Plymouth City Council needed to cut support costs, so its IT team proposed a “desk hopping” scheme in which every 10 employees would share eight desks. This new way of working involved migrating to Windows 7 Enterprise and Microsoft Lync 2010.
Along with the council’s Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, this will help Plymouth save around 26 per cent on licensing, equating to £494,000 (U.S.$768,000) over three years.
Plymouth City Council in the United Kingdom (U.K.) provides 300 services to 258,700 people living in a city that’s notable for its university and strong ties to the Royal Navy. Since the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, the local authority has experienced
budgetary pressures. As a result, the council needs to make total savings of £30 million over three years, significantly cutting the cost of support functions.
In response, the council’s IT team put forward a proposal of desk hopping, with a target of maintaining only eight desks for every 10 employees. In addition, this coincided with the need for Plymouth to replace its Meridian and Cisco IP telephone system,
which was reaching the end of its life cycle. The council could see the potential advantage of unified communications technology as opposed to the high-capital costs of replacing the telephony system.
However, Plymouth’s IT upgrade was also driven by the aim to introduce flexible working. Tom Unwin, Technical Architect, Plymouth City Council, says: “Our existing desktop technology wasn’t up-to-date, with many employees already using more recent versions
of Microsoft software at home. Whereas Windows XP met many of our general requirements, it was proving difficult to maintain. In addition, it wasn’t secure or suitable for desk hopping.”
To meet its office accommodation targets and deliver a flexible desktop, the council first experimented with a proof of concept for desk hopping using Citrix Presentation Server 4.5 on its existing Windows XP system. Unwin says: “We had some success with
this, but several business-critical applications couldn’t be delivered with that version of Citrix. It proved that we needed to upgrade our operating system to deliver our required outcomes.”
In the council’s desktop estate, most devices were less than four years old and met the minimum requirements for the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system. Windows Server 2008 R2 delivered much of what Plymouth needed. Also, the authority’s new Microsoft
Enterprise Agreement for low-cost volume licensing of software gave access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack—specifically Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5—at £4 per computer. Remote Desktop Services was used to deploy additional applications.
Unwin says: “Once signed up to the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, we decided that we should take maximum advantage of what was on offer. We’d have needed a really good reason to buy another product.” Plymouth opted for an end-to-end Microsoft solution,
including an upgrade to Active Directory 2008 R2.
The council decided to replace its telephony system with Microsoft Lync 2010 unified communications, while Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 replaced its existing antivirus solution. This is supported by the Windows 7 operating system with BitLocker
drive encryption, which conforms to the government’s National Technical Authority for Information Assurance standards. The desktops use Microsoft Office 2010, bringing them up to the standard expected by users.
The process began with invitations to tender for three separate projects: the Windows 7 Enterprise build, deployment of Lync 2010, and implementation of Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5 for around 280 applications with three or four virtual machines.
Plymouth upgraded to Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 to manage the Windows 7 build and continue to work with different Microsoft Partners on each project.
With around 1,000 workstations now migrated to the new architecture, Unwin says: “The key to our success is working with people who have done it before—a measure of that is we can easily build 50 personal computers in half an hour.”
The Plymouth IT team responded to the need to cut the cost of support functions with an initiative introducing new ways of working. The council staff proposed a desk-hopping scheme that became a key factor in its success. By using its Microsoft Enterprise
Agreement for low-cost volume licensing, the council is standardising on Windows 7 and replacing its telephony system with cost-effective Lync 2010 unified communications. Employee reaction and take-up has been extremely positive.
Enterprise Agreement saves council £494,000 over three years. Unwin says: “By changing to a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement and upgrading to the latest Microsoft software, Plymouth City Council will save around 26 per cent on licensing. This
equates to around £494,000 over three years— contributing significantly to our overall savings target.”
Council cuts need for office space, with every 10 staff sharing eight desks. Over the next three years, the authority will reduce accommodation costs by selling buildings it no longer requires. Unwin says:
“Releasing buildings for sale will help us achieve vast savings through reduced operating costs and capital receipts.”
Council staff react positively to new ways of working. With the first 1,000 desktops migrated to Windows 7 Enterprise, other staff are keen to try the new service. Unwin says: “Publicising the Microsoft Home Use Programme available to us
through our licensing arrangements probably contributed to the enthusiastic take-up by our staff.”
Employees log on easily at any council office building. A feature of the design is roaming log on for users, so all settings follow the staff member as he or she moves from one computer to another. Each user now has more storage space and
is enjoying greater productivity with the Lync 2010 collaboration tools.
IT team achieves ongoing operational savings. Unwin expects to achieve further savings. He says: “In addition, replacing our existing antivirus software with Microsoft Forefront Endpoint Protection cuts the cost of our previous annual subscription.”
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