Located just 17 miles south of Austin Texas, the City of Buda is one of the fastest growing municipalities in the state. Incorporated in 1948, the “Outdoor Capital of Texas” is home to a year-round schedule of festivals. Although Buda’s population is just over 7,000, the city is tasked with providing the same level of service (including police, fire, library and utilities) that are standard in much larger municipalities. Since Buda is a small city with a limited budget, accomplishing those tasks translates into a heavy workload for the City staff. To improve operational efficiency and responsiveness to citizens while reducing costs to taxpayers, Buda staff turned to the “cloud” and tapped ISHIR, a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner to deploy Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) to receive e-mail and collaboration services.Situation
Email is an important means of enabling communications among the City staff. The use of email is particularly critical in supporting the bimonthly City Council meetings. However, managing the flow of that email can be a daunting task, given the fact that the agenda and meeting items-- including all attachments-- can exceed 100 pages.
City staff also rely on e-mail for communications with internal and external customers, according to Chris Ruiz, the city’s finance director. Additionally, the email system is taxed with supporting a wide range of new requests, from reports on the operating budget to revenue updates to updated status reports on city projects.
Because the Buda email system had limited space and some of that e-mail had very large attachments, users were acutely aware of the capacity problem. The heavy volume of traffic and large attachments often crashed the city’s e-mail servers, forcing users either to load copies onto flash drives or to print out hard copies for hand delivery.
The inefficiencies of the existing system were so significant that the productivity loss was impossible to estimate, Ruiz says. The lost man-hours included the time and expense of bringing the e-mail server back up after a crash, the process of cleaning out e-mail files, and the time lost hand delivering hard copies or flash drives. Solution
“After the City of Buda went through an extensive evaluation process to replace an existing e-mail system -- which included looking at Google and other cloud providers -- staff decided to go with Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS),” says Rishi Khanna, President and CEO of ISHIR, the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner who worked with the City of Buda to deploy the solution.
Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite is a set of messaging and collaboration solutions hosted by Microsoft. It consists of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online. These online services are designed to streamline business communication with high availability, comprehensive security, and simplified IT management.
Since Buda’s current software licenses were expiring, Ruiz says that the city was looking to make changes to some of its communications applications. “It was time to migrate to a new platform,” he says.
“We started with a test run earlier this year of a high-level e-mail system and Communicator Online and Office Live Meeting,” Ruiz recalls.
“It was a real eye opener, seeing how we could communicate with each other without leaving our desks. We reviewed it and decided that it was something that we wanted to try.”
In addition to deploying the BPOS Suite, Buda upgraded its existing versions of Microsoft Office and Outlook and replaced outdated desktops. “I’m really pleased because right off the bat, people were saying how much better their performance was, how much easier it was to get reports and to get connected with their colleagues,” Ruiz says.Benefits
The Microsoft BPOS suite enabled Buda to archive its most mission-critical information in a single location where all authorized personnel could access it. This more collaborative approach eliminated the need to distribute the information and attachments to all necessary recipients via e-mail – which placed a heavy burden on storage and network resources. Buda was able to increase available space in its e-mail archives to a sizable 25 GB per person simply by eliminating unnecessary email and duplicated information.
“Before, we were sending out 10 MB files and they were crashing our system,” Ruiz says. “Now we were able to produce the documents, send them out electronically to several locations at one time without ever needing to leave our office. Staff and council members like the idea that their e-mail systems aren’t crashing when they’re getting information from us.”
Moreover, the City experienced a significant increase in productivity. By working with more digitized documents Buda no longer needed to move data physically from place to place, Ruiz says.
Additionally, the city has achieved greater all-around productivity from the deployment of Communicator Online, Office Live Meeting and SharePoint Online.
“Buda has also benefitted from the service in terms of performance...BPOS is delivering higher uptime than the previous provider offered. They had been constantly complaining about e-mail not being properly synced up and the systems often went down. With the new Microsoft BPOS system, the city is enjoying much higher levels of reliability,” says Khanna.
Prior to deploying Microsoft Office Communicator, city staff typically would call one another to touch base, to set up a meeting or to simply request information. If that person was unavailable via telephone, the next step might be to stop a current task and physically search for the person – clearly not a productive use of a city official’s time.
By using Communicator, city staff can determine whether the people they are looking for are in the office, on the phone, otherwise occupied or available for a quick discussion. “We have a lot less unproductive time because we’re not trying to hunt each other down,” Ruiz says.
Buda will also continue to increase its use of Microsoft Office Live Meeting in the future, Ruiz says.
“We can transition lots of data in a minimal amount of time,” he says. “People can look at it online without having to get up to go to a meeting.” Live Meeting offers significant benefits because it enables important communications among interested parties without the lost time involved in physical meetings. Additionally, there is less time wasted due to small talk.
“This way you can be sitting at your desk, transition data to each other, review the data, shut it down and return to work without missing a beat,” Ruiz says. “That equates to increased productivity -- or at least less loss of productivity.”
Microsoft SharePoint enables Ruiz and other Buda staff to open a meeting, bring data to the table, invite other parties and then conduct the meeting.
“I’m not just e-mailing files,” Ruiz says. “It is an electronic meeting. I start by looking at Communicator to see if people are available, then I send a file out to SharePoint and we can talk about it. It’s a great way to have a meeting without ever leaving your desk.”
This takes only half of the time of a traditional meeting, Ruiz adds. SharePoint also resolves the eternal challenge of version control with documents that have been edited or otherwise amended. The integrity of data is enhanced because there is only one copy.
For the City of Buda, the investment in Microsoft’s BPOS Suite is one that likely will pay increasing dividends in efficiency and productivity as City staff becomes more familiar with its benefits.
“I’m looking forward to having more time to get into it, because the more I use it, the more I like it,” Ruiz says. “And the more I present it to my colleagues, the more they like it. It was a good investment for the city.”For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to: www.microsoft.com
For more information about ISHIR products and services, call (214) 295-5318 or visit the Web site at: www.ishir.com
For more information about City of Buda products and services, call (512) 312-0084 or visit the Web site at: www.ci.buda.tx.usThis case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.