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IT says email migration a challenge worth taking

by Hayley Lynch, information technology last modified Feb 14, 2012 11:47 AM

Switching University of Louisville faculty and staff email services from GroupWise to Exchange (Outlook) last fall was no simple task.

It required Information Technology to move nearly 13,000 email accounts with more than 22.6 million emails over a six-week period. To ensure the smoothest transition possible for faculty and staff with the least interruption to daily activity, 66 IT employees spent a year preparing for the switch. They had 220 regular planning meetings and numerous ad hoc meetings. They also developed step-by-step instructions for each phase, and numerous communications pieces and emails.

The effort was worth it, said Priscilla Hancock, vice president and chief information officer for Information Technology. The switch provided an email system that works better with mobile devices, allows for greater productivity and answered university-wide dissatisfaction with the former system.

Any technological change brings a learning curve for users, and the new system was no exception. During the migration period, the IT Help Desk received more than 3,600 requests for assistance. Help Desk personnel handled 70 percent of them while a special IT “swat team” handled 23 percent. Other IT teams took care of remaining calls.

IT offered free Outlook training as migration began and continues to offer the basic classes. Advanced classes, as well as training specifically for the Outlook calendar and address book features, also are available. IT has posted hundreds of FAQs and dozens of training videos also on the email-dedicated website.

After employees migrated, IT sent them a survey to get feedback on the new Outlook email system, as well as the migration instructions and IT support. About 44 percent of faculty and staff survey said they sought help from IT, while 56 percent received help from their unit’s Tier I support staff.

“The first time people used Outlook, 87 percent were satisfied,” Hancock said. “This made it much more of a welcome change. I saw strong Tier I support; this was a very successful partnership. Eight-seven percent were also satisfied with the technical support they received.”

Faculty and staff reported a satisfaction rate of 91 percent with the communication they received before their email migrations, and satisfaction rates between 80 and 90 percent with the instructional documentation that accompanied migration.

“These implementations have brought some universities to their knees,” Hancock said. “There is just no good time to do this on a college campus. But 82 percent of faculty and staff were satisfied with the migration process itself­. That’s impressive.”

UofL is in a stabilization period with faculty and staff still getting used to the new processes and features of Outlook, said Sande Johnson-Byers, project sponsor and assistant vice-president for information technology. As people become more comfortable with Outlook, and any remaining issues are ironed out from the GroupWise shutdown, IT will introduce additional Outlook features. “We have to make sure the system is stable first,” she explained. “Exchange has a lot of features to exploit. We just need to investigate them and roll those out to the university community.”

The university’s acceptance of the change and willingness to work through the bumps in the road went a long way toward the project’s success, Hancock said. “I know they wanted this change, but there is no good time when you are trying to send in a grant or meet with a student—everyone was extremely gracious,” she said.

Hancock also commended the migration team for its planning and persistence to troubleshoot problems leading up to and through migration. “We never missed a deadline,” Hancock said. “I want to recognize the entire team for a wonderful job on this project.”

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