We went from no infrastructure at all to a professional IT solution in just 4 months. It was so easy, we just switched and moved on!
Marion Dowd, IT Manager, Western Bay of Plenty District Council
Sharing information and aligning schedules is essential to the success of BOPLASS, a company formed from nine councils to provide shared services to the region. While it strives to make it easy for the public to pinpoint the information it needs, the organisation faced internal challenges in achieving the same. BOPLASS needed to make it easier for all members to work together, schedule meetings, and exchange files. It found the simplicity and efficiency it needed in Microsoft Online Services.Situation
When the council joined with other councils in 2007 to form a shared services company, it wanted to look for ways to in driving efficiency in the overall project management of the new organisation.
||We didn’t need to look at any other solution. We know that with Microsoft and Office 365, we can easily set it up additional shared sites and get right to work. The increased organisation and efficiency internally will only help us better serve our communities.”
Western Bay of Plenty District Council
Western Bay had been using Microsoft SharePoint for its corporate intranet since 2001, and it wanted to extend this solution beyond its four walls so the wider group of councils could rely on the same file-sharing solution. “Each council had its own method of storing internal documents, so emailing files between groups was the only way to exchange materials—and that was tedious,” says Marion Dowd, IT Manager at Western Bay of Plenty District Council.
There was also the matter of version control. Administrators managed multiple lists of recipients’ emails, which caused confusion and took time to ensure that the right people were receiving the correct information. “With all of this information scattered about—files, contact information—and no central share site for the councils, it took longer than we’d like to locate and exchange files,” notes Dowd. “The complexity also exposed us to errors in sending the wrong information or adding the wrong contact to an email.”
IT professionals within the councils wanted to make the transition to a single solution as easy as possible. Because each council worked independently, IT groups worried that implementing one solution would require intensive training—and time.
“Everyone knew we needed to make a move, but the solution had to be easy for new users to learn and use right away,” says Dowd.
The administrators under BOPLASS were eager to try a solution that simplified communication.
When the other councils realised how much time and energy Western Bay of Plenty District Council saved by using SharePoint for its corporate intranet, they wanted to try the cloud-based version: SharePoint Online. Now, administrators at any site can access shared documents in one central location. “SharePoint Online gives us one version of the truth. We can upload, edit, and distribute documents without worrying about old versions being sent out by mistake,” says Dowd. By setting up activity groups within the SharePoint Online solution documents can be directed to specific users and everyone can access the same version at the same time.
Because BOPLASS was essentially a new organisation, IT professionals were starting from scratch in building a central location for document storage. What could have been a daunting process with on-site infrastructure turned out to be easier than many members expected. “We had enough experience using SharePoint on site that we didn’t need to call in Microsoft trainers to help us set up or use SharePoint Online,” says Dowd. “We went from no infrastructure at all to a professional IT solution in just 4 months. It was so easy, we just switched and moved on!” declares Dowd. Benefits
Simplified and accurate information sharing
SharePoint Online increased the productivity of the administrators who distribute agendas and meeting notices. “SharePoint Online makes it easy to identify members of different advisory groups. Now, there’s no worry that information will be distributed to the wrong people. It has simplified management of our daily admin tasks,” says Dowd.
Enhanced search features in SharePoint Online also make it easier for users to find and organise what they need. BOPLASS administrators save time by eliminating the need to search for distribution lists or files, tracking document versions, and searching multiple locations for materials.
No additional training required
Office 365 will provide a suite of cloud-based productivity tools with which most users are already familiar. The Western BOP council was able to set up standardised sites for each neighbouring council with BPOS (Microsoft’s earlier Online Service). When the service upgrades from BPOS to Office 365 soon, the team knows that work will continue with minimal interruption as no additional training will be needed. “At a recent meeting, I heard from advisors and administrators that SharePoint Online is so intuitive and easy to use that they want to extend access to more users,” says Dowd.
From the start, IT professionals within BOPLASS were confident that Microsoft Office 365 offers the greatest functionality for all users in the dispersed organisation. “We were already familiar with Microsoft programs and we know that Office 365 will provide the same level of functionality and reliability that we knew from using other products on premises,” says Dowd. “We didn’t need to look at any other solution. We know that with Microsoft and Office 365, we can easily set it up additional shared sites and get right to work. The increased organisation and efficiency internally will only help us better serve our communities.”
For more information about Western Bay of Plenty District Council products and services, call or visit the website at:
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