Infrastructure > Cloud

Anglesey gets "work smart" to meet budget challenge

David Bicknell Published 26 January 2016

Insight engagement saves council £140,000 from potential licensing costs


The Isle of Anglesey in Wales is the latest council that has seen the benefits of mobile working as a solution to promote a more agile and modern workforce while at the same time reducing - and realising - the council's property assets.

The council has implemented the recommendations of a "smarter working" project which has ICT as one of its main facets.

The council says it recognises that its investment in ICT over the last few years has not been at the level it should have been. Belatedly, it has now begun to realise that a smart investment in ICT to enable "smarter working" can result in gains from both a financial and non-financial perspective in other areas.

The isle's county council recently said it is striving to balance its most challenging budget to date. With a significant funding reduction from the Welsh Government expected during 2016/17, the authority has admitted it could be forced to make service cuts of up to £5.6m.

The council will save £140,000 following an engagement with reseller Insight to streamline the council's software licensing estate.

The project with Insight, which used Snow as a software management tool, has since led to an ongoing contract with Insight to manage the council's Microsoft licensing estate, saving the council money through the redeployment of unused licences.

The Insight contract, worth £33,600 over the next three years, will provide complete visibility of the council's deployed software licences, while assuming responsibility for ensuring that Anglesey maintains licensing compliance. Insight will also implement a three-year Licence Consulting Desk Service to build and adapt solid, cost effective licensing strategies for the council to help it meet its current, but most importantly, future technology needs.

Discussing the engagement and the council's broader ICT strategy, Neil Summers, the council's technical services manager, said he had engaged Insight because he realised that keeping on top of licensing compliance can be a headache for cash-strapped councils which are wrestling with the demands of austerity.

"Software licensing is an area which is full of complicated, fast-changing rules," said Summers. "Insight had proved itself a valuable partner, and we realised that to ensure we were compliant and cost-effective we needed an expert to help us - which is where Insight came in. Our work with them ensures we are compliant to our software providers and efficient as a local authority."

The council's Corporate Plan for 2013-17 highlights the key role of ICT in helping the council become a "24x7 organisation" by giving customers the ability to "access what they need to, when they need to, wherever they are and in the language they prefer" with all interaction, internal and external enabled electronically.

To match those expectations, the council said it will take a 'One Council' approach to service delivery by supporting the delivery of a modern, flexible workforce, equipped to deliver the council's goals. That will include enabling staff to access the computer systems they need securely from any location.

There will be more flexible working arrangements with staff managed by outcomes and being less office based, so that they can spend a higher percentage of their time in direct contact with customers. The council envisages the adoption of a 'hub and spoke' model will be in place for a number of services ensuring that a central base exists but that staff are based as close to the communities they serve as possible.

The plan anticipates that the integration and harmonisation of ICT processes will collectively lead to improved service delivery and increased benefits to citizens and local businesses. There will be a rationalised council estate with the overhead cost of running the council reduced, though there will be a need for a significant investment of around £1m between 2013 and 2017 to upgrade and improve its IT provision.

A key element in being able to deliver mobile working is improved mobile and broadband connectivity on Anglesey. Although, in the words of Ynys Mon (Anglesey) MP, Albert Owen, much progress has been made on the rollout of broadband on the island as a result of a programme led by the Welsh Government with support from the UK Government and EU allowing improvement by BT Openreach, Owen would like to see further improved mobile and broadband connectivity on the island.

He wants to see Anglesey being made a pilot for universal coverage of Superfast Broadband, suggesting that although Wales is better in rural areas than the UK average, it is still too slow.

He has argued that areas of the UK that have poor broadband still tend to have good 3G or 4G mobile connections. Anglesey and North Wales, he suggested, do not, which is why he is campaigning for both to be improved.

To take advantage of this improved connectivity, the council has a series of ICT projects which can assist in smarter working and which have either been completed or are planned for implementation soon.

They include:

- Extending the existing site-wide Cisco WiFi for corporate laptops and tablets to external council owned sites such as schools and libraries. This allows council officers to use their laptops to access corporate resources using WiFi in these locations. The council is currently engaged in a partnership which will see its corporate network SSID shared with other local authorities and the local health board further extending the range of locations at which council staff can access their files. This will allow for further co-location of social services staff in health centres enabling them to provide better services closer to the point of need.

- Equipping housing staff with android tablets which can connect back to headquarters resources via WiFi or mobile signal to keep residents up to date with information about rents and rates. Housing inspectors can use similar technology to book or record progress on house repairs. The council uses systems provided by Orchard and SVS and is now currently in the process of changing mobiles to a new service provider which is providing 3G coverage in the Anglesey area and has an aggressive 4G roll out plan.

- Assisting council officers to work from offsite locations by completing a rollout of Microsoft Lync with Clerity's help. Lync provides chat, video conferencing and 'presence' to all the council's users. Once it had been pilot tested the rollout to over 1000 users was completed with System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM), which was the first time the council's IT team had completed an SCCM to rollout to a large number of users. The rollout has given the team confidence in using it for other projects.

- Ensuring all PC and tablet users now have Lync. The Lync installation has been installed on a Hyper-V cluster which is abstracted across new Lenovo System X 3850 16 core servers. The MS Lync client has also been rolled out to councillors and chief officers who have an iPad instead of laptops. Councillors are being encouraged to go paperless by using iPads in all meetings.

- To reduce printing costs, Summers' IT team recently commissioned Konica Minolta to carry out a survey of the existing HP desktop and networked printers. The result is that around 170 printers will be replaced with 26 multi-functional devices (MFD). The council is also implementing secure printing in which prints will only be released at the MFD when a swipe card of the user is presented.

To further enhance its adoption of remote working, Anglesey is planning a Citrix rollout. Its plan is to relocate some off-site offices to the main HQ site, reduce desk size and encourage desk sharing and remote working where possible to reduce assets. This has been accompanied by increasing the flexible working bandwidth to allow for more family friendly work times.

Using Citrix will also provide better control of published applications and the creation of a standard laptop build including applications. The plan is also to virtualise more of Anglesey's physical servers to allow for redundancy and resilience. Once its rollout is complete Anglesey will have VMware, Hyper-V, and Citrix as virtualisation platforms and it plans to deploy Microsoft System Centre Virtual Machine Manager to manage the estate from one plane of glass.

One of the benefits of the smarter working project, says Summers, is that the lack of investment in corporate ICT systems over the last few years has been officially recognised, resulting in belated investments in new and improved hardware. All the council's Windows XP desktops have been replaced with at least Windows 7 PCs or laptops. Seven-year old Sun servers running the council's Revenues and Benefits system are being replaced with a more powerful pair of IBM S822 power 8 servers and TS3100 tape library.

Other areas where the welcome investment in ICT can result in savings elsewhere in the organisation include a mobile application, "AppMon", which allows citizens to interact directly with back end resources such as reporting street light or recycling issues; the use of web casting to provide recording of planning and other council or meetings; and the re-use of existing software platforms for new uses such as using an existing leisure system to assist in the commercialisation of maritime services.

The council recently agreed with IBM and Celerity to upgrade its storage and backup systems to include storage virtualisation across FS900 and V7000 flash, solid state devices with LTO7 tape backup.

And it is not just ICT hardware which has been upgraded.

A new much more customer focused ICT Service desk went live at the council in October. This has resulted in better performance management of service desk calls and better feedback to the users, which has been recently recognised internally by an internal staff service award. A review of ICT staff structure is currently in progress with the aim of aligning the department to become more business partner-focused

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