by Chloe Herrick

Maritime Museum kicks off $2m IT overhaul

Jul 27, 20115 mins
NetworkingUnified Communications

The Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) has kicked off a $2 million ICT infrastructure overhaul project in an effort to align numerous lacklustre siloed IT systems, according to its head of information services, Karen Holt.

Holt, who was appointed to the role in January 2010 following a strategic review in 2008, said the project was the largest the museum had undertaken to date and would replace the infrastructure from beginning to end.

“The IT infrastructure was an afterthought for the museum when it opened and has grown up in little isolated silos without very much integration,” Holt said.

“With a strategic plan and a mandate the museum plans to do more with digital technology to get our information out to a wider audience to encourage more online visitors, and just to provide the sort of working environment that people are coming to expect so we would attract people of the calibre we have at the museum.”

The upgrade will be conducted by a consortium of companies, led by Frontline Systems and comprising Allcom Networks, Antares Solutions, Power Cloud Solutions and the Artisan Group Australia, to deliver a complete, highly integrated service for their new ICT environment.

The project will include a new switched network, based on Cisco technology; the installation of a WiFi connection, a videoconferencing service with Polycom, which is integrated into Microsoft’s Lync 2010 unified communications platform, and a complete upgrade of all server and desktop infrastructure software using Microsoft.

“The upgrade of our ICT systems will enable us to deliver on a number of our core business goals, including effectively providing greater outreach for our programs especially educational, and access for the general public to our collection and the information held internally, as well having a mobile and connected workforce,” Holt said.

“In addition, we only have a small number of IT staff, so it’s important to have an ICT infrastructure that is easy to manage.”

Frontline was awarded the contract following a competitive tender, with about 90 companies expressing interest that whittled down to just 23 to receive tender documents. From that, seven companies made the tender list and responded with applications.

“We had a very thorough tender process and we even got auditors in to audit the process because a project of this size requires ministerial approval, it went down to the council and then down to the minister and was approved in January,” Holt said.

“The tender documentation made it clear we would welcome a consortium approach because the infrastructure upgrade covers every aspect including digital signage, video conferencing, streaming media and unified comms.

“We realised while there may be some companies that were fairly competent over all of those, a lot would have core competencies and then if they engage with someone else that also had core competencies in another area, we would get a strong response and a good infrastructure.”

According to Holt, Frontline won the tender “fair and square” based on its ability to best meet the ANMM’s requirements, taking into account the costs as the museum is run by taxpayers.

The infrastructure is currently being built off-site in a number of labs, Holt said, and will soon be installed in the new server rooms on schedule for the planned completion date of January 2012.

“We’re hoping to migrate the staff to the new infrastructure from about the second week of September to about the second week in October,” she said.

“In preparation, we’re going through quite a process of communication with staff, they’ve been hearing about the ICT infrastructure upgrade for quite some time now and now that we’re getting closer to the time it will actually affect them, we’re sending out a regular weekly newsletter.

“We’re going to give people a half day’s training in groups of 16, some of it will be presentation and some of it will be hands-on.”

A big risk throughout the project, Holt said, would be keeping people’s applications the same so as there is no loss of productivity.

“The biggest risk is loss of productivity and getting people offside because the museum is a very busy place and most of the teams are small,” she said.

“We don’t want to inconvenience anyone, the museum is open seven days a week, there’s exhibitions changing all the time, there are teams working on projects of two or three years who’ve got a lot of construction going on here.

“There’s lots of things happening, the coordination between all the different projects is quite a juggling act and you really don’t want people to experience any loss of service or not be able to work and that’ the biggest risk, maintaining everything the museum does while we’re basically moving from one entire infrastructure to a brand new one.”

Once the new infrastructure is in place, Holt’s six-strong team of staff who oversee corporate IT, online services including Web and digital media, and records management will focus on the implementation of a new CRM and a new ticketing system, moving the hosted website to Azure and a new CMS.

Last year, Holt told attendees of IDC’s Cloud Computing Conference that after relying on single-person external contractors and disparate systems and infrastructure for 19 years, the museum had successfully transferred the ageing Novell GroupWise email platform to Microsoft Online Services in three months.

“I presented a short sort of ICT strategic mission to the executive brief in February, I got the approval in March, we did it in April and we were all finished by the end of June,” Holt said at the time.

“I’ve been there seven months and I have my head around the bureaucracy a little, but I’m still amazed we were able to do this in a short amount of time.”

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