With Engage around the corner and the acquisition of Domino, Connections and more expected to close soon after, followed by build up to Domino V11 it’s a good time to assess readiness for the future. A few facts are clear:
- The pace of delivery of new features for Domino has increased significantly.
- That pace shows no sign of slowing after HCL closes the deal.
- HCL is committed to taking Domino into new markets and opportunities.
- The strategic direction for application development on the platform is evolving.
- Customers need to evolve to consider the needs / requirements for their strategies and their technical teams.
Use of Domino as an application development platform has probably not changed significantly in the last five years for many customers. Investment in and direction of professional development over that period may vary, but in a number of customers may be negligible. Both need to be reassessed over the coming months, if they have not already been reassessed this year.
A lot will depend on the strategic use – or rather uses, because it should not be only one – for Domino:
- Notes Client / Domino Mobile Apps: while not the “low code” development anticipated in Domino V11, this will leverage traditional skills and a limited toolset. User experiences should be modernised, and awareness of REST services in LotusScript should be an area of focus.
- XPages: this will leverage some skills learned over the last ten years and has a lot to offer. But it cannot cover offline use on iPad and edge case usage (e.g. XPiNC) is likely to suffer sooner than more standard desktop / mobile browser usage. A number of experts in the community had already left before HCL got involved. Professional development needs to focus on deeper understanding of what’s happening in XPages, use of Java, moving rapidly towards ability to understand and code OSGi plugins. There is a large gap between drag-and-drop XPages with SSJS and the pro code XPages development which leverages Java, Eclipse, source control and more. From current community activity, that level of knowledge seems to be limited in a small group of experts, experts who have been open to sharing over a number of years, but who will start to be more heavily involved in pro code areas beyond XPages.
- REST Services: integration via REST services has been a growing area for Domino over recent years. How that’s done can and will vary.
- Java: this has taken a bit of a back seat, in my opinion rightly so. But I expect the message to evolve over the coming year and, like Node.js, I expect the architecture to be a Java application – for example SpringBoot – running separate from the Domino server.
- Node.js: this is only set to grow and is a strategic areafor HCL and business partners. Other areas cannot grow the platform; this may or may not, but it is the only one that can. But managers and technical need to be under no illusions about the scale of the task before them.
For technical, if all you have is a Notes Client / Designer / Administrator, based on my personal experience, there is a huge learning curve here that dwarfs the learning curve of XPages. Despite learning a lot from various areas from non-Domino development over recent years, it’s still proving challenging for me. Node.js, npm, a new IDE (Visual Studio Code / Atom), development languages, UI frameworks, build processes, scalability of applications, authentication, DevOps, managing a non-monolithic environment – there are a significant number of new moving parts for all developers and administrators.
Managers will need to support the requirements and concerns of their technical people. Understanding their current skills, strengths, weaknesses and ambitions is critical. Managers also need to be aware that infrastructure and scalability architectures are completely different to the relatively simple world of Domino. And the right answers won’t be something people from a Domino background can just give you. It will be a learning curve for everyone, and flexibility and understanding are critical. There are no easy answers. Ignoring Node.js or Java and focusing on Notes Client development may suit some technical people, but not the most ambitious and will likely impact your team. Migrating will mean facing all these same problems and more. Employing Node.js developers may help, but there will need to be investment in the professional development of both sides, to bring the right information from each side towards the correct answers.
For everyone – management or technical – it’s time to review, prepare for the future, invest, learn and modernise. It is a skill to elicit the key information – from managers, technical and of course users. It’s an area we will be looking to work on with our customers. But your applications are custom, and there should not be a “one size fits all” approach. The strength of Domino is that it can play an integral part in many of those approaches.