Lotus Notes to SharePoint Migration

Topics: SharePoint Content Management

Written by Dock SharePoint Evangelist


One of our recent projects was Lotus notes to SharePoint migration effort for a non- profit organization. The migration costs were to be borne by IT department for like-to-like migration scenarios. The IT team after having analyzed a few migration tools decided to develop a custom application tool to cut down on expenses. To reduce the effort on analysis, it was decided that all the Lotus notes database data and design (except for elements specific to Lotus notes) will be migrated. The plan was to develop a tool which will migrate custom Lotus notes application's data and design to a SharePoint site.

The steps to migrate were:

  1. Manually create a blank site based on team site template for migration.
  2. Extract Lotus application data and design as xml to a mapped server disk.
  3. Run the .net CSOM executable which parses xml and creates lists, libraries and other elements.

The site collection URL and site admin credentials are passed to CSOM executable file as parameters. The prerequisites for CSOM executable were .net framework and SharePoint .net CSOM SDK installed in the machine. Multiple migrations were required to identify and finalize the relevant data and design patterns. The option to migrate application data in batches was also added to avoid having to re-run entire migrations.

Some of the technical challenges were:

  1. To identify the Lotus notes data and design which needs to be migrated. There were data and design elements which were specific to platform. A Lotus notes form would become list in SharePoint whereas another form may not be required and could be skipped. The list of common elements that may be skipped was identified after a few migrations.
  2. Probably the toughest part was to understand the xml schema. Due to the unstructured nature of Lotus notes, the Lotus forms may contain embedded elements, sections, tables and images among other things. The approach was to convert basic elements like table, links, images, and attachments leaving out the more complicated elements.
  3. Some of the applications to migrate were based on client and not web. For cases where functionality was based on platform specific features, custom site development was suggested.
  4. For some cases, the quality of data and effort required to clean up lists after migration was a concern. This was due to a large number of fields added to the SharePoint list.
  5. SharePoint did not support some of the data types in Lotus notes (a date list for example) and vice versa.
  6. Non- support of record and field level encryption and record signing in SharePoint. For such cases, application was not migrated.
  7. Built-in parent child level hierarchy in Lotus notes vs. the lack of native support for it in SharePoint. The lotus notes record unique identifier was added to list item as a workaround.
  8. Performance concerns. A lotus notes database can grow up to a certain size (GBs) with virtually no item limit in views (the equivalent of SP list), whereas SharePoint suggests a number of items retrieved not to exceed 5000.

The organization was using SharePoint 2010 on premise farm at that time. The tool was used to migrate several Lotus notes applications. 

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