UCT e-mail shift on the cards

24 October 2005

Deputy vice-chancellor Professor Martin Hall explains the rationale behind a decision to move UCT to a new e-mail and calendar system during 2006.

Why replace the current e-mail and calendar systems?

Two main reasons prompted the move to a new e-mail and calendar system. First, the risk of our current system, relying as it does on an open source, back-end mail server, is simply too high. Second, the current system is simply not able to meet our needs. Netscape calendar is no longer being supported or developed. Its outdated interface means that Netscape Calendar no longer integrates with new mobile devices, such as PDAs (Palm and Windows Mobile) and smart phones, meaning that mobile users can no longer synchronise their calendars. Systems like e-mail and the calendar are absolutely critical to the functioning of any organisation, especially one such as our own.

How did you make your choice for the new system?

A formal process was followed in order to determine which product would be the most suitable for our needs at UCT. Open-source solutions aren't suitable and were excluded early in the process. We approached market leaders with a request for specific information and made detailed comparisons before short-listing two. This brought us down to Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise, which were thoroughly investigated, including site visits to institutions where they are in use.

Did you ask the opinion of the campus community?

The campus community was polled in two separate surveys in order to understand requirements and preferences with regard to e-mail and calendar. A general user survey (online), in which respondents were asked to rate their top 10 e-mail and calendar features, was followed by a specialist user survey. The results of both surveys informed the decisions that were made around functionality and user requirements.

How did GroupWise come out on top?

As UCT currently has both Windows and non-Windows users, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, it was felt that GroupWise would offer the most functionality across the board. A collaboration product like GroupWise, where the e-mail and calendar functions are integrated, will improve our productivity. Scheduling a meeting with a number of people will simply be a matter of entering one in the calendar. Each attendee will automatically receive an invitation to the meeting by way of an e-mail message. If an attendee accepts the meeting request - by clicking a button on the tool bar - the appointment is moved to their calendar. The person requesting the meeting can also track the acceptance, or rejection, of the proposed meeting.

How will the changeover be implemented?

The Project Implementation Committee accepted a recommendation to use Novell GroupWise as the new integrated e-mail and calendar product on campus in September. This means that implementation planning can now begin. Decisions about how and when to implement the product suite will involve the campus community and will take into consideration the academic calendar.

Where can I find out more about this?

The full set of product recommendation documents is available as pdf files for download from the supaTsela project website: www.supatsela.uct.ac.za.

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