PKF dumps Lotus for Exchange

Summary:Accountancy group PKF Australia has started migrating its 800 or so users from IBM's Lotus Notes collaboration platform to rival Microsoft's Exchange infrastructure. The move was proving pricey but would result in a more standardised and integrated environment, the group's chief information officer Mark Carmichael told ZDNet Australia in a telephone interview this morning.

Accountancy group PKF Australia has started migrating its 800 or so users from IBM's Lotus Notes collaboration platform to rival Microsoft's Exchange infrastructure.

The move was proving pricey but would result in a more standardised and integrated environment, the group's chief information officer Mark Carmichael told ZDNet Australia in a telephone interview this morning.

"There's not a lot of roadmap for Notes going forward," he said. "We've started to move away from custom-written applications in Notes to more mainstream, shrink-wrapped products based on SQL."

"To move to a Microsoft platform is no cost saving measure," he added. "Notes didn't cost a lot to have ... we didn't tackle it from that perspective."

Carmichael said custom applications could be developed relatively cheaply on the Notes platform, compared with buying licensed products from Microsoft.

PKF is hoping to have the rollout completed in six weeks' time, with Carmichael saying the move was taking a bit longer than he would have liked due to integration problems.

"We've got to run parallel systems, and that means you have to rely on the Notes Connector, to port mail from Notes to Exchange and vice versa," the CIO said. "That does a fairly good job, but there's some integration problems."

He added Microsoft was aware of the software issues and was consequently giving PKF a helping hand "at no charge".

But Carmichael's work won't stop once the Exchange migration has been bedded down.

"We're rolling out Interwoven's Worksite as a content management system for the whole firm," he said. "Before we can roll that in, we need Outlook and Exchange working properly."

Carmichael also gave high praise to the MessageLabs managed e-mail security solution PKF has been using for the last 12 months. "We did a trial ... and instantly no spam, no anything, literally 100 percent killed it," he said. "So it was sort of, where do I sign?"

"It's not a big price -- we're an 800-seat company, and it costs AU$26,000 a year," he said. "It was costing as much to run our own infrastructure."

Tips & tricks
Carmichael advised other CIOs attempting migrations off Notes to plan their move carefully.

"Notes is all-pervasive -- it touches every area of the business," he said. "So as soon as you change something, there'll be an impact further down the path."

"I think you just need to look at it, do a bit of planning, don't just ad-hoc your way through. Take small steps, and test everything really well before you start rolling it out to the business."

The common sense approach
Broadly speaking, Carmichael's approach to his infrastructure is to "keep it simple".

"I don't do anything rocket science as far as my infrastructure is concerned," he said. "I build best of breed, out-of-the-box type stuff without getting too tricky."

"If I lose a staff member, I can walk out my front door and whistle, and I'll have a hundred guys applying ... whereas if you get too tricky, you struggle."

The veteran CIO has names like Ernst & Young under his belt and knows the value of keeping his solutions running and picking the right vendors.

"I'll stick with strength, as far as vendors are concerned," he said. "So I'm an HP person, I'm sort of in bed with Microsoft a fair bit these days. I know they're going to be there for the years to come. I know I'm going to get the support that I need from them."

Carmichael also had a clear-cut opinion when it came to the latest hyped technology like IP telephony and Microsoft's next-generation operating system Windows Vista.

"At the moment there's no glaring benefit to us," he said of Vista, adding PKF would look into upgrading its Windows XP desktop environment on schedule as part of its three-yearly refresh, which comes up in 18 months' time.

"From the server point of view, we'll look at it as time goes by," he said.

Carmichael's point of view is in contrast with that of the IT directors of several of Australia's universities. Both Central Queensland and Edith Cowan Universities have already started Vista planning.

On IP telephony, while PKF has new PABX systems that can do Voice over Internet Protocol, Carmichael is similarly holding back.

He admitted PKF's mobile workforce could use the presence features of the next-generation telephony environment. "But for the cost, it doesn't justify itself right now," he said.

Topics: Unified Comms, Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.