When people talk about the pressures facing government offices, they often focus on a tiny piece of the puzzle: trimming this year’s budget, adopting this year’s new technology or meeting the citizen needs in the near term. The trouble with that approach is it ignores all those factors are intertwined and ongoing. New technologies, new citizen concerns and, yes, new budget cuts will continue for the foreseeable future. It’s impossible to cope with it all by reacting to each change as it comes, nibbling around the edges of larger issues with small, incremental improvements. To cope with the challenges ahead, local governments need to fundamentally transform their approach, allowing them to engage citizens and accelerate growth.

The time had come for Cambridgeshire Police to upgrade from its aging Blackberry devices. Cambridgeshire needed to replace them with something modern, which would make it easier for staff to be productive and flexible in any environment. The office could easily have opted for a new standard device for the entire force. But rather than choose a device, they opted to focus on a platform: Windows Phone 8.1. Now Cambridgeshire is rolling out 8,000 Windows Phone devices across the force.

The critical difference is that because the office is focusing on a platform, different officers can have different devices, each tailored to meet their needs. Some staff may need specialist devices with certain capabilities, while others may be fine with a basic, low-cost unit. No matter what Windows Phone 8.1 device an officer uses, the entire constabulary can rest easy, knowing it will be secure, powerful and completely compatible with the rest of office’s devices.

“Mobile device management providers have worked their socks off to be ready for 8.1 Phone release, and with the new encryption and new application VPN, it makes this platform become viable from a public sector perspective, while it probably never had been in the past,” said Ian Bell, the head of ICT for Cambridgeshire Police. “It is enterprise-ready as far as we are concerned.”

What’s more, the decision helps future-proof the department, because it doesn’t rest on a single device that will eventually become obsolete. Upgrades will be easy and can done over time. By recognising that the future of mobility lies in platforms, not devices, the constabulary is able to transform the way its staff operates in a cost-effective, flexible manner.

But of course, Cambridgeshire Police isn’t stopping there. When the office decided to replace its outdated Lotus Notes environment with Microsoft SharePoint 2013, the need to control costs was at the forefront of its thoughts. The upgrade also helped employees discover information, share documents and organise data more effectively, leading to operational efficiency gains and lower spending in the long run. The force hopes that by using shared resources, and through more accessible data, it can streamline operations and avoid making deeper funding cuts into areas such as personnel.

Cambridgeshire Police is even getting proactive, using the Microsoft Social Listening tool within Dynamics CRM to monitor things like public sentiment, crowd movement, and local infrastructure conditions. Intelligence is the backbone of effective public safety, and today, more insight exists than ever before as many citizens share information using popular social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The tool makes it easy to turn raw data into easy to use charts and graphs, making the information easier to process.

“The ability to translate this data collection into visualisations is huge because it makes the data not only far easier understand, but also easier to respond to as well,” said Phil Silvester, Strategy and Programme Manager for Cambridgeshire Police.

When a local government office embraces mobility, collaboration and data insights this way, the result isn’t just a marginal improvement – it’s a transformation.

Learn more about how Microsoft is helping organisations across the UK work more flexibly