Top 9 tech trends you don't want to miss in 2019

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A new year has just started. It’s that time of the year in which you need novelties. We all feel more innovative and with good prompts. Especially if you are a digital savvy or technology lover, I am sure you already made some researches to find out what you can expect from 2019 regarding innovations and technology. I wrote this blog to put things together and to make your search easier.  After some accurate research, these 9 points summarize the best (and newest) technology trends for this year. 

1. More Chatbots and Automation

Chat-botAlmost every brand website now has chatbots that can answer to simple questions. All rigorously automated, with no human intervention needed; it’s not a person you’re talking to, it’s a chatbot. The consumer-facing benefits are numerous. But there are also plenty for businesses who choose to use this technology to help employees with meeting scheduling, research, note-taking, reminders. If in 2018 you probably have had some frustrating experiences with chatbots, this won’t certainly happen in 2019. Huge steps have been made in the way of natural language processing and sentiment analytics.  Some 40% of large businesses have or will adopt chatbots by the end of 2019—which makes it one of our top 2019 digital transformation trends. 

2. API Use and Seamless Integration

In a digital-first workplace, it really is irrelevant where you are physical. You should be able to do your job regardless of your location: at home, in the car, in a cafe on the other side of the world. Remote work it’s just normal nowadays. That’s why seamless integration of digital technology is a must. When some workplace applications are cloud-based and others are on-site, it can be a nightmare for remote employees to work properly.  This is where the API comes in. Employees can find the documents they need easily, share them with colleagues, and seamlessly track progress. APIs are the future of remote working.

3. Focus on User Experience

user experience If your company is undergoing a digital transformation, then this means that core business systems like HR, finance, sales, marketing and management are becoming highly digitalized. Despite the high costs in time and money for the investment, the benefits will be huge in terms of productivity (if you handle the process with care and success). However, if employees do not adopt the new technologies, everything is vain. Instead of benefits, you will just get a big waste of resources. Employees are lost and overwhelmed not only because they do not know how the technology work (and how to use it to make their work done), but also due to the number of regular updates and changes. The solution? Provide a great digital employee experience. Deliver a smooth experience when using the new tool and implement the right user adoption strategy. And remember that a well-designed user interface could raise your website’s conversion rate by up to 200%. A better UX design could yield conversion rates up to 400% and productivity will rocket. 

4. Training and User Adoption Analytics

Big Data keeps on getting better and better. The fields in which Big Data can be used are limitless and It has found its way into the realm of training and digital adoption. How? By providing analytics and insights to help you understand who needs to do what and by when. There are also tools designed specifically to improve the adoption of new digital systems. This data enables to get a deeper understanding of how people are using these new tools. You can learn what adoption issues they’re encountering and deliver the right solutions. Besides quantitative data, it is always important to track and monitor your training and user adoption programs with qualitative data (through interviews, questionnaires, focus groups). In this way, you can combine “numbers” with the real feedback from your employees.

5. Technology will adapt to Users’ Needs

Technology will adapt to users’ needs. Not the other way around. Users don’t need to learn the software anymore. When it comes to eLearning, analytics has the potential to learn more about our specific roles, behaviours, and actions to personalize how we use business software. And again, Artificial Intelligence comes into play. So yes, AI will be a hot topic also in 2019. Specifically, AI can be used combined with analytics to proactively identify who is likely to stop engaging with software, and even provide a notification in the app to prevent any obstacles to engagement and adoption. 

6. Digital-first Approach

The biggest trend of the moment across all industries regards the digital-first approach. With this term, we define a shift in organisational culture away from favouring traditional channels to prioritising digital ones. This approach is the direct consequence of the process of digital transformation that organizations all over the world are embracing. And as we move closer to the third decade of this millennium, organizations that don’t follow this trend are going to get left behind. 

7. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Virtual reality will be gain the protagonist in gaming and other highly specialized applications. However, virtual reality appears to be not so feasible to be applied in other fields of the marketplace. Instead, augmented reality continues to be at the centre of digital transformation trends for 2019. Augmented reality has found many use cases in enterprise workforce training, only to cite one (useful) example.

8. Connected Clouds

connected cloudThe cloud revolution has been one of the biggest changes for companies in the last few years. Companies are progressively abandoning local storages, replacing them with the cloud. This makes it easier for them to share files and documents, but also collaborate with each other. The cloud revolution has a great impact not only in the way the IT department is changing its role but also in the way employees work and collaborate. In 2019 we can say that moving to the cloud is not a novelty anymore since it’s becoming the norm. Basically, what’s happening is that companies are realizing that going all public cloud, private cloud, or data centre isn’t the best option. Sometimes, they need a mix of all. Thus, connected clouds are continuing to develop to meet companies’ changing needs.

9. CEOs guiding the digital transformation 

Many studies have shown a big desire from employees to see digital transformation start at the very top of the company. Despite this, the evidence says that the task of guiding the digital revolution in companies is being too often delegated to IT, Marketing or HR departments. So even though we’ve seen a range of C-suite leaders charged with taking the reins of digital transformation, I believe that the CEO will and must finally step up in 2019, realizing digital transformation isn’t going anywhere without their commitment and involvement. 

The pace of change regarding technologies will always be very high. But the pace at which these new technologies are changing the way of working and doing business is even higher. 2019 will be a great and exciting year if you are a digital savvy craving for innovations and new developments. But remember that it’s not only about technology. It’s about the intersection of technology, people and business. 

Download our ebook Resistance to Change to get an inspiring view on how to overcome the resistance of employees towards changes in technology and the way of working. 

Digital transformation: Are we leading to a new era?

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Since the world started to talk about digital transformation and change management, user adoption has been addressed as a “hot topic” for organizations involved in these transformations. Indeed, as Daniel Newman, Forbes writer, points out, 

“digital transformation is not only a technological shift, but an organizational change at the intersection of technology, business and people (…) technology in itself does not equate to digital transformation. The customer, culture and employees along with business continuity must be at the heart of every technology investment”

digital workplace

So, if you are embracing the digital transformation in your workplace, do not expect a change only in the technologies used to get your daily work done. There is much more than this. Expect a change on how your organization work, how employees work and collaborate, business process, work dynamics and organizational structure. And a lot of technology. In this context, technology is not the protagonist. It is just a means that enables new possibilities for improving collaboration, productivity and efficiency in a smart way. All these are the main characteristics of the famous workplace digital transformation.

But, if a change of the technology used in the modern workplace is not enough, what should managers worry about to carry on a successful digital transformation journey? CHANGE MANAGEMENT  and USER ADOPTION. 

 

We see the horizon: User Adoption

Even though more and more companies around the world are welcoming the digital transformation by investing in new technologies and tools, only a small percentage of those companies is aware of the importance of change management and user adoption. The result?  Failure, high costs for technology investments that have no return on investment, wasted opportunities and frustration among employees. In 2017 and 2018 especially, this scenario had been witnessed in 90% of the cases.

But now, slowly, things are changing. Companies that offer change management and user adoption strategies are offering concrete help to companies that decide to go through this big change. Support, expertise and guidance are the concrete help needed. Following a proper strategy that ensures that the new technologies are actually used by employees at all levels is vital.

Moreover, signs from the market are really clear. If a couple of years before you probably never heard of user adoption, now the biggest tech companies, like Microsoft, are raising their voice on this. User adoption is necessary when using Microsoft technologies in the context of a digital transformation. It is not about technical training on which button to press. It’s about how to use new tools to collaborate, to be more productive and to work smarter (Office 365 is the best example with digital tools like Microsoft Teams, Planner, To-Do, OneNote, OneDrive etc). International Microsoft conferences started to reserve more space to talk about user adoption and the voice is rapidly spreading. 

While 2018 has been the year dedicated to the expansion of the “user adoption awareness”, we feel like now in 2019, the moment is come to act. We are entering a new era of the digital transformation where the focus is not more on technology, but on “how do we make this work in our organization, now that we have the new technology?” It’s the era of action, it’s the era of user adoption put into practice.

 

User Adoption Trends for 2019

How does this new era look like? We listed some key points that represent what we consider to be the “hot trends” regarding user adoption and digital transformation for this new year in which we just landed. 

1. People are ready

In our experience with customers, we witness that people are just more ready for embracing new ways of working. In particular, we see a development in the social collaboration trends within the organizations and in the various teams. The average of digital literacy improved if compared to the levels of some years ago, thanks to the contribution of more millennials and digital natives in the workforce, able to inspire other employees. Moreover, people are more ready to use new technologies in new ways of working, especially when it comes to sharing knowledge, be more productive and collaborative. 

User adoption trends 2019

2. Technology never sleeps

Technology never sleeps. Indeed, also for this year, we cannot expect that the pace of technology change will slow down. Instead, technology will change faster and faster. we cannot escape from this. And as a consequence, people are lost (look at the number of apps available in Office 365 for example and then think about all the updates and new feature released periodically). Well, this will be a recurring path in 2019 as well. What we can do, is to find more efficient and innovative ways for people to deal with this. 

3. Big tech companies will help user adoption 

The trend witnessed at the end of 2018, will continue for this year. Big tech companies, like Microsoft, are becoming more active in sensitizing the market with the importance of user adoption, together with the tooling. This will go to a further step: more user adoption help from Microsoft with materials, guidelines and models that organizations and users can use to orientate in this maze. 

4. Less control from IT

In many cases, IT is holding employees back. The IT department is providing new technologies and platforms, but without giving up to maintain control. It’s IT who decides which app users can use and which not, what employees are allowed to do, external access, and much more.  As a consequence user adoption is hindered. The thing is that people and users need more flexibility and autonomy to experiment with the new tools. It’s time for the IT department to change the way they work more than their employees need to. IT needs to lose control and lose the fear that IT would become a mess if users are free. We have to help IT people understand the changing role of IT: enable, empower employees with new technologies that can help them achieve more. IT is no more about the technology, infrastructure and control. It’s about becoming trusted consultants for the management, help in decision making for the sake of the business and support employees in working smarter with new tools. 

In conclusion, for 2019 you should really focus your attention on: 

  • Stick to the standards. Less developing, less customization. Don’t spend money and efforts in building customized solutions, but use the platforms just as they are. It’s just easy. Work more on the adoption of those platforms. 
  • Enable by default (not disabled by default). In the admin settings, we need to have more openness and enable people to use the apps available, without disabling access or permission. IT should not decide for the business and for the company what is available and what is forbidden to use. More freedom in the choices and less controlling attitude by IT is necessary.  IT should help the company decide what’s best according to the business goals, not only from an IT perspective.
  • Take a business-goal oriented perspective when deciding which tool to use. The vision of why we are using collaboration apps should be a business goals vision, not a mere IT perspective. Software architecture decisions should be based on a business goals vision.
  • Take concrete action on user adoption. Invest your budget not only on the technology but also on a structured user adoption strategy. Involve your employees and get the most out of your platform. The digital workspace is yours! 

Download the e-book Silverside Adoption Plan to increase the end-user adoption of new software, platform or technology. Our change methodology helps you to make change easier. This template helps you create your personalised adoption plan and take concrete action to conduct a successful user adoption project! 

Celebrate the Release of Domino V 10.0.1!

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Just in time for Christmas, IBM/HCL has a nice present for the Notes/Domino community.

new release domino

With the release of Notes/Domino version 10.0.1, “the hot off the press” Notes/Domino version 10 gets over 200 fixes that were identified in the primary v10 release. The new minor-release also contains some nice new features and additions. To me, this is another indication that IBM/HCL is serious with its renewed commitment to invest in the Notes/Domino product line.

Some highlights of the new version are listed below:

• The inclusion of MarvelClient Essentials; a client-endpoint-management-tool to analyse and visualize your Notes endpoints (i.e. PC/Laptops). With this, you can view installation details; local notes.ini; available disc space and RAM; deploy files such as your Notes upgrade package; run programs and manage the Windows Registry. Cool!

• The release of AppDev Pack 1 which Enables full-stack web developing using JavaScript, Node.js and Domino on Linux.

• Verse on Premises 1.0.6: This version includes a GUI-language preference, iCAL import capability and several improvements on the new (preview) calendar form.

• Notes 10.0.1 client for Apple MacOS (incl. IBM’s own embedded JVM)

This is again a welcome signal to the market. Even more after the announcement from HCL a week ago. On 7th December 2018, HCL declared the intention to buy the Lotus stack from IBM. My colleagues and I chewed on this news for a while and we think this is actually a positive development. To be honest we will miss the brand-name of IBM, which actually in recent years seemed to have lost the glimmery power of the past. We do need to get to know HCL because in the private realm they still need to earn our trust. At Silverside we did some research on HCL and we saw that they earned the respect of the Dutch financial sector, working with companies like ING, Rabo and Aegon. In conclusion, HCL has concretely proved to be capable of energizing the Lotus products. This certainly made my enthusiasm grow over the last year, but I’m looking forward to all the things HCL will bring to us in 2019.

Read more about IBM, HCL and Domino 10 on the blog IBM brings native Notes/Domino apps to iPad and more in Domino 10.

IBM Notes: Working with text-formatting is easy

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Handling text in Forward/Reply email-threads can be a challenge. Remote parties using different fonts, signatures and disclaimers can make your e-mails look like a rained Picasso. Fortunately, we have styles that come to help.

How to change your default e-mail text-style

First, create a new e-mail and type some text. Set the font, size and paragraph-spacing using the text-formatting tool-window, accessible by the menu Text > Text Properties (or simply Ctrl-k):

IBM
 Note: Open the text-formatting tool-window anytime by pressing Ctrl-k

When your text is formatted correctly, select it and go to menu: Text > Set Current Font as Mail Default.
After this, your new e-mails will use the text-style you just set.

Text formatting IBM Notes
Working with text styles

IBM Notes supports text-styles as much as word processing apps do. Users can change existing and add new text-styles. These text-styles are stored in your Notes client and can be used in all rich-text-fields in IBM Notes. For example in your e-mail, but also in the comments section on a contact-document or in rich-text fields in your business apps.
Applying a text-style to some selected text is done via menu: Text > Apply Style > style-name (or: Alt – t – y – …)

Text styles IBM Notes
Adding to, or updating existing text-styles is easy. Just format some text as you like it, select it and open the text-formatting tool-window via the menu: Text > Text Properties (or simply Ctrl-k). On the last tab in the formatting tool-window, press “Create Style…” or “Redefine Style…” to add or update an existing text-style. Name or select the style-name and click [Ok]

Note: The floating tool-window can be switched to other functions. Click in the top left bar to select the “Text” tool-window.

Create Style IBM Notes

Note: text-styles are applied to paragraphs. That is text-blocks you end by a hard Enter.

Assing your favourite text-style the quick way

You may want to access your favourite text-style even quicker. For this, we have the F11-key. The [Assign to keyboard] button allows you to assign one or more defined text-styles to the F11-key. When you assign only one text-style to the keyboard (F11), you can apply that text-style by just hitting F11 – handy right?
When you assign more text-styles to the keyboard (default), the F11 key will step through each style each time you press F11. Keep the text-formatting tool-window open on the last tab if you want to see the active style.

I will describe the preparation-steps to assign your favourite text-style to the F11 key exclusively

First, create a new e-mail and type some text. Set the font, size and paragraph spacing using the text-formatting tool-window, accessible by the menu Text > Text Properties (or simply Ctrl-k).

On the last tab in the text-formatting tool-window, press “Redefine Style…”, select *Basic and click [Ok].

Favourite text style IBM Notes

Next, click on the [Assign to Keyboard] button and make sure only the *Basic style has a checkmark in front of it. Click [Ok] to close the “Redefine Paragraph Style” window.

Assign to keyboard IBM Notes
After this, you are able to apply your favourite text-style to any selected rich-text and hitting F11.

Artificial Intelligence? No, Chatbots are dumber than you think

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If you are a tech fan or an IT professional, you know that Artificial Intelligence is one of the trendiest topics in tech right now. Discussions, different opinions, apocalyptic scenarios like in Hollywood movies, positive implementation of AI for enterprises. In other words, everyone is nowadays talking about AI in all different sauces. But, have you ever asked yourself what exactly AI is? And what exactly AI is not (yet)?

Well, in this article, we want to focus our attention not only on AI but also on cognitive computing and chatbots, IBM Watson chatbots specifically.

What is Artificial Intelligence

John McCarthy first coined the term artificial intelligence in 1956 when he invited a group of researchers from a variety of disciplines including language simulation, neuron nets, complexity theory and more to a summer workshop called the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence to discuss what would ultimately become the field of AI. At that time, the researchers came together to clarify and develop the concepts around “thinking machines”.

Artificial Intelligence Today, modern dictionary definitions talk about AI as a sub-field of computer science and how machines can imitate human intelligence. For example, the English Oxford Dictionary recites: “AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Despite the definitions, instead of talking about artificial intelligence many people describe the current wave of AI innovation with terms like cognitive computing or smart applications, intelligent application, predictive applications etc. Despite the term issues, artificial intelligence is essential for and in, among others, information management, healthcare, life sciences, data analysis, digital transformation, security, smart building technologies, robotics and so on.

What is the difference between AI and cognitive computing?

Cognitive computing might be closer to the idea of artificial intelligence. What’s the difference? As VDC Research IoT analyst Steve Hoffenberg explains, an AI and a cognitive computing system would approach a data-intensive task quite differently.
Imagine that both an AI and a cognitive system had to analyse a huge database of medical records and journal articles to determine treatment for a patient. “In an artificial intelligence system,” says Hoffenberg, “the system would have told the doctor which course of action to take based on its analysis. In cognitive computing, the system provides information to help the doctor decide.”
Cognitive systems are designed to solve problems the way humans solve problems, by thinking, reasoning and remembering. As Saffron Technology explains, this approach gives cognitive computing systems an advantage allowing them to “learn and adapt as new data arrives” and to “explore and uncover things you would never know to ask about.” In other words, cognitive computing is considered the ability of computers to stimulate and complement humans’ cognitive abilities of decision making. But cognitive computing is not responsible for making a decision for humans. On the other hand, artificial intelligence is not intended to mimic human thoughts and processes, but to solve a problem through the use of the best possible algorithm. AI is responsible for making decisions, thus minimizing the role of humans.

In this context, where do Chatbots fit in?

Chatbots are computer programs that mimic conversation with people using cognitive computing. This means that chatbots are learning from human input, not able to make decisions, learn or think by themselves.

Chat-botA few years ago when chatbots started being popular, there was a lot of talk around what a chatbot actually was. Natural language processing and machine learning techniques, some of the more advanced conversational applications wanted to differentiate themselves from their competition by calling themselves “virtual assistants.” This implied that they were more powerful than existing chatbots, being able to cover a wider range of topics.
However, the market appeared not to care that much about the different names, as far as chatbots or other applications were able to solve the right problems. This is why many of these different terms for bots became synonymous with each other. The thing they all have in common is that they are all able to have a conversation with you.

What is important to have in mind when talking about chatbots is that, based on the purpose they were created for, there are many types of chatbots that give different end-user experiences:

1. Support chatbots

Support chatbots are built to master a single domain, like knowledge about a company. Support chatbots need to have personality, multi-turn capability, and context awareness. They should be able to walk a user through any major business processes and answer a wide range of FAQ-type questions. Speech is an optional feature, and not a necessity since users typically have sat down at a desktop and are ready to figure out their solution.

2. Skills chatbots

Skills chatbots are typically more single-turn-type bots that do not require a lot of contextual awareness. They have set commands that are intended to make life easier: “Turn on my living room lights,” for example. Speech functionality is recommended for this type of chatbot. They should be able to follow commands quickly so that your users can multitask while engaging with the bot.

3. Assistant chatbots

Assistant chatbots are more or less a middle ground between support and skills bots. They work best when they know a little bit about a variety of topics. Many people envision these bots will someday become navigators of all other bots. Want to pay a bill? Ask your assistant bot to talk to the support bot for your bank. Assistant chatbots need to be conversational and respond to anything while being as entertaining as possible. Siri is a good, current example. When building an assistant chatbot, it is important to make it as obvious as possible how the bot is trained. The range of questions a user might ask is large, so making sure you have adequate coverage is going to be the most difficult factor.

Our expert talks about chatbots and IBM Watson

Tim Van der Hoek is our developer and he is specifically specialized in chatbots. His opinion about chatbots?

“Chatbots are dumber than what people think”

IBM WatsonDuring a workshop in Amsterdam this year about IBM Watson, the chatbot expert explained that chatbots are should not be considered artificial intelligence, since AI bots are able to learn by themselves, without the human input. That’s why chatbots are different.
Specifically, chatbots from IBM Watson need help and input from humans. A chatbot can only answer questions that are filled in advance in the admin panel by an administrator of the chatbot.
For example:
When you are making a bot, the admin has to create a “dialog”, meaning a conversation within the chatbot who simulates a conversation with an end user. The admin has to predict what people or users will ask to the bot and fill in the information related to some ‘triggers’. All the questions not related to the established triggers will not be answered by the chatbot. That is what makes IBM Watson chatbots different from AI, even though most people think chatbots are AI.

Nowadays, a lot of businesses that have support functionalities chose to create chatbots on their website, so they don’t have to hire people to answer FAQ or other simple and common questions. Moreover, the enterprise uses of AI to improve employees’ productivity for business purposes is already a topic of discussion. According to Tim, also chatbots will evolve in AI with access to big data in the near future. But which will be the consequences when the human input is not needed anymore?

Migrating Domino or Lotus Notes applications

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It can be quite a challenge to migrate ANY application to another platform. A few of the most difficult topics when migrating are to preserve most of the functionalities people are used to, and to migrate the existing data.  Lotus Notes applications are usually used for many years and hold a lot of valuable information, making migration a not so easy task.

In the current IT landscape, moving applications to the Cloud is becoming the norm. The question that arises is: “Can we move our Lotus Notes application to the Cloud?”

And the short answer is “Yes”. But you probably do not want to use Lotus Notes clients anymore.

 

Moving Lotus Notes applications to the Web

What if you move your Lotus Notes application to the Web first? This would give the users a modern web application, making this platform and device independent and cloud-enabled.

If you have a Domino environment, and you are considering to migrate, you need to look at all your options. And moving applications to the web is quite a good option.

Personally, I developed a lot of applications and a lot of different platforms and to be honest, I really like the Domino server a lot. Yes, the platform has disadvantages, and some odd things too, but it is worth it to at least consider a path to migrate applications to a web frontend.

 

Some of the Domino advantages:

 

Domino

 

* Very robust

In comparison with other platforms, I find the Domino platform far ahead on this topic. You really need to do stupid things or throw a lot of data to cause issues. This also helps a lot to reduce the overall running costs.

 

* Easy setup

The administration and setup are not that hard. And the development environment is pretty straightforward. I saw other platforms that take days to set up a correct working development environment and had a lot of dependencies on components/programs (dependencies tend to make things fragile).

 

* Low on hardware costs

This topic is usually underexposed, but I think those costs could really matter. If I compare the domino platform with other platforms like Microsoft SharePoint, or web environments like LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql, PHP/Python) Domino is doing a great job with fewer costs.

 

* Rapid Application Development

This is something I want to emphasize. If you know some tips and tricks on how to develop Web applications for Domino, you will be able to make huge steps in a small amount of time (I made a JSON API with 10 small lines of code… that is just WOW).  If (web)developers can think out of the box and do not use some of the default Lotus Notes components, they can really bend this system in every way they want.

 

rapid development

 

* Out of the box default features

A few standard features that are just great are: Security, replication across multiple servers, full-text indexing, speed, templating capabilities.

 

There are disadvantages too:

 

* “Not sexy”

The domino platform is often seen as a legacy platform. And yes, this is one of the biggest downsides of using Domino. This “feeling” is not easy to ignore and does not go away easily. A fact is that the decision making persons often take the safe path, and do not want to be associated with anything that feels like a legacy.

 

* IBM’s progress with the Domino platform has not been something to be happy about

I do feel that they are making progress now because the development has been assigned to an external company called HCL, but that needs time. The new version has out of the box JSON API’s and can run Node.js.

 

* Good developers are not always web developers

Good Lotus Notes developers are NOT by default good Web developers. Web development is quite different. You need to train developers. But this is a common issue. Good developers are hard to find anyway (on any platform). Despite this, a lot can be achieved with training.

 

Migrating a Lotus Notes application to the Web is certainly a way to preserve your data and to be more future proof. There are many suppliers on the market that offer toolings or help you to migrate your application to the web. Or you can do it yourself (you may want to consider training if you do). But if you see the advantages that the Domino platform has to offer… then it should be a real option.

 

“At Silverside we strongly believe that you should use the things you have to the maximum”