Faced with unprecedented budgetary challenges, officials at the City of Miami had to trim municipal operating expenses while continuing to provide the services that citizens needed more than ever. In the IT department, executives evaluated the user-interface and functionality enhancements available in the Windows 7 operating system, and decided to deploy it to all 3,600 city employees. With deployment now partially complete, City of Miami employees are working more efficiently, initiating fewer help-desk calls, and getting those calls resolved more rapidly—for overall gains in productivity that more than pay for the cost of the deployment. As well, city executives are anticipating combined yearly savings of more than U.S.$125,000 in IT support, energy usage, and software licensing and support, and are looking forward to establishing stronger connections with public officials and citizens.
With its white-sand beaches, semitropical climate, and vibrant international cultural ambiance, the city of Miami has long held a powerful allure for vacationers and new Americans who hail originally from virtually every country on the planet. But while the city’s appeal may stand apart, its economic health is inseparable from that of the United States and the rest of the world.
To cite the most germane example, during the economic turmoil of the late 2000s, the municipal government of Miami faced a dramatic decline in its primary sources of revenue—hotel taxes, thanks to the decrease in tourism that accompanies any economic downturn, and property taxes, due to the freefall in home values that characterized that downturn in particular.
For all City of Miami executives, the situation required generating creative ideas for trimming expenses while maintaining the services that the 425,000 residents of the city depend on, especially during hard times. For IT executives, such ideas naturally centered around using computer technology to help the city’s 3,600 employees do their jobs with less effort and in less time, and to help reduce energy usage and other operating expenses.
“In recent years, the demands of a balanced budget have hit us very hard, and under the current economic climate, we have had to do some pretty serious cost cutting,” says Peter Korinis, Chief Information Officer and Director of Information Technology, City of Miami. “It’s a major challenge, one that probably won’t be going away any time soon.”
Concurrent with the cost-cutting, however, is the need to spend money on a major technology effort. The city’s so-called “replatforming” initiative aims to move IT operations away from a mainframe-based architecture and toward a platform that is fully server based. “Even while reducing IT costs everywhere else, we had to stay on track with this initiative, which is expected to yield major savings in the long term,” Korinis explains.
To begin tackling this set of challenges, Korinis and his colleagues decided to address the client side of the city’s IT environment by upgrading employees’ desktop and portable PCs to the Windows 7 operating system. At the time, about two-thirds of the city’s client PCs were running Windows XP and the remainder were running the Windows Vista operating system. As Korinis points out, a move to bring them all up-to-date on a single operating system
||Windows 7 is easily the most robust and reliable operating system that I have used in my 34 years of working in IT.
Assistant Director, Information Technology, City of Miami
conformed to his philosophy of how best to run an IT department.
“Something I learned early on in terms of stretching the IT dollar is to simplify and standardize,” Korinis says. “As we have moved away from the mainframe and toward a Windows Server–based IT infrastructure, Microsoft technologies have come to play a crucial role throughout the organization. After evaluating the user-interface, performance, and energy-efficiency enhancements of Windows 7, I figured right away that it could play that role perfectly at the client level.”
Korinis and his team planned to launch the deployment first in the IT department, and then bring the operating system to the rest of the city’s workforce. They scheduled deployment to about 500 of the city’s desktop and laptop computers in the first six months after release of the operating system, and to the remaining machines in the 18 months following the first deployment.
To Korinis and his colleagues, it is not surprising that, even early in the deployment, City of Miami employees are working more efficiently with Windows 7 on their computers—completing routine tasks with less effort and initiating fewer calls to the help desk. With the help of new functionality in Windows 7, the city also is saving money by being able to retire at least one third-party software product. In addition, the city is staying on track with its replatforming project, reducing energy costs, using taxpayer dollars wisely, and delivering valuable IT services to citizens who need them most.
More Efficient Working Environment
According to James Osteen, Assistant Director, Information Technology, City of Miami, employees with Windows 7 on their desktops are working more efficiently by taking advantage of the system’s enhanced functionality and user interface. “For example, consider the more powerful capabilities of Windows Search that are available in Windows 7,” Osteen says. “Whether an employee is seeking information from an archived file or answering a constituent’s questions on where to register for a new class or program, that employee can tackle projects more efficiently with the help of Windows 7.”
Osteen also points out that because it is so important for city employees to be available to constituents, interruptions are a way of life. “But no matter what the interruption, employees can resume working on projects rapidly and can move from project to project with equal efficiency, thanks to user-interface improvements like Aero Peek, Shake, and Snap,” he says. These features are designed to enable users to locate open windows on the Aero desktop experience, move between windows, and unclutter the desktop.
Osteen’s colleague José Precado, IT Technician, City of Miami, agrees: “Just switching between applications is a lot smoother in Windows 7 than in any previous operating system I have used.”
Less Need to Call the Help Desk
There is one interruption that city employees are encountering a lot less frequently than before, notes Eliza Alberro, Customer Support Manager, City of Miami—and that is the need to seek help in solving PC performance or stability problems. “People are simply no longer calling the help desk about why a system or an application is taking so long to start up,” she says. “Neither are they calling with problems relating to system stability.”
Based on his own experience with Windows 7, Osteen concurs: “Windows 7 is easily the most robust and reliable operating system that I have used in my 34 years of working in IT.”
On the occasions when employees do need help-desk support, Alberro says that she and her staff can provide it more easily and successfully with the help of the Problem Steps Recorder in Windows 7. This is all the more true for mobile employees.
“Many city employees work remotely—on the road, in the field, at a convention, for example—or on weekends or in the evening when they can’t necessarily reach someone at the help desk,” Alberro explains. “With the Problem Steps Recorder, they can record every click and keyboard entry that gets them to the point where they are having trouble, put all that into a file, and e-mail it to us. We can then review the file to see exactly what the employees are doing when they are encountering the problem and help them solve it.”
Because of more efficient issue resolution and desktop management, and a reduction in help-desk calls, Osteen anticipates significant savings in those areas—over U.S.$60,000 in the first year alone.
Major Savings in IT and Energy
In addition to savings at the help desk, the City of Miami IT department is reducing operating expenses in both software and hardware. “With the enhanced BitLocker drive-encryption capabilities available in Windows 7, the city will be able to retire a third-party product, for a total savings of more than $100,000 in licensing and maintenance over five years,” Osteen explains. “And with the help of improved group power preferences, including the enhanced Power Options available for Windows 7, we anticipate cutting more than $45,000 in energy costs in just the first year after deployment. We also will be able to meet our objectives for ‘greener’ city operations.”
Moreover, Osteen and his colleagues anticipate that the deployment of Windows 7 will help the city stay on track with its replatforming initiative. “With the deployment of a homogenous, stable, updated operating system on the client side of our IT infrastructure, we’ll have a solid foundation for the city’s broader replatforming initiative,” he says. “And with the completion of that initiative, we expect to save the city more than a half-million dollars yearly.”
Stronger Connections to Citizens
By helping to expand employee productivity and shrink operating expenses, the City of Miami’s move to Windows 7 also will yield benefits that are less tangible but perhaps far more lasting. Those benefits are about people, both the elected officials to whom Osteen and his IT colleagues report, and the citizens of Miami to whom they provide essential services.
“Improving staff productivity and IT efficiencies by moving to Windows 7 is a huge step, considering that saving just a minute per day per employee can pay for the move,” Osteen says. “This is what elected officials need to hear—not that we are delivering a prettier screen, but that we are achieving solid efficiencies and helping to make the very most of the taxpayers’ investment.”
According to Korinis, optimizing limited tax dollars with the help of information technology is also part of a much larger vision to which the city has been committed for a number of years.
“When the current administration took office, one of its top objectives was to run the city more like a business, to pursue an ‘e-government’ approach, where we would use technology to better communicate with and serve Miami citizens,” Korinis explains. “Now, we are seeing the results of that vision, with the Windows 7 deployment, the larger replatforming project, and our Elevate Miami initiative, which brings new technology skills to citizens of all ages.”
“Simply No Downside”
Windows 7 plays a crucial role in the technology training available through the Elevate Miami project. “Considering the project is designed to help all Miamians better compete in the global economy, it’s vital that we focus on an operating system these citizens will be able to use immediately when they enter the workforce,” Korinis says. “When I visit the parks and community centers where we are offering this training, I see just how happy people are to be learning and using Windows 7.”
For all these reasons—from more productive employees to more efficient operations and better communication with constituents—Korinis considers the initiative to deploy Windows 7 an unqualified success.
“If anyone from another municipal IT department were to ask me about this deployment, I would tell them it’s not painful, it doesn’t require touching every piece of hardware or adding memory as we have done with prior operating-system deployments,” Korinis says. “I would tell them how users relish the speed and the new features, and how the deployment itself can be done at low cost and with little risk. I would tell them there is great advantage to be had by deploying Windows 7 and simply no downside.”
Works the way you want: Windows 7 will help your organization use information technology to gain a competitive advantage in today’s new world of work. Your people will be able to be more productive anywhere. You will be able to support your mobile workforce with better access to shared data and collaboration tools. And your IT staff will have better tools and technologies to enhance corporate IT security, data protection, and more efficient deployment and management.
For more information about Windows 7, go to:
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