Wiltshire Council wanted to continue its IT transformation strategy by embracing cloud-based computing. The council is the first in the UK to complete an enterprise-wide implementation of Microsoft Office 365 for all employees. Since 2009, it has cut IT spending from around £20 million to just £15 million a year. Investment in the Microsoft platform, office productivity technologies, and cloud-based solutions has contributed to the savings.
Wiltshire Council employs 4,500 staff who deliver high-quality public services to 466,000 people in south-west England. It became a unitary authority in 2009, when four district councils merged with the former county council. Since then, Wiltshire Council has adopted an IT-driven transformation programme, including a major initiative to benefit from cloud computing.
The council has already introduced a number of Microsoft products, including Windows 7, Microsoft Lync 2010, and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. Its long-term goal - with help from Microsoft - is to build a hybrid cloud platform with multiple service providers.
Andy Spurway, Head of Service Delivery, Wiltshire Council, says: “Following the success of our initial investment in on-premises Microsoft technologies, we wanted to transform service delivery and help the council to provide low-cost sustainable public services. We also needed to improve partnership working with statutory providers and the voluntary sector. Collaboration with partners through cloud services will help us achieve this. Finally, we wanted to use technology that’s compliant with the government security standards.”
Spurway sets out the key principal goals - improve accessibility and resilience, and cutting management overheads of major Microsoft software platforms through migration to fully hosted solutions. He says: “We also want to move in-house developed public-facing web applications to a more resilient and scalable platform, allowing for greater use of apps and more rapid development.”
In considering various cloud solutions, Wiltshire Council preferred Microsoft cloud technology. “Microsoft was the best fit for Wiltshire Council. It ensured business continuity and advanced our existing foundation which is built on Microsoft private cloud technologies,” Spurway says. “Microsoft offered peace of mind about security with its European data centres in Dublin and Amsterdam. It also offered a great level of service with 25 GB mailboxes as standard, along with unlimited archive, and email management tools.”
Microsoft cloud specialists engaged with the IT team at Wiltshire Council and worked with them to support the council in migrating its entire workforce to Microsoft Office 365. Following successful testing, Microsoft Services brought in Microsoft SME Partner Minttulip to help complete full migration of the estate to Microsoft Exchange Online in a matter of months. Wiltshire Council also benefited from Microsoft Services Premier Support.
Minttulip Chief Executive Officer, Adrian King, says: “The collaboration between Minttulip and Microsoft was a key success factor. The council now has a highly flexible platform that can be scaled up or down to meet user demand. More knowledge about cloud services has also been transferred to Wiltshire.”
Wiltshire Council sponsored Microsoft in helping it attain official security accreditation - known as Impact Level 2 (IL2) - for Microsoft Office 365 from the Cabinet Office. Spurway says: “Wiltshire Council migrated to Microsoft Exchange Online as part of our strategy to take advantage of cloud services. Based on our investigations and workshops with Microsoft, we had confidence in the security and support structures in place for Exchange Online and Office 365.”
The council has piloted several other applications in the Microsoft private cloud to advance the adoption of quick to deploy, resilient cloud solutions. Spurway says: “A bus timetable solution and development environments in Microsoft SharePoint collaboration software using Windows Azure have been successfully established in the Microsoft cloud.”
The Wiltshire Council IT transformation programme, including migration to the Microsoft public cloud, has resulted in approximately 25 per cent saving in the local authority IT budget since 2009. A strong strategic partnership with Microsoft underpinned the rollout of Office 365 to 4,500 staff. Not only has it saved money, but it has also introduced more agile working and ensured business continuity.
• Increased flexibility in delivering services to Wiltshire. Council employees now have much larger mailboxes with Office 365 and no longer worry about data storage. They are using Microsoft Lync 2010 communications software and Spurway is considering an upgrade to Lync 2013. He says: “During the UK’s bad weather in early 2013, staff could work flexibly from home with Office 365 without putting a strain on the network. And disaster recovery and business continuity backups are one headache we don’t have with Exchange Online.”
• Microsoft Enterprise Agreement reduces licensing costs. In today’s economic climate, Office 365 is helping local authorities reduce costs through cloud services - Wiltshire is leading the way among tier-one authorities. Spurway says: “We achieved real value for money through our Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. It had already proved its worth in introducing Windows 7 and the Microsoft System Center suite in 2011. We are now considering benefitting from mobility centric services such as Windows 8.”
• Council achieves 25 per cent saving on IT budget in four years. In 2009, amalgamation of four separate authorities in Wiltshire resulted in consolidating over 100 offices into three core hubs and outlying offices. Spurway says: “By working with Microsoft and other partners, we’ve reduced the annual IT budget from £20 million in 2009 to £15 million in 2012. We’re the first local authority in the country to deploy Microsoft Office 365 enterprise wide.”