Ann Veneman, the head of the United Nations' children's fund, UNICEF, took time to answer questions for the media recently. Among the many important questions she chose to answer was one about the migration from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange:

Do you believe spending $5.8 million on email migration from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange is justified given UNICEF is funded entirely from voluntary contributions? What was the business case for your move from Lotus Notes to MS Exchange? How will it help UNICEF?

The vast majority of UNICEF's staff are scattered around the world in country offices, managing programmes that target the urgent needs of children. Global communications that are efficient and effective are essential to this work, and decisions about them are not taken lightly. UNICEF decided to migrate to Microsoft Exchange/Outlook after an assessment of its specific organisational needs and priorities. The assessment revealed that migration will deliver an email and communication environment that better meets these needs with considerable cost-savings, and the ultimate beneficiaries will be children in need. UNICEF is one of several UN agencies taking this step.

So, it looks like UNICEF and perhaps other UN organizations are trying to get greater value from the investment they have already made in their messaging and collaboration technology. Microsoft must have a very compelling value proposition for UNICEF to decide to invest close to six million dollars to rip and replace their existing infrastructure. I recently blogged my thoughts on how UNICEF can get greater value from their existing investment in Lotus Notes.

Reuters: UNICEF chief answers your questions, September 5, 2009

Discussion/Comments (6):

UNICEF chief answers questions about Microsoft Exchange

I wonder if Ann Veneman could have been more specific about how this migration from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange by UNICEF was going to deliver these considerable cost savings.

Specifically, how much was going to be saved and how was this specific cost saving going to be realized by UNICEF?

Was UNUCEF going to need less IT staff?

How cost effective was retraining thousands of UNICEF staff to operate a new messaging platform going to be? Was this additional training cost going to be offset by an increase in productivity? If so, how much additional productivity was going to be achieved?

What couldn't UNICEF do on their Lotus Notes messaging platform that they can now do on the Microsoft platform that spending less that $5.8 million could not have fixed?

This is not about which messaging platform that they use, but about the unjustified waste of public money by a senior executive in unecessarily migrating from one vendor to another for exactly the same function.

I would also be asking these same questions if this migration was from Microsoft to Lotus Notes email.

Time and time again, I see senior executives making these assertions that considerable savings are going to be achieved through a messaging platform migration, and I have yet to see a single shread of evidence that any of these messaging platform migrations can be justified financially.

In this case it's not just UNICEF that suffers, but the poor children around the world who would benefit from this wasted $5.8 million.

Posted at 09/07/2009 0:54:59 by Ian Randall

UNICEF chief answers questions about Microsoft Exchange

I'm not buying this. I can't see how Exchange would allow them to communicate better. Like many charitable organisations UNICEF operate in third world countries with poor and unreliable bandwidth - Notes and Domino are far more tolerant of those poor communication links.

Posted at 09/07/2009 5:50:59 by Darren

UNICEF chief answers questions about Microsoft Exchange

I love to see this "assessment". This is a shocking case of mis-management and of using funds that would have been better used targeting this issues that the UN charter mandates.

Posted at 09/07/2009 11:57:53 by Darren Duke

UNICEF chief answers questions about Microsoft Exchange

Many Non-profits are essentially monarchies--their boards follow along with whatever decisison made by the person they happened to hire in the executive job-- (and have not yet fired--yet). They do this because they "trust" them. Translation: they don't want to look like like idiots-- yet-- for a recent hire they approved until after they incur all of the expense and see no return on the investment, then they will act suprised and find some other criteria to dump them. Lazy boards ned up hiring bad execs.

Posted at 09/08/2009 9:46:34 by dan lynch

UNICEF chief answers questions about Microsoft Exchange

Check the history when Ann Veneman was the Secretary of Agriculture. She did the same thing forcing their main office to move to exchange while they were doing find with Lotus.

The pattern here is Bill Gates existence, as he was funding many projects and donating for USDA. Isn't it illegal to abuse your donation to make money and sell your company's products??? Microsoft has a black record of that.

The USDA move to Exchange has been reverted back once Ann Veneman left them. The whole thing cost the USDA a seven-figure number of tax payers' money. Now is it the turn of UNICEF donors' money to be wasted?

We trust your integrity and honesty to research and publish those facts . Maybe you will be able to stop wasting millions of dollars in this tough time.

----- Original Message -----



Subject: Att. Matthew Russell Lee - Scandal in UNICEF

Date: Sun, 6 Sep 2009 16:46:25 -0500


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Subject: Att. Matthew Russell Lee - Scandal in UNICEF

Date: Sun, 6 Sep 2009 16:46:25 -0500

Dear Mathew,

Referring to your previous report regarding UNICEF move to Outlook. Please allow me to correct some points:

1. The figure you mentioned (5.8 M$) is completely INCORRECT. The correct amount of the first phase for that project is more than 10 Million $$ (this is without the training cost for 14000+ users)

2. Not only the UN has upgraded its Notes version to ver. 8 from 6.5 but UNICEF recently upgraded its email system to the latest Lotus Notes 8.5 for more than 14000 employees. Everyone I know in UNICEF is sending his positive feedback to the IT people as the new version has many useful enhancements.

3. The reply from UNICEF spokesperson is a total LIE, he doesn't know what to say (organizational needs and priorities!!?? please check any news broadcast and count how many children are dying everyday around the world from hunger and fatal diseases). Isn't UNICEF supposed to help and save these children? Instead of using the donors' money for a single source contract!!!!!! Mathew please be assured that their priorities are to satisfy Ann Veneman so she keeps everyone on his chair.

4. The spokesperson is manipulating the truth saying "cost-savings". As you mentioned earlier Gartner Group said there is no cost-savings at all. And it is an established fact that the running cost of Outlook is higher than Lotus Notes in such a big organization. (To be honest: Outlook is more cost effective for a small organizations 2000~4000 employees). These are facts (not openions) that anyone IN THE WORLD can easily verify.

5. The spokesperson LIED again saying "UNICEF is one of several UN agencies taking this step" Couldn't he mention who are these agencies??? do they have a similar number of employees? do they have the same number of offices??? with the existence in the most challenging locations on earth??? is it necessary that UNICEF would spend that much money instead of doing their business because OTHER agencies are doing that??

6. Currently UNICEF is having troubles keeping up with the running projects (Child protection, Health, Education and Emergencies) due to the economy constraints. Money is a big issue in UNICEF now. What kind of priorities that force the organization to spend such amount of money for something that is not justified? Instead of doing what UNICEF is supposed to do: saving children's lives????

7. UNICEF is depending on the current email system since 2000. UNICEF has ALL the organizational memory stored in Lotus notes format. That worth years of conversion to Outlook. Ironically, this cost is NOT included in the 10 M $$ I mentioned!!!

Unfortunately I do not expect my message or any other message to stop UNICEF from wasting that money and start saving children's lives. We are counting on you to raise this issue. Maybe the needy children can find someone to defend their right to exist.!!

It is very sad to see such an organization (which you referred to it, as the "Jewel") is diving down like a burnt dying star.

We have spent so many years UNICEF and we used to be very proud of our participation and direct efforts to save children's lives. It is so sad now, as we feel really embarrassed by what the management is doing to that "Jewel".

Posted at 09/09/2009 22:33:00 by xyz

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