies who use Notes are dealing with a much broader set of internal decision choices before choosing to migrate away from Notes."

Part of that broader set of decisions involves IBM's strategy. Over the past several years at the annual Lotus conference Lotusphere, IBM has delivered mixed messages to its user base, creating confusion around Notes and IBM's Workplace and WebSphere platforms. A lot of client companies have been concerned about IBM's strategy. However, at the January 2007 Lotusphere, IBM delivered a clear message with a roadmap for the next version of Lotus Notes, code-named "Hannover."

Radicati says IBM's strategy clarification has helped. "I think Notes customers are somewhere in between at the moment -- the fact that Lotus has pulled away from the Workplace strategy is a positive and makes them feel more confident in the long-term direction for Notes," she says. "On the other hand, many companies we know of are actively investigating migration options, mainly to Exchange."

Meanwhile, that broader set of issues being faced in Lotus shops largely favors Microsoft, and has done so for the last few years.

"There's a correlation between [Microsoft's collaboration investments] and Forrester's estimate that Microsoft is selling about twice as many messaging server seats as its leading competitor, IBM," Forrester's Driver wrote in her report.

According to Forrester numbers released last year, IBM had sold 125 million seats of Lotus Notes/Domino and Microsoft had sold 154 million seats of Exchange Server. "Between February 2004 and March 2006, IBM sold about 15 million seats of Notes/Domino; during this same period, Microsoft sold an estimated 34 million seats of Exchange," Driver's report stated.

Those trends look likely to continue. Says Radicati of her own firm's forecasting: "Notes [is] declining steadily; you can assume that about 80 percent of those seats are moving over to Exchange."

Partners like Dimock are looking forward to these migrations for more business. "With the speed of adoption we're already seeing for Exchange 2007 and SharePoint 2007 among our customers, we see lots of opportunity on the horizon," he says.

The primary beneficiaries of these trends are services partners specializing in Exchange and custom applications. Migrations also create opportunities for Microsoft ISVs offering off-the-shelf applications that could replace Lotus applications in areas such as customer relationship management or sales force automation.

A 10-Step Template for Conversions

So you're interested in expanding your practice to encompass Lotus Domino/Notes migrations? Here's a 10-step plan for getting conversions done.

  1. Analyze the current Lotus environment, dissecting which applications are currently being used and will need to be recreated, and which of those applications can use existing Microsoft out-of-the-box features.
  2. Create two streams of work: mail migration and application migration.
  3. With the business, prioritize the applications (for example, first, high-usage critical applications, then applications that meet a specific business need and, finally, applications that may no longer be needed).
  4. Further categorize critical applications for the type of application and its security. You must have a SharePoint specialist to do this step. Simple document management applications can be handled easily in SharePoint, while other applications involve more complicated processes.
  5. Create the migration plan, making sure to include communications planning and training for both end users and IT staff.
  6. Create two streams of migration work in the application space:
    • The first stream should target uncomplicated and vendor-supplied applications. It can be handled by SharePoint specialists working with the business users.
    • The second stream should focus on the more complex applications, including security, configurations and custom applications. It should be the job of your developers and SharePoint specialists. Be sure that your specialists look at existing SharePoint template applications such as the ones for the Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 add-on listing at
  7. Start converting mail and run both environments. Emphasize training and communications during the mail migration to make the experience as painless as possible for users. During the migration, both systems will be running; Lotus Notes will still be supporting existing applications and Microsoft Exchange will now be managing e-mail.
  8. Once applications are ready in the Microsoft area (that is SharePoint or .NET), get them into business users' hands as quickly as possible to build momentum for the migration. Once the business users see both mail and applications moving, the train will be rolling and there's no way to halt the migration. (Before this point, however, anything can be stopped.)
  9. Finish migrating both e-mail and the applications that the business side needs.
  10. Finally, take the project and client teams out for a nice dinner. That gesture provides a good cap for a long project that may represent the start of a lasting relationship in the new Microsoft world. As you lead the teams through this migration, everyone involved will clearly gain a lot of knowledge about their businesses and ways to improve their environments going forward.


For those partners, readiness involves having the right skills for both parts of the migration. First is the mail migration, which is relatively straightforward for e-mail experts. For the application migration side, though, there's no magic bullet. Many tools can be helpful, but none is foolproof. The secret is having a team of experts, which is why the application migration presents the

highest potential for services revenue. On the application side, the answer will depend on whether a particular Lotus application should migrate directly to SharePoint or will work best as a custom .NET and SQL Server-based application. So the types of teams needed for successful migration vary, but clearly a strong, knowledgeable .NET development team with at least a couple of SharePoint experts is the preferred model.

While the Microsoft story for application migration has partners more excited than in the past, lessons on when to strike may not have changed. Companies are typically most receptive to a switch from Lotus to Exchange in three situations, according to Jay Lendl of Fujitsu Consulting, a Gold Certified Partner based in Edison, N.J. "One is change in IT management, two is user pressure to get onto Microsoft as a standard, and [third is following] mergers and acquisitions, where they own both technologies and [decide] to standardize on Microsoft." (For help with convincing customers to convert, see "SharePoint Business Selling Points" below.)

Ultimately, whether the collaborative applications side of the business catches on this time, mail migrations seem sure to continue. So as long as Microsoft keeps challenging IBM for Lotus business, there will be opportunities for partners in migrations.

SharePoint Business Selling Points

Following are some arguments you may want to use in recommending that clients switch from Lotus Domino/Notes to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007:

  • Notes is becoming less mainstream, making it difficult to acquire resources and developers to support the platform.
  • New employees are more likely to know how to use Microsoft's products than IBM's, possibly eliminating the need for training.
  • Integration with Microsoft Office is important for customer companies that have Office 2007 in their plans. For those who don't, it's worth mentioning that many people find SharePoint more "Microsoft-like," and therefore more familiar and easier to use than Lotus.
  • Integration with other applications is easier in some cases.
  • Search is more tightly integrated: Enterprise Search was a Lotus Notes add-on.
  • SharePoint may make more sense strategically because IBM wants clients to move off the old Notes platform and onto their WebSphere-based workspaces.
  • One reason clients have been citing for the switch is the savings involved in going to a more mainstream platform, although one key driver was that it was easier to off-shore the Microsoft platform.


Additional reporting for this article was supplied by Scott Bekker, editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner.


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