Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A CIO asked about Exchange, so I told him the truth

So we have a meeting in an office at a client which we briefly met 6 months previously. One by one a few other people pop in and out, some get introduced, others do not. Trying to stay focused we did not ask who everyone was, although in retrospect maybe we should have.

Along the way a side conversation started around a feasibility study on moving from Notes to Exchange. Needless to say I was not quiet and I hope none of you would be either.

Not going to get into too many details about the client but they run an iSeries Mail server of Domino and are mostly on R8.x for their dozen or so servers and have run Domino for about 10 years perhaps, 2,000+ employees with 1,000's of temporary/project staff.

Note: While much of this is about Microsoft, one could claim Gmail meets some of this as well, but in truth Gmail has a long way to go for corporate users.

1st question I asked was simple....why?
"Management wants it" was the reply.
"Can you help us" they asked.

I informed them that no, we can not help you move to Exchange, but we can try to provide some details they may not have been thinking about. We have managed some clients Domino infrastructures, for quite some time, during their migration phase because we feel that showing a client how their servers could be running(and still providing them new tools and benefits as well) is important the next time they think about these topics or want to go to the Cloud perhaps or use Lotus Connections. You would be surprised what makes people decide sometimes.

We discussed the real motive is to go to Outlook, not Exchange. They all nodded their heads. Some things never change.

Discussed how their sales/business development people would be missing out on the whole sidebar functionality for researching people. While they are not doing this today, we hope to show them more ways to benefit from it next time we visit.

Had they thought about their Domino apps? Those doc links? Not going to work anymore I informed them. "We are looking to rewrite them" was the reply. I wished them luck and suggested they start small before going whole hog breaking the bank.

What about their connectivity between offices and remote sites which currently do not have a server? They will under this plan OR they could really increase their bandwidth everywhere. Servers are cheaper.

Time. How long did they think, or were told, the migration would take? I suggested they get it in writing and hold firm to the dates and costs if they get that far because so many migrations end up taking way too long to get done, if ever. Oh and the Domino servers? Not going to go away either in time, especially if they are holding your applications. Which leads up to...

Money. Did they realize how much this would cost and, say it with me, "All they would get is email" when it is done. Running a dual universe is an expensive proposition, especially when you really have no idea when the end will be in sight.

What about support calls they asked? Well the truth is support calls will just be different types but not really less. I'd like to hear form anyone with good data on this topic.

Buyers remorse. So you go to Outlook. then you start finding out all the things the people in the company used Notes for and liked and they can't do it in Outlook and that's not fun. Notes may be full of customizations but at least you have the options.

Then we got to hardware/licenses.

In simple terms I outlined the parallel universe they would need to run for some time during the course of their migration (however long that will be). Keep in mind they would likely need a BES, FAX solution, Backup solution for Exchange running in parallel to their existing Domino infrastructure and of course need a full army of servers loaded with Windows/Exchange etc.. Less likely other items could include spam, malware, anti-virus solutions as well.

There is also the reality of their branches having such a small space for data centers that adding 3 or 4 more servers, even in a rack, may not be possible in every case.

The point was also pursued about open options and backwards and future compatibility and upheaval. Notes mail and apps good no matter what version of Notes or Domino running and across an abundance of operating systems. Compared to Exchange which is tied into the Windows server platform exclusively and unable to be upgraded without the whole infrastructure being upgraded at the same time.

The discussion ended with me reminding those in the room that if the boss wants something, you can only discuss it to a point, and retain your job. So think about it before ranting and raving about this being a bad idea.

It is a costly idea, no question. Really hard to justify it from a budget perspective. But we know it is not about budget, or technology, that wins in the end.

Go read the Applicable White Papers on costs for more information from a group which is an IBM and Microsoft Business Partner.

The CIO? He kept his arms folded the whole time he was in our meeting. He's European and very set in his ways and not very comfortable when surrounded by a flock of IBM/Lotus lovers. After the meeting, when we found out who he was, I couldn't stop laughing. Unknowingly I had delivered the pitch which he would never get from anyone in house(and unless we found about it and I got an audience) and he went off to ponder what I said.

Will it change his mind? I knew already money was an issue last time they discussed it, however they saw great revenue in Q1 and he is now thinking they can, spend, I mean waste, the money. With luck we will get another round of discussions from it. We did promise to provide backing details :-)

The option to go to LotusLive was brought up if cost was a reason, but no one could say cost was an issue, if they were prepared to spend so much money to just get email. If it was a public company I would short their stock if they ever make a decision.


  1. We looked at Exchange a few years ago, and one of the major issues was that it only does mail (and calendaring and contacts, but no apps). Our developers were looking to switch to .NET at the time, and thought we could move well over 100 Domino apps to .NET within 5 years.

    It's close to 5 years later now, and I don't think we've even retired one Domino app. Developers put their time into new apps, not replacing existing ones. Also, .NET's workflow takes a lot more work. In the meantime, we've got Domino apps written in the mid/late 1990's that have survived without modification through three major Windows OS upgrades and multiple Domino and Notes upgrades. Talk about ROI!

  2. Let us know how this one works out. I've yet to find any of my customers who could justify a move other than to say, 'we have a new CxO who LOVES Microsoft.'

  3. Wow! Thanks for taking the time to describe your experience and your "pitch." You laid out in fine detail all of the facts that plainly describe why this kind of migration is very expensive and exactly what you get for all of the expense.

    In the end, a customer can decide they want to spend their money to migrate (or not). That is their own decision to make but it sounds like you really got a chance to be forthright about it which is pretty rare these days.

  4. Interesting post. But perhaps you could avoid using 'European' as a perjorative term?! (Unless you watch too much Glenn Beck...)

  5. You may want to reach out to David Lawrence of Smart Technology Enablers and ask him how he's using eProductivity to overcome the objections to Lotus Notes vs Outlook. In fact, he's used eProductivity to get folks to switch from Outlook to Notes.

    Dave and I recently gave a presentation on this:

    The presentation happens to be mostly about Foundations because that was the audience but the examples apply to vanilla Notes as well. Happy to discuss if I can be of help.


  6. @bu11frog You said what I can only allude to, nice to see it from a customer. Thanks

    @Denny We put it off once, but you know zombies never die, we have to keep knocking them out. hehe

    @russell yes, brutally honest, what do i have to lose or lie about? The groups doing the migrations will always come back and say they need more money, time, resources, because they have you stuck. I HATE that type of consulting firm.

    @anon regular readers know about my past work in Europe and continued business there and in this case I was trying to shield the client and the country as I know not everyone is like that. To be honest we enjoy great relationships in his country with partners.

    @Eric Interesting idea. I have no doubt GTD can lead for Notes and normally I do bring it up, but in this case, as with many, it's not going to change their mind...unless they already know about GTD or use something like it. I do ask, just in case.

  7. keep us posted on this please -

  8. Good but sad story Keith.

    I am currently involved with a large Domino customer that wants us to tell them why they should not choose Microsoft.

    They are running one of the most efficient and well performing Domino/Notes/iNotes deployments I have ever seen. Blistering fast and living up to a 99.95% SLA for 8 years running. User satisfaction studies show 85% are satisfied or very satisfied, and only 2% are very unhappy - at a customer who has 25% new users every year!

    Gartner was invited in to do a similar study a few years back and found the following:

    "Changing email system won’t lead to any significant cost savings, if any, nor increase service quality. Email migration is technically possible, but will cost several million euros. In addition, an application platform migration will cost millions.”


    "There is no business reason for changing email system. Instead: Promote the calendar function; Intensify the marketing campaign to increase use of Domino applications; Increase application offerings; Create an Email & Collaboration strategy and build a roadmap"

    Now why would anyone try to replace this kind of solution?

    They keep trying and we keep fighting their lies and grotesque under estimations on cost.

    It is very much not a game that is won on facts only.

  9. @Niels your story is common, not just for lotus but many companies with great offerings that suffer for one reason or another at the hands of executives wrath.
    I like the Recommendations, which are spot on, but internal or external people must pursue it diligently. And no, it is never about facts or technology. It can be about cost though. And applications and collaboration.
    But we know to collaborate you must want to do so, from the highest role to the bottom. Guess where the problem lies...

  10. Migrations of email systems can rarely be cost justified. And managers accept the lies told about
    how easy it is to rewrite software every day. By the time the lies have been discovered the consultant or the CIO has moved on to stuff up the next company.

    This issue is not about technology but about people and just bad management decisions. I think that IBM should conduct a project (partnering with some independent consultants) to educate CEO's that when their CIO tries to push through a financially injustified system migration that it's time for the CEO and the Board to say NO, and to start searching for a new CIO.

    In this current tight economic climate, wasting millions on a technology whim that is reckless at best and will not result in any significant business benefits is just bad management practice.

    The focus needs to be on the idiot making the decision (or the recommendation) and not on the technology.

    I know of one city government in Australia that needed 10 years to justify their migration. Not Internet or dog years, but real years. What a crock..

  11. Great post and full of interesting factual detail.

    Of course, there's also the spend that you didn't calculate... many business hours are spent just talking about the technical details and possibilities of replacing a system just because someone likes something else?

    It's like having some newbie come into a company and say that they want the entire fleet of utility trucks to be replaced by sedans because they have better radios.

    Of course, they don't realise that there's a good business reason why you have trucks not cars - and they waste everyone else's time and money trying to find out.

  12. @Gavin I did not get into ancillary costs of time wasted, migrating data(pros/cons), upheaval to the company in general. But I posted elsewhere about it.

  13. Two simple questions,

    Has this company Sametime together with Notes? And what about Outlook + DAMO ?

    Thanks, Albert.

  14. There are many poor cost and reliability issues with Exchange that are not well known at the CIO level.

    1) If Exchange is selected, costs for compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will drive costs up way beyond what they are today with Domino. The PST/OST (local mail storage and local sync storage) conundrums mean that anyone suing them will have the leverage to ask for local FORENSIC ediscovery of PST/OST files, which will be very, very expensive, time consuming and may require extensive capture of disk images. The costs of eDiscovery can and do dwarf the costs of operational email-- (orders of magnitude higher) the part of the iceberg below the water and the unavoidable part of the costs of email in the US. Millions can be burned doing non-forensic ediscovery for one case, forensice ediscovery requires higher costs.

    2) If the company does business in Asia/Pac regions and requires the use of double-byte character sets, to get that with Outlook and Exchange, requires the annual software assurance ransom be paid to MS. That adds 33% each year or something like that.

    3) If they want to use BES/Blackberry and Exchange, one BES user places the load of 4 MAPI (Outlook) users on the Exchange infrastructure. That has dramatic higher cost implications for sizing and costs of Exchnage environments.

    4) Exchange requires 3 server roles (client access, mailbox and edge) and in all but the smallest shops requires 3 physical servers to perform the work that 1 (one) Domino can perform. Higher costs, much more complexity.

    5) Exhange is NOT platform independent, meaning you cannot take advanatge of the scalability, reliability, security and overall stability of Unix/Lunix or other O/S'es. Although Exch 2010 allegedly supports virtualization, it is in the infancy, and of course Domino has supported that for a very long time.

    6) Viruses, random windows patching, security holes, reliance on Microsoft's web server all will equate to more downtime, lower overall stability, and higher costs to manage.

    7) Staffing: we were directly told this by a respected Sr Exch architect (vs what we have for domino today) 3-5 more email admins, and 2-3 more help desk prople for Outlook support.

    People tend to perceive the client at the "system"; that error is common and the way to help bring it back to relaity is to focus on the issues with Exchange.

  15. Redevelopment in XPage cost money too. Maybe companies want to move off Domino because they get the impression that everyone wants to move off Domino nowadays. Volker Weber calls this the Angst to be the last being stuck with Lotus Notes (besides IBM).
    I do not know if this is justified or not but IBM's strategy of silence seems not to work well (in my opinion). Some big accounts are moving (or thinking about a move) and they do this although Notes and Domino 8 have been out for three years now.
    It really is nice to read stories like from bu11frogg and ROI. It just proves how powerful this platform once was (or still is). Unfortunately IBM has retired all those ROI proven applications with an upgrade path to XPages.

  16. @albert neither that we are aware of

    @danlynch thanks for those items, I was unaware about the doublebyte pricing. Ouch!

    @henning IBM is not killing prior applications in favor of xpages, although honestly you will want to recode for it if possible. Or at least code for xpages going forward.
    I don't see this as a "executive" decision idea, more an IT decision idea which may bubble up to the executive.

  17. Keith,

    It's nice post and my regular meeting agenda with most of my customers. If don't mind, I'd like to translate into Turkish and posyt to my blog.

    Generally, current customers quit migration due to their applications. Prospect customers are mostly motivated with the wrong perception of Lotus. IBM has to advertise towards this issue. They are doing it in US (LotusKnows), but not here...

  18. Serdar, Sorry i missed this in my travels, yes you can translate it.