The latest ALGIM News and Updates

  • 5 May 2020 12:36 PM | Anonymous

    New Zealand’s ‘Go hard, go early’ attitude into COVID-19 stay-at-home lockdown challenged all  78 local authorities on a number of fronts, including support for local businesses and communities through a phased re-entry into an economic recession.

    Often criticised for moving too slowly, councils are showing they can collaborate and move at an accelerated speed to meet the needs of their respective communities.

    Ashburton District Council launched its COVID-19 community hub - a web app for COVID-19 related resources, news, information and alerts - within days of moving into restricted levels of lockdown. Co-developed  with neighbouring Timaru District Council, with concept design suggested by Squiz, the app - technically a Progressive Web App (PWA) - was conceived, designed, tested and launched within an impressive two-week window.

    The app has since been adopted by a number of other councils in New Zealand, including  Gisborne and Mackenzie district councils.

    Ashburton didn’t stop there. They followed up with an ‘open for business’ campaign that delivered an intuitive business directory to help rally community support for local businesses. This marketing effort, and business directory tool developed by Squiz, would spark life to a stalled local economy,  as the national COVID-19 alert level was downgraded.

    “There is no textbook for what we are facing right now,” Ashburton District Mayor Neil Brown said, “but our best hope is to continue supporting one another and being united as a community to get our district through this,” he added.

    COVID-19 restrictions may continue for a while.

    However, Ashburton District Council continues to  work innovatively to  stay one step ahead and  help reduce uncertainty while  supporting  its  community wherever possible, and within government guidelines.  

    The beauty of Mid Canterbury Open for Business campaign and business directory, is that it will help residents find what’s available in the district, said Mayor Brown. 

    The benefits are obvious. Not only has Ashburton District Council prepared itself to support their local community, its Economic Development Department is now sharing their knowledge and tools to help other local government organisations succeed. 

    Both the COVID-19 app and the Community Business Directory were developed on Squiz’s Digital Experience Platform.

    Links

          Covid-19 apps - https://covid19.ashburtondc.govt.nz/app, https://covid19.gdc.govt.nz/app, https://mobile.mackenzie.govt.nz/app/_recache

          Ashburton’s community business directory - https://openforbiz.ashburtondc.govt.nz/app


  • 30 Apr 2020 8:52 AM | Anonymous

    Every year ALGIM takes pride in holding informative and engaging conferences for our local government members.

    Unfortunately, due to the continuing COVID-19 situation and the impact this has had on mass gatherings, council training budgets, and travel restrictions, we’ve had to make some tough decisions.

    ALGIM Autumn and Spring Conferences

    The ALGIM Autumn Conference (GIS and Information/Records Management) and ALGIM Spring Conference (Customer Experience and Web & Digital) are cancelled and will not be going ahead in 2020.

    ALGIM Annual Conference

    The ALGIM Annual Conference is still scheduled to go ahead in November, although as we all know the future remains uncertain, so a decision on this will be made closer to the time.

    We are looking to expand the topics for this programme to include areas of interest for GIS, IRM, Web and Digital, and CX.

    What if you’ve already registered?

    If you’ve already registered and paid for the Autumn Conference, we are happy to hold this as a credit towards the Annual Conference (which will incorporate some of the content from the Autumn Conference) or it can be put towards one of the many training courses run by ALGIM throughout the year.

    Alternatively, we can organise a refund if you would prefer. Please contact admin@algim.org.nz to arrange that.

    Thank you for your understanding. If there’s anything ALGIM can do to help your council in this time, please don’t hesitate to let us know.


  • 22 Apr 2020 3:01 PM | Anonymous
    • Thank you to Enghouse Interactive for sharing their new e-book on how to set up a remote working contact centre. You can find the link to the e-book at the bottom of this post.


    • Enghouse Interactive has a dedicated Work from Home page, designed specifically for IT staff and contact centre managers wanting to understand more about remote working; visit enghouseinteractive.com.au/work-from-home/


    • New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown is potentially due to be lifted over the next few weeks, but many organisations are talking about making the call to keep their staff at home indefinitely for safety reasons, where feasible. For a contact centre in particular, social distancing is a challenge with tens or hundreds of agents – previously grouped closely to achieve a tight team environment!

      Even when COVID-19 safety reasons go away (although we can only dream of when that happy time may come) there are declarations across the board that for a variety of reasons, home working on the wider scale is here to stay. Travel fatigue, petrol costs, environmental concerns, work-life balance, recruitment advantages and scalability are just some of the reasons that compel this view.

      Another reason that was brand new to many employers, arising for the first time last month, is the link between Business Continuity and working from home. Businesses whose workers were already used to regularly (if not permanently) working from home had a much better time of it recently when it came to COVID-19 and the transition to remote work.

      We have seen (via our video calls!) makeshift offices emerge in dining rooms, garages and bedrooms throughout the country.  Many were up and running quickly, working over VPN or browser and communicating externally and internally via mobile and video.

      But moving a contact centre operation to a home environment isn’t quick or easy, and must be carefully planned to fully reap the benefits. Businesses also need to think about issues like team management and security. Another consideration over the last few weeks has been scalability. While some organisations have downsized, there have been many who have needed to ramp up their contact centres to deal with an increased load as customers or residents seek urgent information relating to the current situation.

      If your managers have had to act as reactively as most of us, it might be a good time now to sit down and review all the elements of a successful work-from-home operation, possibly under increased load. If this is the way of your future, even in the mid-term, then you need to look at ongoing recruitment, provisioning, training and management of the contact centre with a different, ‘virtual’ mind-set.  

      In light of many organisations having to work from home due to the current crisis, we have created an eBook checklist detailing the critical elements for an organisation to review when moving their contact centre team to a remote working environment.

    • What equipment should you think about?
    • What are the things you can do to ease the transition for customers?
    • Are there tools to help?
    • What are the ways to help your staff?
    • What should you do to prepare for the future?
    Enghouse Interactive has a dedicated Work from Home page, designed specifically for IT staff and contact centre managers wanting to understand more about remote working; visit enghouseinteractive.com.au/work-from-home/


    View the e-book


  • 22 Apr 2020 11:40 AM | Anonymous

    Now that you have everything largely in place for the COVID-19 crisis. Have you done all that you could have and what should you be thinking about for the near, medium and longer term to best support your organisation?

    Effectus has customised this 10 step plan from Info-Tech Research Group to help answer those questions and provide a good practical reference document for local government.

    The ten steps are:

    • Prepare IT to support the business
    • Inspire and over deliver
    • Make technology awesome
    • Turn this strategy into a tactical project
    • Focus on the customer
    • IT must help lead business process innovation
    • Protect core operations and IT process
    • Prepare for the economic downturn
    • Re-prioritise the work programme
    • Review and revise security priorities in a pandemic

    You can see detail on these, plus more in the strategy document.

  • 17 Apr 2020 10:46 AM | Anonymous


    First off, a big thank you to Environment Canterbury for sharing this document with us to provide to the rest of local government. 

    Having the need to suddenly roll out collaboration tools thrust upon us, it's handy to have a comparison on the two from a local government perspective. That's exactly what this document does. 

    Have a document you think could be handy for everyone else? You can reach us on marketing@algim.org.nz

    Environment Canterbury collaboration tools

    Purpose

    • This document is to give a brief overview of the reasoning behind the implementation and use of Microsoft Teams for Environment Canterbury. This implementation has been pushed through under urgency with the event of Covid-19 and the stage 4 lock down.

      Current state

      Microsoft Teams is a unified collaboration platform and forms part of the Microsoft 365 suite of products. It is demonstrated as a single pane of glass, like a window to all the other applications and tools available. Skype for Business (cloud based) is being incorporated into teams, and it is likely we will see this with other Microsoft offerings.

      Environment Canterbury runs a Microsoft environment (stack) and has opted to use many of Microsoft’s cloud offerings. These cloud offerings provide greater resilience than on premise solutions, with portal.office.com being accessible from any internet enabled computer. Environment Canterbury has been “implementing” Office 365 for approximately five years. From the use of OneDrive instead of USB keys, to Power BI being our primary reporting tool, this path is not new, and is familiar for our users. SfB online is due for retirement in July 2021, while SfB on premise is due for retirement in 2024.

      As Teams sits in this M365 suite, the administration and management are not new. It is changing as Microsoft increases and improves the offerings regularly, but the platform administration is consistent with all other 365 products.

      Environment Canterbury requirements

    • Environment Canterbury has previously used Skype for Business (on premise) for the provision of online communications. These include (but are not limited to) online meetings, chats, calls, screensharing, and file sharing. In addition, SfB is used for the live broadcasting of Council meetings and sits alongside the Enghouse solution to provide the inhouse call centre solution.
    • A requirements document was completed to ensure that requirements of all stakeholders were assessed against any product for implementation.
    • Other collaboration options

      There have been many other web bases SaaS products that have become available over the last few years that focus on communications offerings. Some of these that the BIS Operations team have looked at are: Cisco Webx, UniFlow (Cannon), Fuze (Fusion Networks), RICOH Unified Communications System (UCS) Advanced Service and Zoom. All options were looked at for their functionality in individual direct communication, group communications, meeting room functionality and large-scale broadcasting. Each was also assessed against what it provided over and above Microsoft Teams, as Teams already existed in the environment and was free with our AOG enterprise licencing.

      All options were more expensive than Teams (because Teams is licenced within existing agreement) and none provided significantly better experiences or functionality. Fuze would have been the preference of BIS Operations, but the increased functionality over Teams was limited and would have run on top of Teams.

      Zoom was considered in depth, as it is used at other regional councils. The following table gives a brief overview of Zoom vs Teams for Environment Canterbury.

       

      Zoom

      Microsoft Teams

      Cost

      $180k per annum

      $0 (included in current licencing)

      Core Purpose

      Web conferencing tool

      Collaboration tool

      Functionality

      • ·       online meetings,
      • ·       chats,
      • ·       calls,
      • ·       screensharing
      • ·       file sharing
      • ·       online meetings,
      • ·       chats,
      • ·       calls,
      • ·       screensharing
      • ·       file sharing
      • ·       integration to Office 365

      System administration knowledge

      Very little, we have been to one sales day

      Well understood and developing, across BIS Ops and Knowledge Management

      Integrations required

      Bolt-ons to connect to other products

      None – all included

      Call centre

      Can’t run with Zoom

      Will run on Skype and Teams, compatible with Enghouse

      User interface

      Is better on Zoom

      Being developed on Teams

      Included is a System Administration knowledge row as any enterprise implementation would require an inhouse skill set, which is currently lacking.

      Also noted the although Waikato Regional Council had implemented Zoom, they are now dis-continuing the use and opting for Microsoft Teams.

      Teams Implementation

      BIS Operations, aware of the retirement of the SfB, has been assessing different options for replacement for approximately a year. Due to the above and knowing the business requirements it was decided to investigate what would be required to fully implement MS Teams.

      Funding was secured from Microsoft to bring Lexel to Christchurch to run a workshop with key parties to work out where we were, and what was needed, to undertake a full MS Teams implementation. The workshop was completed in late January and was hugely successful. The Lexel facilitators had excellent knowledge and had implemented Teams in similar environments to our own.

      Coinciding with the start of the COVID-19 event, we were working with Lexel to develop three statements of work as a result of their workshop. They were; Teams calling / chat, Team meetings and meeting rooms, Decommissioning of SfB on premise. This was then going to be presented to ELT for endorsement and funding (Microsoft had indicated they would also help fund implementation). As MS Teams is developing, including the “live events” option for council meeting, further SOWS and implementations would be completed and imbedded in Teams.

      Conclusion

      Covid-19 has caused the rapid adoption of MS Teams in Environment Canterbury. Use of M365 and other SaaS products take burden off the internal network. Moving most to this has decreased pressure on the SfB server, allowing it more capacity to cope with call centre traffic.

      These products are available from any internet enabled devices and have provided much needed capacity to the organisation. Limitations of any SaaS/M365 product will occur due to the user's internet speed and connection. There is some degradation of service across ISPs due to high use with everyone being at home, but this can be mitigated by not using video – and is irrespective of communication products used.

      Due to the Covid-19 level 4 implementation, Environment Canterbury was forced down a path quickly, but all the work completed previously has confirmed this is the right path for our organisation.

      Notes

      This report is for Environment Canterbury (Canterbury Regional Council) and is reflective of current state for this organisation. Other Councils who do not have teams implemented may choose to do this under their AOG licencing provided they have at least an Office 365 F1 licence. If they don’t have this, it can be easily acquired through the volume licencing centre and working with their licencing partner.


  • 9 Apr 2020 2:03 PM | Anonymous

    Many local authorities are using Teams but chances are that few have looked at the information management requirements. With the current situation the use of Teams has increased, and so knowing the IM requirements is even more crucial.

    Teams is a great collaboration tool and great for chats. One of the positives is that the use of teams could reduce the number of internal emails. However all councils should consider the following:

    • Teams should be used for chat, provision of meetings etc rather than a document store and an information source.
    • The creation of collaboration spaces needs to be a controlled process; the ability to do this should be relegated to the appropriate people.
    • Monitor and keep track of the use of teams.
    • Have a consistent approach to the naming of Groups and Teams.

    Teams can be a great tool if the use is monitored and staff are not allowed to “do their own thing”. If processes are not put in place when Teams is implemented then Teams can become another nightmare like shared drives are for information managers.


  • 9 Apr 2020 1:57 PM | Anonymous

    Zoom provides a remote conferencing service that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. Since the COVID-19 situation many Councils are using Zoom to communicate with staff, conduct workshops and have meetings.

    Its big appeal is how easy it is to use, with up to 100 people able join a meeting for free. However, it also has its share of issues, many of which stem from the fact that it has gone from 10 million daily users to 200 million in a matter of weeks - something that really highlights flaws in their system.

    You should be aware that because Zoom is easy to use it is also easy for others to "bomb" open Zoom meetings by guessing the meeting ID.  To prevent this you should implement passwords for all of your meetings to ensure uninvited people are not able to join.

    Zoom should not be used for meetings where confidential or highly sensitive topics are discussed as Zoom has issues with privacy and security. Please do not record meetings just because you can. If they are meetings where minutes are usually taken then continue to take minutes of the meeting and do not rely on the recordings. If they are meetings when no minutes are taken then there is no reason to record the meeting.

    Zoom is a great tool and is safe to use for most meetings. To ensure confidential and sensitive information remains secure please avoid using Zoom for meetings when confidential and sensitive topics are discussed.


  • 7 Apr 2020 11:02 AM | Anonymous

    COVID-19 is a significant event for city/region/country that has effected all people in the community. With this come special considerations for those managing council records.

    All council information and records relating to the response to COVID-19, including operations, recovery, and post-COVID-19 review will need to be held in an environment to ensure they will be retained long term.

    All information and records regardless of format that are significant to understanding the nature of the COVID-19, its effect on the community, on council operations, and how council responded need to be preserved.

    These records present evidence of, and information about, local authority involvement in or response to COVID-19 as a significant national event. As such, they should be retained as archives.

  • 2 Apr 2020 12:02 PM | Anonymous

    Here’s some things to consider

    Thanks to the team at 8x8 for their help with putting together this article. 8x8 provide a range of remote working solutions for contact centres.

    Running a contact centre is an intense job at the best of times. Trying to get it up and running in the middle of a global pandemic is probably not how many of you imagined going live with remote contact centres.

    Still in times like these we work with what we’ve got, so we’ve compiled some considerations for setting up working from home.

    A good work environment

    In an ideal world you’d check out an employee’s work environment before starting the trial, but you can still try to have it meet the following requirements.

    • Is it a private space? If those taking the calls are in a shared environment, then privacy could become an issue. Try to keep the space away from anyone who shouldn’t be hearing confidential information.
    • What is their internet connection like? A patchy internet connection is going to cause significant problems with providing a good service to callers. Fibre is ideal, but other types like VDSL may be sufficient depending on the speeds provided.
    • Is it ergonomically suitable? There’s only so much you can do in a lockdown, but people sitting hunched over for eight hours a day, for at least four weeks is going to have the potential to cause ongoing health issues. The same goes for issues such as lighting, headsets, and keyboards.
    • Make sure all agents are taking breaks. Working from home it can be easy for a day to blur together. Taking the time to get up, step away from the desk and relax like you normally would on a lunch break is important.

    What equipment do they need, and who will provide it

    Back in 2018 we did a story with Auckland Council about their home agents – they had 75 at that time. Here’s what they told us about their equipment set up at the time.


    • Modern systems are able to quickly route calls anywhere with little fuss, but with all the call centre systems running through a VPN pipeline over the internet, a fast and stable connection is required. Those with fibre or VDSL were considered to be adequate, while the remainder were supplied with a 4G modem to connect through the cellular network.

      To keep it simple, every CSR, whether they were at home or in the contact centre, was switched to a laptop that can connect to a docking station, along with dual screens and a keyboard. This way everyone has more flexibility to move if needed. It also means that if a home agent wants to be in the contact centre for the day, they can just take their laptop, plug it into a docking station, and away they go. Also beneficial, if the laptop dies for some reason it can be couriered away and replaced very quickly.

      The entire set up is actually identical to that in the call centre, down to the type of chair provided. In fact, the whole thing has been bundled into a ‘call centre in a box’ that can be sent to a home agent and set up quickly.

      While most councils are obviously not prepared enough for this to the point that they can have a ‘call centre in a box’, there are several things to consider. 

      • A computer that can run the required software and connect to all the hardware such as headsets. Make sure that this is connected securely to the internet to avoid any cybersecurity issues – you can see more tips for at home cybersecurity here.
      • Internet as previously mentioned
      • Ergonomic equipment like screens, chairs, and keyboards
      • Any stationary or office supplies that may be required
      • A way to safely get hardware to people while the lockdown continues

      Maintain that communication

      Having workers at home can run the risk of being out of sight, out of mind, which means regular communication with staff working at home is crucial. This can be done in a variety of ways, but it’s likely that your council now has some form of remote video meeting software available.

      One such piece of software is 8x8's free video meetings platform which provides unlimited meetings, with no meeting time limits, free dial-in with toll-free numbers and much more. To get started visit www.8x8.com/vc.

      More info

      ALGIM has a couple of CX experts on staff. If you’d like advice on anything customer experience related, we’d be happy to help. Please email us on admin@algim.org.nz

  • 30 Mar 2020 10:28 AM | Anonymous

    This article was written prior to lockdown, but hopefully it still provides some helpful tips on how your council can work from home without a huge budget.

    Key lessons in ten seconds

    • You don’t need a huge budget to make it work – remote desktop does the job
    • Communicate early and comprehensively – have a go-to place for setup information
    • Your IT team’s time will mostly be spent in the configuration stage
    With the rate things are changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to say what will be happening when this article is published, however there’s a strong possibility that many councils will be working from home. It’s also likely that you won’t have a huge budget to make it happen.

    As the COVID-19 restrictions began to kick in, Horizons Regional Council carried out a remote work trial focused on essential functions, however designed to scale up to the majority of the organisation.

    As a regional council, Horizons  had some experience with providing workers with remote access, covering a vast landscape with workers operating from Eketahuna to Taumaranui. Having remote workers able to respond to an emergency event had also been a feature of existing Business Continuity Planning for some time, however was only for designated staff.

    For Horizons’ IT Manager William Gordon, and the rest of his team, this presented a challenge. Within four days they scaled up and successfully operated their trial for around 250 staff. He was kind enough to sit down with us and share what lessons they learnt in the process.

    Horizons currently provides most of their staff with thin clients, using remote desktop and Windows Server 2016, while DNS round-robining takes care of the load balancing. While William acknowledges there are more feature-rich and modern approaches available such as  virtual machines, this remains a reliable and cost-effective approach for a council with a smaller IT budget.

    Going live

    The first step in working from home was nothing technical, it was actually a comprehensive communication strategy to inform the staff on how to set up their devices to work from home. Regular messaging to staff along with a comprehensive page on the newly launched Sharepoint intranet were the key components for the awareness campaign.

    On the day of the test, the IT team had pulled in extra support to answer questions, however it turned out they had very few calls, with most of the questions being answered by the intranet page.

    The biggest time requirement was helping users configure their home PCs/remote desktop client software to use the new gateway system. In the end, they placed an already configured .RDP file on the intranet page to streamline configuration even further, and reduce friction for the user.

    As most users have a thin client at work, they used their own devices at home to access the remote desktop. Some even used iOS devices, although an issue with the connection broker prevented the official Microsoft Remote Desktop app from being used. This was solved by switching to the app Jump Desktop.

    As they’re on Office 365, Horizons were able to make use of Sharepoint Online, Teams, and other cloud-based services. Teams proved useful for communication, along with the more traditional email and good old-fashioned phone calls.

    Obviously, everyone’s experience will differ depending on what remote working infrastructure you have established. However, this is a good case study in how you can make it work for your staff on a relatively thin budget, and scale up quickly if needed.


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