Migrating Lotus Notes Contacts During an Exchange Migration

When organizations are making the move from Domino-based messaging over to Exchange-based messaging, the question of how to migrate personal contacts becomes a question that always leaves room for questions.

Lotus Notes Migration ActionsFirst off, let’s discuss how contacts work within a Lotus Notes client.  In a Lotus Notes client, each user has a Personal Address Book typically with a file name of names.nsf within the local Notes Client Data path.  Regardless of the type of workstation implementation, (single or multi-user) the file is usually specific to the person logged into Lotus Notes.  When a user saves a contact or email address, it is stored within this personal address book.  If the user is not a mobile user, or a user with a connected mobile device, there typically is not a need to synchronize these contacts with their mail file.  If users are using iNotes or a mobile device, then the contacts can be synchronized a number of different ways.

The purpose of synchronization is to enable the user to access their personal contacts and groups via iNotes or connected devices such as smartphones or tablets.  The question is why not do this for everyone?  The reason is simple.  It adds resources to the server and to the workstation.
Well, just how can these local contacts be synchronized with the server-based mail file?

With older clients, the synchronization can be done via an action in the mail file.  This action is accessed via the Actions Menu item and is called Synchronize Address Book.  This will synchronize the local address book with the $Contacts view of the user’s mail file.  This method has issues in that it requires end user training.  While it is easy to inform your users which action to use, you cannot be sure they will pick the right one.  For example, if a user were to choose Send Memo to Database Manager, the user would not know for sure if this was the intended action.  Similarly, if they chose to Upgrade Folder Design, again they may, or may not know, if this is right.  Another issue with this method is that the Administrators have no reportable information if the end user has performed the action or not, let alone doing it correctly. 

With Lotus Notes 8.0 and higher clients, IBM introduced a new feature, which allows users to enable a workstation preference to synchronize the contacts via the Replication and Sync tab of the Notes Client.  This feature will keep the local names.nsf and the $Contacts view synchronized.  This now allows mobile devices and iNotes users full access to personal contacts and groups.  The issue with this method is that the activation is a manual process.  So in this case, it requires reliance on the end user or field engineers to perform the required actions.  Plus, we still do not have any audit or reporting on whom this process is properly completed or not.
Of course these solutions do not meet all needs for every environment.  Based on what we at Binary Tree have seen when migrating Domino-based email over to Exchange, keeping contact data synchronized is always a key aspect of end user satisfaction.  Users create personal address book entries to make their life easier.  If migrations transpire without the users contacts being included, this may lead to a perception that not all of their data was brought across.  

Lotus Notes Contacts MigrationIn Domino 8.5.2 or higher environments, IBM has taken this Workstation Synchronization to a new level. Administrators can apply a Desktop Policy option that will enable this feature on all client workstations.  To set this policy, the Administrator should access the policies via the Administrative client. This is set in the Contacts section of the Desktop Settings policydocument.  You can enable “Synchronize Contacts” on the Replicator and enable this feature at an organizational policy level. The advantage of this process is that it does not require any user training, does not require any field engineers to visit each workstation and lastly will keep the data synchronized.

Exchange Migration Desktop SettingsWe regularly encounter environments that do not utilize these advanced features in Domino.  As a result, there is still a need to automate the synchronization of these contacts.  In Binary Tree’s CMT for Exchange software, this is addressed by sending the user a customizable Lotus Notes based email with a button.  This button contains the exact same code that is incorporated into the first option, the Actions menu item.  As a result, the user’s personal contacts and groups are now incorporated into the mail file for address translation and migration to Exchange.  However, what is different is this; the email will also notify our software that this particular user has completed the action.  This email then is used by an automated agent to identify that this user in particular has completed our request.  Due to the fact our CMT for Exchange software is based within Lotus Notes, workflow opportunities now allow it to promote the user forward in the process to the user provisioning part of the tool.