news The Federal Department of Health and Ageing has revealed it will be the latest Australian government agency to dump IBM’s Lotus Notes/Domino environment in favour of a switch to a collaboration platform built on the Outlook/Exchange ecosystem, as part of a continuing trend of migrations to the Microsoft platform.
In tender documents released yesterday and first reported by iTNews, the department noted that it currently used version 8.5 of the Lotus Notes/Domino system for its 6,000-odd staff located across some 40 sites around Australia. The platform is used for email, address books, contacts, calendaring and resource management (such as booking rooms) functionality.
“In late 2012, a decision was taken to transition/migrate email from Lotus Notes and Domino to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange,” the department noted. “This will allow the Department to more fully leverage the integrated functionality of the Microsoft Office suite and maximise the options available to it in considering the ongoing ICT support services and agreements that will be in place from mid-2015.”
As is common with organisations which have been using Notes/Domino for some time, the department also has a range of business applications which have been developed using the IBM platform, any of which interoperate with the email and calendar functions of Lotus. As part of its tendering effort kicked off this week, the department noted that it was also seeking advice on a strategy to decommission those platforms and establish alternate systems. It appears as though the department will go to market separately at some stage in the future for service providers to assist it with actually migrating off those legacy systems.
The current agreement under which DoHA operates its Lotus collaboration platform is an IT services arrangement which the department noted was scheduled to expire on 30 June 2015. “… there are sourcing and procurement strategies being developed to enable an appropriate sourcing process to be in place in advance of 30 June 2015,” the department wrote. “It is expected that the full migration of email from Lotus Notes and Domino to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange will be completed by June 2014, well in advance of any change in IT service provision arrangements.”
Also included as part of the deal will be the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which sources some, but not all, of its IT services from DoHA’s central IT function. The TGA has about 690 staff, primarily located in Canberra.
The news of DoHA’s shift away from Notes/Domino may reflect the first step in what could potentially be long-term plans to break up its extensive IT outsourcing agreement with IBM, which has not been formally tested in a tender process since it was signed in 1999.
In tender documents released in September 2012, DoHA noted that it was looking for an advising partner to develop and provide appropriate options for the provision of core ICT services; develop an ICT sourcing strategy, provide a project plan to implement the ICT sourcing strategy, and provide professional skills to develop the proposed ICT sourcing strategy. It is unclear how this new advice will relate to existing advice provided to Health on its ICT sourcing strategy and costing $1.5 million in 2010, as reported by iTNews.
It is unusual for sizable departments such as DoHA to require an external organisation to develop its IT sourcing strategy, with such a strategy more normally developed by the in-house office of the chief information officer. DoHA does have such an office — the Office of the chief information knowledge officer, as well as a centralised IT function which it describes as being responsible for the provision of the majority of its networked and shared IT services; and it also has discrete IT functions within certain line of business areas.
DoHA’s current chief information knowledge officer is Paul Madden, who was appointed to the position in December 2010.
The last time DoHA renewed the contract with IBM was in December 2010, after initially denying that it had done so, and in the context of significant media pressure from outlets such as iTNews, which has pointed out to Health that significant government contracts are required to be market tested through the tendering process regularly, to ensure departments are obtaining value for money. At the time, the department had gained special dispensation to be able to renew the long-running IBM contract without putting it to competitive tender.
Delimiter is currently seeking to access any ICT sourcing strategy advice provided to DoHA or developed internally, under Freedom of Information laws.
DoHA will be just the latest major Australian organisation to shift off Lotus Notes and onto Exchange, with many other groups having conducted such projects over the past few years. One notable exception is the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which has publicly described itself as “a happy Notes camper”.
It looks like the cracks are starting to appear in DoHA’s long-running relationship with IBM. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see it break up the contract substantially over the next year and hand chunks off to rival companies such as CSC or Fujitsu.