10 09 27 computer weekly on isle of man ict


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Computer Weekly Oct 2010 on ICT in Isle of Man

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10 09 27 computer weekly on isle of man ict

  1. 1. CW + a whitepaper from ComputerWeekly Isle of Man government in race to deliver IT with ANDY HOOPEr/ASSOCIATED NEWSPAPErS/rEx FEATUrES £10m annual budget Island drives on Microsoft with Windows 7 roll-out by Bill Goodwin The Isle of Man is only 11 miles long and 33 miles wide but it has a reputation for a cutting- edge approach to IT that would put a larger country to shame. Although known to many for its TT motorcycle races and prowess as an offshore financial centre, the island has also built up a reputation as a leader in electronic government. Its 82,000 residents are able to file tax returns, pay rates and buy fishing licences online. It has succeeded in introducing a summary health care record system, where many health trusts in the UK have struggled. And it has delivered a high capacity IP network, offering data telephony and mobile telecoms using 1Gbit per second across the island’s 237 government sites. Isle of Man stats The country’s Information Systems Division (ISD) is the powerhouse behind this innovation. Its 68 staff are responsible for supporting a vast array of IT systems, ranging from vehicle l licensing, to mobile systems for ambulance crews, and the financial systems used across l government. It has a budget of £9.8m a year. l l It is no accident that there are empty desks in the former church occupied by ISD in Douglas, l the island’s capital. It’s a virtual organisation which regularly boosts its numbers with contrac- tors to deliver new projects for the island’s government departments. They work seamlessly l alongside the core IT team. Driving technology strategy ISD is responsible for more than just the raw technology. It plays an integral role in driving the Isle of Man government’s technology strategy, which encompasses everything from monitor- ing the speed of bikes during the TT races to providing cutting-edge e-services. Yet, its Facts: Information expenditure on IT per government employee is low – £2,948 compared with an average of £5,511, according to Gartner. Systems Division “I think I have the best IT director’s job in the world,” says Allan Paterson, director of the Information Systems Division and Isle of Man government’s CIO. “It’s so wide. It is measuring the height of the waves in the Irish sea – we have technology out doing that. We provide all the technology for the race management system, from rider registration, right through to who comes first or second. It’s such a broad front.” The Isle of Man is firmly a Microsoft shop. It took the decision to standardise on Microsoft and Cisco technology some seven years ago. Its aim was to rationalise an increasingly unwieldy portfolio of IT platforms. They included 12 different operating systems, and technology ranging from IBM, SCO Unix, Apple, Novell and Microsoft, and mainframes. Moving to a standard desktop and server cut infrastructure costs by a fifth. “We had an Oracle desktop client with every variant of Oracle. It came down to the skillsets of the suppliers,” says Paterson. “They would dictate for us historically what the tool would be for the application. Effectively a supplier would say: ‘We support this Oracle client and we are not ready to support that Oracle client’.” Paterson considered open source, but says the technology did not offer an end-to-end solution. And, aside from the offices of Ubuntu in the Isle of Man, there was limited open source capability on the island. “We get the open source arguments thrown at us regularly. We have people who say you should be using open source for the economic development of the island. But I have to provide a range of national and local government services.” And all for a budget that is less than Tony Blair’s expense account, he says.
  2. 2. CW + Isle of Man case study For a small organisation in a small jurisdiction with finite resource, building a best-of-breed IT system, is not an option, he says. “The best is the enemy of the good, so we have gone for IoM government good. Good is the level that allows us to support what is going on here and be leading edge.” IT systems ISD signed its first three-year Microsoft Enterprise agreement in seven years ago, and began transferring some 200 applications running on half a dozen versions of Unix onto Windows Server 2003.And it decided to standardise on Microsoft’s CrM product Microsoft Dynamics Ax, formerly know as Axapta, rather than better known CrM (see Big risk, big bang box below). Paterson acknowledges that the move was risky. l “Of course there was a risk. But there is a risk in moving to Oracle. We actually tried Oracle before and we had a failed Oracle project,” he says. l Windows updates Paterson has a deliberate policy of keeping up with the latest software releases and operating systems. Skipping an operating system generation, he argues is a false economy. This is why, l unlike many organisations, the Isle of Man government chose to move from Windows xP to Windows Vista. “If you leave the estate for a period of time it’s an enormous cost. It is a capital cost, it has revenue costs. It is a pain cost. You need to think that you have Windows, not a particular operating systems subset,” he says. “We actually saw a cost in staying with xP with the next service pack coming out. And we would have had to do a lot of the revalidation. It is almost as if it cost 10 units of work to update xP. Going to Vista cost us three units of work. Going to Windows 7 cost us one unit of work.” And then there is an opportunity cost, he says. If you want to take advantage of the next version of Sharepoint, you have to have the right version of Windows. “Staying with xP meant you were going to inhibit yourself with the opportunities that come along in the short- to medium-term,” he says. ISD identified the need to upgrade 2,500 users across government to Vista in 2007. “A lot of precursor work was done in advance of any roll-out, so we could identify what standards we could adopt for it, what we needed to do, how many users were affected, and how many companies were affected,” says Nick Leece, technical manager. As part of the project, ISD introduced Microsoft’s Application Virtualisation (App-V) package to deploy software automatically. This was one of the main drivers behind the Vista project, says Leece. It delivered an 80% saving in application upgrade costs. “We were taking applications off the desktop, putting them into App-V and then deploying them back,” says Leece. “It allows us to deploy to a wide variety of users in real time.” Halfway through the upgrade project, ISD switched from deploying Vista to newly-released l Windows 7. The decision meant that Isle of Man government departments could take advantage of the latest versions of Microsoft products including Exchange and Sharepoint. l l “The work we did for Vista enabled us to be in a very healthy position to switch the operating system to Windows 7. So no additional work was needed in redoing the applications,” says l Leece. l At the same time, the department began work on a programme to virtualise desktop applica- l tions. The decision cut the cost of deploying applications by a further 50%. It also gave the ISD l the ability to give staff temporary access to applications on their desktop as they needed them. It was important for the ISD to liaise closely with the other government departments. Peter l Clarke, chief technology officer, began speaking to individual departments two or three years ago to explain the project. ISD upgraded to Windows 7 first, followed by other government l departments. ISD left the biggest department, the Department of Health and Social Security, until last. The l department split into the Department of Health and the Department of Social Care in April, but has a common back-office infrastructure.
  3. 3. CW + Isle of Man case study Simon Jackson is director of finance at the Department of Health, which manages the IT estate. “Clearly when you are dealing with the sort of budget and the range of services we Technology estate provide, it has to be absolutely spot on in terms of IT infrastructure,” he says. “If we have a failure in the benefits system, a failure in the payroll, a failure in the payables side of things, it can l really impact on the front line.” The department started planning for the Windows upgrade in 2008, working closely with ISD. Project members audited the estate, making sure applications were in a fit state to migrate. “In experiences I have had elsewhere, the 80/20 rule seems to apply, where you can get away with having 80% working and sort the rest out later. You can’t do that with some of our systems. Everything had to hit the ground running, a lot of preparation, a lot of planning,” he l says. l Some 60 desktops were involved in the project in finance, ranging from payroll to payables and receivables. The Department of Health upgraded some 1,600 desktops. They were moved directly from Windows xP to Windows 7. The department went live in spring 2010, with few reported problems. “It was a fairly easy transition. We obviously worked closely with ISD, because of the scale of E-services the project, on preparation, planning and understanding the risks,” says Jackson. “I can honestly say that when we did the migration, the issues were really minor domestic issues, printers not working for an hour or so, and things like that. It was absolutely excellent,” he says. “One of the things I found satisfying this time around was that we did not have to replace any of the base units. It was just a quick audit of what we had. Quite literally overnight it just switched over.” Windows 7 has produced a positive reaction from staff, says Jackson. “The feedback I have had is that the system is quicker, more reliable. The functionality is much better. In particular the printing utilities are far better. It is a far more reliable and efficient operation.” Business benefits For the Isle of Man government the move to Windows 7 has allowed the ISD to reduce its support costs, and keep its IT estate up-to-date with the latest software. “We chose to move to Windows 7 because it was reducing our support costs,” says Paterson. “It has been a journey all along. When we put xP in, we suddenly had people saying they were experiencing 60% fewer desktop faults. That journey has been improving from xP to Vista to Windows 7.” ISD’s progressive policy of reducing support costs is important, says Paterson. It has allowed ISD to expand the number of users on its systems from 2,500 to 5,500 with no increase in cost. “When we started the xP journey we had a much lower number of PCs and users. We have gone through that journey and we are doing it with the same revenue budget and the same headcount. And we are supporting a vastly increased number of applications,” he says.
  4. 4. + CW Isle of Man case study Isle of Man government’s CIO keeps systems simple
  5. 5. + CW Isle of Man case study Department of Home Affairs plans unification project ANDY HOOPEr/ASSOCIATED NEWSPAPErS/rEx FEATUrES
  6. 6. + CW Isle of Man case study Big risk, big bang works with CrM PATrICK FrILET/FEx FEATUrES
  7. 7. CW + Isle of Man case study Chronology WESTEND61/rEx FEATUrES l l l l l l l l l l l l l > l > l > l l l l l l l l
  8. 8. CW + Isle of Man case study Chronology resources for IT WESTEND61/rEx FEATUrES departments l Computer Weekly > Microsoft white paper: Modernising your business processes with l Microsoft Dynamics > Microsoft white paper: How will Windows 7 Professional help my business? > Microsoft white paper – What is Windows 7? l l l l l l l l l l l