Rotherham squeezes more out of Microsoft to enable e-gov upgrade

Rotherham Council has taken advantage of a 2002 Microsoft licensing agreement to roll out a range of collaborative software for a...

Rotherham Council has taken advantage of a 2002 Microsoft licensing agreement to roll out a range of collaborative software for a knock-down price.

To help it meet its 2005 e-government targets, the council has standardised on Microsoft software across its six departments and 3,220 desktops. This has enabled it to cut helpdesk calls by 20% and fix two-thirds of its desktop problems remotely.

Jonathan Prew, service director at the council, said, "As IT was run department by department, different, not necessarily complementary, approaches had evolved. It meant that our service to citizens could often be fragmented, so that we had, for example, no consistency around opening hours or whether services were available in the district or only centrally."

Rotherham Council took advantage of an enterprise agreement it made with Microsoft in June 2002, which allowed it to receive client licences for other business applications at no additional cost.

The council used a standard Office of Government Commerce agreement, which covered office software and operating systems, priced at £96 per desktop for 3,000 PCs - a total of £288,000.

Between April and June this year, it rolled out, at no extra cost, Windows Server 2003, Systems Management Server, Sharepoint Portal Server 2003 and Office Infopath 2003.

This allowed the council to link departments through the Sharepoint collaborative software, automatically roll out updates and patches using Systems Management Server, and reduce paperwork by using Infopath's electronic forms.

The Microsoft software replaced an older Novell infrastructure, said Jason Ollivent, head of IT at the council. "It was about how we could maximise the [Microsoft] enterprise licence."

The upgrade went smoothly despite some unexpected problems. The IT department struggled with setting up roaming profiles, so users could log on to any PC and see their own configuration (desktop, backgrounds, preferences). "Novell could do this easily, but the complexity of the Windows desktop made this harder," said Ollivent.

But Ollivent added, "We have made many savings. We had six different departments with different systems and we were spreading the training budget quite thinly. Microsoft skills are more available in the market."

Rotherham Council's IT department introduced several policy changes over the three-month implementation period, including adding storage limits and locking down PCs so users could not install their own software.

Employees were initially unhappy about this, but it cut helpdesk calls by 20% and alleviated what was "a significant drain on resources", said Prew.

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