The Messaging team Rüsselsheim: Reinhard Schmitz (from left), Elke Rosignuolo, Horst Hecker, Thomas Herth und Dorothee Gross-Schumann.

Rethinking the PC

Opel’s „Umparken im Kopf“ (‘Re-Park in Your Head’) campaign touches on office workplaces, too. Since the beginning of this year Lotus Notes is more and more a thing of the past: All e-mails in the GM world are being sent with Mircosoft Outlook. The switch involved a huge amount of work for the team of IT experts at GM and for the Messaging team in Rüsselsheim. And it’s no wonder: Opel’s 27,000 mailboxes are used to send over 700,000 e-mails every day.

In line with the Opel brand campaign, Horst Hecker, Head of the Rüsselsheim Messaging team, wants users to go into the process with an open mind. He compares changing the e-mail system to switching from a diesel to a gas-powered car. “It’s different in terms of design and feel. Each require a modified infrastructure, and I suppose you have to get used to the controls and how they work. There are good reasons for both.”

IT specialists define migration as the process when software infrastructure is fundamentally altered. A migration like this must be carefully prepared. February 2013 marked the officially start of the process. A delegation from the American project team in charge of supervising the migration, headed up by Mike Adelson, visited the Adam Opel Headquarters and sat down with IT specialists to discuss approaches and specific European aspects that needed to be considered. This work laid the groundwork for smooth cooperation. Drew Lewin from the plant in Luton was placed in charge of European coordination activities.




The Messaging team want users to go into the process with an open mind.


27,000 mailboxes: Priorities needed to be established
First off, the project team had to fulfill the conditions for approval by the works council. For this reason, the migration in Germany began shortly before the end of the year and it was completed much faster as a result. This was because temporarily running the old Lotus Domino server system and the new Microsoft Exchange system in parallel is a complex undertaking. In total, 27,000 mailboxes were migrated from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook throughout Europe. There were several hard nuts to crack, for example, when it came to integrating the mailing lists for mass e-mails into the new system. In Europe, these lists had been automatically maintained in Lotus Notes.

What’s more, the support team based in the Indian city of Chennai, which had been a key mainstay for Lotus Notes support for GM, was no longer on board as of mid-2013 as part of GM’s IT insourcing strategy, according to which all work that can be done in-house should be done in-house. Work was completed at the end of April. “We were able to shut down the old Domino servers with a clear conscience. We didn’t have to worry about user complaints,” says Reinhard Schmitz, who shut down the first two servers on 24 April in front of the entire team. All 24 Domino mail servers were taken out of service by the end of May.


An eventful history: From EDS to the Messaging team
It was a moment that left the Messaging team with mixed feelings. It awakened many memories: “When I joined EDS in 1995, Opel only had 2,000 Lotus Notes users,” says Horst Hecker. However, this figure increased rapidly. It was followed by a host of architectural modifications, comprehensive upgrade and consolidation projects, and organizational changes. EDS was taken over by Hewlett Packard, and the site in Rüsselsheim was closed down. In 2013, five employees from the Lotus Notes team moved to Opel as part of GM’s IT insourcing strategy. Since then, they have worked together with their sister team in Detroit to provide support for the new e-mail system services.

IT has entered into a new era at GM: The entire IT department was reorganized and repositioned in terms of personnel. At the same time, a new program system was introduced. It uses the help desk to capture reports of problems from users and forward them to the responsible teams. Replacing each of these systems made it necessary to continuously update user administration processes across all teams.


Archives will be located in the Exchange mailbox in the future
Many users still have to upload their old Lotus Notes archives into their new Exchange mailbox. To this end, IT personnel are gradually rolling out an uploader tool so as not to overload the lines to the e-mail servers in the U.S. GM has published a global directive that states that users should no longer have an archive on their PC. This facilitates easier access if, for example, data is required for legal procedures.

Lotus Notes is used for around 250 databases in Europe. These too will be shut down or migrated to other systems by the end of 2015. “This is no easy task, as the Lotus Notes database and mail functions were seamlessly integrated. We’ll need additional tools for Microsoft SharePoint and other products,” explains Thomas Herth, a database developer with many years of experience. Routine operation is still a long way away.


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Outlook functions

GM is implementing the latest versions of Outlook 2013 and Exchange 2013, as it means that users are spared from having to perform the first upgrade. But: “It’s a challenge for us though, as we really haven’t had any good training opportunities for this version,” says Elke Rosignuolo, member of the Messaging team.

Users are invited to use the ‘Outlook Resource Portal’ for this purpose:
It features many descriptions and videos on frequently-used functions.