In the recent years, due to the increasing popularity and user demand of Microsoft messaging and collaboration environments like Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Active Directory; Companies are looking into migrating their messaging and application infrastructure from other platforms, like Lotus Notes to the Microsoft Messaging and Collaboration environment.
SharePoint and .Net provide key integration benefits with Exchange, Active Directory, Outlook, and Microsoft Office "out of the box" allowing the development of better collaborative business applications while being standardized on a Web based architecture and having a relational databases as the data store for reporting, scalability and disaster recovery. SharePoint and.Net applications can also integrate both structured content from enterprise applications and unstructured content from intranets, file folders, etc. due to the many utilities provided with the development environments. Also, given the large Microsoft developer community; intensive online support and the ease of rapid application development in the .Net environment it is easier for Lotus Notes based development groups to translate their skills into a Microsoft based environment.
Since Microsoft SharePoint and .Net are web based environments they provide many benefits in being able to centralize administration and management while reducing client based administration. Also, given that they have robust integration frameworks and methodologies, organizations can extend their ERP, MRP, Supply Chain and CRM platforms by providing easy access and integrations from those platforms into the SharePoint Portal and.Net environment.
Given that the goal of any migration is to reduce disruption to the business and the users of the systems, it is critical to come up with standards and best practices to make the adoption of the new platform easy in the end user community and reduce support requests after the migration. The following are some of the standards and best practice areas –
1. User Experience –
– To facilitate the transition of business users from the Notes platform to the Microsoft platform, it is necessary to keep the essence of the user experience and the navigation scheme to be similar to the one the designed in Notes.
– Any changes in the UI elements [for example differences in the behavior of multi-select boxes between Notes and SharePoint / .Net environments] should be done in a standardized format.
– A guide for UI changes should be developed to highlight the differences in the navigation in the converted applications.
2. Database Design –
– Given that the databases in Lotus Notes are non-relational while SQL Server is a relational database certain standardization is required during the conversion –
– Standardization of Unique identifiers for entities within the database and mapping scheme from the Lotus Notes ID scheme to the entity ID scheme in the relational database.
– Parsing attachments from rich text fields to be stored in separate relational tables with BLOBs.
– Transforming multi-values from a single string to a set of entries in a relational table
– Analyzing and converting relationships from hierarchical to relational
3. Development –
– Forms – Forms and sub-forms in Lotus Notes can be translated into ASP.Net forms, SharePoint lists, or InfoPath forms dependent on the complexity of the forms / database. The more complex forms should either be targeted for ASP.Net or InfoPath while the simpler forms can be targeted for the SharePoint environment.
– Validations – Complex logic based validations can be achieved using VBScripts in.Net forms or InfoPath forms while simple validations can be achieved in SharePoint without any code.
– Lookup data – Single level lookups are easily possible in SharePoint while multi-level dependent lookups can be completed in either InfoPath or ASP.Net
– Application Security – A common framework for application security should be developed so that both authorization of roles based security can be handled within all of the converted.Net applications.
Converting Lotus Notes applications to the Microsoft environment can be a very systematic and manageable project. The project needs upfront planning and dedication of the right resources, tools, frameworks, and processes. The converted applications provide for greater standardization, accessibility through a web browser, greater scalability, along with the ability to do comprehensive reporting using standard commercial tools like SQL Reporting Services, Crystal reports among others. Additionally, the applications provide for integrations with Microsoft office, Microsoft Outlook & Exchange along with the integrations with the company Active Directory infrastructure leading to better sharing of information, collaboration and utilization of the resources within the organization.