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May 17, 2012updated 22 Aug 2016 12:34pm

Scoop: Plymouth City Council saves big by losing 800 desktops

Desktop consolidation leads to flexibility, cost savings as Council moves to Windows 7

By Jason Stamper

Plymouth City Council, which has 14,000 staff serving a population of 256,000 people, has improved its flexible working and saved costs with a desktop consolidation project handled by Trustmarque Solutions.

Trustmarque Solutions had already worked with Plymouth City Council to review its software licensing and future licensing options, saving the Council almost £500,000 in the process.

Plymouth City Council is the largest on England’s south coast, delivering 300 services to Plymouth residents including transport, social care, leisure, education and schools.

The executive team was putting in place a new business strategy to remove unnecessary costs, in particular looking to consolidate office space and assets to reduce its property overheads by closing down smaller offices and making better use of the space it already had.

The business therefore approached the IT department to investigate ways to enable hot-desking across the Council sites and to allow more flexible ways of working. Tom Unwin, Technical Architect for Plymouth City Council has a strategic role in the organisation, helping to plan and implement the future direction for ICT.

"We were approached by the business to help reduce the number of desktops in the Council from 4,000 to 3,200," says Unwin. "Our key driver was asset consolidation as the goal was to have 8 desktops for every 10 employees. We were running happily on Windows XP, but each person had their own computer configured for their use, therefore hot-desking across the organisation was not an option as each device was configured to each user. We were already using Microsoft SCCM (System Centre Configuration Manager), however we were keen to extend its use in the organisation. We therefore started to investigate how we could achieve the consolidation without incurring too much cost."

The Council recognised that it would need to move operating systems soon as Windows XP support was due to expire in 2014. The Council therefore took the decision to tackle its upgrade to Windows 7 sooner rather than later as it was already implementing Microsoft Lync and Office 2010 and these systems would be more compatible with a Windows 7 environment.

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Windows 7 provides a more robust desktop environment and would therefore provide a better platform to deploy the other technologies that the Council had planned, Unwin says, as it can run at a higher speed and is designed to meet the needs of Microsoft Lync and Office 2010. The Council benchmarked a number of providers and as Trustmarque had been a trusted partner for a number of years it was invited to quote for the business. Trustmarque was successful in its bid to deliver the Windows 7 and expand the deployment of SCCM.

"We tried to find a solution using our existing technology, which including Citrix and Windows XP, and it partially worked, but didn’t deliver true flexibility as we still did not have roaming profiles," Unwin says. "We had been planning an upgrade to Windows 7, Office 2010 and Microsoft Lync, having purchased the licences under an Enterprise Agreement the previous year, so this was a good opportunity to consider the new face of our IT environment."

"Trustmarque kept in close contact, providing us with weekly progress updates to demonstrate that the project was running to schedule and within budget," Unwin says. "They were also careful to inform us of any logistical requirements before any site visits were made which ensured there were no delays. We had full visibility which gave us peace of mind that it was all running to plan. The level of communication was excellent throughout the project."

Trustmarque rolled out the new Windows 7 operating system in phases, first migrating the office based staff, such as HR and finance, and then moving on to the more mobile workers, such as social workers. Trustmarque tested the environment in advance to ensure all the Council applications would migrate across without issue and highlighted any applications that would cause an issue.

Unwin says the benefits are already apparent. "We provided Trustmarque with a list of applications and they were able to configure the system to create user profiles, which meant we no longer have to do a fresh build for every device we add or update," he says. "This has saved us a considerable amount of time. Previously if we wanted to add a new device it would have taken three or four days to get the configurations correct and to get that system up and working. Now, it takes half a day."

"That’s not the only advantage though; the on-going management of the desktop environment, issuing security patches, updates and so on is so much simpler now that we only have to manage one configuration. Before we had to go into each different build to incorporate each change or update that came through. Now, with the SCCM build, it changes the configuration for every device automatically, so on-going delivery management is significantly improved," Unwin adds.

The Council has now fully migrated to the new operating platform, shielding it from the expiration of the Windows XP support and providing staff with access to better technology. In addition to the improved efficiencies, SCCM has also enabled the Council to realise its ambitions to allow hot-desking across the organisation. Trustmarque was able to adjust the Windows software to enable roaming capabilities using Active Directory and folder redirection to ensure each set of configurations are assigned to individuals, rather than devices.

"We have had really positive feedback from our users," Unwin adds. "Windows 7 allows them to work faster and more efficiently, and we are getting less support requests, which is great. Also employees can now work from any location and their applications and configuration follows them around, which really improves the user experience. And the fact that Trustmarque could configure the system for us as a service and through negotiated concessions with Microsoft has meant that we have not had to spend money on deploying an additional application management tool."


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