Negotiating with the cloud email megavendors

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Negotiating with the cloud email megavendors

[Blog post] Lessons from Woolworths’ mammoth migration.

Playing Microsoft and Google off against each other is a no-brainer when negotiating an email migration, but once you settle on your preferred vendor, it’s best to commit 100 percent.

So says Damon Rees, who acted as CIO of Woolworths during the migration of some 26,000 Exchange accounts to Google Apps, a project that won him Retail CIO of the Year.

“I’d recommend you have options - we kept legitimate options open right through the negotiating process,” he told iTnews. “Keeping that tension in play ensured we drove a good commercial outcome."

“When making a business case, all the painstaking granular detail around support costs and licensing costs gets you dollars and cents for product outcome. It’s equally important to consider which software can make us a better company. It’s important to consider which software can help us execute on the organisation’s broader strategy.”

But from the moment contracts were signed with Google, “we were locked arm-and-arm with our suppliers," he said.

Rees said a vendor’s level of support will always be “relative to your commitment to the ecosystem.”

On that basis, for example, Microsoft will always throw more at aiding an Exchange, Office or XP migration for customers that have also invested in Lync and Sharepoint. Google will always throw more Apps investment at customers that maximise their investment in other Google tools.

“In my experience, it's a better outcome when you commit to one ecosystem. Try to be in both worlds and you will find it most frustrating - both companies won't give you an inch.”

In Woolworths' case, it's enabled the retail giant to call on Google and its software partners to add crucial features required by Woolworths staff - features that were announced this week as being available to Google Apps customers worldwide.

A new role for IT

Rees said the “extra brain space” the IT department saved from not running mail systems internally needs to be put towards a bigger consideration - change management.

“Google releases 200 innovations in the platform every year,” Rees said. “Now the job changes from implementing new features to encouraging people to use the new features. This forces us to be a smarter consumer of technology.

“It’s arguably a harder job to re-skill people than it is to swap out a technology. But you can. The role of IT is now to be a broker and not a provider.”

Rees said he had two key pieces of advice for firms upgrading to a cloud collaboration solution.

“My first tip would be: look at totality of cost of running Exchange. Too many IT departments think their Exchange service costs them nothing, they have no software assurance, they are sweating the software and the hardware asset it sits on.

“But the total cost needs to factor in bandwidth, security, labour downtime, engagement. On that basis both cloud options are unassailable to running mail internally.”

His final tip is not to approach it as mail upgrade.

“There is a much bigger business transformation prize,” he said. “This project is about changing the way we collaborate.”

Stay tuned for more 'Cloud Crossroads' case studies over the coming week or register for our final report.

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Brett Winterford

One of Australia’s most experienced technology journalists, former iTnews Group Editor Brett Winterford has written about the business of technology for 15 years.

Awarded Business Journalist and Technology Journalist of the year at the 2004 ITjourno awards and Editor of the Year at the 2009 Publishers Australia 'Bell' awards, Winterford has extensive experience in both the business and technology press, writing for such publications as the Australian Financial Review and The Sydney Morning Herald.

As editor of iTnews Brett has led a team of award-winning journalists; delivered speeches at industry events; authored, commissioned and edited research papers, curated technology conferences [The iTnews Executive Summit and Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit and also shares the judging of the annual Benchmark Awards.

Brett's areas of specialty include enterprise software, cloud computing and IT services.

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