St John's IT pulls through

St John is overhauling its IT with a nationwide network that will replace five separate systems.

St John is overhauling its IT with a nationwide network that will replace five separate systems.

The emergency services organisation is also installing a browser-based events management system, a database to manage St John members and IT to coordinate visits to patients in hospitals across the country.

Alongside its trademark ambulance services St John runs a Safe Kids programme, carries out occupational health and safety training and provides a free service that checks on elderly and disable people who live alone.

Until three years ago St John was comprised of five autonomous regions, each with its own trust board and accounting systems. As a result of this autonomy, the five regional offices and national head office were using separate IT systems.

Three Microsoft Active Directory domains and three NT 4.0 domains were being operated, says St John northern region IT manager Ian Konig (pictured). There were also differing email systems and address formats, as well as divergent remote access methods.

St John chose Axon to consolidate the systems to one domain — which will be hosted in the northern region office in Auckland — one messaging system and one remote access method. Axon will also rationalise and consolidate software, and standardise group applications across the regions. The migration has started and a new Windows Server 2003 system recently live. Three of the regions plus head office are expected to be running on the new wide area network by the end of the month.

Konig says the drive towards national IT systems came out of an initiative called Prescription. The St John Priory Trust Board decided to standardise the delivery of key functions within the organisation, including the provision of corporate services like IT.

Konig, who came from Carter Holt Harvey, knew that an enterprise-wide IT environment would deliver cost reductions and productivity and usage benefits.

Desktops are being upgraded from older editions of MS Office and Windows to the 2000 versions. Konig says standardisation was a must, if only to achieve relatively simple things like enabling everyone to share files.

Being able to pool software licences at a national level also means two regions have been saved from buying more Citrix thin-client licences because there were enough in the overall pool. A new Citrix secure gateway allows 400 remote users to connect to the new network. This gives remote ambulance stations and volunteers working from home the same access to applications and systems as the main offices.

The new WAN will underpin a national web-based events management system, phase one of which will be delivered at the end of the month. Organisers of events such as Round the Bays or Christmas in the Park will be able to contact St John and get national quotes for medical services. St John is also planning to expand a pilot service called Friends of the Emergency Department, which will coordinate visits to people in hospitals across the country, and kicking off a database of information on St John’s 10,000 members.

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