Baltimore to Pay Consultant $176,800 to Help Police Department Maintain Lotus Notes

Megalith

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Since 1996, the Baltimore Police Department has been using Lotus Notes to track criminal investigations, check arrest data, log ballistic test results, and identify “troubled officers." Despite being outdated and buggy, in that users are finding it increasingly harder to match, verify, or search for information, city officials have approved plans to keep the system running by paying big bucks to a single consultant.

“It’s intriguing to me that we’d be investing so much into Lotus Notes when we know it’s an outdated system and we know through the technology study that we need to update Lotus Notes, along with a bunch of other systems,” he said. “I'll be asking the Baltimore Police Department, ‘Why we are still with Lotus Notes? And when will we make an investment in a new, 21st century system?’”
 

Mugato

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I'm guessing the Mayor's cousin is a lotus notes consultant.
I would bet you are right. For that price, they can use any number of different OCR software DB's. I mean a NUMBER of them and have it fully implemented and trained on.
 
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Our company has switched away from Lotus Notes for the most part. The problem really is that for better or worse, Lotus Notes has a lot of functionality that has to be very much custom implemented, and after years or decades of having entrenched itself, it really is not easy to replace. I can sort of understand their move if they also announced plans to transition away from Notes in the future.

$180K may be a little much, but anyone in IT knows how expensive that sort of specialized knowledge is, especially if it is an IBM consultant (I could not read the article due to paywall), however, re-writing the apps and rebuilding databases etc in a different system would most likely explode that budget many fold.
 

darckhart

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Probably cheaper to pay that one dude than switch over to something more "popular and mainstream" and have to require a full IT team to manage staff that now needs training on the new software, probably clicks on malware infested docs, tons of filesharing issues, permissions, etc
 

ChoGGi

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$180K may be a little much, but anyone in IT knows how expensive that sort of specialized knowledge is, especially if it is an IBM consultant (I could not read the article due to paywall), however, re-writing the apps and rebuilding databases etc in a different system would most likely explode that budget many fold.
That 180K is for two years, sounds to me like a bargain for dealing with Notes...

Notes may be outdated, but I also doubt they have the budget to convert it over to anything else at the moment.
 

DocNo

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Our company has switched away from Lotus Notes for the most part. The problem really is that for better or worse, Lotus Notes has a lot of functionality that has to be very much custom implemented.
Yup. I was a Notes admin for 12 years. The first four I hated it :) But once you got past the ugly UI (which has dramatically improved with Notes 8 and beyond) there is a lot of power there. I've yet to find anything it's equal for handling unstructured data and building workflows around it; especially if you need granular security - and encryption? Just check a box. Fully integrated PKI from day one.

We automated some financial workflows in less than two weeks with Notes. A few years later they took a year and a half and still couldn't match all the functionality with some Java app on top of Oracle. And no encryption either. Many organizations still running Notes are doing so because maintenance is way cheaper than a rewrite of some Notes apps. Heck the org I work for now moved off of Notes to Google apps for business 8 years ago but still has Notes around for several apps that are too expensive to rewrite vs. just maintaining.

It was ugly, that's for sure - but there was so much power there. Oh well - Iris's refusal to acknowledge that looks are important led me to move on to other jobs before Notes use really started to crash. Such a waste.

Very powerful stuff. It's just too bad IBM didn't get serious about updating it's UI until recently.

What really annoyed me - Notes was so much easier and far more reliable and powerful than Microsoft Exchange to administer and maintain - especially back in the day. If Microsoft hadn't started running Exchange for other customers (BPOS and now Office 365) I dunno if they every would have improved a lot of maintenance and reliability issues around the Exchange message store - it's still not nearly as robust as Notes back end was 10 years ago, but at least you can now have DR without need a SAN or complicated Windows server clustering. Funny how recent editions of Exchange started to plug holes that Notes admins criticized MS over for years and that the Exchange camp always dismissed as irrelevant :)
 

seanreisk

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It seems a lot of people think that Lotus Notes is comparable to a Microsoft 'Office' style product. It isn't. Notes is a secure workflow, libraries and forms-management system that allows an organization to build personalized work applications. We had one college that used it. I never had to support Notes but I did play with it when we were evaluating desktop forms during Y2K.

Notes never found its market. If your business was too small you either couldn't afford it or you might have made something less professional with Visual Basic. If your business was big enough you probably went with full in-house applications. $200,000.00 for two years of support on your custom applications? Sounds plausible to me, that's about the total cost of one FTE for two years.

I read the article and I get the feeling that the problems they are talking about aren't problems with Lotus Notes, they are problems with how the database is set up, how database privileges are managed, how the forms talk to the database and how the police manage their procedures. I would bet money that at some time after they went into production with their Notes applications a second- or even third-party of programmers were brought in to 'expand' the system. There may have even been a few 'shadow' consultants that came in and made smaller changes. 'Updates' or 'fixes' are usually done on the cheap and they usually aren't done well. They probably have a hodgepodge that needs to be cleaned up, but I doubt it's a problem with Notes.
 
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bigdogchris

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According to Wikipedia the software is still being updated and is compatible with recent server OSes. I don't see what the problem is.

Now if they were trying to keep something that only ran on Windows 95, I would understand the concern.
 

gamerk2

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It's quite simple: The cost of maintaining old stuff is easier to budget then the one time cost to move to something new. State and local mandates that force balanced budgets leads to a long-term lack of investment for this very reason.

You get what you pay for.
 

techie81

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We just got off Lotus Notes a year ago lol. What a steaming pile.
 

PCMusicGuy

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Better to pay for support on some old, awesome software, than to pay for newer crap like Office and have no real support whatever.
 

griffinhart

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Notes is still a good product. I'll agree that if they are only using it for e-mail then it's overkill, though it is cheaper to maintain a Notes email system than moving to Office 365/Exchange or a G-Mail set up. I get price quotes for this sort of migration on an annual basis. But for work flow databases and applications it is arguably better than Sharepoint. Apparently there are about 30,000 companies, worldwide, that use Notes in some capacity.

Notes 9 came out about 3 years ago and is updated frequently (latest fix pack was 6 months ago) and in no way out of date. It also is very cross platform with the server able to run on AIX, IBM iSeries, Linux, Solaris, Windows Server and z/OS. Native Clients running on Linux, OSX and Windows. It is extremely good using web browsers as a client and even supports mobile devices of all flavors (iOS, Android, Windows Phone and even Blackberry)

Anyone that thinks Notes/Domino is obsolete just aren't familiar with it. It's just not popular, but it is still relevant.
 

griffinhart

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$176k for an experienced IT admin with needed skills for two years is not outrageous in Baltimore.
It also doesn't sound like an admin job. If it's someone that needs to maintain and develop notes applications, it's a very specialized and uncommon skill set to fill.
 

daglesj

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Oh god the corp I used to work for was deep in Lotus Notes. We had a couple of teams (even I was trained up to do Lotus Script and database creation but I hated it and was total crap at it) that spent all the time creating custom databases for other teams. When it came to move over to Outlook for email they found that the email part was like 10% of the total Notes use in the company. 90% of was all the hundreds if not thousands of custom Notes Databases.

Took several years to move stuff or close it down.
 
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IndyColtsFan

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Lotus notes? I last saw that used at a corporation in the early nineties.
You’d be surprised at how many companies still use it for applications - my current company included. In a previous job, I worked as a consultant migrating Lotus Notes applications to SharePoint and let me tell you, it wasn’t super fun.
 
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Taco

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So 90 bucks an hour for archaic skills? I sell those for 250, sounds like a bargain.

Yes, of course they should be planning the move off Lotus, but some people in the thread seem to be under the idea that this just means standing up a new empty solution.

Instead of, you know, what is likely a very complex customized data migration, training and support of end users, training of operational staff, etc. Even if they went all in today on a replacement, the 180k would still likely be needed before anything is close to ready for production. And a drop in the bucket compared to what the upfront cost will be to move to a new solution.
 

IndyColtsFan

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So 90 bucks an hour for archaic skills? I sell those for 250, sounds like a bargain.

Yes, of course they should be planning the move off Lotus, but some people in the thread seem to be under the idea that this just means standing up a new empty solution.

Instead of, you know, what is likely a very complex customized data migration, training and support of end users, training of operational staff, etc. Even if they went all in today on a replacement, the 180k would still likely be needed before anything is close to ready for production. And a drop in the bucket compared to what the upfront cost will be to move to a new solution.
Exactly. In my case, I worked with a very large state government agency on the west coast migrating their applications from Notes to SharePoint. You not only have to do a deep dive in the Notes code and all the forms to figure out what they're doing, but you also have all of the legacy data to worry about migrating as well.

$176k for two years is a bargain because depending on the apps and number of them, it would likely cost several times that number to move them to another platform. Obviously they need to be planning that anyway, but I doubt a city police department has a million dollars sitting around to take that project on so some of the responses in this thread are pretty hilarious.
 

Taco

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I didn't even pick up on it being over 2 years, unless this is part time, that's desktop support wages.
 

travm

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I think it's stupid we are expected to buy"new" software all the time. Honestly I have a list of outdated software I wish I could still run.
 

Taco

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I think it's stupid we are expected to buy"new" software all the time. Honestly I have a list of outdated software I wish I could still run.
I'm sure people maintaining the software do not want to change ever, what job security. But if you have a 1 out of a 100 skillset while the 99 out of a 100 would get the job done. Sorry, keep your skills up to date and deal with the change.

Not even getting into your apparent expectation(based on the "stupid") that vendors support software indefinitely. Meanwhile startups would be eating their lunch and the effect would be the same.

Nothing stupid about it.
 

Nytegard

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So 90 bucks an hour for archaic skills? I sell those for 250, sounds like a bargain.

Yes, of course they should be planning the move off Lotus, but some people in the thread seem to be under the idea that this just means standing up a new empty solution.

Instead of, you know, what is likely a very complex customized data migration, training and support of end users, training of operational staff, etc. Even if they went all in today on a replacement, the 180k would still likely be needed before anything is close to ready for production. And a drop in the bucket compared to what the upfront cost will be to move to a new solution.
Unfortunately, for the IT guy, it doesn't work in a way they'll see anything close to $90/hour. On a few different occasions, at different jobs, I heard the rate of what my skills were being charged at (software dev), and was honestly shocked at just how big the discrepancy was vs what I actually was taking home in pay. It was about 6-9x my hourly rate. It might not be that bad for the IT guy doing the job, but he's probably not going to be taking home anywhere close to $100k/year, if he's just the employee of the consulting company.
 

Zophos

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So, I actually work in IT for a state LEA. I will say that this doesn’t surprise me in the least. I recently got promoted into a Web Developer position from Help Desk, and frankly our systems are a huge mess. The main problem with our systems is most likely similar to the issues face by many other LEAs around the world. Budgets are tight (except when they aren’t, which happens kind of randomly) and many tools were built on shaky design many years ago. Heck our primary database is running on SQL Server 2012, but the application that accesses it is 15 years old at this point. The parent company that made the software has a cornered market, and they haven’t been able to produce a working replacement in spite of the fact that they’ve tried two major projects to do just that in the last 8 years or so.

The main issue in our environment, and I’m sure many others in LEAs, is that so many jobs and application got developed internally and all stacked on top of the previously mentioned crappy software. My one other co-worker and I are designing a new data model and system to actually fix the issues that we have. However, the number of problems that the old system has consumes most of our time. We’re more firefighters than engineers. There are just so many jobs and apps written in the last 10 years that are all intertwined, it makes it a monumental task to clean it all up and get things done the right way. Mostly, this is because when one thing gets changed you also have to change all of the other things connected to it. Compounding that problem is that few if any of the jobs adhered to what anyone would call best practices:

Hard coded credentials - check

Databases not properly normalized - check

Database data integrity issues - check

HTML/CSS cobbled together from obvious WYSIWYG tools - check

Half-baked web functions thrown into public websites - check

(Maybe the worst offender of all) No code copies, repository, availability - check

On top of that, management has a hard time seeing value in really letting us do our jobs properly. Their focus is all about keeping things running as they always have been. Not really understanding the dangers that are inevitable in keeping olds systems and designs without ever really updating them.
 

tesfaye

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Since 1996, the Baltimore Police Department has been using Lotus Notes to track criminal investigations, check arrest data, log ballistic test results, and identify “troubled officers." Despite being outdated and buggy, in that users are finding it increasingly harder to match, verify, or search for information, city officials have approved plans to keep the system running by paying big bucks to a single consultant.

“It’s intriguing to me that we’d be investing so much into Lotus Notes when we know it’s an outdated system and we know through the technology study that we need to update Lotus Notes, along with a bunch of other systems,” he said. “I'll be asking the Baltimore Police Department, ‘Why we are still with Lotus Notes? And when will we make an investment in a new, 21st century system?’”
Not surprising at all. Migrating from Notes can be a scary thing depending on the staff skill level and available budget.
If you know anything about utilizing Lotus Notes in a highly customized manner with a heavily entrenched user base, then you should have no problem understanding that the cost to migrate those applications to another platform could be, eh will be VERY costly.

When they decide to pull the trigger, I hope they find that perfect team that can pull it off correctly on the first try, within budget, and on time!
 

Taco

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Unfortunately, for the IT guy, it doesn't work in a way they'll see anything close to $90/hour. On a few different occasions, at different jobs, I heard the rate of what my skills were being charged at (software dev), and was honestly shocked at just how big the discrepancy was vs what I actually was taking home in pay. It was about 6-9x my hourly rate. It might not be that bad for the IT guy doing the job, but he's probably not going to be taking home anywhere close to $100k/year, if he's just the employee of the kconsulting company.

Having run a professional services team for a consulting company, I can confidently say this is not correct. But there are a lot of factors. Hourly or fixed pricing, full time or contracting. Benefits. Your ability and willingness to negotiate, your skillset, customers budget, customers relationship with sales/recruiters who are pimping you out.

The last probably being the most important, hence why some sales guys make as much as their CEO. You want to make more money? Develop your own relationships, be your own sales rep and cut the middle man out.
 

travm

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I'm sure people maintaining the software do not want to change ever, what job security. But if you have a 1 out of a 100 skillset while the 99 out of a 100 would get the job done. Sorry, keep your skills up to date and deal with the change.

Not even getting into your apparent expectation(based on the "stupid") that vendors support software indefinitely. Meanwhile startups would be eating their lunch and the effect would be the same.

Nothing stupid about it.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Everything else is stupid.
 

Burticus

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My last job was a financial institution that used notes right up until it was bought out by a larger bank entity. Then they forced everyone to switch to Exchange. That was 2009 for email, fine whatever. But there were tons of custom built database apps that took YEARS to convert to SQL or whatever, if they happened at all. When I left in 2015, there was still a Domino support team (or 1 or 2 guys anyway) to support those legacy Notes apps/DBs.

I didn't realize IBM was still releasing new versions. The market share may suck, and IBM isn't likely to win over any converts from MS or Google, but there are companies out there that will fight to the end to keep it.

$180k for 2 years is nothing. You can't hire a consultant to scratch their balls 8 hours a day for less than that.

That being said, the company I work for now specializes in municipality software, and I'm told they have a conversion path from Notes. Who knows what the cost is though.
 

KazeoHin

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Lotus Notes, one of the most awkward, vile programs I've ever worked with. Why people are still using this dinosaur of a system is beyond me...
 

Taco

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Lotus Notes, one of the most awkward, vile programs I've ever worked with. Why people are still using this dinosaur of a system is beyond me...
Answer to this question has been provided rather in depth in this thread. In short, Notes is more than just a messaging system and generally has a significant amount of custom code written for it, there is no clear cut product replacement and even once identified there is a significant effort/cost to port customization. This isn't a next, next, click move mailbox, finish project.

Same reason some places still use mainframes. Not ideal, but it works and there's a significant/cost and risk to move off. Senior Management would prefer to just budget and plan for outrageously yet predictable support costs, as opposed to taking on the risk of losing their job if an extremely complicated/expensive replacement project goes awry.
 

modi123

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Amusing quote from someone trying to keep their honey pot secure for juuuuuuuust a little bit longer.

Computer & Network Consultants’s David Alonge, who is responsible for programming and maintaining all of the Police Department’s Lotus Notes applications, told The Sun that the software is “working wonderfully for the police.” He said it runs so smoothly that it isn’t necessary to bring in someone else to help manage it.

“They'd do nothing all day long,” he said.

Alonge disagreed with the assertion that Lotus Notes databases exist in silos. Dozens of them “talk to each other” throughout the day, he said.
 
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