Emory Report
March 19, 2007
Volume 59, Number 23

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March 19, 2007
Multi-phase project to unite e-mail, calendaring across Emory

by kim urquhart

As executive associate dean for clinical affairs and director of The Emory Clinic, professor of dermatology and chair of the department, Wright Caughman communicates regularly with “the hundreds of contacts in this institution I need to be available to,” he said. This is sometimes a challenge, however, because Caughman’s e-mail and calendar functions reside in GroupWise, a cross-platform software solution used at Emory Healthcare, while his University communications come from other programs.

The doctor’s diagnosis? “Schizophrenia. It’s like I’m living in two separate worlds,” he said. For physicians who work in both the School of Medicine and Emory Healthcare, the separation makes difficult the coordination of research, educational and clinical issues. And different calendaring systems make the scheduling of common events among faculty from various departments even harder, Caughman said. To read or reply to his e-mail, Caughman would sometimes need to log out of one account at The Emory Clinic, cross the street to his University office in the department of dermatology and log into another.

Caughman is a champion of Emory’s initiative to move to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 as a common unified communication and collaboration platform. Synchronizing e-mail messages, calendars and contact lists on a common platform for Emory’s diverse populations will help bridge what has been a digital divide at Emory.

“The goal is to eliminate the chaos through a common system, one we can use across the board and trust to be secure. This is particularly important for the health care enterprise,” said Rich Mendola, vice president for information technology and CIO. The objective is to provide a seamless and easy-to-use messaging and calendaring solution across Emory, automate the switch to the new system, and minimize the impact on the user community, he said.

The project, dubbed EmoryExchange, will provide Emory with a common e-mail and voice messaging, calendaring, document sharing, and collaboration platform for both computing desktop and mobile environments. EmoryExchange provides an avenue for moving Emory’s strategic themes of collaboration and community into a much more integrated digital world. The project is being implemented in phases, with Emory Healthcare users the first to begin migration.

Between May and August, all of Emory Healthcare’s 13,000 users will make the switch from GroupWise to Exchange. School of Medicine employees are also included in this first phase. Currently, a comprehensive communications campaign is under way to educate employees about the switch and a broad range of training is offered, Mendola said.

Microsoft Exchange has become the market leader in integrated e-mail and calendaring solutions and offers the rich set of features that many in the Emory community have come to expect, Mendola said.

Exchange offers the technology for sending and reading e-mail, as well as calendaring, task management, and simplified collaboration of Microsoft Office documents such as Word and Excel. Widely used and multi-platform, Exchange is the most commonly supported messaging solution by third party vendors such as Blackberry and Treo. Ultimately, this system will lay the foundation to implement modular messaging, a later phase of the project. Modular messaging makes it possible to receive all types of messages in one location, including voicemail, e-mail, instant messaging and faxes.

Microsoft Outlook provides desktop access to Exchange accounts. Outlook offers folders and anti-spam filtering, personal and shared calendars with meeting scheduling tools, management of contacts and projects, and integration with some Microsoft Office word processing tools.

All faculty and staff users who have multiple GroupWise and Eagle mail accounts will be migrated to one Exchange account, and multi-platform support will allow calendar and e-mail access via multiple clients. Among the user groups who will benefit from a single collaboration tool across Emory are clinical faculty members such as Caughman, who is among the 1,500 or so GroupWise users who have already began the migration to Exchange.

“With the migration, I’ll have access to all calendaring functions, all contacts and all communications in one platform, one PDA,” said Caughman, who uses a Treo regularly, “and when that PDA synchs it will constantly update all the information I will need.”

For health care users in particular, Mendola said, “the Exchange environment has been designed to meet the high bar” of integrity and privacy requirements.

The project team has carefully planned the migration schedule, with migration automated at the server level to minimize disruption to individual desktops. “For most people this should be a behind-the-scenes activity,” Mendola said. Departments will be grouped and scheduled sequentially, spreading department users across migration windows that avoid hospital and clinic shift changes. The EHC project migration team will provide a dedicated support center during migration.

Emory Healthcare Information Services and Academic and Administrative Information Technology are organizing workshops and open houses where customers can “test drive” the application and get answers to questions.

More University schools and administrative units will be signing on to Exchange in subsequent phases of the project. Mendola noted that more than 50 different e-mail providers are currently in use across the campus.
While the Office of Information Technology is investigating alternatives to LearnLink, a system that is particularly popular with students, Mendola emphasized that the University will for now continue to support the service. “Ultimately our target is to replace the majority of e-mail providers with a common messaging solution,” Mendola said, the benefits of which include streamlined processes, elevated productivity, improved efficiency and conservation of fiscal and material resources.

“We are speaking a common language now,” added Emory Healthcare CIO Dedra Cantrell.

Visit http://it.emory.edu/ehc-exchange for details.