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What New Templates Would I Like to See Shipped With Domino

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External ImageRocky Oliver has asked the Domino community for input on what database templates we would like to see IBM ship with Notes. That Rocky is asking the question is very welcome news, as it shows yet another way in which IBM is committed to making the Domino platform the best it can be.  It's been over a week since he asked the question, but I'm sure its not too late to weigh in with your own wish list.  It will surprise few regular readers that I have some ideas of my own in this area.  

Rocky asked for a "top 5" list, but I thought I'd be a little more "thorough" in expressing my thoughts .

My general view of templates
  1. Templates can be divided into (at least) five main categories: 1) Multiple Use (e.g. Discussion, Teamroom), 2) Single Instance (e.g. Vacation Requests, Help Desk), 3) Personal Use (e.g. Journal), 4) PIM (e.g. Mail, C&S), and 5) Administration Use (e.g. Domino Directory, DDM, Log.nsf).  We will only be focusing on categories 1-3 for this exercise.
  2. All web facing templates should adhere to some sort of standard CSS structure similar to the way Blogsphere "skins" work.  Not sure how the Notes 8 client does "styles" but the principle should apply there too.
  3. Sametime integration should be standard, but should also be taken to logical extremes.  Presence awareness is great, but so is providing easy ways to schedule online team meetings from within "team focused" templates.
  4. Templates should be integrated with each other wherever it makes sense to do so.  A good example would be clicking on a document submitter's name to see their employee profile in the Employee Directory.
  5. Templates should share as much underlying code as possible.  Not only will this make it easier for developers in the field to "decode the code", but it will make updates to the templates that much easier for IBM.  It will also make it easier for IBM to standardize various UI elements across various databases, making user training easier.
  6. Templates should be built under the assumption that they will be customized.  Cleanly written, well commented code and form notes are essential.  Rocky's session on Writing Readable Code provides a good foundation for this approach.
  7. All templates should provide RSS feeds/hooks wherever appropriate.  Security would need to be maintained, so this could prove challenging in some cases.
  8. IBM should not be afraid to step on the toes of business partners with products in these categories. Many of these templates are central to what Notes is all about, so at least *some* sort of usable example template needs to be included.  The selling point for partners needs to be clearly communicated, and it is this: They will benefit more from the increased adoption of Notes as an application platform than they will suffer from lost sales. Even in an overlap situation, the "basic" IBM template that got them started may no longer meet their needs, so they go looking for better at that point.
  9. The question of what templates to offer should be informed by what Microsoft is shipping with Sharepoint, as well as what other vendors (e.g. Zimbra) might offer.

Read on to see my picks for "Most Wanted Templates".

My picks in the category of "Multiple Use Templates":
  1. GENERIC DATABASE. A basic framework template (e.g. SuperNTF).  Of course, this framework could simply be what many of the new templates have in common, and not necessarily be offered separately.
  2. WORKFLOW.  I've had plenty to say about this, in particular my In a World Dazzled by Sharepoint, Where is Workflow.ntf? post from earlier this year.  What's notable now is that Scott Good, who sells a highly-regarded commercial Notes workflow system, agrees (See Comment 32).  I'm not sure how to interpret that, but it's certainly notable.
  3. TEAM PORTAL. The concept here is for an application that would serve a similar purpose to the current teamroom, but be radically overhauled from a UI perspective. More importantly, however, it would not necessarily be a single database but rather a database that ties together other related databases such as shared documents, shared mailboxes, shared RSS feeds, group calendars, and even custom and third-party databases such as project management. The Teamroom database itself would be used to control team membership as well as the pointers to related databases, but might otherwise be just a shell.  Perhaps more significantly, it would address Charles Robinson's concern (comment 13) about how to get new databases in front of users who might otherwise not find them. More thought is needed for this, but some of the specific "component databases" for this portal would include:
  1. DOCUMENT REPOSITORY: Make the Document Library into a proper Document Management database, perhaps with an upgrade/integration path to a more complete enterprise focused system like Domino.Doc (but not with Dom.doc's crappy UI).  It should have core capabilities of super-simple/automatic check out when launching an attachment, and automatic reattaching after save/close of that attachment.  Indeed the key here is "get attachment editing right".  From a security standpoint (setting aside the feasibility) the documents should ideally never be saved to the user's file system.  Maybe Notes 8 makes this technically more doable because of some little known aspect of the rearchitecture.  The design should not require that document content be an attachment though - simply typing stuff in a RichText field should be an option, although I could see issues with attachments IN the RichText field.  
  2. SHARED MAILBOX.  Brian Green of Automated Logic has produced Team Mailbox which is perfect for handling support@company.com and other similar mail boxes.
  3. SHARED GROUP CALENDAR.
  4. SHARED RSS READER. Shareable RSS feed reader that would allow a department or team administrator to subscribe to a set of feeds relating to that group/team/project/department.  Standard notes read marks would then allow each user to individually distinguish between read and unread posts.
  1. BASIC WEBSITE. Basic, skinable website template.  Blogsphere (and probably the IBM Blog Template), could be stripped down and simplified to serve this purpose. Another great example is the Dolmio OpenNTF template.
  2. WIKI. A wiki would be nice, but it would have to allow pages to be edited either in a browser or the Notes client using the full capabilities of a rich text field such as embedded images (e.g. screenshots used for documentation). Of course this probably defeats the purpose of the wiki syntax, and turns the database into more of a document repository, but the versioning aspect would be useful regardless.

My picks in the category of "Single/Personal Use Templates":
  1. WEB-BASED USER SELF REGISTRATION.  This could be considered an "Admin" template or a "Multi-Use" template depending on the use, but basically this is would handle all the user account/password functions expected of any website.  It must facilitate near instant processing to allow new users immediate access, both for new accounts and password resets/changes.  Behavior should be configurable and the system should provide good administrative and reporting capabilities.
  2. EMPLOYEE DIRECTORY.  Should be separate from the Domino directory, but include basic synchronization functionality so that common data is kept in sync, as well as configuration capabilities for tying into other directories (e.g. PeopleSoft). Should enable users to update some of their own data (e.g. cell phone number), even if it is via some sort of "change request" functionality built into the template. This would allow for an agent to correctly process such requests in order to ensure synchronization, while also adding an audit trail.
  3. NOTES CLIENT "PORTAL".  An intranet/portal for the Notes client, such as what Charles Robinson suggests (comment 13) to make users aware of the Notes client applications that are relevant to them, either based on the department to which they belong, the projects they are working on, or other factors. As an example, imagine a new database/application that is tagged as belonging to the Accounting department which when deployed automatically triggers a "news item" which would show up via the corresponding RSS feed for everyone in that department. Users would be given the option of bookmarking that database with just a click or two.
  4. PERSONAL DATA REPOSITORY. A personal journal/data repository with integration into many other databases, such that it would be very easy to save a variety of information into a single searchable repository. For example, let's say you come across a particularly interesting blog entry in your RSS feed reader, but rather than simply bookmarking the link you save the entire content of the entry, thus improving your ability to find it again later using Notes full text search. Taking this to the next level it would be nice to be able to retrieve the complete HTML page from the source webpage. This may be a perfect use case for Richard Schwartz's (comment 25) dream application.
  5. VACATION/TIME OFF REQUESTS.  A lot of people have made this suggestion, but I have no personal experience with such an application. I do suspect, however, that this process is similar enough in the vast majority of organizations so something that works for 80% them should be feasible.

Feel free to expand on (or disagree with) these ideas, or offer new ones.  This is a big opportunity for us to breath new life into "File - Database - New" (or whatever it's called in Notes 8).  We should take full advantage of it.

Comments

1 - I like the idea of a basic website with some professional looking CSS themes to choose from.

Upgrade the document library with the NotesView2 code from OpenNTF, change the colors and remove a Java Applets.

2 - I think the Web Registration is a must have for the admin templates. I also think it should support multiple Domino directories out of the box and be easily customized. This is especially necessary when you position one of the licenses for Domino as an Extranet server.

The shared mailbox and shared calendar apps are always some of the first things asked for by managers.

3 - That's a pretty good list, Kevin. You have obviously put a lot of thought into this. Emoticon Rather than wait for Lotus I'm customizing Peanuts Portal and Team Mailbox with some new features, and will be submitting those to the project chefs.

I can't help but wonder: what happened to the conversation about the Nifty Fifty from this time last year?

4 - great thoughts. If i look at my workspace these suggestions will cover a lot of my development projects. however I might have missed some suggestions (maybe due to some quick reading) but I would like to see added:

- a picture gallery where easily a photoalbum can be shared
- a database where each department / office can present some 'who is who' information, including a picture gallery
- an ordering system (this might be tricky because most order handling processes are quite specific but if there is standard one some organizations might conform themselves to these standard)
- a system where employees can register their hours / projects

but again, i like your suggestions!

5 - @3 - Thanks Dwight - fixed.

6 - Corrected link to rocky's "Writing Readable Code"
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