Government entities sometimes get a bad rap—people don’t know that today the public sector really does move at the speed of business. But it’s not always easy because we have diverse needs to fill and tons of expectations that we’re expected to meet. At Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, we provide public safety, property, social, and other services for 800,000 citizens, which means that a lot of people count on us in a lot of different areas.
As client services manager for the county, I’m in charge of a group of IT professionals who solve technology issues and deliver technology tools to all County employees and make sure that they have access to the information they need to positively affect the citizens of Montgomery County. My team handles everything from password resets and broken mice to workstation rollouts, permissions issues, user groups, and app deployments.
That keeps me on my toes, for sure, but it also makes my work days fly by. I need to be in constant contact with my seven-member team so that I can help answer technical questions and keep IT projects on schedule. I also want to make myself available to other employees because they count on me to resolve technical issues and provide guidance when their projects involve technology.
We recently adopted Microsoft Office 365, and I’m using it to make many facets of my job easier. Our team considered Google Apps, but we asked a cross-section of County users to experiment with both Google Apps and Office 365, and an overwhelming majority of our end users preferred Office 365. Plus, we had some concerns about ease of administration and security with Google Apps.
With Office 365, we can work better as a team from any location. My team and I have to physically or virtually be in a lot of places at once to support the whole county. I might be unpacking new machines and receive an instant message about a networking issue, or one of my troubleshooters might share his screen with me so I can see exactly what problem he’s trying to solve. If I’m not available, the rest of the staff can see that online and find someone else to answer a pressing question. We use our new videoconferencing capabilities in addition to screen sharing and presence, all of which keep us working in sync and able to respond faster to employee needs.
We’re also finding new ways to accelerate the pace of county business. For instance, in the last month, we’ve started to use the Yammer Enterprise social network, and it’s already wildly popular. I post meeting minutes, reminders about upcoming rollouts, and information about training opportunities—it’s a great way to disseminate information across the county without clogging everyone’s Inboxes.
And we’re making it easier to share existing documents across all our departments, which means that County employees can quickly find the information that they need to serve the public. For instance, we get a lot of Right to Know requests—citizens want documents such as land records and birth and death listings, or information about childcare or job training. We use the compliance tools in Office 365 to easily satisfy those requests.
From an efficiency standpoint, I now can conduct countywide searches for tools, resources, and data, without having to make special requests, and that gives me back a lot of time. Those special requests could take days to run through the proper channels, but now I have the ability to search on my own for faster results. Plus, other employees will have the same search capabilities, which means that they’ll need to depend less on my department to get access to the information that they need.
Of course, these days most of us don’t leave work behind when we leave the office. I use my mobile phone and other devices to stay on top of email both at work and at night from home. It feels like the same experience as an on-premises messaging system. I share calendars, make meeting requests—I can’t think of anything I’d need to do that isn’t included in Office 365. As part of a government agency, I like knowing that our email and data are stored securely and that we don’t have the privacy worries that we would with other cloud solutions. That’s especially important for our departments that deal with sensitive information that falls under HIPAA or state regulations.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that now that I have the tools in Office 365, I can’t imagine working any other way. I’m able to be so much more productive, responsive to my internal customers, and available to my team. And ultimately, our team is making it possible for the county as a whole to do a better job of serving the public, which is our primary goal.