Historically Engage has been shortly after a major conference in US, so it’s been an opportunity to catch up on sessions missed there. This year it followed the Factory Tour by a few months. Unfortunately for me, most of the key products sessions conflicted with sessions I was delivering or preparation. Two I did attend were the app dev pack session and low code round table. Another which I position as a community session, even though Thomas Hampel of IBM co-presented, was the Domino on Docker session. So I’m picking up the main updates from others. But the conference itself continued to be a key opportunity to catch up with our customers (of whom there were more in attendance than ever before), the community, HCL and IBM. Those discussions were more important than ever at a time when Domino app dev is in transition and there are question marks about how customers will work with Domino in the future. And those discussions were definitely very productive.

Firstly, it’s worth emphasising that I never expected big announcements regarding Connections. For Connections more than ever it was about feedback to HCL rather than feedback from HCL / IBM. But it was very useful to have discussions with people like Andre Hagemeier. And indeed the Connections part of the opening session was more about looking back at recent deliverables. I expect the deliverables in the next six months to a year to be more significant.

The opening session itself was very interesting for the strategic directions of all the Digital Solutions products. The key themes are integration and openness, both openness between the DS products and externally. The role of Domino was also highlighted. Expect to see more of that over the coming years.

The low code and app dev pack sessions highlighted the key area application development on Domino is evolving.

There are key personas low code is addressing. The community and HCL are still developing what the scope should be regarding who low code is for and what it means. It will need to evolve over time, because the initial delivery cannot cover all use cases and everyone’s expectations. But the message, vision and focus need to be clear. For that, I would have liked to have attended the HCL Leap session, to get a clearer understanding of how HCL Leap, Connection LiveGrid and Domino’s low code overlap. However, the most important aspect is that the developers for this Domino low code offering will be a different set of people to traditional Notes developers and a different set to the pro code developers.

The app dev session and the OpenNTF round table highlighted another aspect. The app dev pack is moving in good directions. But the ability for developers to hit the ground running needs addressing. There are some key concepts like IAM and DSAPI filters that many Domino developers don’t understand, which are going to be key for adoption. Technical power of the app dev pack are very much being addressed. But the technical understanding for up-spilling and ease of deployment for both Domino developers and Node.js developers is missing. And it’s a level of understanding that, based on the Q&A part and emails with Daniel Nashed, many of the community are struggling to get to grips with. HCL and the community need to work together, to find the best way forward for those who want to.

This leads to an important point. Some won’t make the move and HCL are enabling the product so they don’t have to. IDMA has been meant existing Notes Client development skills can be used to extend Domino applications to iPad. Android and iPhone are also coming. I missed the session updating on WebAssembly progress, but that will allow existing application development skills to be used to via a browser. This makes Notes Client development – what is starting to be called “mid code” – a valid route forward for developers. If it seems the right way forward for XPages developers, it shouldn’t be considered a step backward, but a valid route forward. Everyone I spoke to at Engage and discussed this with considered it a step forward rather than backwards. And it will prompt new enhancements to Notes Client development. Nor should it be disparaged by pro code developers, because this is RADD development in the same way Node-RED is.

Nor should it be of concern for customers, because the approach of HCL, the way forward we’re seeing again at Engage, brings new functionality and new opportunities. Customers will be the big winners, because pro code developers will be able to develop and support those mid code applications just as much as Notes Client developers. Customers will have not only the mid code platform they had before, the platform that was used by some pro code developers and will be used by more, and a low code platform.

This is a time of transition, of change in directions no one anticipated. But it’s a time to embrace Domino more than ever before and to embrace the future, whether it be low code, mid code or pro code.

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