Email Consolidation

I've heard that the email consolidation project that the Cabinet approved as part of Utah's IT plan will be axed. This doesn't surprise me. If I were still around, I'd have probably let it die as well. The project isn't failing for technology reasons. The project is failing because:

  1. Agency IT personnel won't cooperate. It was a gamble from the start to take the very people who are running email in the agencies now and ask them to come up with a plan for changing it. They have little motivation to do so since they like the status quo. I didn't attend the meetings, but I understand that some of them were downright hostile.
  2. ITS is not positioned to make it work. ITS has to be able to take this service over and run it flawlessly for this project to have the desired affect (see below). At one point, a few months ago, the current ITS-run email service was offline for dozens of hours over a period of time, completely unmonitored. No one's going to trust that. At the same time, you'd have a tough time convincing a lot of people in ITS that there's anything wrong. That's a problem.

Some will claim that the ROI just wasn't there, but that's a red herring. The ROI for email consolidation was never the point. The whole point of the exercise was to prove it could be done. Why? Because until you can consolidate email, you've got no hope of consolidating more complicated services like LAN administration and desktops. That's where the ROI is.

The State of Utah spends $10-20 million per year more on IT than it needs to. To see those gains though, IT would have to be organized very differently. The real kicker is that they could not only save the money, but get better service as part of the deal---if its done right. At this point, however, I think the email consolidation failure has shown its going to take a lot more than the Cabinet asking to have it done to make something like this work. My fear is that the legislature will try to force it through cuts without giving the CIO the authority to change the organization. That's what they did last year and it was a disaster.

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