> To transform IT at the council front line, providing end users with the tools required to facilitate an increase in productivity across the organisation.
> Enable any time, any place connectivity.
> Cut IT spend and achieve more with less.
> Implement resilience and disaster recovery by design.
Windows 10 in Azure
> Transformed collaborative working and information accessibility.
> Improved team communications across locations, has boosted morale and engagement.
> Single cloud provider ensures IT is easier to manage and sustain.
> Improved resilience and availability.
> Lower backup and DR costs.
> Has matched ever-increasing expectations about performance and capability.
> Lead to a digitally skilled workforce.
> Has removed overheads of the local data centre and the cyclical need to invest in infrastructure hardware.
Colchester’s Digital Transformation Revolutionises its IT Infrastructure and Service Delivery and Lays Strong Foundations to Embrace Future Technologies
Sol-Tec was a breath of fresh air. Straightforward and capable, Sol-Tec got the job done right first time, saving us both time and money, says Kieran Johnston, Strategic ICT and Communications Manager at Colchester. “If Sol-Tec hadn’t come in when it did, our ambitious three-year programme could have been derailed.
Colchester’s intentions, whilst ambitious, whet our appetite and we were excited to collaborate with them. They had new ground to break and a large workforce to cater for, but we believed in their vision and knew we could deliver it collaboratively.
“The people we work with at Sol-Tec have a get-it-done approach that is really refreshing. It’s not all about how much we are going to pay them. When they need to go the extra mile for us, they do so without hesitation. Long may the partnership continue.”
The Need to Transform
In January 2016, Colchester Borough Council adopted an innovative IT strategy it named Technology 2018, designed to take advantage of the new technologies that were now part of many people’s everyday lives.
The Council had followed a steady pace of technology change over the previous decade, but the speed and performance of their virtual desktops no longer matched the expectations of existing staff, let alone the digital natives joining the workforce.
It was time to embrace the latest platforms and disrupt the status quo, not least because of continuing times of austerity and a requirement to do more with less. It was no longer about doing what was sensible for the IT department. It was time for IT to enable transformation at the front line and across the organisation. With 1,500 staff delivering dozens of different services across several locations, that was no small ambition.
The Technology 2018 strategy focused on delivering the best for IT users; drawing on cloud solutions, sharing knowledge in the cloud, being trusted, taking personal responsibility and being more effective as a result: true technology flexibility leading to increased productivity.
Finding the Right Partner
Colchester knew what it wanted to achieve but lacked the expertise to implement its goals efficiently and effectively. A key pillar of delivering the whole vision was getting on board with Office 365. However, the new relationship Colchester had formed with a Microsoft partner was not working at the pace they needed. Colchester recognised it was time to seek guidance from other sources and through the Essex Online Partnership, Microsoft and Brentwood Borough Council introduced Colchester to Sol-Tec.
Technology Foundations for Better Services
Once Sol-Tec had helped Colchester take its first steps into cloud by moving to a hybrid Active Directory and enabling Office 365, Colchester recognised it needed to do more than implement the technology. It needed to help its staff embrace it. Colchester’s IT team set up a specialist team to assist the Council’s services with adoption.
Sol-Tec then helped Colchester remove dependency on local infrastructure and shore up its Disaster Recovery-by-design aspirations, by moving email and calendars to the cloud. This rendered the hybrid approach redundant.
Council Officers felt immediate benefits from these technology improvements to their day to day working lives.
Gary Reid, Programme Manager
Richard Walker, Partnership Manager
Squaring the Circle
The Technology 2018 programme directed that line of business applications running on local infrastructure should move to supplier hosting where not already the case, or alternatively, be replaced on a global class enterprise platform such as Dynamics 365 or Salesforce.
With a year left of the three-year strategy programme, Colchester and Sol-Tec needed to tackle this last strand. A few priority services still ran on complex legacy systems, which suppliers were not ready to host and for which a shift to enterprise platform would take more than a year to deliver. With ageing local equipment and virtual desktop technology that was turning end-of-life, the heat was on.
Sol-Tec and Colchester took less than a day to create the outline plan to tackle this, focusing on wholescale migration of remaining servers to Azure and building a Windows 10 remote desktop running out of Azure for those legacy systems that required installed clients. The first step of that work was to draft a “lifeboat plan” so IT could assure the Council it could get people working again very quickly if there was a major failure.
“In the middle of our three-year delivery, we brought the desktop and infrastructure support back from an outsourced contract.” says Kieran Johnston, Colchester Borough Council. “Sol-Tec assured us it could work quickly to reduce the huge risk to our IT estate this move represented and clearly outlined the steps of the transition to us.”
“Once we fully understood the threats to Colchester’s business continuity, we worked with them to deliver a plan that was achievable and sustainable in an accelerated timescale. They needed us to keep the momentum moving forward, because standing still was simply not an option,” says Paul Collins, Sol-Tec CTO.
Lifeboat plan established, Colchester was able to take a measured and effective approach to Azure migration and Windows 10 desktop rollout, ensuring they could pace the delivery appropriately to their significant staff numbers across a diverse set of services, including its Arm’s Length Management Organisation (Colchester Borough Homes) and the commercial offshoot Colchester Commercial Holdings Ltd.
The End Game
As we reach the end of 2018, Colchester and Sol-Tec are delivering the very final elements of the Technology 2018 vision. Throughout this journey and preparing for the evolution to follow the revolution, Sol-Tec is supporting Colchester to realise and deliver on all these key tenets.
“We knew we had to stop the cycle of boom and bust in IT; seeking capital investment to make change and then having fallow years where we couldn’t move forward,” says Kieran, Colchester Borough Council.
“Delivering our Technology 2018 vision meant moving to a consumption model, that would allow us to build on what we have. Because we’ve made that change, a wealth of opportunity is now available to us, and we are in a strong position to take advantage of maturing tech in the coming years, such as artificial intelligence and biometric authentication.”
As Colchester identifies and prioritises the next stage of its technology journey, the organisation is embracing and exploiting the technology delivered so far. Technology 2018 needed investment. The technology beyond 2018 needs careful financial management, but not large one-off sums.
A Partnership Built on Trust
Sol-Tec and Colchester have built a strong trust relationship, the likes of which is rare in public sector, where the organisation needs to deal with many dozens of technology suppliers. Colchester believes and has seen first-hand that the team at Sol-Tec delivers effectively and in Colchester’s best interests. Sol-Tec understands Colchester’s needs, aspirations and is proud to support its public service delivery.
The Technical Delivery
Colchester and Sol-Tec have delivered the following in partnership:
ADFS in Azure
Strategic consultancy and collaboration
Office 365 tenancy for Colchester Borough Council
Office 365 tenancy for Colchester Borough Homes
Synchronisation between both Office 365 tenancies
Microsoft Azure tenancy; production and test/dev
Power BI reporting on Azure
Azure cost evaluation and optimisation
Security assurance and email authentication on the domain (DMARC)
Custom single sign on for hosted HR system
Lifeboat plan to mitigate threat of failing infrastructure
Migration of application, database and web servers to Azure, liberating Colchester from local infrastructure in a single data centre
Windows 10 desktop proof of concept on Azure
Windows 10 desktop production environment on Azure, built to Microsoft best practice, replacing VDI and VWorkspace running in the data centre
EMS implementation expertise
File discovery on legacy SAN, in tandem with
Hyper V environment to hold one legacy system
StorSimple implementation alongside Hyper V
Backup to Azure, enabling savings on legacy backup solution
Intranet built in SharePoint, replacing previous hosted system and saving annual costs
Internal contacts directory: “phonebook” on the intranet
SharePoint site builds for specific programmes of work
SharePoint site templates for programmes
SharePoint training to local administrators and developers
Azure training to technical staff
Ongoing Velocity support contract, providing Colchester with Sol-Sec as first line escalation and Microsoft as second line