Overcoming the Top 8 Notes-To-SharePoint Migration Challenges


Although most companies are relieved once they've migrated their applications from IBM Notes to Microsoft SharePoint, not many are glad while they're doing it.

Let's face it: Migration is tough work. It affects everyone even tangentially connected with the application — system administrators, help desk staff, line-of-business managers, day-to-day users — and it doesn't allow for many shortcuts. The challenges to overcome in a Notes-to-SharePoint migration project go far beyond the selection of a consultant or tool for migrating application content and design.

Many organizations start by migrating email from Notes to Microsoft Exchange. Next, they consider migrating the applications they've developed in Notes, and that usually involves more work and more obstacles than migrating email. Your company can get stuck at different phases in the process of migrating Notes applications — especially in analysis and planning — and this e-book calls out the eight most common sticking points with ways in which you can avoid them.

Consider the obstacles in the eight phases of a relatively common migration project, as shown in Figure 1:

  • Corporate initiative
  • Project startup
  • Assessment
  • Rationalization
  • Planning
  • Design review
  • Migration
  • Deployment

Figure 1: Phases in a migration project

Challenge 1: Corporate Initiative

First, migrations rarely take place in a vacuum, but in the broader context of a top-down, corporate initiative to archive, migrate or sunset Notes applications.

The initiative usually comes first, and the reasons behind it vary. Sometimes, management wants to reduce the cost of maintaining multiple application platforms by eliminating old ones and moving to SharePoint. Other times, the migration is necessary to keep pace with a new strategic direction in the company. Still other times, business users want to take advantage of better integration with other platforms and support for features like search.

Whatever the reason, top management makes the high-level decision and sets the goal. The main challenge in this phase comes as other stakeholders throughout your company begin defining the best ways to achieve the goal.

Challenge 2: Project Startup

Once the corporate mandate begins trickling through your organization, the questions outnumber the answers. There is still confusion and concern about the goal of migrating off of Notes.

Often, one of the first questions is, "Where will we get the funding to support this initiative?" The typical answer is "That has yet to be defined." Lack of clarity about the source of funding can blur the effort to complete the next six steps.

This is also the point to ask about the scope of effort. Will the project extend to migrating all applications or only some applications? To which platforms will the applications be migrated? When does migration begin and, more important, by when must it be complete? What defines "complete?" Which metrics and criteria will you apply in measuring the success of the migration?

In short, the challenge here lies in defining how to get started and what to do. The best solution here is to bring in subject matter experts (SMEs) with experience in migrating Notes applications to SharePoint. These experts can guide you through the remaining phases successfully by helping to define a strategy, budget and tasks. This will evolve into your project plan.

Challenge 3: Assessment

In this phase, you face the obstacle of taking inventory of your applications and making decisions about which ones are worth migrating. There may be thousands of Notes applications on the network, but the big question is whether they are being used anymore. The solution is to find out more about the application environment. Migration tools for moving from Notes to SharePoint are specifically designed for that purpose.

This is also the point to begin conversations with application owners, with the goal of understanding more about the applications and conducting a thorough assessment. Your project leads, with the support of professional services and partners, can then bring together the technical data and the business user information to paint a picture of the application environment.

The assessment collects multiple data points on each application:

  • Usage history
  • Business group owner
  • Business application type
  • Business criticality
  • Application owner
  • Application complexity

Unfortunately, the process of vetting the collected data can become bogged down if your migration team focuses too closely on the many possible ways of analyzing the data on each application.

Also, a number of factors can slow the necessary task of classifying existing Notes applications:

  • Complete usage history is not recorded.
  • There are too many types of custom applications to be categorized.

Figure 2: Assess Notes design, data and usage details with Migrator for Notes to SharePoint.

  • The application owners cannot be identified or found.
  • More than one business group uses or could use a given application.
  • It's not obvious to everybody that a given application is business critical, so someone must decide.
  • Some applications are more complex than others, and different groups judge complexity differently, so again, someone must decide.

Although this phase appears to generate as many questions as answers and as much doubt as clarity, it is important that you complete and document the assessment accurately to ensure a successful migration.

Challenge 4: Rationalization

Rationalization is the process of narrowing down the number of applications to be migrated. By reducing the number of products and versions on the target platform, you save considerable time and effort both on the migration project and in the long term.

After successfully ending its assessment, your migration team "hides" Notes applications to see which users, if any, need them, then archives the applications if it appears that users can get along without them. Your team repeats this process until it has removed, archived or migrated all Notes applications. In the meantime, some users even switch to another application platform like SharePoint and leave their data behind.

Several obstacles often arise during this phase:

  • You may not have collected sufficient information on the Notes applications during the assessment phase to make rationalization decisions. If so, you must loop back and assess those applications more deeply.
  • As noted above, some companies collect plenty of data, but do not know how to analyze it to reach the best decision. In that case, a professional services organization with expertise in assessment and migration can help you become unstuck and perform the necessary analysis. Furthermore, do not assume that technical data is the only kind of information you need to make rationalization decisions.
  • Validate the technical data with the application owners.
  • Confirm whether the application is used as often as the technical data states.
  • Ask the application owners whether the application data truly needs to be migrated to a new platform.

Having a well-defined project plan during the project startup phase ensures that data does not go stale. The project plan defines the tasks that need to be completed in each phase, so there should not be a long gap between capturing the technical data, verifying it with application owners and analyzing/rationalizing.

Challenge 5: Planning

Having rationalized the applications to migrate, you now take the assessment recommendations and make plans to remediate the remaining Notes applications, in particular the custom applications.

Suddenly, it's real money.

The problem is that you have Notes applications that need to move off the Notes platform. The remediation effort will solve the problem by defining where the Notes applications will reside in the future state. The challenge in this phase is that you have not yet identified that future state, so the solution is to define it.

In addition, you need to estimate the costs of creating that future state and migrating the Notes applications to it. You must ensure that you have identified all relevant costs and prepared a detailed plan for executing the remediation of the Notes applications. That requires skilled, experienced migration experts and a tool that will successfully migrate the content.

Companies often become stuck in the planning phase as they review the costs associated with the migration. Many ask for a single price to migrate the Notes applications, but all-encompassing proposals to migrate large custom Notes applications can run to millions of dollars, usually due to costs of services and software. It can be especially difficult to estimate the cost of migrating custom Notes applications.

A number of questions about productivity, cost and time arise as your migration team makes plans for moving custom applications to a new platform:

  • How important do we consider user experience?
  • What will the communication plan look like?
  • Should we review the requirements of business users for each application?
  • Who decided on the design specifications to build an application on a new platform?
  • How much time should we spend on user acceptance testing?
  • Which custom applications shall we migrate first: the simple ones or the complex ones?
  • How shall we report on migration progress to everyone involved?
  • Is the target platform ready to support all of the applications we are migrating?
  • Will the migrated applications take advantage of new features on the target platform?

Business users in particular grow uncertain about the SharePoint adoption plans during the planning phase. They ask themselves whether they should move quickly to SharePoint or expect a long, drawn-out process.

Also, the planning phase becomes more difficult to complete as more people realize the impact the migration will have across your entire company. Senior management becomes concerned about the costs. The accumulation of uncertainty and budget worries can push some companies to stop the process altogether.

Challenge 6: Design Review

After planning comes a review of the design and business functions of each custom application. The worries about the cost and practicality of custom application development persist from the previous phase. Some companies choose to custom-build each Notes application separately on SharePoint, leading to even higher costs.

A sensible alternative for controlling costs is to use third-party web parts and workflow solutions to build custom applications on SharePoint. Although some organizations prefer to build these in house, using third-party solutions can greatly streamline application development. Web parts help companies get over the build-vs.-buy, develop-vs.-configure obstacle while keeping costs low.

By taking advantage of web parts such as those included with Quick Apps for SharePoint, you can follow this smooth process for design review:

  • Use business analysts to help gather requirements and configure the web parts and workflows on custom applications of low and medium complexity.
  • Take the business requirements and configure the application on the front end instead of tying up precious development resources.
  • Use developers to custom-build the high-complexity applications.

Web parts are accessible to and configurable by business application owners. Making them part of the design review and development cycle offloads low-complexity work from development teams.

Before — Application in Notes

After — Application rebuilt in SharePoint

Figure 3: Rebuild a complex Notes form in SharePoint quickly and without code using Quick Apps for SharePoint.

Challenge 7: Migration

Migration should take place after you have completed your design review. Unfortunately, so many groups and users in the organization have raised concerns by this point that the migration itself seems more like a problem than a solution.

It is very important to set expectations with application owners and users as soon as possible, because there are limitations on how content can be migrated from one application platform to another. One solution is to perform migration tests with content to see all of the possible ways that content is transformed. Another solution is to have users start using the new application platform as early as possible so that they understand how it works.

There are many issues to overcome in a Notes application migration initiative. These go well beyond the concerns of whether a migration tool can migrate application content and design to SharePoint. In some cases, a tool can migrate content successfully, but not in the exact manner that the application owner wants it structured on the target application platform. With a sufficiently versatile migration tool, this can be resolved by changing the migration job.

Typically, if you have successfully completed the assessment and planning phases and have a good solution in place for configuring and developing custom applications, your migration will be successful. Out-of-the-box solutions on SharePoint or Office 365 will suffice for some applications, but more often a custom application is indicated, including testing with data migration (when data is planned for migration).

Of course, there is still the challenge of remaining within the project scope and budget. You address that by returning to the plan created in the project startup phase for a timely reminder of the overall purpose and scope of the migration project.

Challenge 8: Deployment

The final step in the migration process is deployment, or moving the new application from a staging or testing server to a production server. Quest's Migrator for Notes to SharePoint can also update the links between the migrated documents to reflect their new presence on SharePoint or Office 365.

In a successful project, you will eventually migrate all of your critical Notes applications to new platforms or archive them. Archiving Notes documents is often important for legal and business reasons. Migrator for Notes to SharePoint can convert Notes documents to PDF/A documents on the local file system using a dynamic, configurable folder structure.

You will also have the opportunity to shut down Domino servers permanently in this phase, freeing up server resources and reducing license and support costs. Very few organizations maintain business-critical Notes applications for long after completing this phase unless, for example, they decide to continue searching for a replacement better suited to their business need. The downside, however, is that the applications run in an unsupported state for too long.


From assisting countless customers and partners, Quest® recommends having a good solution in place for configuring custom applications without code.

That's where Quest solutions come into play. Instead of custom-building each application on SharePoint, consider using Quick Apps for SharePoint to quickly and easily reconfigure your custom applications for SharePoint, without the need to depend on development resources. With this more efficient solution surrounding custom applications, your migration project suddenly seems more manageable.

Migrator for Notes to SharePoint enables a fast and high-fidelity transition, helping you overcome the many obstacles that arise during the project.

For more information about Migrator for Notes to SharePoint and to learn how to conduct a ZeroIMPACT migration, please visit quest.com/notesmigration.

About Quest

Quest helps our customers reduce tedious administration tasks so they can focus on the innovation necessary for their businesses to grow. Quest solutions are scalable, affordable and simple-to-use, and they deliver unmatched efficiency and productivity. Combined with Quest's invitation to the global community to be a part of its innovation, as well as our firm commitment to ensuring customer satisfaction, Quest will continue to accelerate the delivery of the most comprehensive solutions for Azure cloud management, SaaS, security, workforce mobility and data-driven insight.