LOTUSPHERE - Notes client creates training hurdle for customers

While Lotus Development blames the Y2K scare and last year's tardy release of Domino for the slow adoption rate of R5, there is another issue that is giving network managers pause.

The R5 client, with its slick new Web-like interface, is becoming a cost issue because end users are requiring additional training to master the interface, according to some enterprise customers.

Lotus officials downplay the issue, saying training costs exist with any new interface, but users say the totally redesigned Notes client presents a significant hurdle.

The R5 version of the Notes client and the Domino server are important technologies for Lotus' strategy on knowledge management and multiclient support. These topics were key agenda items at this week's Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.

The 4.6 interface featured Lotus' traditional database tiles, but the R5 interface looks more like a Web page. Databases are instead displayed in a hierarchical pull-down menu, and the entire desktop can be customised.

"The client is the issue. We have already moved to the server," said Ron Shoults, information technology secretary for The Salvation Army. "At the handful of clients that I have rolled out, the users have gone back to the old interface. We now have a back end that we can't fully exploit."

The R5 client includes a feature that lets users display their desktops with the familiar tiles instead of the Weblike interface.

"The upgrade costs us nothing, but the cost of training end users is higher than we anticipated," says Craig Lockwood, Lotus Notes support manager for the DMR Consulting Group in Edison, New Jersey. "We are looking at a cost well into six figures."

The bright spot for Lockwood, however, is that on the administration side "the R5 server is exactly what we should be doing." Lockwood cites better performance and administration tools.

Lotus officials denied that training issues were contributing to the delay in the rollout of Domino. Departing CEO Jeff Papows said estimates of a 20 percent migration rate are probably a little generous. He said the low adoption rate, however, is not because the software is difficult to deploy.

Mike Zisman, Lotus' executive vice president, emphatically stated that training is not the issue. "We are not getting that feedback. The R5 issue is Y2K," he said.

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