The Integrated Business Systems (IBS) project will see KPMG consolidate the data centres and associated infrastructure that runs four key systems from 130 countries into 14 regional service clusters.
The professional services firm is a federation of partnerships around the globe, with its head office serving the IT needs of 30 small countries and 100 other partnerships catering for their own needs.
KPMG will consolidate Exchange e-mail systems, Interwoven document management systems, portals running SharePoint 2007 and a SAP practice management system into regional clusters over the next four to five years.
KPMG Australia CIO Ian McBride said Australia will host one of the clusters, supporting systems for four to five countries and 7000 to 8000 users.
Regional clusters vs global consolidation
It will take applications such as an Australian-developed practice management system to some countries for the first time.
But for applications used across KPMG globally, the consolidation is driven by savings.
"You could imagine that going from 100 systems down to 14 would have to result in raw savings," McBride told iTnews. "Each of these 130 countries has their own Exchange system, their own support staff, policies and operations and infrastructure."
But more importantly, McBride said the arrangement will enable the financial services firm to be "more agile and nimble" in its service delivery while gaining the savings of consolidation.
It was a far more appropriate arrangement than sending operations offshore to the cheapest countries, he said.
"I have a view that there are certain physical limitations to where you provisioning services versus where you consume them," he said.
"With a system like Exchange, it is fundamentally store-and-forward - there is no real-time requirement. But applications that require a real-time experience need to operate relatively close to where they are being used.
"When you are serving hefty applications like SAP to users, there are limitations in terms of distance, latency and network capacity. You can't make the distance between India and Australia get any shorter."
Australia as test bed
McBride confirmed KPMG Australia will be a test bed for the Integrated Business Systems (IBS) project.
"Australia has a great size and scale to get a sense of what issues might occur," he said. "We have good skills locally that can contribute to KPMG's global thinking."
He said the business here is "driving ahead faster than the global project plan" to exploit unified communications.
The Australian office kicked off a unified communications project in January 2009, integrating a Nortel-powered Voice-over-IP system with Microsoft's Office Communications Server (OCS).
OCS is an enterprise software system that integrates instant messaging, VoIP and video conferencing into the popular Microsoft Exchange/Outlook messaging system.
KPMG's "trigger event" to adopt a national approach to unified communications came when the professional services firm moved its Perth office to a new facility last month.
With the Perth office now running on the new OCS and VoIP system, the rest of the country's KPMG offices will abandon their old PABX systems and roll out unified communications in June and July of 2009.
The local office is also trialling the upcoming Exchange 14 platform, currently under beta release, to deploy by June 2010.
Greg Patten, senior manager of infrastructure at KPMG Australia told iTnews the upcoming Exchange 14 "tightens up on Exchange 2007" in some areas, while there are "surprising gaps" in others.
"Holistically, it starts to pull together an Instant Messaging, mail and SMS capability - blending all of these into one window," he said.