The City of Edmonton’s IT Branch has a 60-year legacy of innovations and “firsts”. In early April, our announcement with Google to supply much of our office technology tools starting later this year further added to our list of achievements. We are the first major city in Canada to select Google as its main office technology partner.
As the City’s chief information officer, I strongly support the shift to Google for most of our office technology tools. It reflects the direction Council has set in the Way Ahead, the City’s strategic Plan, offers the most cost-effective solution and includes all employees. We are following the principle of innovation as we have for many years.
The big news for local residents is that going with Google means we will avoid spending $9.2 million in IT costs over the next five years while using office technologies that better meet our needs. Furthermore, over ten years, we will avoid spending $36 million in IT costs.
Last August, City Council approved the move to Google after IT analysed the different technology options and an independent third-party assessment and review was done. The city selected the option that provided the best financial and functional fit for the city.
Working with Google is not new for the City. Since 2009, Edmonton residents have been able to use Google Maps to get public transit directions. Since our announcement about Google, we have received a few inquiries from local residents. Here are the key ones that we wanted to share with you.
What about security of data?
Google meets stringent security requirements. A review done comparing Google to several other similar technology companies systems, as well as the City’s current system, showed the company offers an extremely high level of security. It has been successfully implemented at Edmonton Public Schools, the University of Alberta and many states and cities in the U.S.
How will personal, confidential data be managed?
The City only plans to use Google office technologies for email and basic office tools, not for programs dealing with confidential information. Prior to adopting these tools, each City business area will be required to complete a privacy assessment of the personal information. In all cases, where it is determined that it is not appropriate to store data in basic office tools, an alternative solution will be provided.
Are Google office technology tools really better tools?
The chief improvement is that City employees can access information any time, on any device (computer, cell phone, tablet) at any place. Previously, 3,000 City of Edmonton employees had no access to email or files. They will now have the same access as every other employee. In addition, Google Business Apps provides the ability to collaborate in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. This cuts down on meeting and travel time and creates a more inclusive process.
How does it save money?
The move to Google means less maintenance costs since Google Business Apps are located in the cloud (on the internet). Instead of purchasing and installing upgrades, Google upgrades are automatic. Last year alone, Google initiated 125 seamless upgrades. Other office technologies would require IT staff to install those upgrades on individual machines. In addition, Google provides on-line video training for new features as they are released.
What about the information we already have on other platforms?
The City of Edmonton will continue to have strong relationships with other technology partners, such as Microsoft to supply required server, desktop and laptop operating systems and other products such as SharePoint and Project.
Later this year and into 2013, 2014, City employees will be able to collaborate and access office technology tools from any place, time or device ensuring the same high level of service for all residents. And in the future, our ability to access collaborative tools such as Google’s will enable the City of Edmonton to explore ways to strengthen citizen engagement.