by Rebecca Merrett

How Hunter Water is saving $50k a year in software licences

Mar 11, 20145 mins

NSW government owned corporation Hunter Water has managed to save $50,000 per year on Microsoft licences since deploying Microsoft Systems Centre 2012.

Hunter Water provides water and wastewater services to more than half a million people in the lower Hunter region of NSW, with more than 227,000 properties connected to its water network and 215,000 to its wastewater network.

“Because we use a significant number of Microsoft applications, and we were under a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, we saw the most cost effective way of doing that was to utilise the licensing we already owned,” said Glendin Franklin-Browne, ICT operations manager at Hunter Water.

Franklin-Browne, who worked with Dimension Data on the deployment of the project, wanted to avoid having to pay for unnecessary licences, so he needed to be able to track which applications were not being used often.

Franklin-Browne used Microsoft Service Manager Cireson to track the use of applications such as Microsoft Visio.

“It aligns itself with the financial system, and is a way to track all of our components of software or hardware, making sure maintenance agreements are kept up to date and valid, licences counts are managed properly,” he said.

“We are going to be able to start rationalising how much we spend on licensing. For example, we have 50 Microsoft Visio licences, but we might find there are only 10 people who have only used it once in the last six months. So with those sorts of tools and that sort of information we are able to uninstall it off those 10 people’s computers and we’ll assess it again in six months’ time.

“If it appears some people don’t use it on a regular basis, why are we paying money to hold that licence?”

Franklin-Browne is also looking to automate the process so the system will track the use of applications, and uninstall as necessary.

In addition to saving money on licences, Franklin-Browne said the system allows him to better report back to the state government on the amount of time invested into new IT projects and daily operations.

“It was very hard for me to get picture of what my team does on a day-to-day basis when some of them are working on projects and some working on operations. So the more we integrate, the bigger picture we get of what each individual is doing and how they are using their time.

“It’s very important for us to be able to acknowledge, understand and report on how much time we are spending operationally and how much time we are spending in a capital sense.”

Before consolidating all its system management tools with Microsoft, Hunter Water was using FrontRange IT service management. Not only has support ended for this application, but there were also data integrity issues, Franklin-Browne said.

“It was regularly failing on us; it was regularly providing us with poor data. There were times where for no apparent reason it would just switch the date format from UK/Australian to American, so all of our statistics were completely inaccurate.

“The data quality issues were really hurting us as an IT department because often in IT you need prove your worth and value to the organisation, and we weren’t able to do that.”

Mobile workforce

Microsoft System Centre 2012 also supports Hunter Water mobile field workers, with more than 100 ruggedized Motion tablets out in the field.

“The workers out in the field use our GIS or spatial system to locate jobs, pipes, infrastructure in real time,” Franklin-Browne said.

The next step is to use Microsoft Lync so that field workers can video conference with their supervisors for help handling a particular repair or maintenance job.

“In April this year, we are moving the whole corporation to Windows 8.1, and Microsoft Lync will be deployed as part of that,” Franklin-Browne said.

“They will be able to get right down inside a pit or water main and show their supervisor what exactly is going on and talk to them.”

ERP upgrade

Hunter Water is in the middle of an ERP upgrade, moving from an old version of Ventyx Ellipse to the latest version, 8.4. Franklin-Browne refreshing Hunter Water’s ERP system is complex because it is based on a highly customised tools that are difficult to change.

“With these custom built tools, it was hard and expensive to upgrade. So moving forward they are going to be with little customisation as possible so we don’t run into this problem again.

“For example, for an engineer to import a timesheet into the system they used a custom build Excel based connector; they would enter their time into what looks like and Excel spreadsheet. There would be macros that would then take that information and import it into our Ellipse system.”

To support the ERP upgrade, Hunter Water is also replacing its storage infrastructure, moving from IBM to Dell.

“We went out to tender and Dell won the tender. We had ageing equipment, we had multiple storage technologies because of our ERP system and customer care billing system needed to be run on a particular storage technology, and everything else was run on a different storage technology.”

Franklin-Browne said he is aiming to consolidate Hunter Water’s several storage technologies down to one by the end of the year.