Collaboration is not a new buzzword, but it certainly is generating a lot of buzz in the business world. Companies want to equip their knowledge workers with the best competitive tools to share information and collaborate both internally and with partners, vendors and customers, and do so across a globally dispersed environment. And stricter regulatory requirements mean companies must take greater control of their informational assets.  Email and messaging systems let you communicate, but for rich collaboration, you need a platform--one that provides, at a minimum, secure document sharing, team workspaces, and workflow processes, and that is highly customizable and scalable to meet business requirements. A recent report by Forrester Research indicated that nearly half of the 1017 IT professionals in Europe and North America that Forrester surveyed considered implementing a collaboration strategy a priority or critical priority in 2008.

The two major players in the collaboration market are IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft SharePoint, and although Notes has been in the space longer, SharePoint has come on strong during the past couple of years to become the dominant collaboration solution. So which platform is the best choice for your company? Well that depends. The differences between the two platforms, coupled with skill levels and existing IT infrastructure and investments will help you make the right choice for your organization.

According to Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz, author of the report, "There are some basic factors that will drive an organization to move in the direction of Notes or SharePoint." For example, Notes provides integration with the broader IBM product family, including all Lotus products, IBM FileNet P8 platform, and IBM Content manager. On the other hand, SharePoint provides deep integration with the entire Office product line as well as products such as its Performance Point BI offering and Dynamics Business Applications. Therefore, a natural choice would be to lean in favor of what applications your company already runs.

Koplowitz also notes that IBM has a large partner ecosystem, in which IBM partners, as well as ISVs are working to integrate their products with Notes and Domino. However, if you want to go the single-vendor route, SharePoint would be a logical choice because it's built on .NET, with a SQL Server backend; it runs on Windows Server and uses Active Directory (AD) for authentication and permissions; and you can control it with Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM).

Of course there are many more factors that will govern your ultimate choice, and Koplowitz recommends you create a skills inventory, a requirements list, and a collaboration strategy and map them against what both products require and provide. And don't disregard the costs of switching to a new platform. Notes organizations need to consider carefully the cost of switching to SharePoint, and organizations with large investments in AD and Exchange may well want to opt for Microsoft's offering. He also states that "An approach that includes both Lotus Notes and Microsoft SharePoint, each being used in positions of unique strength and value, is a viable option if the costs of the redundant infrastructures and licenses are justified." And third-party vendors such as Mainsoft, provide integration solutions in environments where both platforms coexist.

Notes Versus SharePoint: Which Collaboration Platform Is Right For You?