Located in the North West of England, Cumbria County Council (CCC) works alongside residents, businesses, communities and other organisations to deliver the best possible amenities with the resources available. Just over 6,000 employees provide wide-ranging services to a population of approximately 500,000 residents, helping them to live safely, promote health and wellbeing and protect its world-renowned environment. Despite being the second largest county in England and home to the Lake District, it has a relatively small permanent population. Delivering essential services to such a widely dispersed population can be challenging, so an effective mobile working strategy, underpinned by the latest technology, is critical to its success.
Key facts: · 6,000 staff providing services to 500,000 people · Geographically remote, sparsely populated region · Reliant on robust remote working capabilities
“As a team, we constantly monitor our software / device estate to ensure that it empowers staff to work effectively wherever they’re located,” said Kevin Maxwell, CCC’s Service Support Manager (ICT Service). “In 2018 we realised our existing hardware and software estate needed a refresh to deliver a truly agile working environment. With many aged devices running on-premise software licenses and soon-to-be-unsupported operating systems, such as Windows 7, it was obvious that we needed to look at alternatives. If we didn’t, we’d struggle to maintain pace with emerging technologies and innovative ways of working.
“Migrating to a Windows 10 platform seemed the sensible solution. However, the complexity and cost associated with updating a diverse range of existing devices and securing new Windows 10 and Microsoft Office licenses would have been prohibitive. We decided to investigate migrating to a cloud-based Office 365 solution and replacing our existing hardware with new, pre-licensed Windows 10 machines built to a functional specification that would ensure a consistent device estate.”
Softcat was invited to respond to a competitive tender process via the Crown Commercial Service Technology Products 2 (RM3733) framework, initiated in line with recommended procurement procedures. To be successful, it needed to source, warehouse and deliver up to 3,500 robust, lightweight devices with touch-screen capabilities and ensure costs remained within CCC’s tight ICT budget.
Critical Success Factors
- Complete refresh of device estate
- Source consistent, highly functional devices
- Ensure solution corresponds to available budget
Softcat’s Account Director, & Local Government Deputy Team Leader, Matthew Harwood, led the tender response. “Following the invitation to tender, we scrutinised the requirements to ensure we fully understood exactly what was needed. The rules of the tender required CCC to avoid specifying a particularly device type, which provided an opportunity to investigate multiple vendor options. We were able to assess several vendor offerings, capable of providing devices with the functionality to match the specification within the limited budget available.
“Over a three-month period, we clarified the requirements with CCC and suitable vendors to formulate a robust tender response. As well as guaranteeing the essential features CCC had specified would be included at a reasonable cost, we also needed to ensure the fulfilment process would suit its needs.”
“We don’t have the space to securely store 3,500 devices, so any provider needed secure warehousing capacity and be able to phase deliveries as and when we needed them,” said Kevin. “When we examined the tenders, the difference in pricing per device was negligible for comparable device specifications. However, Softcat’s proposal stood out. The device features on the recommended HP ProBook x360 440 were spot on, the fulfilment process suited our needs and the price on the individual devices was very competitive. When coupled with the advice and guidance provided by Matthew throughout the process, it was definitely the strongest pitch.”
“We put in a lot of work with HP Inc to ensure that the device functionality CCC sought could be achieved within budget,” said Matthew. “As a trusted provider within the sector, we were also able to fulfil the additional requirements for secure warehousing facilities and a phased delivery schedule. Since winning the tender and implementing the solution, our in-house specialists have provided hands-on project management and support.”
- Delivery of 3,500 HP devices within a 2-year contract – later increased to 4,250 following a separate ITT for an additional 750 devices.
- Close collaboration with CCC and vendors to ensure device suitability
- Ongoing secure warehousing and device delivery channel
- Precise matching of functional spec with competitive pricing per device
“Primarily, we now have a consistent device estate that’s easier to manage, easier to maintain, provides the high levels of functionality our staff need to work remotely and has added value to what we do,” said Kevin. “It’s enabling us to better serve the local population and efficiently deliver services where they’re needed most.
“Our remote geography creates unique challenges and this solution will help us improve access to the latest collaborative technologies for every staff member. In the past, maintaining the device estate was difficult due to the logistical challenges of returning machines for repair or essential maintenance. We now have a comprehensive buffer stock of up-to-date devices and can quickly swap any device with a comparable replacement, ensuring continuity of service while the original machine is repaired or replaced.
“The new devices have all of the features and applications we need. Previously, our end users relied on an inconsistent suite of collaborative tools, such as Skype for Business, when interacting online. With the new device estate, Windows 10 capabilities and the advantages delivered through a cloud-based Office 365 model, we have been able to roll out much more effective collaboration tools. For instance, because everyone now has the same device, we were able to install Microsoft Teams for all our users quickly, efficiently and with confidence. All of which was achieved while most of our workforce was working from home during the countrywide Coronavirus lockdown.”
Matthew Harwood said, “We recommended the ProBook x360 440 because HP Inc is a trusted and recognised brand and the devices delivered the high levels of functionality CCC specified at a price well within its budget. We also ensured that the device chosen would be in production for at least two years, to help maintain the consistency of the device estate and guarantee replacements could be sourced when needed.”
“This solution has given our team real peace of mind,” said Kevin. “Given the difficulties everyone’s faced during these unprecedented times, we’ve been able to continue supporting essential operations. Yes, we’ve all faced disruption and had to adapt to new ways of working, but our Social Workers still have caseloads to manage and essential maintenance still needs to be done across the region. This solution has helped the IT team to support the continuation of these critical activities while adapting to changing circumstances.”
Benefits at a glance
- Consistent, high-performing, easy-to-manage device estate
- Enhanced remote working capabilities
- Minimal disruption to critical activities
“As the tender progressed, we became aware of the deep industry knowledge Softcat provides and just how strong its relationship with major providers like HP Inc is,” said Kevin. “Softcat’s approach to the procurement process is extremely fair, open and detailed. As a public sector organisation, we’re constantly challenged with Freedom of Information requests in relation to the integrity of large procurement projects like this, so the robustness, impartiality and value for money of any agreements we sign must be demonstrable.
“Matthew Harwood and his colleagues were extremely hands-on throughout the procurement process. They delivered demonstrations and feedback on the performance of individual devices and liaised directly with the manufacturers to ensure the fulfilment strategy suited our needs. The whole process has been seamless, and it’s given our team great confidence that we made the right decision.
“Softcat does the important things very well. It has great standing with industry providers and responds quickly and effectively to any support requests, which may seem like simple things, but in my experience, it’s the simple things that often add the most value.