Application modernization and Lotus Notes data

So, you want to modernize your classic Lotus Notes applications. If you’re going to migrate to a new application platform, you’ll need to go through a standard ETL (extract, transform, load) process to migrate your application data, which shouldn’t be a demanding task. If you plan to stay with IBM Domino, it’s even easier. Or, is it?

“Through 2019, more than 50% of data migration projects will exceed budget and timeline and/or harm the business, due to flawed strategy and execution.”


According to Gartner, data migration efforts are often complex, risky, costly and time-consuming. Because of this, some organizations tend to defer migrating or modernizing their applications.

Semi-structured Lotus Notes data represent a specific challenge for modernizing IBM Notes and Domino applications.

One challenge is that rich text fields in Notes applications should be transformed to HTML. Another challenge is that most classic Notes applications use “wysiwyg” forms—compound documents whose layouts are precisely designed for both data-entry and print. In modern applications, this concept has been replaced by responsive design for web and mobile (often combined with PDF output for printing or delivering customer-facing documents).

Furthermore, new applications don’t necessarily match old applications one-to-one. There are lots of reasons for this. In some cases, business processes have evolved over the years; in others, mergers, acquisitions, or restructurings have taken place. Or, a company may have simply attempted to reduce IT complexity by consolidating applications and infrastructure.

What begins as an application modernization project often ends up as a much broader endeavor of application consolidation and rationalization.

Whatever the reason, the modernization process provides an opportunity for organizations to transform their HCL Domino application portfolio. However, migrating data from old databases can be more complex than anticipated.

Ask any developer—they prefer to start from a blank slate, without the historical baggage of legacy data. For new applications, they will need to rethink the entire data model and perhaps start from scratch to re-architect the system.

To jettison historical baggage and mitigate risks, companies can break the data migration process into three steps:

  1. Extracting historical Notes records to an archive repository
  2. Re-architecting databases and applications
  3. Migrating only necessary data to the new system

While the first step may seem unnecessary since we could leave the legacy data where it was rather than to extract it, there are a number of reasons legacy applications should be properly retired (see: Lotus Notes Application Decommissioning). Similarly, using existing backups for longer-term archiving is not a good idea.

Following this process frees developers from the burden of supporting legacy data, which accelerates new application development and data migration. New databases will contain only live data, while historical records will be available to authorized users for future reference, especially in the event of litigation or an audit.

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