news The nation’s largest airline Qantas has revealed that it’s still in the process of migrating its corporate email platform off IBM’s Lotus Notes/Domino platform and onto Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange system, with the rollout now into its fourth year.
The airline first confirmed it would migrate onto Outlook/Exchange in February 2010. At the time, Qantas’ executive manager of corporate services and technology David Hall said the process of migrating to Exchange had already begun, with piloting underway across the airline’s executive team. “Subject to satisfactory piloting, we anticipate the migration to be substantially completed by the end of the year,” the executive added. At that stage it was expected that around 20,000 staff would be migrated to the Microsoft platform.
Qantas was also be consolidating “a large number” of Lotus Notes applications and databases as part of its drive to “standardise, reduce and simplify” the number of business applications and tools it used.
In a statement today, the airline said the transition from Notes for individual users was completed in 2012, with its corporate employees now using Outlook. However, the migration of its shared mailboxes and distribution lists was still being finalised, and now due to be complete by the end of this year. Japanese IT services giant Fujitsu is believed to be working with the airline on the project.
Not all of Qantas’ employees will be migrated to Outlook, however. The airline announced in July 2012 that some of its staff would instead be moved onto Microsoft’s Office 365 package, including email provided on a software-as-a-service basis. At the time, iTNews reported that the cloud version of Microsoft’s suite was particularly targeted at the airline’s 11,000 cabin crew roster.
In the airline’s statement today, it described the Office 365 migration as “a separate but parallel project”. “Parts of the Microsoft package have already been introduced, such as cloud email for QantasLink crew, while Qantas’ new intranet will be hosted on SharePoint when it’s introduced later this year,” the airline said.
Qantas’ migration mirrors moves at its low-cost brand Jetstar, which announced in July 2011 that it would keep most of its head office staff on Microsoft’s Outlook/Exchange platform, but shift about 2,200 staff onto Google’s Apps alternative, which features as its core the Gmail email service.
Part of Qantas’ rationale for the shift to Office 365 is likely to have been the nature of its workforce, much of which has active duties on aircraft and does not actively use desktop PCs or laptops as much as the more office-based workforces of major government departments and banks. This fact had already appeared to have had a significant effect on the technology buying practices of Australian airlines.
In February 2010, for example, analyst firm Longhaus revealed that Qantas had made a similar decision some time before that to avoid setting up dedicated email accounts for some staff such as flight attendants. Longhaus managing director Peter Carr said at the time, the flight attendants simply provided Qantas’ HR staff with their own personal email address — “Hotmail or Gmail or something like that”. They were then paid an annual fee for their professional use of personal technology.
The reason this system worked, according to Carr, is the low volume of official company email Qantas flight attendants need to deal with — just work schedules and so on. Most other official company communications could go through the airline’s unions. Effectively, Qantas had already outsourced part of its corporate email platform to Hotmail.
It’s a similar situation with many Australian universities, which have already deployed Office 365 or Google’s rival Apps platform to this class of so-called ‘light’ or ‘edge’ users — in the education sector, this would be students.
So what’s going on here? Why is this Qantas collaboration platform migration taking so long? Three years is a little long for a project which many would consider fundamental IT infrastructure.
Most likely, in my opinion, it’s due to the nature of Lotus Notes/Domino. Over the years the IBM platform became, for many organisations, much more than a simple collaboration platform, and morphed into an all-encompassing development base which fuelled the creation of many complex corporate applications. Those bespoke applications are gradually being wound back at major companies like Qantas in favour of standard out of the box packages, however, like spaghetti, their tentacles tend to reach everywhere. You can see this at Qantas — it’s apparent that the core email and likely unified communications functionality has been migrated successfully to Outlook/Exchange, but that the airline is still working on other subsidiary functions that may be more difficult to unpick.
Image credit: Qantas