When communication is a pillar of your business, migrating to another communication system and then maintaining it once its installed can be equally critical. But executing such a move with a small budget and little in-house expertise adds a new set of challenges.
Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP learned this firsthand last year when the 185-attorney law firm set out to migrate from Novell Inc.s GroupWise messaging platform to Microsoft Corp.s Exchange.
Several factors motivated SGR to migrate, including the greater number of third-party options afforded with a Microsoft platform and SGRs desire to integrate its messaging system with other internal systems, such as document management, records management and archiving records.
"Messaging is my critical app," said Chris McDaniel, CIO of SGR, in Atlanta. "If messaging has a problem, its all hands on deck. Youd think document management would be the biggest problem, but its not. Its messaging."
But as can happen in such cases, there was a big gap between knowing what to do and how to do it. Because of its limited resources and limited expertise with Exchange, SGR took the advice of a software partner and looked outside for help.
After a bidding process, SGR got the help it was looking for from a local systems integrator, Intellinet Corp. The keys to winning SGRs confidence were Intellinets familiarity with Exchange and its philosophy of system management.
"Our goal was to get the knowledge transfer until they were self-sufficient," said Michael Trapnell, principal consultant at Intellinet, also of Atlanta. "The concept is, do a pilot and work with them on it but let them run that till theyre comfortable."
Intellinet got SGR to its comfort level in short order by taking care of several critical aspects of the migration and handoff, including starting planning and executing the migration process and then getting the SGR team ready to manage the system.
"Literally part of what we engaged them for was not only test deployment and system design, but they helped with the development of our training courses," SGRs McDaniel said. He added that as an integrator, "[Intellinet] knew the gotchas, the right way to set up Exchange."
The migration project began last April. Intellinet pulled out the first week of August after the first 20 users, as scheduled, were migrated to Exchange. After that, SGRs in-house IT staff completed the enterprisewide migration for the firm, which includes offices in Washington and Jacksonville, Fla.
According to Intellinets Trapnell, handing off a project such as SGRs at the beginning of the migration is common in the legal profession.
"I think it has a lot to do with the sensitivity of their client base," Trapnell said. "Its not your typical user base. Its a lot more demanding. The mind-set of support groups that support attorneys and legals is this: They want to cover all their bases. Instead of trial and error, they want to say they checked it out."
That said, "[SGR] probably wouldve loved to have us stay on through the entire migration," Trapnell laughed. "But in the long run, its better for them. It forces them to take ownership of the new environment."
Trapnell said that for a short time after the pullout, SGR and Intellinet exchanged a lot of communication. "It lasted for a week or so but then dropped off pretty quickly," he said.
In the end, it was a no-brainer for SGR, McDaniel said. "They were local; they were focused. They seemed more tangible," he said. "Youd think that by default, no one would know a CRM [customer relationship management] package better than the CRM vendor. But I disagree. They dont deploy it or train it on a day-to-day basis."