news Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads has kicked off an extremely wide-ranging refresh of its underlying desktop IT infrastructure which is slated to see legacy products such as Lotus Notes, IBM Sametime, Windows XP and Novell’s file, print and application deployment software replaced with more popular and updated equivalents.
The department — one of the largest in Queensland, with a large central office in Brisbane and branch offices scattered throughout the state — recently released tender documents for a project which it terms its Productivity and Collaboration Improvement project (PCI). In the documents, the department noted that it was currently running a large number of software platforms currently considered to be outmoded by most enterprise IT departments around Australia.
For example, the department currently runs Windows XP on most of its desktop PCs. It will replace Microsoft’s decade-old operating system with Windows 7/Windows 8. Microsoft Office 2003 will be updated to Office 2010 or 2013, SharePoint 2007 will be updated to SharePoint 2010, IBM’s Sametime collaboration platform will be replaced with Microsoft Lync, and Novell’s File and Print and ZenWorks platforms will be replaced with Windows File and Print , as well as Microsoft’s System Center Operations Manager (SCOM).
One of the other significant upgrades the state is planning to implement is a replacement of IBM’s Lotus Notes platform with Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange platform; although the department noted that it could move to a “cloud” platform, pending guidance from Queensland’s central whole of government office of the chief information officer on the issue.
Queensland was previously planning to supply its whole of government email needs through a centralised project begun under the previous Labor administration. However, the new LNP government revealed plans in July to dump the troubled project, with then-IT Minister Ros Bates highlighting the possibility to shift to a “cloud-based solution” instead. The state has not yet finalised its plans in the area.
“TMR, in consultation with QGCIO, are currently considering whether to proceed with on-premise or cloud based solutions for messaging and unified communication services. A formal position will be taken on this strategy prior to the PCI Project commencing the messaging and unified communication design activities,” wrote the department.
It appears as though the department’s PCI project has been under way for some time already. In its documents, the department noted that the project dated back to 2011. “In late 2011, TMR partnered with Microsoft to design, build and implement a small (50 users) managed proof of concept based on Microsoft’s collaboration and business productivity platform. Success through the [proof of concept] provided early validation and momentum leading to the establishment of the PCI project,” the department wrote.
With the PCI project, TMR aims to achieve the following aims. It wants to pursue activities that reduce cost and simplify existing complexity – both across the back-end of the TMR ICT Portfolio and from the perspective of the ICT system user base; significantly improve support for Departmental objectives of a more connected, collaborative, dynamic and agile workforce; upgrade aging, in some areas, soon to be unsupported technologies, and in doing so to align with whole-of- government standards and strategies; create a more dynamic and agile workforce (improve workforce mobility); and align with Whole of Government direction in a number of technologies, allowing seamless government integration and cost reduction.
“TMR has established the PCI Project to increase productivity through improved collaboration across the department,” the department wrote. “The project will focus on providing the department with up-to-date technology solutions that offer the best collaboration capabilities. Basically, we want to improve the way we’re working, and the way we’re working together.”
Currently it is looking for a partner to assist it with the implementation of the project. That company will conduct a pilot where the department’s new desktop will be provided to up to 500 users throughout Queensland to prove their capability in conducting a large scale technology transformation. If that goes well, the rest of TMR’s staff will receive the upgrade.
TMR has already begun substantial work on a number of portions of the larger IT infrastructure upgrade, as per the table below. For example, it is currently replicating all user accounts from its existing Novell identity platform to Microsoft Active Directory; it is migrating its existing Windows XP workstations to Active Directory; it has commenced application packaging for Windows 7, and is currently completing the design of its Microsoft File and Print environment.
In addition, the department wrote: “TMR has formally announced that it plans to decommission the current Lotus Domino/Notes environment and as such no new application development is expected in this environment. Any development within this environment should be purely to maintain the existing application functionality.” It hopes to have completed the entire project by June 2014.
What TMR is doing here appears to be bog standard — and in fact this is the kind of upgrade which most major Australian organisations went through between three and five years ago — showing that things really are quite a bit out of date in the Queensland Government when it comes to technology at the moment.
Migrating off Novell and Lotus Notes, upgrading desktop operating systems to Windows 7 and shifting email at least onto Exchange, possibly into a hosted or “cloud” environment? At this stage I consider these kinds of moves to be basic hygiene for any major organisation. I do count myself pleasantly surprised that TMR is definitely moving to Windows 7 — we’ve heard many murmurs from Queensland recently that the government might not have been able to afford to migrate off XP. I’m sure anyone who has used Windows 7 for any length of time will tell you how much better it is than XP … there really is no comparison.
As I wrote in June last year about a very similar upgrade in the New South Wales Parliament:
There’s not really much to say here, apart from to welcome the NSW Parliament to the 21st century. It looks like the organisation’s IT platform has been woefully out of date, and I can imagine the state’s parliamentarians and their staff have often been avoiding using it entirely; I’m sure many within the Parliament bring their own MacBooks with Gmail into work instead of using these systems, as I am informed is also common within the Federal Parliament. All that the NSW Parliament is doing here is migrating onto platforms which are already overwhelmingly dominant within the private sector.
Congratulations to TMR for finally upgrading its technology infrastructure to the current decade.
Image credit: TMR