Domino Users: Can You Hear Me Now?
March 7, 2018 Dan Burger
IBM Domino/Notes users finally seem to be getting attention. They’ve only been screaming and pounding on the wall for five or six years, so it’s about time they’re being heard. IBM pretty much forgot about them and things only got better since IBM handed over the development and marketing chores to a company called HCL Technologies. What a difference that made.
During a webcast last week, the tone was noticeably upbeat. Progress on the development side, investments on the financial side, and a passion for reviving a product line at the end of its rope were on display. There’s a long way to go, but there’s no where to go but up.
“Domino is now getting the focus it needs. They are listening to the Domino community. We’ve needed a management change in the Domino environment for a long time,” says Kim Greene, a consultant in the Notes/Domino arena who has seen the good times and the bad for IBM i shops that invested in what was formerly called the Lotus brand. “The partnership with HCL will be extremely crucial. If development had stayed at IBM, Domino would have died.”
IBM turned over the development work for its collaboration suite of products to HCL just four months ago. The core group of product developers were part of the deal, which certainly enabled HCL to build momentum quickly. Those developers must feel like the handcuffs have been removed. There’s a Domino v10 release coming later this year — probably in Q3 — and there’s a lot of catching up to do. The webcast last week was a first peek at what the dev team has accomplished and how that plays into a long-term roadmap. Agile development is being touted as the pathway forward. It includes exposing code and testing the water with pre-betas and betas, with feedback, considerations, and adjustments along the way. Those are positive signs.
Andrew Manby, director of director of product and marketing strategy for Domino portfolio within IBM collaboration solutions, and Richard Jefts, GM for collaborative workflow (formerly Domino/Notes portfolio) with responsibility for development and support, handled the bulk of the talking points. Bob Schultz, general manager of IBM Watson Talent and Collaboration Solutions, added a quick introduction and wrapped up things at the end of the presentation.
From a technical perspective, the executives put the near-term focus on modern tools and framework, remove existing limits, and improved core performance. Those elements were determined after a series of Domino Jams — events that brought forth the opinions of an estimated 22,000 users during a series of events in late 2017 and early 2018. That feedback, the executives say, led to the solidification of a product vision and roadmap.
“People stayed with Domino because of the applications. Although the Notes mail application isn’t as strong as competitors’ applications, it has amazing workflow apps,” Greene says. “And now the applications have to support mobile. It will become part of the Domino development environment and intertwine Domino and Node.js over time. Today is taking step one. Taking applications and going mobile is huge. It will save the platform.”
How fast mobile apps can be delivered is unknown, but reliance on business partners will play a big role in getting this done. Some might interpret this as a lack of investment, but partners are a big part in product development these days. The IBM i environment is a good example.
In terms of how Domino development unfolds, we’ve seen IBM i users take a back seat to other platforms when enhancements are announced, but Greene says there are no indications that will be the case here.
“Because of the way things are being integrated, I would not expect to see features made available to Windows users with delays for IBM i users. The message is for core Domino enhancements, not platform specific. I haven’t seen anything that makes it look like Windows will be first to receive attention and I’m not hearing any rumblings on that topic.”
Hosting applications in the cloud is a high-priority enhancement in the roadmap as outline in the webcast. It’s part of the competitive landscape. From the Domino collaboration suite, only mail is cloud-enabled today. Although putting more applications in the cloud is on the roadmap, Greene says her IBM i customers are not yet willing to take applications to the cloud and doesn’t see it becoming a factor in the near term.
“What’s important to me is that Domino is now getting the focus it needs,” she says. “As they said in the webcast, some of the new stuff has already been coded. That’s a sign of investment. Because of what they’ve already coded and what they are claiming to have coded, more has been invested in Domino in the past four months than IBM has invested in the last five to seven years.”
V10 is being referred to by the executives as “an installment on the investment for the future” — an intentional indication that future extends beyond v10. For now though, it’s still one day at time, one step at a time.