Google Cloud Results
Tasks that once took three to four weeks to complete now take only one week
• Improves collaboration and is cost efficient
• Easier to use and meets the needs of employees that are mobile
• Provides uninterrupted and secure services even during a pandemic
Trondheim, Norway’s third largest municipality, is rich in history, home to champions, and a center of technological innovation. Nidaros Cathedral, built over the tomb of St. Olav, the Viking king who brought Christianity to Norway, is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world. Trondheim is also the home of Olympic cross-country skiing champions Marit Bjørgen, Petter Northug, and Johannes Høsflot Klæbo.
Known as Norway’s technology capital, Trondheim is an innovation leader. It’s home to the main campus of Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the country’s largest university. NTNU graduates help fuel the dozens of tech companies in the area. One graduate well-known within the information technology community is Bjørn Villa. He has served as Director of IT for Trondheim Kommune since 2015.
A kommune is the center of local government administration in Norway. In addition to overseeing primary education, it is responsible for healthcare, senior citizen care, municipal buildings, roads, and other public services. Under Villa’s visionary leadership, Trondheim became the first of Norway’s hundreds of municipalities to select Google Workspace as its enterprise productivity, collaboration, and mobility solution.
Shifting to the cloud for enhanced services
“The cloud transition has led to improved cost efficiency, collaboration, and increased mobility.” -- Bjørn Villa, Director of IT, Trondheim Kommune
Trondheim’s IT department keeps municipal workers connected, informed, and equipped with the tools to serve the kommune’s citizens. The IT team followed a methodical process informed by organizational insights and rigorous evaluations to transition to the cloud and enhance services available to its employees with Google Workspace.
Christian Bøhn worked in Trondheim primary schools for 14 years before moving to the IT department. Today, he is the Head of Web Services. This dual perspective informed the impact his role had as Trondheim transitioned essential services to the cloud.
Bøhn recalls that teachers and students were frustrated with the mix of computers, tablets, and different software applications used by the school district. In 2014, the IT department conducted pilot programs of two cloud services for the 22,000 students in Trondheim’s schools. “Teachers and students were clear that Google for Education was much easier to use than the other cloud platform,” says Bøhn. “It was an easy choice to combine it with Chromebooks for our primary schools.”
Terje Vullum, Service Manager for Google Workspace at the municipality, has worked in the IT department for many years, including during a time when desktop applications were the norm. “Over 13 years ago, some colleagues and I began working on something we called Beta Trondheim,” he says. “We created a sandbox to test new cloud technologies coming to market.”
The IT team noticed that some municipal users were already using some no-cost Google Workspace tools and other tools. This creation of ‘shadow IT’ accounts by users confirmed that cloud solutions were intuitive, easy to use, and already the preferred choice for Trondheim’s employees. According to Bøhn, “They didn’t want to break the rules about what to use and not use, they just wanted to do things more efficiently and effectively.” Vullum adds, “As we saw more and more municipal workers using cloud tools that they didn't get from us, we figured we had to start providing the tools they wanted instead of just giving them what we had.”
The kommune’s success at serving needs in primary education, beta testing results, and insights from user adoption of cloud services set the stage for Trondheim’s next big innovation.
Going mobile with the cloud
“Before Google Workspace, completing a finance project required attaching a spreadsheet to an email and sending it along a chain from one person to another. With Google Workspace, everyone can access and work in Google Sheets simultaneously without waiting, and tasks that once took three to four weeks from start to finish now take only one week to complete.” -- Christian Bøhn, Head of Web Services, Trondheim Kommune
Trondheim’s legacy email system was due for renewal in 2016. Vullum says, “We used this as a catalyst to expand our vision and move all office suite tools to the cloud.” The team also considered that outside of education only 1,500 of the 15,000 municipal workers worked at desks. These frontline workers needed to communicate, meet, and collaborate from the field with mobile devices, not in an office with a computer.
The team created a public tender to evaluate two enterprise cloud solutions for productivity, collaboration, and mobility. As Vullum reports, “Through a tender process, we determined that Google was the best solution: It is easier to use, focused on mobility, and built specifically for the cloud.”
Villa knew that selection was just the first step in realizing the vision. Adoption of Google Workspace would require the help of many municipal employees. IT recruited Google Workspace guides across the entire organization to be trained and then return to their departments to train others. In just four days, 500 people from all 220 departments volunteered to be guides. According to a statement from Villa to Computer Weekly, “Our Google Workspace guides were essential in this process because they were our extended arm into the organization.”
Influential super-users were also important. Some users in finance were certain they needed the macros in a legacy spreadsheet application to do their projects. A super-user in the department replicated the macros using Google Apps Script with Google Sheets to enable a more efficient workflow.
“Before Google Workspace, completing a finance project required attaching a spreadsheet to an email and sending it along a chain from one person to another,” says Bøhn. “With Google Workspace, everyone can access and work in Google Sheets simultaneously without waiting, and projects that once took three-to-four weeks from start to finish now take only one week to complete.”
Trondheim also had to assure Datatilsynet, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority, about data security and other compliance issues. The IT team conducted rigorous analyses and documented its data agreements and internal controls using Google Workspace to address compliance and confirm users could work together securely.
A year after adoption, Villa told Computer Weekly, “The cloud transition has led to improved cost efficiency, collaboration, and increased mobility.”
The COVID-19 system stress test
In 2020, Trondheim, along with the whole world, faced the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Bøhn says that the team talked to many municipalities and businesses that were unprepared to respond to the demands the pandemic forced upon them. “They didn’t have the tools to support more agile, mobile, and secure ways of working together.” Trondheim employees immediately shifted to working from home using Google Workspace–they met live with Google Meet and stayed connected and up to date with Google Chat.
Google Workspace was also crucial for frontline healthcare workers and their patients. “We bought Chromebases for Google Meet that we put in homes for the elderly, because they weren’t able to have family visits during the pandemic,” says Bøhn. Healthcare workers were able to keep patients’ and their families connected through remote visits, which was essential for the patients’ safety and emotional well-being during the pandemic.
Productivity and collaboration continued beyond Trondheim’s municipal service operations. When the pandemic started, students left in-person classrooms one day. Those without a computer at home borrowed one from school. The next day, they all met in Google Classroom and continued their studies.
Enjoying success and continuing to innovate
“Through the tender process, we determined that Google Workspace was the best solution: It is easier to use, focused on mobility, and built specifically for the cloud.” -- Terje Vullum, Service Manager, Trondheim Kommune
Trondheim IT uses the Google admin tools to measure the rate of Google Workspace access by over 10,000 active users. Not surprisingly, applications such as Gmail, Google Docs, Drive, and Calendar show very high rates of access. Google Workspace tools are highly valued by those that rely on them for their more specialized roles and responsibilities.
Trondheim IT uses Google Admin to manage users, devices, and security options, including 2-step verification for users and security keys for certain healthcare applications. It also uses Google Sites, mainly for internal projects and some public sites, and Google Forms for internal surveys and questionnaires.
Due to its success with Google Workspace, Trondheim’s IT team has developed a reputation as cloud experts throughout Scandinavia. “As a result,” says Bøhn, “we’re invited to businesses to talk about addressing laws and regulations when moving to the cloud with Google Workspace. And municipalities—not just in Norway, but also in Denmark and Sweden—contact the department for advice.”
As the IT team looks to the future, they are certain that Trondheim will continue to innovate guided by the mantra adopted when the municipality initially transitioned to Google Workspace: “Smarter, easier, and together.”
*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.