"I know that no matter what the challenge might be, I can go to boxxe and say 'I've got this issue here. What are your thoughts about it?" and get a solid answer back - I've never had to go back and question them."
- John Allan, IT Team Manager, Clackmannanshire Council
Is your council getting as much done as it could? Don't worry, you’re not alone if it isn't.
As many as 56% of all Microsoft licenses were underused last year, meaning offices worldwide paid for Microsoft tools they didn’t use.
If you’re part of that majority, you’ve got two choices:
- 1. Try and save money by scaling back your licenses or...
- 2. Use those tools to help your council deliver more essential services.
For Clackmannanshire Council, the M365 suite has helped solve one of the biggest challenges in local government IT – the skills gap.
The growing threat of cyberattacks in the public sector means high pressure to recruit talented IT security professionals. But, unfortunately, people with those skills can be hard to find for offices based outside of urban talent hubs.
Using the M365 suite, Clackmannanshire council is solving that problem by establishing a remote work policy. With it, they can attract and hire talent from further afield.
We sat down with John Allan, IT Team Manager at Clackmannanshire Council, to talk about their recent Microsoft-centric digital transformation. In particular, the impact that an effective Microsoft 365 installation had on John’s daily life, and on the council’s future.
Getting started with Microsoft 365
Microsoft granted us a small number of free Microsoft 365 licenses at the start of the pandemic. So a pilot group started using Microsoft Teams, which worked really well.
I found that, suddenly, I’m not wasting time trying to find a meeting room or waiting 10 minutes for people to show up.
I could schedule [meetings on Teams] far more effectively. And being more efficient means you can do more work or do more with less. So, in fact, very early doors I found the organisation had entered a very decisive and really efficient way of working.
You just said, what do we need? Let’s just crack on.
The next hurdle - Microsoft Volume Licensing
With the pilot a success, John hired boxxe’s Microsoft specialists to help deploy M365 across the whole Clackmannanshire team.
Sound easy? Unfortunately, it’s a tough job to make sense of every licensing agreement Microsoft offers - especially if your organisation doesn’t fit a typical mould.
It’s even tougher for organisations who’s entire IT purchasing infrastructure is handled by one person as a small part of their day-to-day responsibilities (like Clacks’ is).
John fast realised it was unrealistic for him to try and find the time to find the best Microsoft licensing model.
Especially with so much to consider…
When I first came to the council, we had a team of 10 staff. Bit by bit over the years, we’ve had to reduce our staffing complements because of the financial pressures on government. So now, for all IT procurement, I am it.
And the challenge with Microsoft licensing is…well, say I’ve got a new staff member joining my team that’s never had a computer account before. If they need to use SharePoint or another non-standard Microsoft tool down the line - what sort of license are they going to need?
Or what happens if they switch to a device with a different screen size? Because if you move to something bigger than 10.1 inches, your price will shoot up from £3.50 per month to £17.50 per month.
There are different license models for all these scenarios and it's an absolute minefield – you might need an E5, or an E3, or an E3 Security… It just isn’t clear.
boxxe were brilliant though - I will say that. They helped me understand the license model, the SKUs and how both could actually come together.
Building a remote working culture
Licenses sorted, John's next focus was to set Clackmannanshire Council up for secure remote work.
To make the whole process easier, our MoD-certified Microsoft specialists helped develop a secure, remote work-capable infrastructure so council workers could easily work together on sensitive documents safely.
There wasn’t a culture of remote working in our office at all.
When the pandemic hit, I had 208 people (out of 1250 total) set up for remote working, and only 35 had logged in in the previous six months. In fact, every council in Scotland has shied away from BYOD/UYOD.
With boxxe, we’re turning that around and figuring out what’s stopping us from doing it. And given that boxxe can offer military-level hosting, I can trust that our new working model will be secure.
The future of council work
As we got to the end of our conversation, we asked John about the impact of Clackmannanshire’s new working model on it’s people and service users.
It turned out that remote working had some unexpected benefits...
Because we’ve implemented Teams, we’re now able to engage in conversations with the central Scottish Government on IT purchasing policies without having to travel down to Edinburgh.
So I’m saving two hours each way in transportation time, and not having my day interrupted. I can go, join a meeting for an hour, and get back to my work. It just allows you to be more efficient with your time.
I think that’s a really important element. We all talk about technology and the process benefits, but there’s also the human element: you now don’t have to spend two hours in the car going somewhere.
That eliminates the fuel cost and the environmental cost [of travel] as well - that’s really important. Especially for Scottish offices which are much more geographically isolated than offices down south, where everyone’s right next to each other.
There are other unexpected benefits too. For example, my Manager relocated to South Shields - over 200 miles away from me in Scotland.
Because that works, it might mean that remote work could solve one of the problems we have at Clackmannanshire - we can’t get people with the right skill levels for all functions.
Now, we could actually start to look 100-200 miles away for talent. Those types of conversation are quite common in the private sector, but for the public sector, unheard-of.
And there we have it. With a bit of support, Clackmannanshire has been able to implement an entirely new way of working. Click here if you want to talk with a specialist about getting more value from your Microsoft investment.