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Norway’s Trondheim embraces the cloud with Google G Suite

Municipality is reaping the benefits of moving productivity software to the cloud

Trondheim, Norway’s third-largest municipality, started its move to the cloud by switching to Google G Suite for its support tools and groupware.

A year later, it says the cloud transition has led to improved cost efficiency, collaboration and increased mobility.

“People travel less, they work much more efficiently and share information in a better way,” Bjørn Villa, Trondheim’s IT director, told Computer Weekly. “These are the benefits of working in the cloud compared with working locally on a desktop computer.”

The municipality’s cloud push was launched with a public tender in 2016. Trondheim wanted new cloud-based tools, including email, video conferencing, collaboration, presentation and storage services, for its 15,000 employees to replace its on-premise Microsoft applications.

The move was prompted by user behaviour. Many of the municipality’s staff were using advanced digital tools in their free time at work and Villa noticed they were tired of sending emails back and forth without any access to real-time collaboration tools.

The cloud services of both Microsoft and Google were assessed in the tendering process. Eventually, the three-year contract was awarded to Swedish cloud services provider Avalon Solutions’ Google G Suite (then Google Apps for Work), with Trondheim citing functionality, quality, price and the ability to deliver as key reasons for its decision.

According to Villa, the actual cloud migration was straightforward. In mid-December last year, a selected number of emails were transferred overnight and the rest of the municipality’s 65 million emails were gradually transferred over the next month. The most significant challenge arose from the maintenance of the municipality’s own Active Directory, he said.

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“These systems tend not to remain ‘clean’ over the years,” said Villa. “So if we did this again, we would take a bit more time cleaning up the directory before the launch.”

There have been a few smaller hiccups along the way, but overall, Trondheim is encouraged by the results. In a recent survey, only 10% of its employees felt they still needed Microsoft products installed locally on their computers.

A crucial element in the move has been employees’ enthusiastic response to the new tools, said Villa. Before the cloud deployment, he and his IT team were looking for internal “Google guides”, volunteers who would be trained to guide their colleagues through the cloud transition. In two days, the municipality received more than 450 applications for the roles.

“This just underlines how ready the organisation was for cloud tools and 2017, not being stuck in 1999,” said Villa. “Our Google guides were essential in this process because they were our extended arm into the organisation. That is something others can do as well, no matter whether they move to Google or Microsoft cloud or any other system.”

But the cloud has not yet provided all the answers for Trondheim. The municipality has chosen to retain certain data, including healthcare information, on local servers.

“There is a distinction between regular data processing and IT use and then work processes related to sensitive personal information, and that is not put in the cloud,” said Villa.

But he is confident Trondheim will expand its cloud adoption. Whether it will be with Google’s or Microsoft’s cloud environment remains to be seen when the current contract expires, but Villa sees the cloud taking a stronger foothold in Norway’s public sector.

 “I think the next five years will be the ‘hybrid years’ when organisations start out and try things in the cloud and then gradually move forward as they become more confident that it will work and serve their purposes,” he said.

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