4-page Case Study
Posted: 7/9/2013
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Municipality of Heusden One-stop-shop for all IT issues bolsters performance

Municipalities deal with all sorts of processes and aim to ensure that they proceed as smoothly as possible by means of IT. The municipality of Heusden is no exception. With a new business system developed in association with a supplier, the municipality seeks to serve its customers (citizens and businesses located in the municipality) optimally.

The new business system, however, performed below par. Following its first health check by Microsoft Premier Support Services it soon became clear where the biggest problems were and performance subsequently significantly improved. The municipality: "We've had a contract with Premier Support Services for three years now and we are delighted with it. Customer satisfaction is a key priority for US businesses and we’ve been fortunate in experiencing that Microsoft Premier Support Services goes the extra mile to maintain high levels of customer satisfaction 24/7."

The scenario

The municipality of Heusden likes to describe itself as an innovative ‘digital municipality'. Hoki Fo, Team Manager, Information Services at the municipality: "Back in 2002 we launched what we refer to as a work control system. This is a software-based work environment which digitally stores all our work files, so files that are still being handled as well as finalised files. There’s a lot more to a digital file than a paper file, in which a record is only kept of when and what documents were received and when replies were sent. The work control system we used at that time enabled us to maintain records of and trace back all steps taken, customer contacts, telephone conversations, etc. for each case handled. "

After having used the work control system for six years it was time for an evaluation. Hoki Fo: "We wanted to know whether the work control system still satisfied the requirements of our users and customers. We had digitised around 65 work processes at that time.

For several of the highly complex processes, such as the processing of invoices and former building permits and the Social Support and Provision Act [Wet maatschappelijke ondersteuning] processes, our work control system offered us absolute gems of collaborative solutions. Nonetheless, the system proved inadequate in many other areas. We reached the conclusion that the work control system had reached the end of its life cycle. "

Hoki Fo explains the inadequacies of the old system. "The municipality of Heusden embraces the motto that by working together in an innovative, flexible and integrated manner, it places citizens at the centre stage. This means that municipality staff take a flexible and proactive approach in seeking the best possible solution to the customer’s question. The old work control system proved too rigid for this purpose. A matter was transferred from one in tray to the next as it were. Even if a step in a certain matter was irrelevant, you were still required to go through it all the same. An environment which would allow us to tailor the process to suit the individual customer in a flexible manner would be more appropriate for our municipality. "

In search of an alternative, the municipality of Heusen found a supplier whose director-proprietor had the vision to create a document management package, in which the customer’s question dictates the work process. In other words, a software solution that was not yet available on the market and which the municipality was seeking.

"We then jointly proceeded to develop a new system based on SharePoint technology. The municipality put the ‘business system’ into use in April 2010. From that time onwards all work processes were 100% available digitally in one business system; all information in the system is accessible, available and searchable," says Hoki Fo. The business system operates on its own servers and around 200 employees use the system with PCs and laptops.

Hoki Fo: "As the ‘pilot programme municipality’ we are now one of the first users of the package. In terms of functionality it is a vast improvement. Instead of ticking off standard procedures, we can now address and deal with each matter personally. This really does make us stand out from many another municipality."

But there is a downside too: "When you start using a new software package you know in advance that you will be confronted with all kinds of unexpected matters and in our case these were rather substantial performance issues. Users had trouble with the delayed response to the data they had entered and, at times, had to wait for minutes on end before proceeding with the next step. This isn‘t a great way to work, especially if you’re helping a customer at the counter. It doesn’t make a good impression on the municipality’s customers, businesses and citizens either."

The solution

Despite enjoying good collaboration with the supplier of the business system, it continued to prove difficult to uncover the root of the problem and why the business system wasn’t operating as fast as the municipality had expected.
Hoki Fo: "The hardware, the software of the business system, the underlying SharePoint software or a combination of all these factors could have been the cause. To accelerate the investigation and in order to serve our customers as swiftly as possible, we engaged Microsoft Premier Support Services. The business system supplier was very understanding; the main thing was that Premier Support Services would help us all move forward."

The municipality briefly considered consulting a hardware specialist. Hoki Fo: "That turned out to be unnecessary. Not only do the Premier Support Services staff analyse the software environment, they also provide advice on how to solve any hardware problems. That helped us immensely, because our problems could have been caused by so many different things and you do need a party who really understands every single aspect. And that’s Premier Support Services."

The municipality of Heusden explained its situation to the Service Delivery Manager at Premier Support Services. "The first concrete step was to conduct a health check. Armed with smart tools, the Premier Support Service specialists scrutinised our entire IT environment. They generated a report, the findings of which steered us towards a solution. First, it became clear where and what interventions were required in our systems, and second, the business system supplier received a number of guidelines for making improvements to his software. After all the adjustments had been carried out, performance improved significantly. Waiting times declined considerably while satisfaction among the users increased markedly."

Despite the major improvements that had been achieved after the first health check, the situation was still far from ideal. Hoki Fo: "In some processes you occasionally still had to wait a while before proceeding with the next step. In an age in which users are accustomed to search engines that respond within a millisecond, even the briefest of waiting times are impermissible."

Oddly enough, no one seemed to be bothered about this. Hoki Fo says that you should be wary of becoming ‘tired of complaints’. He explains: "If you frequently complain while nothing changes, in the long run you will acquiesce in the situation. You see this happening in IT too. Users and people working in IT accept the quirkiness of their tools, the supplier hears nothing more and believes that everything is working well, whereas it would in fact benefit the municipality and our customers to continue to communicate where improvements can be made. That’s where Premier Support Services can help. Premier Support Services keeps everyone on their toes, and tells you exactly what still isn’t working properly and where you can make gains. That’s why we had a second health check carried out."

The second health check took place a few months ago. Hoki Fo: "We asked Premier Support Services to find out during the health check what we and our new supplier (who had meanwhile taken over the business system) could still do to perfect the system. This wasn’t for the purpose of finger-pointing but it is in everyone's interests to create an IT environment optimised to a level of four digits after the decimal point."

A further report followed. Hoki Fo: "This report clearly indicates what areas can still be improved and by whom. Equally, the report helps you to set priorities. You clearly see what impact each measure has and this enables you to prioritise measures from which users derive the greatest benefit. This is the stage we’re at right now."


"We're really pleased that we’ve found Premier Support Services as a one-stop-shop for all our IT issues. What we truly appreciate is that they work alongside us 24/7, 365 days a year. You wouldn’t expect such a vast organisation as Microsoft to be so flexible. We can approach Premier Support Services for assistance at any time. If we’re facing an escalation of the highest risk category, for instance, they deal with it promptly. I know of few organisations who offer this level of service," says Hoki Fo.

"What’s even more important is that we’re proactively working with Premier Support Services to improve our IT operations to prevent escalations of this nature. Our primary focus is now on the business system, so on SharePoint and the associated areas, such as the .NET FrameWork, but we’re also taking a wider look. We hold periodic evaluation meetings with the Premier Support Services account manager to discuss progress on current matters, other issues in our organisation and future plans. During these evaluations Premier Support Services contributes significantly. This includes strengthening knowledge and skills, management activities, organisational measures and/or modifying hardware and software. An added benefit is that your IT operations keep pace with the latest developments. And that your IT facilities always meet your organisation’s expectations, not only today but in the longer term too."

The government has announced that investigations will be conducted into the security of the DigiD or digital identity code at all municipalities in the Netherlands. The code provides access to online services offered by government agencies. Hoki Fo: "There’s no need for me to worry about this. Sound security measures are in place at both our website provider and internally at our municipality. What I have done though
– if plans go ahead, that is – is to schedule a new health check on security next year. If only for the sake of double checking. Even though we assume that we’ve done a good job, you do question whether this is actually the case. It's Premier Support Services’ call. In the unlikely event deficiencies are found, we will set to work in the knowledge that it will be to our greater advantage."

Microsoft Premier Support Services

Availability of applications, databases,
e-mail environments, e-commerce and management information is crucial for every organisation. Microsoft Premier Support Services helps you effectively manage your Microsoft IT Infrastructure and the underlying processes. Together with you, Microsoft looks at potential bottlenecks and problems inside your IT operations to minimise the risk of disruptions and to reduce management costs.

After purchasing Premier Support Services, a Microsoft Service Delivery Manager will be assigned to your organisation. Your Service Delivery Manager will respond to your problems and needs and will draw up a Service Delivery Plan (IT agenda) to assist you.

Premier Support Services will not only ensure that your current IT problems are dealt with and resolved swiftly and efficiently but will also ensure that they do not recur in the future. You will additionally have access to best practices and the expertise of the entire Microsoft platform. This means that you will achieve maximum returns on your investments in Microsoft technology.

This testimonial is for informative purposes only. Microsoft offers no guarantees, either explicit or implicit, based on this text.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 300 employees

Organization Profile

‘A municipality of doers with a dream,’ that’s Heusden. The towns of Vlijmen, Drunen and the fortified township of Heusden and nine other towns together make up the municipality of Heusden. With 300 employees, the municipality serves a population of over 43,000.

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