However indispensable ICT is to the successful running of local government, it doesn't alter the fact that a municipal administration is not an ICT company. With this in mind, the municipality of Sint-Martens-Latem took the decision to migrate its ICT infrastructure to the cloud as far as possible. The municipality turned to ICT partner Inetum-Realdolmen for the migration as well as the administration and security of the new ICT environment.
Sint-Martens-Latem commissions Inetum-Realdolmen to manage their ICT infrastructure
With more than 8,000 residents, the municipality of Sint-Martens-Latem in East Flanders is known as an artists' village, and is a relatively small authority. A total of 100 employees provide services to the local residents. "A common thread throughout our service provision is efficiency. To this end, the municipality and the OCMW (Public Center for Social Welfare) have worked together very closely here since 2015", explains Wim De Bruyne, who combines the role of financial director with that of information manager in the municipality administration. In the latter role he is responsible for developing the municipal ICT services together with the associated infrastructure.
Strategic added value
"As part of our drive towards efficiency, we have a major emphasis on digitization," continues De Bruyne, speaking about the key ICT ambitions of Sint-Martens-Latem. To help achieve these strategic ambitions, he is assisted by Luc Vervaecke, a colleague who acts as the digitization process coordinator. This role forms the link between the municipality and external ICT partners, such as Inetum-Realdolmen.
"We don't want to have to bother with networks, servers and other purely operational hardware investments," explains De Bruyne. "We want to be able to bring in specialized external partners for these services. That way, we can give our main focus to managing our data, implementing and further developing our applications and improving our processes. Each of these are strategically important ICT tasks that will benefit the local residents."
The information manager also points to the many specializations that have arisen in the area of ICT over the years. "These all mean that, as a small municipality, you're no longer in a position to effectively build a full-blown ICT service without external support."
Cloud migration was a logical step
In 2019, Sint-Martens-Latem commissioned a review of its own ICT service from V-ICT-OR, the Vlaamse ICT Organisatie (Flemish ICT Organization). "The review also looked at the maturity of our information systems. The results showed that the foundations of our ICT infrastructure – basically the hardware, including our server farm – were due an upgrade. We then set about looking for a suitable, new ICT partner to support us in that improvement process."
The review by V-ICT-OR showed that we had a strategic choice before us: either continue investing in our own on-premise server farm or go wholeheartedly down the cloud route. Sint-Martens-Latem decided to take the plunge and go all-out for the cloud option. Guided by V-ICT-OR, the municipality launched a selection procedure from which Inetum-Realdolmen ultimately emerged as the most suitable candidate. "This process came about in the middle of the pandemic and took place entirely online, which only served to confirm to us that a reliable and flexible ICT infrastructure really is indispensable in this day and age," notes De Bruyne.
A key factor in the decision to choose Inetum-Realdolmen was their in-depth expertise and extensive experience with cloud migration projects for local government. "Given that we're heavily reliant on Microsoft Office software, Microsoft Azure seemed to be the logical choice." Because Sint-Martens-Latem was able to join an existing framework contract that the City of Bruges had earlier awarded to Inetum-Realdolmen, the migration itself could get underway without delay.
WPaaS: a useful, flexible plan
As part of the ICT improvement drive they had embarked on, Sint-Martens-Latem also decided to entrust the management of its Dell PC fleet to Inetum-Realdolmen. "For a municipality that sees efficiency and outsourcing as a key part of its philosophy, a flexible plan like Workplace as a Service (WPaaS) is only to be welcomed," believes De Bruyne. "The main reason being that Inetum-Realdolmen will also take over the management of all existing devices, with the exception of the oldest machines that were due for upgrade anyway. It means you're not faced with a massive bill to upgrade your entire PC fleet all at once."
Not only that, this flexible plan – which covers both the relevant hardware and a range of managed services – also applies to mobile devices. "To set ourselves apart from other municipalities in the war for talent, we offer every employee an iPhone. The management of these devices, including their security, has now been assumed by Inetum-Realdolmen, who also guarantee a replacement device should one become lost or stop working."
"While we're talking about security: Inetum-Realdolmen recently upgraded our firewall from Fortinet and installed a backup firewall at the same time. Their experts also helped us to optimize our Microsoft licenses. On their recommendation, we've now switched to Microsoft 365 Business Premium, which also includes the Microsoft Defender for Business security solution. Last but not least, our employees can get assistance with all their questions and issues from the experts on the helpdesk. It all adds up to a complete package from Inetum-Realdolmen – one that takes a huge weight off our shoulders," concludes De Bruyne.