Medway Council serves a population of 270,000 in Kent, United Kingdom. The council’s geography is 50 per cent rural, 50 per cent urban and embraces a wide demographic range. Like most local governments, Medway has faced financial constraints following a reduction in central government funding. Head of ICT Moira Bragg runs a team of 60 that supports the council’s estate of over 100 separate locations. She explains, "Most local authorities are looking for ways to transform their services. At Medway, we have a programme that is looking for ways to drive efficiency: doing things better, but more efficiently. That includes working more flexibly to reduce the number of properties occupied by staff."
Medway faced a number of challenges across its ICT estate. Historically, hardware budgets were under the control of individual departments. Some, facing budgetary pressures, had delayed hardware updates with the result that many PCs were beyond the end of their economic life.
Moira was aware that a fresh approach to ICT could help drive transformation right across the council. Utilisation of physical desks across the council was between 50 and 60 per cent. If users could be freed from their desks, the council could begin to realise greater efficiencies by rationalising its real estate portfolio. Rather than being hampered by history, geographically scattered departments could be reunited in single offices, reducing travel and improving efficiency further.
Moira and her team were aware that similar organisations had achieved substantial benefits from a virtual approach. They developed a business case to determine what cashable savings might be available if Medway took a similar path. Satisfied as to the potential savings, Moira and Simon Austin, the Programme Manager for Medway’s Agile Working programme, put the project out to tender.
It quickly became clear that a Citrix solution would be the best technical fit for the council’s needs. However, it initially appeared too costly. At that point, Citrix Gold Solution Advisor Thintech contacted the council. MD Brett Loveday convinced Moira that his firm could deliver a virtual desktop solution using Citrix XenDesktop® that was within Moira’s budget and which met the team’s criteria for speed, security, remote access and usability aspects such as quality of audio, video and support for dual screens.
The ICT team took the opportunity to centralise hardware procurement within their team. An initial survey defined 10 – 15 per cent of users across the Council would require a mobile solution. All other users would migrate to new thin client Dell Wyse® terminals. With a successful proof-of-concept completed, the team began to roll out the solution, starting with the most complex departments; those scattered across many sites and using a wide variety of applications. Children’s Services, with its sensitive data needs, was also high on the list. With the most demanding departments handled first, the roll-out will gather speed as it continues.
Moira was able to take "before" and "after" energy readings at one early site. The move to a virtual desktop solution on thin client hardware has reduced energy consumption by approximately 24 percent. This, combined with savings from centralising hardware procurement and moving desk-based users onto thin client terminals, was projected to save Medway Council £1 million over five years. The project is currently tracking well ahead of this.
Moira’s team has established drop-in centres for mobile staff at libraries and community hubs. Within existing offices, they have created hot-desking areas and dissolved the old one person, one desk, one device model. As a result, the council has been able to consolidate Children’s Services into a single building from the three it required previously. The council has identified a further three buildings where leases will not be renewed over the next year. As Simon explains, "Users are really, really happy with the new technology. Log in times have reduced, they have the new version of Microsoft® Office and they can sit wherever they like." Simon has also noticed this leading to more collaborative working with staff empowered to gather together for ad hoc projects.
Data is also more secure, held in a secure data-centre rather than scattered across individual PCs. As Moira explains, "One of the biggest surprises for me was the plethora of in-house developed apps that were deemed to be business critical, but were not being backed-up. We now have those relocated to our servers in a secure environment." The solution has given Medway greater control over USB devices; any data copied to such devices is now encrypted first.
Medway’s ICT team has migrated the 500 most challenging of 2,800 desktops. Completing the desktop deployment will take about a year. After this, the team will address mobile needs and are considering Citrix XenMobile® to manage this. A virtual telephony solution, to complete the mobile workspace, is also on Moira’s transformation list.
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