Most Effective Use of IT in Public Services

Winner: Hampshire County Council

Project: Hantsnet

Business goal: To create a single, easily administered and cost-effective desktop environment.

Project partner: Citrix Systems

April 2005 was a watershed month at Hampshire County Council: as part of a five-year project to build a modern, cost-effective IT infrastructure, the council finally pulled the plug on its one remaining IBM mainframe. Now, having replaced its legacy, green-screen technology and a hotchpotch of departmental deployments with a single, centralised server environment, the council says it has taken at least £4 million out of its annual IT costs.

And aside from the adoption of industry standard servers, a critical element in those savings has been the switch of a large proportion of the council’s 11,000 users from PCs to thin-client technology.

Citrix Presentation Server installed on 120 Windows 2000 Dell PowerEdge servers now enable end-users to access applications services through 3,500 Wyse thin clients and 5,000 Dell PCs, with standardised client images. As a result, the average total cost of ownership of each desktop is just £461, compared with the local government average of £713.

The Hantsnet project was not always easy. The public sector demands specialised applications that were not always adapted for multiple-user environments such as Citrix. And the reliance on the network means Hampshire had to ensure its new IP VPN was sufficiently resilient. Outages did occur.

The council also faced some cultural challenges with departments that had invested their own budgets and training in ‘thick client’ PCs or PC-dependent applications such as Lotus Notes, rather than the standard Microsoft Office. This demanded “a great deal of planning up front”, says David Reynolds, Hampshire’s IT manager. To combat resistance, he established an internal marketing campaign that relied on small pilot groups spreading positive feedback to other users. “I’m not saying there weren’t moments of struggle, but the strategy was better for 98% of the user base,” he says. “Over the long term, even the other 2% have gained a lot of benefits.”

As a result of the Citrix implementation, updates such as a new Windows and Office 2003 deployment to every desktop, can be done in a single weekend. It also helps with local government’s shared-services agenda.

The lower costs, thanks to economies of scale, are shared between the other councils and public sector organisations that use Hantsnet, including hundreds of schools using SAP for finances and HR, social care systems for desk-hopping social workers and other city councils. Citrix Presentation Server now delivers applications to over 1,000 networked sites and 13,000 devices.

Highly Commended

Cardiff Council

Until recently, Cardiff residents were faced with 452 different telephone numbers when trying to access one of the council’s 128 services. Only one in three calls was ever answered. Now, the Connect to Cardiff project has provided a multimedia contact system that resolves email queries in hours and calls to a single phone number in seconds.

Derbyshire County Council

By creating protocols for sharing data between neighbouring councils in the East Midlands, Derbyshire has minimised the disruption caused by utilities organisations excavating roads at different times. As the electronic local government information network matures, it is expected to improve road services and streamline travel across 25 Highway Agencies.

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