NSW Ombudsman dreams of a desktop-free office

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NSW Ombudsman dreams of a desktop-free office

VDI project suffers set backs.

The NSW Ombudsman's office intends to continue a difficult journey to replace desktop computers with virtual desktops and laptops, despite suffering several set-backs typical to VDI rollouts.

The Ombudsman's office signalled its intention to roll out desktop virtualisation throughout in its 2011-2012 annual report.

The VDI project began with a few hurdles. The Ombudsman found it lacked capacity in its storage area network and struggled to cater for disparate operating environments that had crept in across the office.

The agency nonetheless managed to roll out virtual desktops - using VMWare View 5 technology - to 45 percent of staff by November 2013. Many of the remainder did not comply with a standard operating environment.

“VMWare View is best suited for environments with the majority of users sharing a common operating environment,” a spokesperson told iTnews.

“Only 60 percent of our staff, approximately, use a common operating environment [based on Windows XP], the rest use a custom built computer image. This has added complexity to the management and administration of these virtual desktops.”

The agency is trialling desktop layering software by Unidex in an attempt to finish the job, and intends to rollout the full virtual desktop to most of the agency's 180-odd staff before the end of the financial year.

The department plans to replace its physical desktops with laptops by the same deadline to “promote mobility and remote access”. 

Stretched to the limit

The IT team have been managing the VDI rollout alongside several other projects.

Part way through the rollout it was asked to prioritise IT efforts towards the agency’s investigation into state police conduct (Operation Prospect).

The agency’s IT team has also spent the past year working with the NSW Police Force to develop a custom-built solution for automatic complaint handling data to be uploaded from NSW Police into the Ombudsman’s case management system, Resolve, which also underwent an upgrade this year.

Previously data had been manually entered into Resolve.

The Ombudsman’s IT team built a solution based on Microsoft's .NET framework and tested it over a month before it went into production in September 2013.

The Ombudsman’s IT department has also been busy introducing a new human resources system, HR21, based on Frontier Software. 

The HRIS replaces manual data entry processes. Staff are now able to use an online interface to apply for and monitor leave, view salary and deductions, and change personal details.

The HRIS replacement took some 12 months from inception to production, with delays attributed to a lack of dedicated resources to complete the project.

The NSW Ombusdman now plans to expand the use of the system to also process payroll and allowances and for training and development and health and safety outcomes.

Among the other IT projects ticked off over the last 12 months, the agency:

  • Upgraded from Exchange mail server 2003 to 2010;
  • installed a new Cisco unified communications phone system to replace an Ericsson PBX;
  • Upgraded networking kit,
  • Upgraded Active Directory (to 2008)
  • Updated its electronic document management system, TRIM. 

The NSW Ombudsman was among several law enforcement and regulatory bodies that settled out of court with Micro Focus over use of unlicensed software in late 2012.

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