Though the Bathurst region is a rural community of 35,000 about three hours west of Sydney, Australia, don’t be surprised if you hear race car engines revving or spot yourself in the crowd during a live broadcast. Events like the Great Race Festival and the Bathurst 1000 attract international attention and are a mainstay of the area.
The image of a top motor sport event in Australia winding through a small city in regional New South Wales perfectly illustrates the Bathurst Regional Council’s role in tending to local concerns while keeping the region up to speed with the rest of the world. The council helps organise and promote several big races annually. It is the region’s local government body in the state of New South Wales, overseeing most public infrastructure and cultural resources, including roads, sewage systems, drinking water, and public safety. Its employees are distributed across a main office in the civic centre and locations like the library, art gallery, visitor information centre, and childcare facilities
Such a balancing act means that council jobs come with built-in challenges. IT Director Michael O’Neill of Bathurst Regional Council says, “I don’t have a lot of time to get things done. For every project, local government has to weigh community expectations against scarce funding and pressures from state government to take on more tasks. It’s our moral obligation to take care of citizens today while ushering in the future.”
The council has many projects running at once, and budget pressures never let up. “Resources are limited,” says O’Neill. “Often, we’re faced with choices like keeping the sewage treatment facility running or revamping our IT infrastructure. We have to keep doing more with less, so things like software-deployment administration can fall behind.”
“Change is a constant, but being dragged into digital transformation isn’t good. Now, we have the clarity to know we’re choosing the right path to the cloud, on our terms.”
Michael O’Neill, IT Director, Bathurst Regional Council
An IT environment checkup
For some months, O’Neill had been planning to get a current understanding of the council’s software landscape, not just for compliance but also as a first step toward the cloud and becoming a smart city. During this time, he mentioned licensing to an IT professional from Orange City Regional Council. “My colleague from another regional council recommended doing a SAM engagement, saying his organisation had gotten a lot of value from it,” says O’Neill. “When he said their SAM assessment was delivered by Microsoft Gold Partner Network member Data#3, it made the decision to go ahead even easier—Data#3 is already a trusted IT partner of ours.”
In mid-2018, Bathurst Regional Council began a Microsoft Software Asset Management (SAM) Cloud Productivity assessment. The SAM partner team took inventory of the council’s environment, including licensing, product deployments, user accounts, and hardware. The SAM partner also analysed the data to help make sure Bathurst was getting full value from its IT investments—for example, whether it was using all the licenses it paid for or could downsize. The findings also covered the council’s deployment position and included data insights from the SAM partner. O’Neill conferred with the SAM partner on his vision for the future and the value Microsoft Office 365 services could bring the 300 employees who would use them. These conversations spurred the council to prepare for a phased deployment of Office 365 in 2019.
A new path forward
The council has flexibility to add and update Office 365 services at its own pace, and is following the SAM partner’s advice on moving employees to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook Online in groups. After that migration is over, the council will consider using Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, Yammer, and Skype for Business Online. As the SAM partner assists with the Office 365 deployment by helping build a proof of concept for the pilot project, O’Neill will consult with the SAM team to decide which security features in Office 365 to add and when, according to his needs and budget.
O’Neill says the council also benefits from support and advice available through the Microsoft SAM program to make sure licensing is optimised and the council has fully addressed any compliance and financial considerations of moving to the cloud. “Digital transformation and smart cities can only happen when you have a straightforward view of your IT infrastructure and everything is in order,” he says. “The SAM engagement gave us that confidence, and now we’re taking the first step to transformation by moving our email to the cloud.”
The flexibility of the cloud and the clear path to transformation through adding services as needed appeal to the council. “After the Microsoft SAM engagement, software management is much simpler,” says O’Neill. “Everything is organised under one agreement, which we can add to or update quickly as our requirements and budget change.”
Advice to other councils that are facing change
O’Neill advises organisations that are considering a Microsoft SAM solution assessment to approach the engagement as an opportunity. For the council, migrating to Office 365 is just the beginning. “The SAM assessment is a step toward using Office 365 with Microsoft Azure in a data centre. I think that’s ultimately where we need to be, from a security and maintenance perspective.”
He looks forward to new workplace capabilities, like online meetings, remarking, “A council’s bread and butter is communication with the community, so the collaborative environment of Office 365 is going to be life-changing for us, and consequently for citizens of Bathurst. As a step toward becoming a smart city, I can see us creating teams that include people from outside our organisation.”
Peace of mind—and a foothold in the future
O’Neill doesn’t lose sleep over licensing anymore. “Peace of mind is a top benefit,” he says. “I don’t wonder; I know we’re compliant. That’s a good place to be, legally and morally.”
Regarding its move to the cloud, Jagdev Maan, Account Manager of Software Licensing Solutions at Data#3, points out that the council was already using Microsoft products. He adds that in such cases, compared to the subscription model and flexibility of Office 365 cloud services, traditional perpetual software licensing would cost a lot more in the long run, when the cost of maintaining legacy on-premises solutions is factored in. “After its SAM assessment, Bathurst has a great starting position with its compliance,” he says. “We always recommend our customers treat SAM engagements as a business process by embedding its findings into their daily business.”
O’Neill had been intending to move from IBM Lotus Notes to Office 365 and Exchange, and the SAM project gave him incentive. He adds, “If the council were still using the third-party email solution in ten years, it would be difficult to find IT staff with the expertise to manage and run it. This way, we’ll be able to use all the great collaboration tools that are available with Office 365, too.
“The SAM assessment gave us a solid point of reference on our IT. Having a good experience gives me the confidence to move to a cloud model,” continues O’Neill. “Change is a constant, but being dragged into digital transformation isn’t good. Now, we have the clarity to know we’re choosing the right path to the cloud, on our terms.”