Last week, Unisys and our client the General Services Administration announced the successful transition of all of GSA’s nearly 17,000 users to Google Apps for Government, replacing the agency’s legacy e-mail and collaboration environment.
I would like to highlight GSA’s leadership and team approach that created a collegial work environment that helped make the transition successful. The critical success factor for the project was the creation of the integrated project teams (IPTs), each headed by a GSA leader with the support of the Unisys team — including Google and Tempus Nova.
GSA staff and contractors with other roles in support of GSA were also included in the IPTs for transition, communications, training, policy, and accessibility. All of us worked closely as a team on a first name basis; no competing contractor/company names or government positions were designated to distract us from the project at hand.
This helped us to tackle some technical challenges. For example, GSA has Blackberry accounts held by users throughout the country that had to be refreshed to work with Google Apps, and there were a few hundred other e-mail accounts that presented challenges for migration. And as would be expected for a transition of this size, there were lots of help desk calls to answer.
But the biggest challenge was probably around communications, including training. We spent a lot of time up-front preparing GSA employees for the changes to come. To promote self-help support, we worked to set up a “user experience site” early on that was updated at least once daily based on the types of problems new users were having.
Because we had gone through two earlier migrations with smaller user populations (i.e. IT pilot and early adopter phases), we had already uncovered most of the big “gotchas.” But on our “go-live” date of June 20, there were still a lot of unknowns — given GSA’s dispersed user base around the U.S. and overseas. The entire team worked closely and around the clock for about five days after the go-live date to make sure everything was working correctly.
Initial response from users has been very positive, regarding both the ease of the transition as well as the functionality in the new tools.