The Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture & Science (OC&W) wanted to implement a cross-organizational program to work independently, regardless of time of day, location and device. This required a replacement of the hard- and software at the Dutch Education Inspectorate, which has been realized on time and within budget. The new resources enable the school inspectors to perform their tasks in a more efficient way.
“At the Education Inspectorate, we had already been exploring the New Way of Working trend. We prefer to call this Smart Working, by the way,” says Eugène Boeldak, Specialist Consultant Business Operations at the Education Inspectorate. The Education Inspectorate is one of the five sections of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture & Science (OC&W).
In 2011, we have started to study what this way of working could mean for OC&W. In order to draft a general framework, we identified the general vision of the sections in workshops. The results formed the basis for determining the soft- and hardware requirements. This led to the ‘New Working Space OCW’ program, that provided the necessary soft- and hardware to enable staff to work independently, regardless of time of day, location and device,” Eugène continues. “OC&W wants to facilitate its staff to work smarter in order to provide the public with better services. In addition, we want to be an attractive employer by facilitating mobility and providing the technical possibilities.”
“OC&W wants to facilitate its staff to work smarter in order to provide the public with better services.”
Facilitating supervision and monitoring
The program intended to support staff in the efficient performance of their tasks. “We want to ensure that the staff member can work from any location; from home, at the office or while on the road. Our primary task is to carry out our inspection activities; half our staff consists of inspectors. We aim to facilitate the supervision and monitoring activities of our staff.”
In addition to the primary goal, secondary goals are facilitating cooperation with a number of applications in Windows. “Within the Education Inspectorate there are many regular meetings that used to require face-to-face contact. This requires a substantial amount of travel time,” says Ton Janssen of Finext. As program manager, he is closely involved in the program. “There are more efficient ways to do this, for instance via videoconferencing with apps such as Microsoft Lync. It is however essential to provide appropriate facilities.”
A big step
In order to facilitate staff in working independently, regardless of time of day, location and device, the soft- and hardware of 600 workplaces needed to be replaced. “An important consideration in this respect was to minimize disruptions,” Ton says. “About half of the staff had a desktop computer, others a laptop, and some had both. The objective was to provide every employee with one and the same device, equipped with Windows 7 as well as Microsoft Office 2010.”
The move from Windows XP and Office 2003 to Office 2010 and Windows 7 is not only a big step for end users. All applications, of which many tailor made, needed to be compatible with or upgraded to Windows 7. “This is where Finext clearly proved its added value,” Eugène says. “Ton and his colleague Leon did a great job in being delivery-oriented, whilst taking into account human interventions at all levels.”
On time and within budget
Eugène is positive about the implementation of the project and about its results. The project has been realized on time and within budget, in spite of dependence on other parties involved in the upgrading of tailor made applications and the supply of hardware.
“The involvement of end users played a crucial role in the realization of the project.We asked the staff for input on a regular basis. Not regarding the objectives of the program, but to involve them in the steps toward reaching them. The overall rationale was: ‘we are going to it; how are we going to proceed?’,” Ton says. In addition, two of the directors were involved in the bi-weekly advisory group. “They have knowledge we don’t have. For example, the directors can indicate the moments that staff are available for migration. Inspectors don’t want their work to be interrupted, therefore is important to minimize the inconvenience of the replacement of the current structure.”
In addition, the ‘switch workshops’ had a positive impact on the acceptance by the end users. “These were trainings to facilitate the switch from Office 2003 to Office 2010,” says Eugène. “Later on, we organized a supplementary in-depth Microsoft Lync training. That was part of our learning curve; we initially assumed that self-tuition for Lync would be sufficient, but as it turned out, the general level of digital skills appeared to be on the low side. After the Lync training, the usage increased sharply.”
Tailor made applications on the critical path
The Education Inspectorate was the third section that moved over. It had a ‘time slot’ of 3 weeks to realize the logistic migration. “The switch of the tailor made applications to Windows 7 took longer than expected. However, these tailor made applications were part of our critical path: without these applications, it was impossible to make the switch,” Ton says. “In spite of this set back, we were reluctant to move the deadline; we wanted to make clear to all parties involved that the ultimate inspiration is a deadline. If you move the deadline, you lose the sense of urgency; you run faster with the finishing line is in sight.”
To ensure meeting the deadline, a very tight logistical planning of the rollout was essential. “In a time frame of 1.5 weeks, we replaced 600 work places, at 4 locations throughout the Netherlands.”
Efficient and cost effective
The new hard- and software delivers: “People are clearly travelling much less,” Eugène says. “In addition, the new equipment also offers other advantages: it is better, faster and lighter.” “Now every employee has one single workspace. Previously, people had a workplace at the office and one at home on their laptop,” Ton says. “Reducing the number of workplaces to the number of employees brings significant savings.” “Not only the purchase costs, but also the monthly operational costs,” confirms Eugène.
There was also another principle that helped reduce costs. “By providing one and the same device, we wanted to keep things simple,” Ton says. “Providing function based options would only lead to internal discussions. Now, all OCW staff has the same laptop.” “This principle not only facilitated the rollout, it is also the best option from an operational and maintenance point of view,” Eugène says. “We also found old applications that were used by only 3 people. By mapping all applications, we obtained insight in the costs and we were able to clean up obsolete applications.”
“The involvement of end users played a crucial role in the on time and within budget realization of the project.”
Bring different disciplines together
The successful completion of the project led to a follow up project: the switch of all staff from a Blackberry to an iPhone. In this case as well, reduction of costs was an important rationale. “The success of the previous project and the trust it generated were the basis for this follow up project,” Eugène says. “This time, there was a basis of confidence that we would manage the switch successfully and on time.”
Ton and Eugène agree on their advice for other organizations that want to implement a complex project on time and within budget: “Ensure that all disciplines are represented within the project team and that the members take ownership of their distinct role. IT, logistics, communication, ordering customers or end users; all perform their own actions from their specific spheres of competence.”