Wednesday, 06 December 2017 01:46

Queensland DAF deftly transforms digitally in tune with Microsoft


Rolling out "new mobile computing options and electronic time sheeting as part of an initiative to promote knowledge sharing, collaboration and productivity" via Microsoft Intune, the sweet sound of new cloud services has happily fallen on DAF ears.

Queensland. It's big. It's bigger than big.

It has the largest area of agricultural land of any Australian state and the highest proportion of land area in Australia dedicated to agriculture.

On top of that, about 1500 licensed commercial fishing boats are operating in Queensland fisheries, which are among the most sustainable in the world.

This means that the Queensland Department of Agriculture & Fisheries "plays a key role for farmers and fishers in ensuring sustainable food and fibre production".

As you can imagine, DAF is a big user of IT in the modern world, and "hosts one of the three corporate services hubs formed under a business and corporate partnership across six government departments, providing ICT services across this partnership to around 9500 staff spread across 392 locations right across Queensland".

As the partnership agencies "all have a commitment to more flexible work practices", and boast an "uncompromising approach to security and access; effective mobile device management is critical".

We're told that in its most recent annual reports, "all six departments in the partnership confirmed ongoing support for a Digital Workplace Strategy, with the rollout of new mobile computing options and electronic time sheeting as part of an initiative to promote knowledge sharing, collaboration and productivity".

My thought is that this is only natural in the modern world, whatever IT systems are in place now were new a few years ago, but fast forward to late 2017, with ever maturing and sophisticated cloud services at our disposal, apps for iPhones and Androids, tablets and Windows PCs, and browser access, and multi-factor authentication and identity control, AI and machine learning APIs to tap into, all manner of online services and more, so it's only natural to see companies upgrading that infrastructure to handle the realities of the way we run our personal and business lives today.

DAF brings me back to its Digital Workplace Strategy and notes that "besides the enterprise benefits this confers, the departments are mindful of the value of more flexible work practices in order to support work-life balance, retain and attract high quality staff and promote innovation".

Therefore, "given the scale and importance of the transformation, getting the foundations right is imperative", as Barry Irvin, manager ICT workplace services, explains:

“I am a manager in the operations group – my teams deliver the broadly used IT services including email, desktop image, printing and mobility. When it makes sense we use cloud – particularly for applications, and we integrate cloud services for single sign on and service monitoring.”

DAF states: "The commitment to flexible working is increasing the requirement for staff to access enterprise systems using their mobile devices. The previous approach of an on premise mobile device management system had limitations, particularly in terms of handling the pace of change mobile operating system updates."

Irvin continued: “It was difficult for us to provide a quality responsive service. We decided we wanted to use a cloud managed solution.”

After comparing different options, DAF tells us that "Irvin and his team determined Microsoft InTune best met their needs".

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DAF states that InTune "delivers a management solution for a much more diverse range of mobile devices that better supports the Departments’ BYOD policies; it protects enterprise data with or without device enrolment; and provides IT management with granular control over application and data access".

Listed benefits of using InTune’s mobile application management capabilities include "publishing apps, configuring apps, controlling access to data, managing app protection policies, removing data and apps, updating apps, app inventory and tracking. These application protection policies can also be applied without having to manage the device injecting additional flexibility with no loss of control".

DAF states it had "a hard deadline for the transition to InTune as licensing for the old platform was drawing to an end. By focusing on customer outcomes during the planning stage, Irvin and his team, supported by Microsoft partner Data#3, the InTune Fast Track group and Customer Adoption Team were able to complete the InTune rollout for around 2,200 devices in just three months. In the process they created a blueprint that could be adopted by other organisations seeking to transition their mobile device management (MDM) to the cloud".

"Subsequent to the project," we're told, "there has been a marked increase in uptake, particularly among Android users, thanks to the improved user experience delivered by InTune, Also Microsoft’s commitment to zero day support for new operating systems meant that Irvin and his team could let users update to iOS 11 and Android Oreo as soon as those operating systems were released."

Irvin says "that staff all across the partnership and especially those working in remote locations, have welcomed the platform commenting on improved ease of use".

For example: "Queensland Parks and Wildlife can now use easy to carry mobiles in the field, with core apps for Rangers to manage their National Parks and respond to any situation, and Biosecurity officers can easily access immediate and relevant infection or pest data in any situation, anywhere. The whole partnership is very enthusiastic for more of their applications being accessible on mobiles."

Irvin added: “It’s providing more flexibility in terms of access to applications on more platforms,” and says he "expects that continued feature updates planned for InTune will add even greater value in the future".

DAF returns to note that "the advent of application management without enrolments is one area which could have significant benefits for the partnership in the future".

Indeed, we are advised that, "in concert with the switch to InTune, DAF has changed the look and feel of the enterprise portal and bookmarks as part of an ongoing commitment from Irvin and his team to 'keep things fresh'."

In addition to all of the above, DAF adds that "having InTune as the Mobile Device Manager will also help streamline the transition to Office 365".

Finally, Irvin and his team are "doing the preparatory work for that transition currently, and also exploring how staff can reap maximum benefit from the rich functionality provided by applications such as Dynamics CRM, Skype for Business, Teams and SharePoint online".

“Our focus is to provide a cohesive experience for customers using the suite,” Irvin concluded.

Here's a Microsoft US InTune video on YouTube:

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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