Today’s post was written by Arne Ingebrigtsen, Chief Municipal Executive, Municipality of Kristiansund.
Surrounded by two major fjords and spread across four islands on the western coast in the middle of Norway, Kristiansund is one of the most densely populated municipalities in the country/region.
Around three years ago, we began to look at ways to improve our IT infrastructure. Our goals were to help municipal workers collaborate better and to make it easier for us to adopt new technologies. This decision led to innovations that have transformed the way we collaborate with colleagues, citizens, and other municipalities. At the core of this transformation is Microsoft Teams—the hub for teamwork in Microsoft Office 365 and the previously missing piece of our infrastructure’s puzzle.
Working hard to make collaborations work
Kristiansund municipality has more than 50 innovative projects happening at any time. They frequently require collaboration between stakeholders from different towns or municipalities who are often a drive or ferry ride away.
In the past, we collaborated through more traditional methods of communication—city workers would meet in person or make plans through often-ignored email chains. Numerous departments used an internal post system, physically sending documents to each other.
Working this way, we were hardly the efficient municipality that our citizens deserve. And while we had experimented with communication apps, they couldn’t integrate into our workflows well enough to make an impact.
Reinventing the municipal workflow
After seeing a keynote speech from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, I became convinced that Kristiansund needed a shift in our approach to collaboration. We had to employ tools that could become an integral part of the workflow rather than just apps we occasionally used.
We saw that Teams could help us achieve this shift and made the decision to deploy it across the municipality. At the same time, we immediately stopped using physical mail and removed all our old PBX phone systems.
Discovering new ways to collaborate
Teams has radically altered the way we collaborate. Today, we hold all our meetings using Teams—even when we’re in the same room—because we can share screens, send files, and record our conversations. And because there’s no need to travel, employees can use their time more productively. Teams also lets us give access to guests, so we can easily hold video conferences with participants from other municipalities.
The change has also made our everyday communications faster and more organized. Instead of sending physical mail, we share files electronically, and instead of sending emails, we often use Teams chat to discuss projects and tasks. It’s easy to answer requests quickly in Teams, and we’ve become more agile.
We now make 100 percent of our calls using Teams, so we no longer pay for traditional phone lines. In addition, two-thirds of our employees have Teams installed on their mobile devices, so they can use the same chat and video functionalities outside the office. Just one year later, employees are averaging two video meetings every month.
Modernizing IT capabilities
We have streamlined our IT systems by moving to the cloud. Kristiansund is using Microsoft 365, and its Enterprise Mobility + Security platform gives us the tools we need to work together securely. Our internal communications are now fully encrypted and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant.
Previously, our wireless networking was somewhat cumbersome, and our team needed to use wired connections for some tasks. Azure Advanced Threat Protection has made it possible to use open wireless networking because it protects our users and devices intelligently. In addition to having moved all our critical applications to the cloud, this gives us the ability to be on a Zero Trust network. There’s no longer any need for wired connections, and our teams are much more mobile as a result.
Having a Zero Trust architecture has also given us the opportunity to run on stock computers and inexpensive clients. If a computer develops a software problem, we simply take a spare one off the shelf and use Windows Autopilot to provision a user’s account inside Intune. Running our IT infrastructure in the cloud and using tools like Intune has cut the cost of our computers by at least half.
The Microsoft cloud has also made life a lot easier for our IT team. Instead of being reactive to problems, our IT technicians can now focus on monitoring the quality of our IT services. Plus, we no longer have to spend time setting up computers—Microsoft Intune sets everything up for us. We have a separate team that develops and maintains new innovations in each sector. To keep the organization up to speed on new developments, the IT team deployed a Teams Bot so that everyone knows what is being worked on.
Creating a better place to live
Using Teams and Enterprise Mobility + Security, we’re completely changing how we provide municipal services. Residents can now book a public space like a meeting room or the city hall through an online portal. The backend connects with Azure Active Directory, so users can directly access the calendar of each asset.
Our latest achievement was to launch a completely personalized system for interacting with our residents. Every person in Norway has a national ID number that links to personal data in the government’s databases. With the security provided by Microsoft 365, we can allow residents to enter their IDs into a local portal. They can then request specific services, such as fixing a faulty streetlight in their neighborhood, and our personnel will see the request in Teams. Even the local power company has integrated its orders and outages into one of the municipal teams to keep the residents and us up to date on the city’s infrastructure.
As we roll out sensors throughout the city, we know about problems before the residents do. In the previous example, when residents sign in, they will immediately see fresh updates about their faulty streetlight. The goal is that everyone will eventually have complete visibility into the things happening in the city that relate to them.
Helping residents feel at home
With the innovations provided by Teams and Microsoft 365, Kristiansund has taken a giant leap forward in serving its residents. We’re creating a municipality where efficient, productive collaboration is the norm—and it’s benefiting both government employees and our residents.
Learn more about how Microsoft Teams can empower your employees in a modern workplace.