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Notes outsourcing: Where and when

As in other areas of IT, outsourcing of Notes and Domino administration and maintenance is something of a trend. Surprisingly, this may be truer in small firms, where fewer desktops are being administered.

As in other areas of IT, outsourcing of Notes and Domino administration and maintenance is something of a trend. Surprisingly, this may be truer in small firms, where fewer desktops are being administered.

Notes' support of collaboration, in fact, helps would-be outsourcers as they look to get jobs in the Notes/Domino space. Unlike some other software types, Notes/Domino may be more applicable for outsourcing by smaller organizations.

Firms that either cannot afford a full-time Notes/Domino specialist or whose existing staff is maxed out are increasingly outsourcing ongoing tasks like managing user accounts and one-time tasks such as performing security audits, installing log-in tools, troubleshooting e-mail infrastructures, fixing routing and replication problems, correcting broken connection documents and performing version upgrades.

Less broad knowledge of Notes/Domino is at issue as well. While new people are always entering the Notes/Domino field, people leave the field, too. That can have an impact on managers' views on outsourcing Notes/Domino work.

"It's a little harder to find skilled Notes/Domino people these days, both inside and outside organizations," said Chuck Connell, president of CHC-3 Consulting, a Woburn, Mass., firm that specializes in helping firms that have installed Notes and/or Domino.

Although administrative items that need to be changed every day, such as user accounts, are not always good candidates for being outsourced, that is not necessarily the case with Notes/Domino, according to some observers. At least a few consultants said Notes- and Domino-related functions are particularly conducive to being outsourced, and list three reasons for this.

Reason No. 1: Because Notes was designed with remote collaboration in mind.

Because of these traits, a remote system administrator can be easily integrated into the Domino infrastructure, said Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, CEO of Maarga Systems, a software development firm in Chennai, India. Furthermore, he said, fine-grained security and auditing capabilities in Domino Administrator make for easy access control for remote administrators.

Excellent Notes and Domino administrative access enables this. "For 99% of the things an organization wants me to do with a Domino server -- creating user accounts, fixing security problems, turning on new features -- I can do them from my office as well as if I were standing in the computer room," Connell said. "Last year I did a project for a company in Hong Kong. At night they would open up their firewall and I did the job while they were sleeping."

Reason No. 2: Domino lends itself to being outsourced in that "it's complicated," according to M. Shane Sturgeon, application manager and developer of Sturgeon Consulting, a Xenia, Ohio, Notes/Domino consultancy.

"Even someone with a good administrative background might have just enough familiarity with Domino -- or just not enough familiarity with ODBC -- to do things that can be dangerous." So, he noted, even a firm with a full-time Notes/Domino specialist might outsource something it doesn't do on a regular basis.

Reason No. 3: Notes and Domino are a good fit for smaller organizations.

"Lots of times, smaller organizations don't have a full-time person with experience with Notes and Domino on staff, so they'll outsource administrative stuff and two- to four-month projects," said Tim Corrigan, founder of Corrigan Consulting, a Notes/Domino consulting firm in Arlington Heights, Ill.

According to Connell, there are three things that Notes administrators do most often: create accounts for new employees, delete accounts for departing employees and reset passwords for people who've forgotten them. These tasks are simple to outsource, he said.

Of course, there are caveats. If an organization gets big enough, it will probably need someone to do these things 12 hours a day.

In that case, Connell said, having an in-house Notes administrator will be more cost-effective than outsourcing these functions.

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