The Three Sides of Domino Development

We often refer to Domino development as if it is a craft that is practiced by a single homogenous group of developers when in reality Domino development tends to be undertaken by three distinct types of developer. This is part of the challenge that IBM and HCL faces in mapping out a future for the Domino platform. Trying to decide the extent to which they want to target each of these distinct styles of application development.

Enterprise Developers

Professional developers who are usually well skilled in software engineering and a wide range of development tools. There are a few who focus on the Domino platform, but for many Enterprise developers the Domino platform is something they are only called upon to work with from time to time. For them Domino, and especially DDE is too constraining for them to work with often making their experience a frustrating one. e.g. Eclipse may have a good editor for Java, but the JavaScript editor is crap. It is doubtful Domino (DDE) will ever provide a comprehensive platform for Enterprise developers as their demands are too great, and constantly evolving. At best we can make their experiences with Domino a pleasant one by opening up the platform to support many of the tools commonly used and expected by Enterprise developers.

During yesterday’s Domino 2025 webinar we were given some indications of important changes to cater for these developers. This includes a move towards open IDEs that is likely to see support for native Eclipse as well as Visual Studio. Support for Node.js and the integration of LoopBack should all improve the platform’s relevance for Enterprise developers. Stronger support for Docker, OAuth, and other open standards will also be a big help with this crowd.

Notes (aka RAD) Developers

These are the group of developers, very common on the Domino platform, that don’t always have formal training in software development but became attracted to software development because they enjoyed working with the Domino platform. Often many Notes developers started out as Citizen developers. It is this group more than any other that account for the passion in the Domino community. I am sure other communities have this style of developer but they form a very distinct role in the world of Domino applications.

I have seen many Notes developers (including myself) struggle with the growing complexities of the Domino platform since Notes 8 and the advent of Eclipse, XPages, JavaScript, Java, Source Code, REST APIs etc.

The addition of Node.js may be a little daunting at first, but it has the potential of allowing Notes developers to start building skills that will make the relevant in the broader development world. Likewise the addition of LoopBack and Swagger/OpenAPI should help these developers to generate REST APIs for their applications with little or no extra effort. The separation of Domino from Eclipse into a leaner client should also help simplify the life of a Domino developer. Better support for building mobile applications is also going to be important as traditional mobile development platforms often fall outside the comfort zone of many Notes developers.

Citizen Developers

The final group of developers is now known as Citizen developers. These were once the backbone of Domino development at its peak. These were the initial target for the early versions of Notes, but as later versions of the product tried to expand the reach of the product upwards towards Enterprise developers the platform became less appealing to this group of developers. The slowdown in the growth of applications can be traced back to the gradual disappearance of Citizen developers as corporate IT departments sought to consolidate and control the Domino platform. Today there is nowhere near the same level of enthusiasm for this style of development and in many companies the IT department actively discourage it.

I got the impression during the Domino 2025 Jam session that the importance of this group of Domino developers was acknowledged by IBM/HCL but I did not see a lot in yesterday’s announcements specifically targeted at this group. Perhaps because to appeal to this audience in 2018 and beyond it is going to require a lot more work than can be accomplished as part of Domino 10. This has certainly been an area of attention for Red Pill, Now with its Red Pill DIG product. IBM have already started to focus its attention on this group of developer with LiveGrid, a low-code development platform for Connections scheduled to be released later this year.

XPages

There are a lot of differing views about the future of XPages. As I see it, the biggest issue with XPages has been that it was too complicated for the majority of Notes Developers and didn’t go far enough for Enterprise developers. So it has been trapped in that middle ground between the two groups and well out of reach of the Citizen developer who were forced to seek greener pastures if they wanted to solve their business needs with simple, easy to use software AND make them accessible via a  Web browser.

Domino 10

It is my expectation that Domino 10 is going to start opening up the Domino platform for Enterprise Developers at the same time as make some important in-roads that will allow Notes developers to do what they enjoy, producing web and mobile applications without the complexities that come from XPages and Eclipse.

Domino 2025

If Domino is to make its mark and once again define Groupware I am sure it will do that by once again empowering citizen developers to build modern solutions for their business needs at the same time as supporting the distinctly different needs of Notes and Enterprise developers. All for one and one for all.

Peter Presnell
Peter Presnell
CEO at Red Pill NOW. Strategist, technologist, blogger, presenter, and IBM Champion 2011/12. For years many companies have invested heavily in the Notes/Domino platform and I see my role as helping to find paths forward for that investment.

1 Comment

  1. Paul Withers says:

    It seems to me that the biggest barrier to citizen developers for some years now hasn’t been the platform, but IT policies around development and deployment. I’ve seen a lot of processes moved outside applications as a result, even an increase in (IMHO bad practice) use of spreadsheets. I’m not sure that’s something IBM/HCL can fix in the context of Domino Designer. I’d prefer that to be left for Live Grid or whatever the final name will be. There are benefits in building from scratch with modern technologies (HTML5 etc) as well as not having the baggage of the negative perception of “Lotus Notes”. There are also benefits in streamlining what Domino is aimed at and not spreading resources too thinly.

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