Category Archives: General

More consolidation in the SharePoint space… Combined Knowledge Acquires Mindsharp

Combined Knowledge Expands International Training Offerings with the Acquisition of Mindsharp 
November 3, 2014 — Combined Knowledge announces the acquisition of Mindsharp, the US-based SharePoint training and education company
This historic move integrates two of the oldest and most respected educational companies in the SharePoint space under the same leadership.  Post acquisition, both companies will continue to operate as independent business units, with Combined Knowledge specializing in UK opportunities and Mindsharp continuing to focus on accounts in North America.”Our customers are not looking for traditional training providers; they need highly specialized, global partners who understand real business challenges and who can build custom educational programs and roadmaps based on the individual needs of a business,” states Steve Smith, CEO of Combined Knowledge. “With this acquisition, we now combine the North American reach and brand recognition of Mindsharp with the products, services, and training courseware from Combined Knowledge in the UK to provide an end-to-end education and adoption solution for customers on both continents.

Combined Knowledge and Mindsharp training offerings and support services lead the industry in SharePoint educational content and are available worldwide via training partners and resellers, including Microsoft Gold Certified partners.

Available training offerings include:

  • traditional classroom training
  • private, in-house custom workshops and courses
  • online courses and Computer-Based Training
  • custom video production
  • support and helpdesk products
  • just-in-time training and videos
  • on-demand digital training programs for long-term adoption
  • education for the entire workforce

“With both of these brands under one ownership, customers now have a single go-to supplier who can provide comprehensive training solutions,” continues Smith. “No other education provider in this sector can provide a comparable one-stop educational offering.”

For more information, contact:

Zoe Watson
Director, Sales and Marketing
Combined Knowledge
+44(0) 1455 200520

About Mindsharp

About Combined Knowledge

Have fun AND learn SharePoint stuffs? Join us at SharePointalooza in Branson, MO September 12th and 13!

SharePointalooza is less than two months away! SharePointalooza is a TWO DAY conference offering sessions and technical workshops on all things SharePoint, Office 365, and Yammer.  SharePointalozza takes place at Branson Landing in Branson, Missouri on September 12th and 13th.

Please allow us to take a few minutes to explain to you why you  should consider attending SharePointalooza.


PRICE – Most multi day SharePoint conferences cost at least $1000 in registration fees. Our registration starts at just $30. In addition, We worked out special rates with the Hilton Convention Center to offer a discounted rate of $139 per night. Other hotels in the area cost as little as $39.99 per night making SharePointalooza the most economical choice for your training dollars while bringing you the highest quality content.  SharePointalooza is a NOT for profit event and every dollar goes towards giving you a world class experience. However, we understand that money can be an issue, that’s why we are proud to offer FREE registration to those that need it. If you would like free general registration, just enter the code “SPSOZARKS” on the registration page:


OUR SPEAKERS – We are truly blessed to be hosting the greatest experts in SharePoint. You will not find a more world class list of speakers anywhere else.  These awesome SharePoint MVP’s and talented speakers from all over the world are coming down to support the community and have a great time.  We cannot stress enough how much we’re truly humbled by their experience and skill. This alone sets SharePointalooza apart.


WORKSHOPS– In addition to standard sessions we also offer more in-depth workshops that you will simply not find at other conferences.


LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION – The event is being held at a great location in Branson at a world class convention center. Directly across the street is Branson Landing which boasts of many shops and restaurants.


LIVE MUSIC – We’ve found some amazing bands from Chicago and Nashville and we are bringing them in to play on an awesome outdoor stage at night to give the attendees and speakers a chance to unwind after a day of learning.


SUPPORT – By attending SharePointalooza you are supporting efforts to continue to bring high quality technical conferences to the area. Without your attendance and support these events are not possible.


Registration is open! Register today at and we’ll see you soon!


For more information and a list of sessions check our out website at

My SP24 session – Life After IBM Lotus Notes – How To Successfully Transition To A SharePoint World

My SP24 session – Life After IBM Lotus Notes – How To Successfully Transition To A SharePoint World.

My SP24 session – Life After IBM Lotus Notes – How To Successfully Transition To A SharePoint World


Link to the conference room/recording:

Link to the Slideshare post:
First off, thank you to the organizers of SP24 for pulling off an incredible event (and for allowing me to speak at it!) The  platform and combination of technologies used to bring this together was impressive, and I know you all went a long way past “above and beyond” to make this happen. Thank you.

I presented a session titled Life After IBM Lotus Notes – How To Successfully Transition To A SharePoint World. It was a story of what I went through with our company’s migration from IBM Lotus Notes and Domino to Microsoft SharePoint. It was meant to help those facing the same type of situation (and there are a number that have/are doing just that), and to share some of the things I learned in hopes of saving people a few scrapes and bruises (or worse) along the way.

I was thrilled to see how many people were in the session, as well as the lively interaction in the chat area. Granted, I know a lot of the people who were there, and the banter was both technical and humorous. But it also confirmed to me that my story wasn’t some one-off outlier, and that my suggestions weren’t things from way out in left field. Again, thanks to everyone that was there and
helped contribute to the overall session.

It was WAY past my bedtime when I finished, and I was having problems trying to manage the chat window to answer questions than came up or that I didn’t touch on during the presentation. I copied the contents the next day, and this post is a follow-up to some of the themes and questions that didn’t get answered. Feel free to follow up with more questions, and I can either answer them here, create new blog posts, or maybe even do some one-off “presentation videos” that I could post to YouTube to cover topics. That’s stuff I’ve said I was going to do for a couple of years now, and this might be the motivation that gets me going down that road. 🙂

In the following paragraphs, I’m going to use the word “Notes” to mean “IBM Lotus Notes and IBM Lotus Domino” (or whatever the latest legal branding name  happens to be). If you see the word “Notes”, assume I mean all the stuff associated with Notes/Domino.

The main topics brought up in the chat in no particular order…

Letting Go Of The Emotions About Notes

This probably affected me more than any other single item in the transition from Notes to SharePoint, and none of it was based on technical factors…

In 1997, I attended my first Lotusphere after having worked with the software for less than six months. I sat in the opening general session with a “deer in the headlights” look, what with the music, lasers, smoke machines, and so forth. I came away from that event with a decision and vow that Notes was going to be the thing I became really good at. No more just “touching the surface” of what things like Cobol and Eztrieve could do.

Fast forward to now, and I look back and say I probably got to that point for myself and what I hoped for. I was never the sharpest technical tool in  the drawer, but I could share, help others, talk on stage, write articles and books, and make customers happy with applications we wrote for them. I was a “Notes Evangelist” in the truest sense of the word, and was emotionally “all in” when it came to the “Notes Is Good, Microsoft Is Evil” arguments. Given all that, you could reasonably expect that when it came time to start implementing Microsoft technology to replace Lotus in our company, I was devastated.

It’s taken me a number of years since 2009 (*way* too many) to finally switch my mindset and dump the baggage accumulated over the last 20 years. I’ll set aside the argument about “is Notes dead?” for some other time. What I *will* say is that technology is a tool to solve business issues. You don’t buy a wrench and practice wrench-fu to say you can fix anything and build everything with a wrench. You have a wrench to use as a tool to build something useful. You will have your favorite wrench, and some wrenches might be better to use in certain situations. But when you get done, you don’t look at a house or a car and say “wow, that was some master guru level wrench work there.” Instead, you hop in the car or go in the house and USE IT.

Now I can (better) look at Notes and SharePoint as tools to build business solutions. Each one has things they do better and worse than the other, and it may be that your particular situation dictates that you will use mostly wrenches instead of that nail gun that you think might be better or faster. Regardless, learn how to use the tools that make sense for your project, become good at them, and don’t get all caught up in arguing about tools. While you’re arguing over bradawls and stitching awls, someone will come by with a power drill and finish the job while you weren’t looking.

Community… It’s A REALLY Big Deal For Me

The Notes community was (and still is) one of the most incredible tech communities I’ve ever been part of. I have friends all over the world that I’ve worked with, spoken with, wrote with, debugged with, and gotten various levels of shattered with. You may only see each other once a year at a conference, but it’s as if you never left when you pick up where you left off. I’ve spent hours in a hotel buffet-type restaurant, listening to and crying with a friend going through a hard time in their life. Technology is secondary in those situations, and in fact will probably go away at some point. But those moments are the ones that remain forever, and that make all the difference in the world.

Moving away from Notes scared me, as I thought I would lose all that. We all thought that the “Yellow Bubble” was something that no other technology user community could experience.


The SharePoint community is just as vibrant and strong (and perhaps even more so) than the Notes community, and it feels EXACTLY THE SAME! The SharePoint conferences hosted by Microsoft have the feel and vibrancy of Lotusphere events of 1998 – 2001. The SharePoint community rock stars are people just like in the Notes community. They’re just as nice, just as proud of
their work, just as accessible to others, and have just as much fun when you put them together at some event.

Granted, you don’t get to go from “rock star” status in one community to “rock star” status in the other just because you got there once before. You don’t get to be a “name” when it comes to speaking until you work your way back up to that level and prove yourself once again. But if you come into the SharePoint community with the same mindset that you did for your Notes community involvement (I’m assuming you weren’t a jerk in the Notes community), you’ll find it’s just a matter of time before you don’t even notice the difference.

Leaving Notes is not the end of your world (unless you want it to be). It’s the people, not the technology. Starting SharePoint is the beginning of a whole new world, and I’ll venture to say that from a community perspective, you’ll feel very much at home.

60% – 20% – Everything Else

Back when Microsoft and vendors were pushing people hard to migrate from Notes, the common set of statistics about Notes apps were: 60% of your applications are unused, 20% are pure template-based applications, and the rest are custom applications that need to be analyzed for migration. I *hated* that set of stats, as I *knew* my environment better than that, and I *knew* we used most all our applications! Except that when we finished the analysis, we fell pretty much into that same pattern.

The main point to remember is that “I think” is trumped by “the analysis of our environment shows”. This is especially true if your application environment is large, it’s been in place for a long time, and you didn’t touch everything from day one. Your numbers might be the same, or they may be entirely different. But just make sure you take the time to do the impartial analysis to separate emotion/perception from reality.

The “G” Word

My experience says that people like to talk about governance of Notes or SharePoint environments, but no one wants to spend the time, effort, or resources to keep it going day in and day out. We didn’t have good governance in place for Notes for many reasons, one of which was the decentralized nature of Notes application development.

Expect that you’re going to find some really bizarre stuff in your Notes environment when you start to analyze it. Don’t beat yourself or others up for the lack of documentation or controls. That was life, it’s done, and now you move forward.

The best use of your time is figuring out what lessons you can learn from that, and then work on putting something better in place for your SharePoint controls. It’s still not going to be fun or easy, but you have the chance to start with a relatively clean page again.

Lots Of Silos In Them There Fields

Been there, done that… Many, many unused sites that were “HAVE TO HAVE IT NOW!” requests, as well as sites that recreated things that were already done somewhere else. Every Notes environment has that, and it’s incredibly easy to do exactly the same thing in SharePoint. I’ll leave the “how to apply governance to SharePoint” discussions and detail to speakers in the SharePoint community who specialize in that. Suffice it to say that you can recreate “Notes” in SharePoint (and not in a good way) with no problem at all. 🙂

Creating Rational Numbers From Your Migration Analysis

When we got the application analysis back from the vendor, the numbers were even more overwhelming than what they ended up being. 10000+ applications, hundreds of gigabytes of data, etc. This is where your knowledge of the environment comes into play, however.

If you have a hub and spoke Domino server environment, one application may show up as five in the analysis if you’re not careful (one hub replica and four spoke replicas). If you’re being quoted costs or efforts on the higher number, it’s
*completely* overstated. We rationalized our application down to 2200+ unique databases, and that’s the list we used to manage the effort over the next five years.

It’s still a lot of databases, but you’re not being charged for or having discussions about inflated work totals.

How Long Will This Take?

One of the chat comments about the amount of time it takes to migrate an application was “3x as long as it would take if I’d do it in Notes, and then hope to really deliver it 1.5 – 2x longer than notes, but still before I said it would be done.”  I find this painfully true. There are migration horror stories of companies spending millions to move a Notes application to something else, and 12 to 24 months later it’s still on Notes with no idea of when it will be moved.

If you’re paying vendors, it will take time and cost money. If you’re doing it all in-house, it may “cost less” but it will probably take a lot longer. If SharePoint is a brand-new platform, the learning curve will make it even longer on top of
that. It’s unfair to compare the amount of time it might take to develop an application in Notes and SharePoint unless you have expert developers in both. It’s likely your SharePoint developers are not yet experts, so don’t expect miracles.

Do I Need Migration Software?

Back when we looked at migration software, the main vendors were Casahl, Quest, and Binary Tree. They would offer a tool to analyze your environment (relatively inexpensive), and then they’d hope to use that information to help you migrate.

As I mentioned in the presentation, there is no silver bullet when it comes to migrating applications. If it’s a Notes database based on a standard template, the migration software works well. If it’s a Notes application with custom code,
you’ll have some level of manual effort to migrate… there’s no other way around it.

I *strongly* suggest you use one of the analysis tools to look at your environment from a non-emotional perspective. Once you have those numbers, you can figure out the best way to move forward based on your budget and needs. But don’t accept any “we can have your environment migrated in just a few months” statements. It doesn’t work that way.

Hello? Who’s Here?

I lived on the database access logs to find out who was using what. Still, some databases didn’t have that turned on, and others didn’t go back very far. Once that usage data is gone, there’s no good way to recreate it or generate equivalent

My recommendation in those cases is to set up some hidden views to look at all documents by created or modified date. In some cases, it may well be a “take your best guess” to figure out how much/little the site is being used. My archiving/obsoleting/”ask forgiveness vs. permission” technique helped me pull that off in nearly all cases.

Migrating For Mobile First

Migrating Notes applications to SharePoint with a mind towards mobile access wasn’t a “thing” when we were doing this starting in 2009. I’m going to contend that a Notes migration to SharePoint doesn’t, in and of itself, have anything to do with mobile.

OK, light the torches and hand out the pitchforks…

Here’s my point… If you’re going to try and make the case that it’s easy to mobilize Notes applications with vendor tools or XPages, you are probably still fighting to keep your company from moving away  from Notes (or you’re trying to sell a tool to mobilize Notes applications). I’m working from the point in time where the decision has been made that you *will* be moving away from Notes. If you can convince your company otherwise, rock on!

The other argument is that your new SharePoint applications should be mobile-ready vs. the old Notes application. *THAT* is correct. However, that’s a decision you’ll need to make on an application-by-application basis, not at the level of “we’re moving away from Notes”.

Most all of your SharePoint applications are going to run in a web browser, so that’s already one-up on Notes client applications. How well they work on (or even *if* they need to work on) mobile devices is a decision you should make as part of your application analysis when you’re moving a Notes database to a SharePoint site.

SharePoint Out-of-the-box Functionality 

One question that came up was about how functional and easy it is to get “out of the box” functionality in SharePoint. At least the way I read the question, it sounded like it was from a viewpoint of what it took to develop a SharePoint application (probably as compared to a Notes application).

My statement about having an abundance of out-of-the-box functionality was based more on the ability to create quick no-code solutions without having an IT geek on hand. In addition, there’s a lot of things that you can do between Office applications (like export a SharePoint list to Excel) with simple menu options.

Most of those features are truly “out of the box” for the business. It does take work to set other features up, like some business intelligence features, data connectors, etc. But that would take time and effort to set up in either environment.

Can We Shut Down Notes Now?

This might have been my biggest frustration… It was (and still is to a much smaller degree) extremely difficult to get people to understand the difference between “the migration is done” and “we’re turning off the Notes servers”.

I ended up taking the approach of telling people that migration meant “ending active use of all Notes applications. Turning off all Domino servers could only happen once all data retention requirements had been addressed and accomplished.”

I figured that continuing to answer “we’re turning off Notes” with “no, you’re not” wasn’t getting me anywhere. 🙂

Migration Or Site Templates To Beg/Borrow/Steal? 

I would suggest going to, which is Microsoft’s open-source software site for community contributions. That’s where you’ll find some great things that others have shared.

Don’t Neglect Training…

Training is important, and the larger the company the harder it is. Part of the reason people “hate Notes” seems to be because they don’t know how to use it at an optimal level. If you don’t train people on how to use SharePoint, you’ll hear the same complaint.

The problem is that everyone learns differently. Some people are visual learners, some need to be hands-on. Some need a classroom environment, others are OK with a book or web page. And we need to face it… some people just don’t care and won’t learn regardless of what you do.

Bottom line… factor in training to your migration to help mitigate the “I hate…” syndrome.

What’s Cheaper: Notes Or SharePoint?

There were some questions about whether Notes or SharePoint is more expensive. It’s a bit like asking “What’s better? A boat or a car?” It all depends on your situation…

I don’t know or participate in licensing talks or decisions. I’m perfectly happy with that, as I’m primarily a developer. Where I have options about costs is when you’re winding down your Notes environment. To the best of my knowledge (as in every IBMer I’ve asked has told me the same thing), the checks you write to IBM for Notes/Domino have to do with maintenance. You
can continue to use the Notes/Domino software at the level you’re at for as long as you want for no cost… if you choose not to renew your maintenance agreement. You can’t upgrade, you can’t call in for support, etc. But you can use it forever as-is. I know people who are still using version 5 of Notes/Domino.

In that situation, it costs you “nothing” to run a Notes/Domino environment if you’re not doing much with it. If you’re only running a single Domino server to allow people to see archived content if needed, then you really don’t need maintenance (in my opinion).

If your company is very risk-adverse, they may choose to pay the maintenance costs (and I’m sure IBM will thank you). But if you want to assume some level of risk (and I’ll maintain it can be pretty low), the price becomes pretty cheap.

I know there are costs associated with running servers, having people manage IDs, etc. But towards the end of your Notes/Domino lifespan, those tasks are likely just “on occasion” things, and there’s little dedicated things in place that
ONLY focus on Notes/Domino.


Dealing with the message “The current page has been customized from its template. Revert to template.”

I ran into this particular issue a while back when someone used SharePoint Designer to modify a page based on the default design template.  This is the blog post I found that covered the issue as well as any other:

Sohel ran into the same problem that I did… the two solutions you can use end up having other side effects that aren’t very desirable in many situations. You end up making a fix for this problem message, and then you have to make another fix to fix the side effect, and so on and so on. Pretty soon you’re building a house of cards made up of band-aids over band-aids.

My point here isn’t so much on how to fix this problem. Instead, it’s an observation that at times it’s best to tell the business customer “it’s not worth it to make that modification you wanted.” In my case, they tweaked the page to remove something they “didn’t like”. It wasn’t something that was broken… they just didn’t like that the page used certain wording.

At times I long for the days of large mainframe green screen applications where people had to use what was put in front of them. Application development these days allows everyone to have an opinion of what’s “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. Unfortunately, all opinions are not created equal, and telling me you showed it to your sister and she didn’t understand it is not a valid reason to get whatever changes you want.

Ok… enough with this writing and blogging “burnout”…

There are too many things I’m forgetting or not talking about in the SharePoint world, so back to it. 🙂

Help Send D’arce Hess to the World Championships

In her words:

“I am raising money to compete in the 2013 World Para-Archery Championships being held in Thailand in November 2013. I have competed in two previous world championships as well as in several international competitions and the Para-Pan American Games where I won the Bronze medal for the USA.”

D’arce is a well-known member of the SharePoint community, and it’d be great to see everyone pitch in to help her raise the funds she needs to make it to the championships.

If you’d like to contribute, her fundraising page is here:

I’m starting to hang out at

A new collaborative SharePoint site and space recently started up called SharePoint Community. For a new effort, I must stay I’m surprised with the number of features and ways to interact with other SharePoint Community members. It’s a great initial start, and I’m interested to see how it evolves over time.

Having been a long-time member of the IBM Notes/Domino community, I’ve seen these types of efforts many times in the past. Some have grandiose plans but never get off the ground. Others have a good initial start, but the initial momentum isn’t sustained and it withers away. A very few start up well, evolve based on feedback, and sustain their momentum over time. Those are the ones that become a great contribution to the overall community and make a difference.

It’s hard (actually, pretty much impossible) to tell with any certainty which path a new site like SharePoint Community will take. Especially being “new” to the larger SharePoint community, I don’t know what type of dynamics are at play, if there are back stories that give a new site more context, and so forth. Those things make a big difference, and I was much more in tune with those in my past life. 🙂

For me, SharePoint Community is a way I’ve chosen to jumpstart my involvement in my interactions with others. I’ve already seen value over the first week of being there, and I hope that continues to grow over time.

If you haven’t heard of SharePoint Community or you haven’t yet signed up, now’s a good time to head over there and take a couple minutes to get going.

And if you happen to see my name, say hi! I don’t bite… much.

Starting a new blog/Twitter account for sharing SharePoint jobs…

In my life as part of the IBM Notes/Domino community, I run a blog called Lotus Jobs.  This was a “pay it forward” project of mine to share potential job opportunities I’d run across on Google News Alerts, in hopes that people who were out of work could find a new home somewhere.  I worked at Enron at the time of the implosion, so I know what that unemployed feeling is like.  It’s NOT pleasant…  I post whatever I find in a single daily post, and then tweet it on an account called @LotusWatch.  That account follows no one, as it’s more of a broadcast mechanism to reach people who are interested.

I’m taking this concept and starting the same thing on the SharePoint side.  I realize the effort of finding a SharePoint job is far easier right now than finding a Notes job, but still… if it helps someone, it’s worth doing.

The new blog is SharePoint Jobs.  The new Twitter account is @SPJobWatch.  When I make my daily job post on the blog, I’ll tweet it on my personal Twitter account along with the @SPJobWatch account.  I’ll probably also put a link on Google+ just to make things more visible.

If you’re interested, feel free to follow the Twitter account, subscribe to the blog, put the blog on your RSS reader, etc.  I’ve done the Lotus Jobs blog concept for over a year, so it’s an ingrained habit.  Unless I get some major negative feedback over this new effort, I think this should become part of my daily routine.

All journeys start somewhere… this one starts here.

Welcome… I’m Thomas Duff, aka “Duffbert”.  I’ve been writing as part of my technical career for years, with the hub of much of what I do over on my original blog at Duffbert’s Random Musings.  Little did I know when I started blogging nearly 10 years ago, it would take me places I never imagined.

SharePoint Duffbert is a new blog effort I’m starting as I get more focused on the next phase of my technical career.  For the last 15 or so years, I’ve been working with collaborative software as a developer using IBM Lotus Notes and Domino.  Contrary to what many others may think, Notes (as I’ll refer to it for brevity’s sake), is an extremely powerful application development platform.  I started Duffbert’s Random Musings as a way to share Notes knowledge in that community.  I also inserted a lot who I am, my struggles, my opinions, and as time went on, more book reviews than you would probably believe.  But basically, that blog is more personal and more Notes-related, and that’s not really where I’m at right now.

SharePoint Duffbert will be my platform to share tips and tricks as I stumble along the SharePoint path with many others on the same journey.  I’m sure there will be editorial pieces, perhaps even some videos… And if things go the way I expect them to, there will be presentations made at SharePoint gatherings such as SharePoint Saturdays, User Group Meetings, and… ?  I’ve co-authored two books in the IBM world on Sametime, so it’s not like I would rule that out completely either.

Anyway, I want SharePoint Duffbert to retain who I am as a person in the tech industry, while also focusing the topics at hand to be SharePoint-related.  There will be far more development information than administration material.  In the Lotus/Domino world, I was a developer who had just enough admin skills to be dangerous to myself and others.  For SharePoint, my learning curve for just development will be so steep that I don’t even want to pretend that I know what will happen when I click something in Central Admin.  That’s what I have coworkers for at this point in my career… 🙂

So again, I welcome you here.  While I’m documenting things I’ve learned on a daily basis, I hope that you’ll come along and pick up a thing or two.  We’ll work out the details as we go, and hopefully have some laughs and a beer or two along the way… or a Midori Sour… those are *really* good…