Local Government IT Managers Must Think Laterally


Local governments should be looking to make savings through tactical investment, not by clinging on to old kit, says Centralis’ Ewen Anderson

Mobile working and flexibility

Surrey County Council, for example, is profiting from a new desktop strategy for 8,000 users, ten percent of whom are mobile. The Council recognised that its desktop strategy was becoming unwieldy and out-of-date and it needed to ensure that application upgrade and management costs didn’t escalate; it also needed a greater degree of flexibility. A new Citrix-based installation has allowed County Hall to replace more than half of its ‘fat’ 6,000 desktops across 300 sites with ‘thin’ hot-desk terminals. Centralising all the Council’s servers and file storage in one place has improved accessibility and productivity levels and met Surrey’s need for users to be more mobile, improve performance and to reduce power requirements and costs.

As well as this increased horizontal sharing, where information and systems are shared between different agencies, authorities are increasingly demanding vertical shared services, delivering a wide variety of different systems to similar organisations in different locations.  These shared services can use desktop virtualisation to centralise delivery into a shared environment, where pooled budgets and resources can delivery economies of scale.  It is often said that two can live nearly as cheaply as one (particularly if you cut out all the discretionary spending!) and this is equally true of running IT delivery services.

Some costs are unique and based on the number of users, but many can be shared resulting in real savings. For example, The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the national housing and regeneration agency for England, provides staff with access to core business applications via a Citrix XenApp environment. One thousand users have been federalised by the solution. The flexibility and scalability provided by the Citrix environment is central to the Agency’s ICT Strategy.

Calculated investment

Critically though, local government will seek to make savings wherever it can that do not directly affect jobs or impact adversely on service delivery.  That means reducing accommodation and travel costs, and cutting spend on new equipment and maintenance wherever it’s safe and sensible to do so.  Virtualised desktops can play their part here too, allowing staff to work from home, or any office with a client device, extending the lifespan of existing equipment and moving to a “swap on fail” for client devices. Taken together these measures can significantly reduce accommodation footprint through hot-desking, reduce maintenance and support costs and make staff more productive.

Solihull Community Housing Association, in collaboration with Solihull Council, deployed a Citrix XenDesktop Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solution to support independent working for its duty managers. Located at specific sites across the borough, the duty managers previously logged into dedicated PCs at their respective location. Now, they can work from any site within the borough. Introducing a far greater degree of flexibility, the system allows registered users to securely log into their virtualised desktop from any location. In a stroke, the system increased overall workforce efficiency by removing the need for a duty manager to be present at every location all of the time.

These technology solutions may not be wired to spin straw into gold, but they can deliver effective and efficient IT services whilst reducing costs. Town hall chiefs who realise calculated investment can save money may find the time is right to trade in the spluttering rust bucket for a vehicle that will drive performance and savings for many years to come.

Ewen Anderson is managing director of Centralis Ltd. Centralis is a leading independent IT consultancy, specialising in delivering applications securely to their point of use. Centralis’ mission is to help customers reduce cost and improve business agility through innovative, award-winning solutions backed by top-level partnership with industry leading vendors, including Citrix, Microsoft and VMware Centralis local government customers include Surrey County Council, Bracknell Forest Borough Council, Leeds City Council, Solihull Metropolitan Council, Horsham District Council, and Fife Council.

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