Watford Borough Council


Manageability, reliability, and resilience to optimise the delivery of council services

About Watford Borough Council

Located in South-West Hertfordshire, Watford Borough Council (WBC) comprises twelve electoral wards, with an elected Mayor. Supported public-facing services include benefits, council tax, business rates, parking, planning, environmental health & licencing, refuse & recycling, tourism & leisure.

The Challenge

Faced with a legacy network and security infrastructure that was becoming increasingly time-consuming and expensive to manage - largely due to a disparate supplier network and limited scalability – WBC made the decision to initiate a three-year digital transformation project, replacing their entire infrastructure with a high-performance, future-proof combination of solutions.

There were several key goals for this project:
  • As the existing infrastructure had grown organically over the course of years, it was delivered by a number of different suppliers, which were to be consolidated into a holistic service wrap, delivered by a single technology partner.
  • With sites across twelve boroughs interconnected by a single network, operational resilience was vital, both to enable cross-site communication and collaboration, and optimise the delivery of critical services.
  • Rather than an ISP, WBC were keen to work with a trusted partner who could support the long-term growth of their technology infrastructure, reducing the burden on internal IT teams while allowing them to retain their control and autonomy. First-class engineering capabilities would therefore be a deal-breaking factor in their final choice of provider.

The Solution

"Our strategy in 2017 was to replace everything while still keeping the lights on, building something new that would be completely fit for purpose and support us going forward. The WAN was a huge part of that – a key cog in that wheel. Now that we've completed our three-year strategy, we're thinking longer-term, and Exponential-e are sure to be a critical part of that."

Emma Tiernan, Watford Borough Council

Throughout a rigorous evaluation of potential partners, Exponential-e provide itself a natural choice, thanks to the level of flexibility and manageability their proposed solution offered, as well as the ability to provide VPLS at layer 3 - something other suppliers were unable to deliver at the time. After being awarded the contract, a dedicated account team from Exponential-e engaged directly with service delivery managers at WBC to finalise the project requirements, ensuring each stage could be delivered in an intelligent, phased manner that would avoid any disruption to the council's day-to-day operations.

To this end, a high-performance WAN was deployed to interconnect all WBC sites, with multiple solutions utilised to guarantee optimal resilience. The hands-on support from Exponential-e and regular communication between teams throughout every stage of this initial deployment meant that systems and processes were established to swiftly resolve any issues as they arose, ensuring the process – outside of regular status updates - could remain invisible to the wider organisation.

Following these initial successes, WBC's technology infrastructure was further optimised, with various firewall changes to optimise data security, and the addition of a FortiClient VPN, as part of WBC's mission to increase their remote working capabilities.

The consolidation of the existing on-premise CISCO solutions to a single VPN access point – hosted at an Exponential-e datacentre – enhanced the new system's overall resilience and streamlined the monitoring of the parameter network, for optimal network security and complete peace of mind. WBC's account team supported the migration of the legacy system and expedited the delivery of seven hundred Safenet tokens, ensuring councillors working remotely could begin making use of the new system straight away.

Throughout these projects, WBC's team were on hand to propose and deliver bespoke solutions and customisation of existing ones, whenever needed. This included a rules change for the new VPN, to allow a councillor who was unable to connect to do so without compromising data security, and supporting the implementation of an automated Windows alert, should the user ever need to reconnect.

The deployment of the FortiClient solution proved to be well-timed, as it ensured WBC were ready to seamlessly transition to remote working during the first lockdown of 2020, ensuring council services could continue to be delivered while still respecting social distancing requirements.

With Watford Borough Council's initial three-year digital transformation plan now complete, the relationship between WBC and Exponential-e is set to enter the next stage of its development, continuing the mutual spirit of communication, collaboration, and innovation that has informed this partnership since its inception.

"It did feel like that nirvana we all strive for – a partnership rather than a supplier relationship. Nothing was ever too much trouble for the project team or the technicians. It was the ability to think outside the box when required and understand not just what was going wrong, but what needed to be done to put it right. It was a very organic project."

Sean Gibbons, Watford Borough Council

Solution Benefits

  • A successful digital transformation of legacy infrastructure, executed on time and to budget, with zero disruption to service delivery
  • Hands-on support from a dedicated account team throughout every stage of the process, including the design and delivery of bespoke solutions
  • A stress-free transition to remote working, ensuring citizens could continue to access critical council services throughout lockdown

The public sector's digital journey is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, with leading-edge technology transforming the way critical services are delivered across the country. This exclusive report from Exponential-e explores the challenges and opportunities involved, and explains how public sector organisations can be part of this digital revolution.

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