Westpac Banking Corporation, one of Australia’s largest users of IBM’s besieged Lotus Notes/Domino ecosystem, has finally confirmed it is ready to dump the platform in favour of Microsoft’s rival Outlook/Exchange system, in a move which constitutes the latest nail in the coffin for Notes in Australia.
The bank has been a Lotus user for more than a decade, backed by its lengthy comprehensive technology outsourcing agreement with IBM. But despite renewing its vows with Big Blue for a further five years last November, Westpac today confirmed it had filed divorce papers with its troubled email platform.
“Westpac is currently reviewing its email requirements,” a bank spokesperson said in a brief statement this afternoon, “and looking forward to migrating all Westpac staff to Microsoft Outlook.” The bank could not confirm any further details, but people with knowledge of the situation said it intended to migrate to the latest version of Microsoft’s platform — Exchange 2010 — over the next 18 months with the support of both existing partner IBM and Japanese IT services giant Fujitsu.
The move will constitute one of the largest Lotus to Exchange migrations in Australia’s history, as the bank has some 39,000 staff — dwarfing even the shift by Qantas in 2010 of its 20,000 staff to Exchange, and other rollouts such as the ones conducted by financial services giant AMP and Coca-Cola Amatil.
It is not known to what extent Westpac uses Notes’ broader functions in its operations beyond email. Many organisations who have been using the platform for years, as Westpac has, have taken advantage internally of the all-encompassing development environment which Notes provides. It can be a complex exercise for much of that functionality to be migrated onto Microsoft’s platform — often involving the use of the software giant’s SharePoint collaboration portal, for example.
Some organisations are still happy with Lotus, however — such as Australian youth charity BoysTown, which has remained with Notes/Domino and even upgraded the platform, citing the extensibility of IBM’s solution compared with that of rivals.
The next major known shift from Lotus Notes/Domino to Exchange will likely take place at new super-agency the Department of Human Services, which in June last year revealed it was likely to end the long-running relationship which some of its component agencies have had for years with Notes, as part of its massive technology consolidation — which recently received a funding boost worth hundreds of millions of dollars in the Federal Budget.
Various agencies to be consolidated — especially Centrelink and Medicare Australia — have used the ailing Notes platform for years. But in an interview last year, the department’s technology chief John Wadeson said it was likely that the new super-department would standardise on Exchange.
“I couldn’t say that it was set in stone, but we are at this minute certainly looking at moving to a Microsoft platform in that layer,” he said.
Opinions differ vastly between technology sector workers about the merits of the two platforms, with many preferring either one — or even Google’s Apps suite. However, common reasons cited by chief information officers for the ongoing migrations from Notes include the belief that it doesn’t support third-party devices such as mobile phones as well, and the powerful integration between Outlook/Exchange and the rest of Microsoft’s enterprise software stack and unified communications platforms built by vendors like Cisco (which Westpac also uses).