While Lotus pushes KM, users focus on R5 migration

While Lotus Development's main message at Lotusphere in Florida last week was centered on knowledge management, users were busy counselling one another on migrating to Notes R5.

          While Lotus Development’s main message at Lotusphere in Florida last week was centered on knowledge management (KM), users were busy counselling one another on migrating to Notes R5 and were only beginning to contemplate the installation of KM systems.

          One vice president of messaging at a large US bank says he was at Lotus’ users and partners conference for the first time. He says he chose to attend specifically to talk to his counterparts in other corporations about their R5 migration experiences.

          The best part of the conference, the bank executive says, was feedback from companies such as Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil, which decided to standardise on Notes as a messaging and collaboration platform following the merger of the two oil giants.

          Attendees Frank Bustraen, vice president of Royal Philips Electronics in Amsterdam, and David Price, senior groupware architect at ABN Amro Bank, an international bank also based in Amsterdam, say they have had some experience with large-scale R5 migration projects. Royal Philips completed its migration as part of its year 2000 remediation work; ABM Amro’s project is still under way.

          Each firm has hundreds of mail servers in centres around the globe for tens of thousands of users, and each had to migrate users from more than one email system. Both companies say it was critical to have staff dedicated solely to the project and to invest in hardware upgrades.

          Price says he reduced ABN Amro’s downtime to one-fourteenth of what it used to be. But hardware was key to getting there, he adds.

          "A couple of PCs under a desk doesn’t count," Price says. "A lab for interoperability testing is not a nice-[to]-have but a must-have." He also suggests that R4 and R5 servers have duplicate server names during the testing process.

          According to Price, most of the information that users will need when migrating is available through publications like Redbooks, which are technical resources from IBM. And apparently, that’s a good thing.

          "With minor exceptions, I am not going to praise Lotus support," Price says. "[But] we got enough benefit to make that [lack of support] not enough of an issue . . . to prevent us going forward [onto R5]."

          Price also says a replication monitoring tool from Wellesley, Massachusetts-based DYS Analytics has made monitoring the software much easier because it shows replication traffic on one screen for all ABM Amro servers around the globe.

          Reiner Gratzfeld, manager of worldwide communications products at Henkel KGaA in Dusseldorf, Germany, has also used the DYS Analytics tool. Henkel was able to better plan its migration to R5 because the tool identified how much traffic was going to and from Domino servers, he says.

          According to Bustraen, planning was key to the project, and educating users was key to implementation. "There is one time in life when we like to be changed by others, and that is when we have wet diapers. Otherwise, people have resistance to change," he said.

          According to Price, users are particularly attached to messaging applications — especially the user interface — because they involve social interaction. Users are more likely to complain when their messaging application changes than they would, say, when confronted with a Microsoft Word upgrade, Price says. He recommends telling users up front about the limitations of the messaging application, because they will eventually find out.

          RNext, the successor to R5, will be available for public beta testing in about three months, according to Lotus officials.

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