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How the City of Golden simplifies email management with the cloud

By Microsoft in Business Team on May 17, 2017

Filed under Microsoft in Business

Focus on: Empowering employees and optimizing operations

Tucked in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, roughly 18,000 people call the City of Golden, Colorado home. The city itself is commonly known for two things: the final resting place for William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and one of last opportunities for travelers to stop and get gas before they venture further into the Rocky Mountains. But since 2006, the City of Golden has evolved from a “through city” into a thriving destination. A local urban renewal campaign brought a revitalized downtown to the city, filling its streets with visitors, its stores with out-of-town shoppers, and igniting the economy in an era where many municipalities suffered.

Today, thousands of visitors stop in to explore “Where the West Lives.” There’s the Coors Brewery, Buffalo Bill Museum, Colorado Railroad Museum, high-class dining experiences, and quaint bed and breakfasts with breathtaking mountain views. Every day new shops and service providers are flocking to the City of Golden to seek their fortune, sales tax revenues are increasing, and the city is thriving in a way that recalls the gold rush of its founding—but that success comes at a cost.

As the City of Golden continues to grow, so must its infrastructure. More visitors means adding more utilities, more city employees, more recreational services—and every new development puts a greater strain on the city’s IT.

City IT Manager Kirk Dickson was tasked with the technological infrastructure demands of Golden’s rapid growth. “Our challenge internally is that although Golden is a relatively small city, we’re still a full-service city,” Kirk explains. “Even though we might only average 300 employees a year, we still provide a full host of services.”

In many cities, services like parks and recreation, water treatment, or even golf courses are maintained and operated by separate departments, but not in Golden. The Golden IT team supports ten separate lines of business—email, internet, networking, telecommunications, maintenance, and more—and 200 service applications, many of which are 24/7 critical services like 911. Every day, they must make limited resources stretch between each facility, and that challenge brought Golden to Microsoft and Exchange Online.

This is a real story of digital transformation.

Freeing employees to focus on high-value projects
With Exchange Online, Kirk and his team discovered an opportunity to automate many of their daily struggles—tasks like email management—without sacrificing performance.

According to Kirk, “It’s the problems that they’re not seeing that have been the real benefits. The hours that we spent supporting email in a week, that’s time that we’re able to put into implementing a new application. We’re seeing that time come back into the staff.”

This newfound flexibility allows the City of Golden’s IT team greater opportunities to invest in high-value tasks like improving those service applications or discovering and applying new innovations to better serve their citizens.

“It really became a question of where we wanted to invest our time and resources.”Improving efficiency and removing worries
With Exchange Online, Kirk took advantage of an opportunity to automate many of their daily struggles—tasks like email management—without sacrificing performance.

“When the [cost] aligned pretty evenly [between cloud versus on-premises hosting], we knew we were going to be saving the time that we spent supporting Exchange—it really just made sense to let someone else handle it.”

Exchange Online is a standalone piece of Office 365 that can serve as a stepping stone to the full Office 365 suite. It provided the City of Golden with a familiar platform that didn’t require lengthy onboarding. In addition, City of Golden is running Exchange Online on Microsoft Government Cloud, which offers industry-leading compliance features, including CJIS for criminal justice data and IRS 1075 for Federal tax information, and specifically caters to the needs to U.S. government agencies. The service integrated directly into the tools city employees had been using for years, to the extent that many employees didn’t even realize it when their inbox migrated to the cloud. Now, their previous issues with spam and server space are a thing of the past.

But this experience goes beyond email—with Exchange Online the City of Golden can better continue the growth they started ten years ago, confident that they have full access to the resources they need to better serve a thriving community with efficiency and diligence.Transforming a city, transforming a region
The City of Golden isn’t the only Colorado community upgrading their IT. Across the state, the Colorado Government Association of Information Technology (CGAIT) works with government employees like the members of Kirk’s team to better drive government transparency and connect smaller municipalities with other communities to share the load of on-boarding new platforms.

“As a citizen and a tax payer, it’s always a bummer to know that my organization and ten other cities are literally doing the same thing 10 times over,” Kirk says. It’s his vision to see smaller cities and towns throughout the region band together to adopt government cloud technology, rather than each location grinding through those efforts independently. By binding the efforts of each city represented in CGAIT, Golden’s IT team can leverage their resources and capabilities to meet the needs of their region.

“There’s a lot of people that could really benefit from this,” Kirk continues. “It’s not about Golden or [other cities] and it’s certainly not about making a profit; it’s absolutely about the citizens.”’

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