NSW Health unleashes mammoth email consolidation


blog If you follow technology news relating to Australian governments, you can’t help but laugh sometimes; because if you didn’t, you’d cry at the irony of it all. Just last week, the Queensland State Government dumped its colossal email centralisation project, which was to see some 80,000 email accounts for government workers in various departments centralised onto one consolidated system. To put it bluntly, the project was slowly failing due to poor governance, and never really looked like meeting its aims.

Knowing this, what does the NSW Government do? Announce its own huge email consolidation project at NSW Health — with more than double the number of staff involved at a grand total of 200,000 and the same platform, Microsoft Exchange. iTNews reports (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“The move to consolidate systems for some 200,000 staff came as a direct order from health minister Jillian Skinner, who found the disparate systems made it impossible to directly contact staff”

Now, it is true that this move by NSW Health has been on the way for some time — Computerworld reported in July last year, for example, that the department was planning to migrate off its existing Novell Groupwise installations. It’s also true that the NSW Government has some successful form in this area. For example, the NSW Department of Education & Training operates one of the largest centralised email platforms in the world, based on Google’s Gmail. It serves some 1.5 million students across the state.

However, we still think NSW Health ought to sit back a bit and take stock of the situation before it dives headlong into this massive project. What makes NSW Health believe it can succeed where the Queensland Government failed? The potential is clearly here for the department to waste millions of dollars and years of effort on this project, only to get nowhere — as Queensland did with its own effort, which was less than half the size. Right now, state governments around Australia are having huge problems successfully implementing any IT-related project at all. We humbly suggest that all the signs are here for future issues with NSW Health’s email project. Let’s check back in in 2-3 years time and see whether it needs to be amputated.

And one more suggestion for Health Minister Jillian Skinner: You don’t need to implement a massive email consolidation project if you merely want to email all of the department’s staff in one go. That much can be done by setting up a few mailing lists. Talk to your friendly local email administrator. We’re sure they can sort the problem out with a few weeks’ notice.

Image credit: Sigurd Decroos, royalty free


  1. To be fair, the article does point out that email is only part of the platform. But the whole thing is very vague at this point, and NSW should be demanding due-diligence and adequate planning are performed prior to a project of this scale being undertaken. In theory, the platform chosen is capable of meeting the defined objectives and providing much greater interoperability and simplified management (long term), but that’s on the assumption it is completed, successfully deployed and it actually works.

    • I would vastly prefer to see NSW Health going with an outsourced or even cloud email solution in this regard — I view this project as way too high-risk for a government organisation to be undertaking in this climate. As you point out, email is only one portion. That portion should be taken out and de-risked, so that NSW Health can focus more squarely on the more tricky aspects of the wider project.

      • I work in gov health now and Renai I have to tell you cloud based is an impossibility and outsourced is difficult enough.
        Health is a field where the senior staff involved in the Non-IT parts of the business frequently (more often than not) run right over the heads of IT with demands coming down as politically motivated directives.
        The idea that someone else “might” see their emails horrifies senior management types in health and consequently they are hard to bring on board for direct outsourcing of the functions.

        • NSW Health is desperate to prove their competence in a number of fields, Samuel. This is not the way to do it though.

      • After doing a number of email migrations and consolidations myself in a range of environments, you only rush to cloud or outsourced (little difference – the costs/limitations usually catch you up down the track) for two reasons:

        1. You are in a bad way. Everything is broken, you’re at rock bottom. The business has no idea what to do and will settle for anything just for a basic reliable service.
        2. You are super organized. You know everything about your email system and integration points. The business clearly knows their future plans and is accountable to sticking to them. You can save a bunch of money if you can find a provider who meets your requirements.

        Anywhere in between, you may as well do some consolidation as an interim step (one of many) in house. Exchange is good for that as you can federate and delegate. You can outsource this but usually not a good idea as you will be paying people to try and figure out your business who will then leave (or leave you in a subsistence state).

  2. Interesting discussion but agree that cloud is definitely not the way to go. This project is not vague as alluded to by Trevor but NSW Health has always been a very fragmented IT environment (in fact it had up to 20 major IT domains at one stage spread across the then Area Health Services) and each domain was managed at a local level; and that has been the single most challenging issue of the past. There have been long term collaborative venture such as the centralised allocation and management of IP (in the 10.x.x.x private address space) address ranges but even that was diluted somewhat by at least one B class address range to the wider world.

    This current centralised migration (seemingly somewhat behind schedule) is apparently linked with the rollout of a complete Active Directory, an implementation of e-mail archiving and a significant consolidation of Internet gateways. It will require very careful management at the implementation phase BUT more importantly the ongoing need for highly skilled resources to maintain and manage it in the future can not be overstressed. The linking of the Active Directory to support other major IT based initiatives is one of the major driving forces.

    Nevertheless there have already been some very successful implementations and consolidations in the e-mail and AD space within the NSW Health system.

Comments are closed.