Auckland, New Zealand, is expected to double its population by 2040 and wants to be ready. Using Microsoft data center, desktop, and cloud-based software, Auckland Transport is empowering citizens with a wealth of new transportation services—such as filling bus cards online and reporting potholes from a smartphone—and empowering employees to work more productively. By using Microsoft technology, Auckland Transport has boosted efficiency, increased the use of public transportation, and made Auckland a better place to live.
Auckland has been ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, but with its population of 1.4 million expected to double by 2040, the city needed to upgrade its transportation network. Auckland Transport partnered with Microsoft to design a strategic improvement plan and quickly roll out new services. It started by consolidating and standardizing its core infrastructure using Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V technology, Microsoft System Center 2012, and Microsoft SQL Server 2012. These improvements helped to minimize operating costs.
Auckland Transport then built a series of web-based applications that give citizens personalized control over their transportation needs. Aucklanders can report potholes, check real-time bus schedules, refill integrated ticket cards, and receive traffic congestion delay notifications that affect public transport routes. This improves visibility into these services and increases use of public transportation. The agency is using business intelligence to analyze terabytes of data from its many business systems and generate insights that fuel further service improvements.
Auckland Transport is also outfitting employees with the latest technology, from tablet computers and smartphones running the Windows 8 operating system to Microsoft Office 365 cloud productivity services. These tools give employees a better ability to work with one another and with sister agencies.
The exciting work has just begun, as Auckland Transport pursues many other technology-based ideas to improve public transportation. These include using social media to respond to citizen comments and moving some IT services to the Windows Azure public cloud service to increase availability and scalability.
The Full Story
Empower Citizens and Employees
Auckland, New Zealand, is a beautiful city that has been ranked by the Mercer index as one of the top three cities in the world for liveability. The high ranking comes from the city’s natural beauty, good schools, low crime, and vibrant and diverse communities.
One area where the city fell short, however, was transportation. Its antiquated, disjointed transportation system was barely meeting the needs of current citizens and would not be able to withstand an expected doubling of the population by 2040.
To be ready for this growth and to boost Auckland’s international competitiveness, Auckland created a “super city” strategy and in 2010 consolidated eight Auckland-area transportation and roading divisions into a single transportation authority called Auckland Transport. The goal was to reduce costs and improve services. Auckland Transport is responsible for all public transport across the city, including buses, trains, ferries, roadways, bike ways, and footpaths.
Auckland Transport had its work cut out for it from day one. It had to move quickly to establish credibility with the public, improve services that it inherited from the councils, and identify new service opportunities. “We wanted to empower citizens to make city transportation choices based on accurate information and increase the use of public transportation,” says Roger Jones, General Manager of IT and Business Systems for Auckland Transport. The new agency was also tasked with giving its 1,100 employees standardized, modern workplace tools, reducing operating costs, increasing employee efficiency, and improving information exchange with sister agencies.
All these objectives required a modern IT infrastructure. Auckland Transport had inherited 13 different computer systems from eight different councils and had to first integrate and standardize these systems. It also wanted to eliminate clunky, nonsecure physical processes such as shipping paper documents to other agencies, and get much better at gleaning insights from the 6 terabytes of data it collects annually to improve services.
The agency’s employees were scattered across multiple locations and used a hodgepodge of technologies for communicating and storing documents. They also spent a lot of time driving to meetings. Mr. Jones knew that giving employees flexible, mobile computing tools was key to making them productive, motivated, and better able to serve Auckland citizens.
Give Citizens Personalized, Online Access to Transportation Services
Auckland Transport began by engaging the Enterprise Strategy team of Microsoft Services to help it come up with a wide-ranging strategic plan for the new organization and then implement its new technology infrastructure and services. The first step was to standardize and implement a core data center infrastructure. This involved deploying servers running the Windows Server 2012 operating system and using the Hyper-V technology in that operating system to virtualize and consolidate servers and create virtualized desktops. The agency also installed Microsoft security software to protect its infrastructure and gave IT staff a modern, comprehensive suite of data center management tools in Microsoft System Center 2012. Auckland Transport then engaged Microsoft Services Premier Mission Critical support to keep all of its Microsoft IT services running reliably around the clock.
“We needed a partner that had a broad range of solutions, from core infrastructure to security, mobility, collaboration, and cloud,” Mr. Jones says. “Microsoft had it all, which let us accomplish all our varied projects quickly, with a single vendor that would stand behind the products.”
On top of this robust IT infrastructure, Auckland Transport began creating applications to give Auckland citizens online access to personalized transportation services. One of the first was MyStreet, which lets citizens report potholes and other road damage to Auckland Transport online (and soon from their smartphones). The city posts these repairs and other scheduled work to MyStreet, and citizens can monitor work in progress.
|Figure 1. By using the MyStreet application, Auckland |
citizens can manage their transportation choices online.
Aucklanders that ride the city bus will soon be able to create personal transportation accounts that remember their favorite routes. They can keep track of funds remaining on their integrated ticket cards, which they can refill online. If a certain street will be closed for repairs, MyStreet notifies citizens whose buses traverse that street and suggests alternate routes. These citizen-facing solutions are built on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, and Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager 2010.
“These systems are helping us be more citizen-centric and making Auckland a more attractive place to live,” Mr. Jones says. “They reduce citizen frustration, provide information to make choices, increase ridership, and let citizens know that the city is working on their behalf.
To continue to improve transportation services and maximize revenue from its assets, Auckland Transport uses business intelligence (BI) to analyze 4 terabytes (8 billion rows) of operational data (stored in Microsoft SQL Server 2012). For example, it analyzes bus ridership data to discover the most popular routes and the problems passengers are encountering so that it can expand routes and improve the rider experience. The better service gets, the more people will ride public transportation. BI insights also help to reduce infrastructure costs by helping Auckland Transport detect small problems, like potholes, before they develop into bigger and more expensive problems.
Help Employees Work More Flexibly and Productively
While Auckland Transport is making life easier for citizens, it is also giving employees productivity-enhancing tools. Employees can use desktop, laptop, ultrabook, or tablet computers, augmented by smartphone access to modern applications that are anchored by the Windows 7 and Windows 8 operating systems and Microsoft Office Professional 2013. Employees communicate more fluidly using instant messaging, videoconferencing, and phone services provided by Microsoft Lync Server 2010, which eliminates the need to drive to most meetings. They share documents with other government organizations using Microsoft Office 365 cloud productivity services. Auckland Transport also created about 250 virtual desktops that external stakeholders can use to securely access Auckland Transport systems.
These tools give employees a much better ability to work across Auckland Transport business units and with sister agencies. In a three-month period, Auckland Transport logged more than 1,800 videoconferencing hours on Lync Server—which is at least half the time that would have been required to conduct these meetings in person. Employees can reach colleagues faster to get needed answers and can perform intelligent information searches that deliver needed information faster—all of which increases the speed and quality of decisions. Information is consistent and up-to-date, and the ability to easily analyze data from a wide range of business systems lets employees glean insights that lead to even more service improvements.
By giving employees modern workplace technology and flexible work options, Auckland Transport is better able to attract and retain employees in a competitive labor market. It also frees employees from frustrating rote work to focus on improving citizen services.
Ideas for Future Innovations Abound
Auckland Transport feels like the exciting work has just begun. Employees have come up with all kinds of ideas for tablet and smartphone-based apps, such as displaying available parking spaces and associated costs, for booking parking spaces, for letting parents know if their children have boarded the bus and if the bus is running late, and for letting riders point their smartphones at bus stops to find out which buses stop there and where they go.
Auckland Transport will be using its BI capabilities to analyze data from thousands of closed-circuit television cameras in parking lots, at bus stops, and in other Auckland Transport locations to understand where traffic congestion occurs and also to assist police in making the city safer.
It is evaluating social media tools such as Yammer as a way to listen and respond quickly to citizen comments and even prevent security dangers. Engaging with citizens over social media has the potential to improve customer interactions, improve transportation services faster, and burnish Auckland Transport’s image with the community. Social media comments can also provide valuable early detection of possible threats against the public.
Auckland Transport is looking at moving significant chunks of its IT infrastructure to the Windows Azure public cloud service to increase the availability, scalability, and disaster recovery of these critical systems. “By using Microsoft software and services, we have been able to roll out a broad suite of new services quickly, cost effectively, and with minimal risk,” Mr. Jones says. “Microsoft’s pace of innovation is keeping pace with our own, which helps us deliver world-class transportation services to Auckland citizens.”
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