The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, which provides water and wastewater services to the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area, recently split from the City of Albuquerque Public Works Department. Faced with the responsibility of providing IT services to its employees, it wanted to upgrade its communications and collaboration capabilities. With a small IT staff and no budget to hire additional employees, it looked at the services available with Microsoft Office 365. This cloud-based solution provides email, instant messaging, conferencing, document collaboration, and many other capabilities without requiring a large investment in hardware and software. The water authority expects that the new capabilities will help it reduce costs through improved business processes and reduced travel.Situation
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority provides water and wastewater services to the greater Albuquerque metropolitan area. With an operating budget of U.S.$171 million, it is the largest water utility in New Mexico. The utility has more than 600 employees and serves approximately 200,000 customers.
The water authority used to be part of the City of Albuquerque Public Works Department, but it recently split off to become the regional water authority for the area surrounding the city. Previously, the city managed all IT services for the organization, but it had a limited IT budget and tended to upgrade its technology slowly. The authority still uses the city’s infrastructure for email and collaboration. The city provides Active Directory services, file storage, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 accounts, and access to a Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 site collection. Since the split, the utility has started to reevaluate how it can provide better communications and collaboration capabilities for its employees. Chris Framel, CIO at the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, explains, “The city did not have any plans to upgrade, and we wanted to deploy a more advanced technology environment to help increase our employees’ productivity.”
||We avoided the cost of hardware for Exchange Server, Lync Server, and SharePoint Server deployments. We just pay for the service, with no additional cost to us.
Systems Analyst, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority
To begin, the water authority deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 to provide instant messaging and presence information to employees. This deployment helped employees to communicate and showed how employees would benefit from an updated IT infrastructure. It also upgraded its business productivity solution to Microsoft Office Professional 2010. Now the authority wants to go even further. “We want to set up our own Active Directory and provide employees with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010,” explains Kent Degruyter, a Systems Analyst at the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. “However, we have a very limited IT group, so we would have difficulty implementing and managing all of these solutions on our own.”
To provide advanced communication and collaboration for employees without increasing the workload for its IT staff, the water authority considered Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based services solution that brings together trusted business productivity, collaboration, and communications products. “We feel that the future of computing is in the cloud,” Degruyter explains. “Office 365 will help us provide these solutions for our users.”
The authority piloted Office 365 as part of the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program. It set up a test Active Directory service and created accounts so that employees could test the capabilities available from Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online. “After we set up Active Directory, everything else was easy,” explains Degruyter. “We provisioned the services for users through the web-based interface. It was much less complicated than setting up our on-premises deployments.”
After a successful pilot, the organization is now deploying Active Directory and Active Directory Federation Services in production, which will support Office 365. “After we make this small investment in infrastructure, we can leverage it for all of the services,” notes Degruyter.
The water authority plans to move employee mailboxes to Microsoft Exchange Online to take advantage of the 25-gigabyte (GB) storage limit and many other capabilities available. Since Exchange Online is based on Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, employees will have access to many new capabilities, such as conversation view and the personal archive, that can help them be more productive. In Microsoft Outlook 2010, employees can organize and view their email messages by conversation topic so that they can access information more quickly. Rather than searching their Inbox and Sent Items folders, employees can view all mail messages in a conversation at a single glance. With the personal archive, employees can drag important items into an archive mailbox that sits alongside the Inbox, which helps to clear valuable space on the desktop and improves mailbox performance. They can also use retention policies to save items automatically to the archive as needed, which ensures that administrators can access data during compliance audits. “Since we have already deployed Office 2010, we can take advantage of all the new features,” states Framel. “Conversation View and the personal archive are two features we really like.”
The utility will also transition to Microsoft Lync Online to replace its on-premises Office Communications Server deployment. “We did not deploy the video conferencing or web conferencing features in Office Communications Server, and by moving to Lync Online, we will have the opportunity to provide those capabilities to the employees,” adds Degruyter.
||Office 365 really fits in well with our needs because we do not require as many people to manage it.
CIO, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority
Finally, the move from Windows SharePoint Services to Microsoft SharePoint Online will open up many new options for the organization. “We plan to use SharePoint to enable teams to work together more efficiently and provide document and records management capabilities and a solution to help our employees search for and find information easily,” explains Framel. “We also plan to use InfoPath forms to capture data and create workflows that can streamline our business processes.”
With the move to Office 365 cloud-based services, the authority can provide communications and collaboration solutions to help employees be more productive. Because Microsoft manages the infrastructure, the authority can avoid hiring additional employees to manage the new solutions.
Requires Less Administration
Because the organization relied on the City of Albuquerque for many of its IT solutions, it had a very small IT staff. The organization wanted to take over the responsibility and deploy up-to-date solutions for its employees, but it did not want to hire additional staff. “I know how hard it is to hire and keep people,” notes Framel. “Office 365 really fits in well with our needs because we do not require as many people to manage it.” By choosing Office 365, the organization IT staff can supply world-class IT services with a small IT staff.
“With cloud services, we do not have to worry about managing servers and software updates all the time,” adds Degruyter.Provides Advanced Capabilities for Employees
With the move to Office 365, employees at the authority can take advantage of the latest capabilities in the Microsoft products to help improve productivity. For instance, with conferencing through Lync Online, 400 field employees will have a much easier time staying connected with the office because they can easily join audio and video conferences from remote locations. The help desk also plans to use conferencing and desktop sharing to improve how it troubleshoots issues for remote employees.
With SharePoint Online, employees also have access to capabilities not available to them today in Windows SharePoint Services, such as document retention, personal webpages (My Sites), and improved search capabilities. The organization also believes it can simplify many business processes by using workflows and Microsoft Office InfoPath forms. These new capabilities will dramatically reduce the time employees spend on many common tasks.Reduces Costs
To decrease its dependence on the city’s IT services, the organization needed to deploy all new solutions for its employees. The investment in hardware and software to provide communication and collaboration would have been immense. With Office 365, it can gain these capabilities without making a large investment. “We only needed servers for Active Directory,” explains Degruyter. “We avoided the cost of hardware for Exchange Server, Lync Server, and SharePoint Server deployments. We just pay for the service, with no additional cost to us.” Because future upgrades are included in the cost, it avoids those costs as well.
The water authority also expects to save time and money on travel. Currently, the field staff frequently drives to meetings across the organization’s service area. Now they can use Lync Online to reduce the time and expense of driving to meetings. Additionally, the organization can hold online meetings with external vendors rather than paying for them to travel.Provides Cost-Effective Subscription Service
The authority likes the idea of having a subscription payment rather than having to buy new software every few years. “For a small organization like ours, it is easier to manage and is more cost effective for us to have a service with a fixed price,” notes Framel.
As a small government organization looking to provide the latest in communications and collaboration software to employees, the authority found Office 365 to be easy to manage and cost effective. “It allows us to do more with less,” says Framel.Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of our most trusted communications and collaboration products—Microsoft SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online—with the latest version of our Office desktop suite and companion web applications for businesses of all sizes.
Office 365 helps save time and money, and it frees up valued resources. Simple to use and easy to administer, it is financially backed by a service level agreement that guarantees 99 percent reliability. Office 365 features robust security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and the business-class privacy controls and standards that you expect from a world-class service provider.
For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to:For More Information
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For more information about Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority products and services, call (505) 768-2500 or visit the website at: