Moving to Office 365 – a Council’s View
Cloudy Group are pleased to be working with Sally McLellan at Wolverton & Greenleys Town Council (WGTC), please read our latest blog post from Sally regarding the councils experiences…
With the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation 2018) in May 2018, Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council (WGTC) wanted to review how we hold, store and share our data. Like many councils we have data electronically and hard copy. Some legislation has not caught up, which means that we still must hold minutes and agendas in paper form, but everything else can be held electronically. If the council receives a request for data, it would mean that we would have to search paper archives and electronic data which is a lengthy process.
On assessment we found that paper data is stored in many places, homes of councillors, the council office, archive storage etc. Electronic data was held on council PC’s, personal phones, councillor personal PC’s etc. As a council we wanted to ensure that all data is held in one place.
This data can be accessed by the required people, but not shared or printed to ensure that GDPR rules are not breached. To make this possible all councillors were set up with their own council email account through Office 365 using Outlook. All the council email data is stored in this account. If a councillor leaves, the account can be disabled immediately, by CloudyIT or the Clerk, protecting the council data.
As all data would be electronic, the councillors paperwork for council meetings would be emailed to them. This would mean that they would need a device to access their documents at a meeting. Councillors without a device were provided with a laptop with an account. Each laptop has an administrator account which can be used by CloudyIT and the Clerk to set and remove councillor accounts. Each councillor email account comes with Onedrive storage where councillors can save and download data to. This is all held in the councillor Office 365 account in the Cloud. Their account also gives them web apps to Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Onenote etc.
Using the programme called Sharepoint in Office 365, all council data was moved to electronic storage (including minutes and agendas for when the law catches up, but we also keep them in hardcopy). Staff are granted access to files which they use on a day to day basis, but other files such as personal files are restricted to the Clerk only. Documents can be shared with councillors for view only in council meetings and are set with an expiry date to stop that data being accessed after the meeting.
Using a special licence, the Clerk can restrict councillors printing and forwarding sensitive data, which helps us to be complaint with GDPR. As many reports for council meetings are typed in the office or emailed to staff, these can be quickly saved to the council meeting folder. Once the folder with the council meeting papers is completed, it can be shared quickly by typing the councillor name. This meant that council papers are now prepared in minutes rather than taking a whole day to print, check and post. This has saved staff time and reduced printing and posting costs from £800 to just £40 per year!
Sharepoint also enables data to be shared and edited in real time, which saves copying and pasting changes to a document. This also means that any late documents once added are shared instantly with the people who have been granted access to the folder, I.e. Full Council papers to councillors.
Having all the documents in one place also means that selected files can be added easily to the council website, such as Full Council supporting reports, improving transparency.
As well as Outlook, Onedrive and Sharepoint, Office 365 comes with lots of other free apps. We use Planner as our To Do List and we can schedule tasks by specific category. Using Planner, you can allocate tasks to other members of the team, setting deadline dates and adding notes for clarity. Each day Planner emails you with your tasks for that day. Alternatively, you can just access your Planner to view your tasks. Once complete you can tick off each task. Each team member’s Planner can be shared to show what they each have planned for the day. Outlook has a Calendar built in which can also show your tasks from Planner for the day, along with the other meetings etc.
Office 365 can be accessed from anywhere, so we use tablets to take out to events, where we can access all our data with risk assessments, event plans, emergency contacts etc. We also have a council laptop which we take to meetings, where any notes are saved directly to Sharepoint for the staff to see and tasks can be added to Planner instantly, so we don’t forget the actions required from the meeting.
.As all the data is in Office 365, in the cloud, we have backed up this data to another cloud provider. Should Microsoft have a catastrophic systems failure all our data can still be accessed.