Scottish city takes on Novell's GroupWise
(InfoWorld Daily Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)The city council in Aberdeen, Scotland, says it has successfully moved around 4,000 users to a new communications platform that improves control for administrators and communication between employees.
Aberdeen City Council's decision to upgrade their system came after several new needs arose with e-mail and the sharing of documents, among other things, said Debra Storr, business analyst for the council.
For e-mail, the council had used a free program called Pegasus Mail, said Steve Rose, project leader in finance and ICT services. The program worked well, but it did not store mail in a central database, a problem for administrators, Rose said.
The council also wanted a system that could meet changing government-compliance rules, Storr said.
"We knew that Pegasus just couldn't hack it," Storr said.
Pegasus kept e-mail as text files inside isolated subdirectories, and an administrator would have to go into each employee's directory to search, Rose said. Pegasus also didn't have a control to set mailbox space quotas, which GroupWise allows.
For sharing documents, the council had set up seven or eight servers across different council departments. Setting up shared drives on one server wasn't a problem, but authenticating people on different servers became complicated, Rose said. GroupWise has the ability to set up shared directories with anyone who is in the address book, he said.
The council's IT program used software from several vendors and sources. Most of the council's clients run Windows XP, with pockets of Windows 2000, Windows 95 and Macs. Interoperability with all of those systems was key in choosing a platform, Storr said.
Along with GroupWise, the council ran extensive tests of IBM's Lotus Notes, Microsoft's Exchange and the Java Communications Suite from Sun Microsystems Inc. Both technical people and users evaluated the software using a scorecard.
Some of the main concerns with adopting a platform were training needs, long-term vendor support and the flexibility of the platform, Storr said. GroupWise scored high for the compatibility of its APIs (application program interfaces) with third-party software products used for the council's needs. Additionally, the council already was using some Novell products, such as eDirectory for authentication and NetWare, Rose said.
Aberdeen's selection of Novell is a boost for the company, which has struggled with GroupWise amid strong competition from Microsoft's Exchange over the last five years. It has also had to deal with IBM's Lotus Notes, which has a hold on the high-end of the market, said Eric Woods, government practice director for Ovum Ltd.
"Novell has had to try and maintain a position in that space the two giants have been fighting over," Woods said.
Local governments tend to allocate funds first for front-line CRM (customer relationship management) programs that can improve delivery of services to their customers, the taxpayers, Woods said. But they are increasingly looking toward productivity software, albeit on a slower scale than their private-sector counterparts, he said.
The council budgeted about 500,000 (US$883,000) for the first year of the upgrade, including implementation and consulting, officials said. GroupWise was the cheapest of the four software packages as far as total cost of ownership, Storr said. The council signed a five-year contract with Novell last February.
Since GroupWise was installed starting in July, about 4,000 city council employees are using it, and the number could rise to 6,000 over the next few years, Storr said.
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