The Regional Municipality of Niagara serves citizens in Southern Ontario, Canada. As budgets at all levels of government tighten, Niagara wanted tools to better track and evaluate how it spends time and money, and to more efficiently manage information.
The Region deployed Microsoft SharePoint 2013 in two pilot projects that streamline access to information, improve data analysis, and will save CAD$3.1 million (US$ 3.16 million) over two years.
The Regional Municipality of Niagara is the upper-tier municipal government for the Niagara Region in Southern Ontario, Canada, providing a range of services to the area's 444,000 citizens, including Public Works, Public Health, Integrated Community
Planning, and Community Services .The municipality relies on technology to deliver the best possible value for taxpayers by reducing costs and increasing operational efficiencies.
||We have a lot of data, and SharePoint 2013 allows us to extract value from it. Instead of just storing it, we can turn it into information and insights.
| Paul Di Felice
Associate Director for Consulting and Analysis, Regional Municipality of Niagara
Niagara Region employees use the Microsoft Office 2010 productivity suite and the Windows 7 operating system, and they have been using Microsoft SharePoint technologies for document and records management and collaboration. The municipality had IBM Cognos business
intelligence (BI) software, but it felt the need for a more accessible BI solution. “In listening to the strategy of our commissioners, we realized their common need to quantify the services they're providing and to better measure their performance,” says
Paul Di Felice, Associate Director for Consulting and Analysis for the Niagara Region. “As budgets get tighter, it's increasingly important to be able to explain and justify how we spend time and money.”
Niagara also wanted to strengthen its SharePoint-based enterprise content management (ECM) efforts in order to better organize documents and data, make information easier to find, automate records management processes, and reduce paper usage in line with
the Region's “Keen on Green” environmental initiative.
Niagara felt that Microsoft SharePoint 2013 would be an ideal tool for its BI and ECM efforts. “Our employees spend most of their day working with Office 2010, so extending that familiar environment increases adoption and eliminates the need to learn
a new system,” says Di Felice. “And we've been impressed by the improvements Microsoft has made to SharePoint, and their commitment to keep making it better.”
Niagara became an early adopter of SharePoint 2013, and it implemented two pilot projects—one for BI and one for ECM. Niagara enlisted the help of Toronto-based IT consultancy NetDexterity, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies.
“NetDexterity played a key role in our earlier SharePoint deployments,” says Di Felice. “They're an important and trusted technology partner for us.”
The BI pilot focused on project-management and time-tracking data within the IT group. Employees have always tracked their time, but they didn't have good tools to analyze the data. “Because of tight integration with Microsoft Excel, we can now take data
stored in a Microsoft SQL Server 2012 database and display the data and key metrics in filterable, interactive dashboards within SharePoint 2013,” explains Di Felice. “PowerView allows executives and employees to look at their data from almost any angle at
varying levels of granularity. Employees can use scorecards to easily track both time and performance metrics to be more effective in their jobs.”
|Paul Di Felice, Associate
Director for Consulting and
Analysis, Regional Municipality
For the ECM project, NetDexterity developed a document and records management solution in SharePoint 2013 for the Legal department. When a new legal matter arises, a staff member self-serves a site within SharePoint 2013 for that issue. “The site holds all
documents related to the matter, along with all pertinent email messages,” says Steve Folkerts, Project Manager for ECM for the Niagara Region. “Site creation is automated, and we assign metadata at the site level, rather than the document level, so it's easier
to use. The system integrates with our records management workflows, so documents are automatically retained and disposed of according to mandated schedules.”
Moving forward, Niagara will expand both the BI and ECM projects, which will ultimately be used by 1,500 employees. The Microsoft BI tools will eventually replace the Region's existing Cognos-based system to provide staff with access to key business data
for planning and evaluation. The IT team has already expanded the ECM project to include the Region's contracts. They are moving toward a broad rollout of the ECM system developed by NetDexterity to handle all documents, decreasing the use of paper records.
By moving from paper-based records to flexible and automated electronic systems, Niagara has streamlined information access and information management and it is reducing costs. By strengthening business intelligence capabilities, employees, councilors, and
taxpayers get improved insight into operations and expenses.
Improved Access to Information
|Steve Folkerts, Project
Manager for ECM, Regional
Municipality of Niagara
Legal department employees no longer have to sift through boxes of paper files or piles of email printouts. They easily find what they need with the search capabilities of SharePoint 2013. “I think the biggest benefit is the time savings,” says Di Felice. “There
used to be so many places to look for information and multiple email accounts to search. Now we can quickly find the right information, the right version, and the best data.”
Cost Savings and Reduced Environmental Impact
Moving from paper-based systems to electronic records not only saves time and paper, it also saves money. As Niagara expands its ECM project to cover the entire municipal government, it has set an estimate of CAD$3.1 million (US$3.16 million) in cost savings
over two years. “Electronic records not only reduce paper consumption, they also save on transportation and energy costs for moving and storing those records,” notes Steve Kopstick, President of NetDexterity.
More Meaningful Data
An improved BI system means better information for municipal decision making. “We have a lot of data, and SharePoint 2013 allows us to extract value from it,” says Di Felice. “Instead of just storing it, we can turn it into information and insights. Each department
within the region will be able to uncover the details they need to manage the department and increase efficiencies.”
|Figure 1 – The Niagara Region SharePoint-based BI solution gives the organization insights into IT project data.
|Figure 2 – The Niagara Region electronic records center manages sites and documents through long-term archival while keeping them accessible through search.
SharePoint is the new way to work together. A simplified user experience helps you organize, sync, and share all your content. New social capabilities make it easy to share ideas, keep track of what your colleagues are working on, and discover experts you never
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