“The Surface devices are compact and lightweight, and run the Windows operating system. The devices even came preloaded with Microsoft Office. It’s a joy to use.” —Adam Golombek, Information and Process Manager, City of Utrecht
Utrecht, the fourth-largest city in the Netherlands, wanted to offer its employees flexible work scenarios and more efficient meetings. To support digital access to meeting agendas and relevant documents, the city deployed a solution based on Microsoft Surface devices and iBabs meeting-planning software. Participants receive immediate updates on a meeting’s time and location and can easily share materials. As a result, the city has reduced paper consumption while providing employees with a flexible work environment.
A waste of paper—and time
The city of Utrecht is the capital and most populous city in the Dutch province of Utrecht. With a population of almost 340,000, it’s a thriving academic, technological, and cultural center, and the core of the city is a treasure of medieval architecture. Utrecht has one of the highest bicycle densities in the Netherlands and the country’s largest train station.
However, Utrecht officials were distressed about how difficult it was to hold city meetings. For each meeting, every participant had to obtain printed copies of all the relevant documents—a big waste of paper and time. Getting documents ready for a meeting often took longer than the meeting itself.
Each department scheduled its own meetings in Microsoft Outlook, and the corresponding documents were printed out or distributed via email. “Our method of holding meetings worked, but it was far from efficient,” says Adam Golombek, Information and Process Manager for the City of Utrecht.
At the crossroads of old processes and a digital solution
The city had reached a crucial decision. With the right software, Utrecht could reduce the time it took to plan and hold meetings, but it had to choose between using its existing methods or changing course drastically by adopting a digital planning and support solution. The city opted for the latter. ”In 2013, we took the plunge and went digital,” says Golombek.
Utrecht selected a meeting-planning app called iBabs, developed by MSI Communication, a market leader in digital business-administration tools. With iBabs, city employees would be able to access documents on a mobile device and reduce the need for paper. Essentially, Utrecht replaced a tall stack of paper with a thin device.
Utrecht started an iBabs pilot in which users could choose the features they preferred. The pilot phase was met with positive feedback from employees, and now approximately 1,000 staff members are using the iBabs app. Initially, Utrecht Executive Division employees were given iPads, but the city came to the conclusion that the iOS devices were not ideal for the organization—Utrecht employees preferred a more business-oriented device. Now, employees run the iBabs app, along with Microsoft Office and Windows desktop programs, on Microsoft Surface devices and the Dell Venue Pro 11 tablets. The flexibility to run old and new programs on a variety of devices will help to increase IT efficiency and boost employee productivity.
The city is impressed with Surface. “The Surface devices are compact and lightweight, and run the Windows operating system,” says Golembeck. “The devices even came preloaded with Microsoft Office. It’s a joy to use.” Because the the iBabs app runs seamlessly on mobile devices with a 3G or 4G connection, all meeting participants can access planning data and the required documents digitally, anytime, anywhere—even if they are out of the office..
A smooth transition
In addition to implementing meeting software, MSI Communication worked closely with the city to transfer existing data to the new system. “iBabs is a cloud-based SaaS solution,” says Paul Neefjes, Director of MSI Communication. “Not only is it accessible anytime and anywhere, but it is also highly scalable and users can always access the latest version.”
MSI Communication also supported the city in training employees on how to use the software properly. “So far it has been a smooth transition and users are very pleased with the functionalities and with the application’s intuitiveness,” says Neefjes.
Reduced paper use and increased access to documents
Utrecht employees can now use the interoperating features in the iBabs app and Surface 2 devices to work more flexibly and better connect with citizens, while the city has succeeded in streamlining its meeting processes. “Not only are meetings scheduled much more efficiently, but we always have the required documents at our fingertips, and paper consumption has been greatly reduced,” says Golombek.
The city’s operations are not paperless, but Golombek notes that decreasing paper use as much as the city did was quite an undertaking, and the adoption of the Surface and Dell devices running Windows is a major step toward achieving that vision. Now that meeting agendas and documents are made available digitally and—thanks to the cloud—can be accessed remotely from any location, the city is saving enough paper to stretch across more than 20 kilometers.
Easy-to-use interoperating features
The meeting software is a quick, user-friendly solution for a wide variety of meeting processes. The employees are able to add notes to documents and share them with fellow participants. The city can still plan meetings in Outlook, and users are assured that their confidential data is highly secure. With Windows, the devices have enterprise-grade security features that interoperate with the existing IT infrastructure and desktop management. “Naturally, our documents contain sensitive information, so the solution has to be reliable,” says Golombek.
More flexible work environment
Flexible working has become widespread among city employees, and the greatly reduced need for physical workstations is a big advantage. By using the iBabs app on Surface and Dell devices, Utrecht is making progress toward its goal of a mobile workforce and paperless office. Recently, the city underwent a significant transition by moving from eight separate buildings to just one, relocating 2,500 civil servants to the new city office in the center of Utrecht. “A number of employees no longer have a fixed workstation because we assumed a 70 percent staffing level,” says Golombek.
Better communication with constituents
The city now streams live City Council meetings. That way, when citizens can’t attend meetings in person, they can still stay up to date on the City Council’s activities. “Live webcasts can be combined with the available documents,” says Golombek. “Viewers can immediately see the relevant documents on their screen and are free to consult them. People really value that option.”
“Not only are meetings scheduled much more efficiently, but we always have the required documents at our fingertips, and paper consumption has been greatly reduced.” —Adam Golombek, Information and Process Manager, City of Utrecht
“We used to have eight people in radiology imagery reviewing and managing reports, and we’ve transferred two of those people to new jobs. Report management doesn’t consume as many hospital resources as it used to.” —Adam Golombek, Information and Process Manager, City of Utrecht