London borough builds IT around flexible working

By Martin Courtney
23 Apr 2010 View Comments
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Waltham Town Hall
London Borough of Waltham Forest (LBWF) has overhauled its datacentre

When the London Borough of Waltham Forest (LBWF) needed to upgrade an ICT architecture serving 3,500 end users working at 60 locations across its boundaries, it decided a complete overhaul of its datacentre, servers, desktop PCs, network, storage and applications was required.

With its 53 strong IT team already struggling to cope with the workload, LBWF called in systems integrator 2e2 to start hosting its datacentre services, provide a managed network and storage infrastructure, and deliver virtualised applications and servers to its end users.

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“Most of that was supported in-house to date, but the team here was already stretched in supporting an ageing infrastructure and will be until the implementation of the new systems is complete,” said LBWF head of ICT Graham Bell, who estimates the various projects will take between 12 and 18 months to complete. “All of those staff will be redeployed within the IT function to help improve service delivery elsewhere."

The deal with 2e2 is worth £4.3m over a three-year period, and hooks into the ‘one infrastructure’ strategy that the council is currently pursuing. The intention is to effectively disconnect LBWF's IT resources from its office space, allowing it to consolidate the number of premises it leases down to two main sites. It also means LBWF is no longer bound to maintaining expensive server rooms.

"Our internal datacentres needed an upgrade and considerable renewal – if you look at the business case for co-location versus investing in our own facility, it did not stack up for us when there are plenty of third parties out there capable of providing an efficient service,” he said.

2e2 will host LBWF applications on virtual servers within its datacentre, and deliver them to Citrix thin client terminals running XenDesktop rather than desktop PCs, which are easier for the in-house IT department to manage and maintain.

Significant changes to existing software will see an operating system refresh from Windows XP to Vista, as well as a move away from Novell Network and GroupWise to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange.

"Like any IT project, the greatest challenge is for the people involved rather than the technology," said Bell. "Much of what we are deploying involves a change to working practices, so there is a strong requirement for support and training, but also a full-blown cultural change around flexible working."

LBWF has identified distinct types of role which it hopes the majority of its staff will fit: full-time homeworkers; roaming staff like social workers; and those who may work from either the office or from home, but who have no permanent desk in the office.

"We want to move staff into a smaller number of core offices and promote considerable amounts of flexible working, so we needed an IT infrastructure and systems able to support that," said Bell.

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