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Newly founded Norwegian Railway Directorate, Jernbanedirektoratet, is laying down tracks for the country’s cloud push, as it becomes the first public authority to run all IT services in the cloud.
The government has a cloud-first policy which drove the organisation’s plan. “There is a recommendation [in the government’s IT strategy] to look for cloud solutions and, if there are no obvious reasons not to use them, you should go for them. That was the main motivation,” Svein Mulelid, IT manager at the railway directorate, told Computer Weekly.
“There were many laws and regulations to consider, but so far everything has turned out to be within the regulations.”
The role of the Norwgian Railway Directorate is to facilitate better organisation of the Norwegian railway sector and lead its development. While the directorate only became operational in January 2017, the decision to favour the cloud was made in August 2016 to ensure operational efficiency, cost savings and modern working processes.
It took the directorate two months to have its basic IT infrastructure, collaboration tools and archiving system up and running for pilot users. This includes Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform Azure, Office 365 and collaboration tools from Salesforce, which have all been supplied by IT consultancy Sopra Steria.
Mulelid said there are always some wrinkles to smooth out but, aside from a few integration and directory issues, the cloud deployment has been a success.
“We have the advantage of being a new organisation without any legacy systems needing to be taken care of,” he said. “The benefit of the cloud is that it’s very fast to deploy new solution, and the main benefit from a user perspective is they can work from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection.”
In addition, the directorate has implemented a software-as-a-service (SaaS) version of Finnish supplier Tieto’s case management and archive system Public 360. This is to comply with the obligation for public bodies to hold archives of their documents and email exchanges. Regulation further stipulates this data must be stored in Norway – as Tieto does – although this is under revision.
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Railway Directorate has approximately 250 employees, spread across five locations, who have been working with these cloud tools from the start.
“The first day people came to work, they were given new PCs,” Mulelid said. “The second day, we went off-site and conducted the kick-off meeting using the collaboration system. So everybody had to start using it on the first day.”
The directorate has also set a goal to be “email free” and all of its communications are concentrated on the collaboration platform. The next step is to set up a similar collaboration system for the entire transport sector in Norway, which includes railways, air and road traffic.
While Norwegian Railway Directorate is now Norway’s first public authority to run in the cloud, it was soon joined by the state’s educational loan fund Lånekassen and other authorities are expected to follow their example.
Although they still lag behind their Finnish and Swedish peers, the latest Cloud Maturity Index from research firm Radar (commissioned by Tieto) shows Norwegian organisations have been closing the gap in cloud maturity since 2015.
“We’ve been contacted by many Norwegian public organisations – they want to come and talk to us and listen to our experiences. There is a lot of focus now on the cloud in Norway’s public sector,” said Mulelid.