Customer Story

Gulbene Municipality: Keeping community services running with modern collaboration tools

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Gulbene Municipality migrated to Google Workspace to better serve its community by making essential services more easily accessible to citizens while enabling county office staff to work remotely.

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Gulbene Municipality administers 14 territorial units in northeastern Latvia and provides services to the local population ranging from water supply and sanitation to education and health care.

Features used
Gmail
Google Chat
Docs
Drive
Google Meet
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Gulbene Municipality migrated to Google Workspace to better serve its community by making essential services more easily accessible to citizens while enabling county office staff to work remotely.

Google Workspace Results

80% of users fully migrated within three months

• From frequent email downtimes to 100% uptime with Gmail

• Decreased security tickets with advanced phishing and malware protection

• Enables team members to participate in meetings and partake in office culture from anywhere

Lush green forests, sumptuous castles, and thriving agriculture stretch out across northeast Latvia in the Gulbene Municipality. Right in the middle lies the Gulbene County Council, a decision-making body elected by local residents to administer the 14 regional towns and villages. The council’s many tasks range from providing public utilities to promoting the preservation of traditional culture.

The council aimed to enable digital services, such as making it possible for inhabitants to fill in and submit electronically signed documents through a state-wide citizen service portal, and make inquiries to the municipality without the need to travel to the local authorities. Its goal was to provide easily accessible all-round services to citizens, no matter where they live. “Gulbene is a very green county with a small but widely spread population,” says Andis Caunītis, chairman of Gulbene County Council.

This priority came into focus when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, requiring Gulbene County Council employees to work remotely for the first time ever. Looking for tools that addressed these new and urgent needs, Gulbene Municipality reached out to Google Workspace.

“We wondered how to enable municipality employees to continue working in a secure and remote way,” says Renārs Biezais, Head of ICT Competence Center, Gulbene County. “It soon became clear that Google Workspace enables this by seamlessly integrating everything teams need to get work done.”

Enabling remote collaboration to keep essential services running

“We wondered how to enable municipality employees to continue working in a secure and remote way. It soon became clear that Google Workspace enables this by seamlessly integrating everything teams need to get work done.” - Renārs Biezais, Head of ICT Competence Center, Gulbene County

Working with Google Cloud partner DATA Technologies, Gulbene County devised a transition plan in 2021. It migrated users to Google Workspace in small batches, one department at a time, so they could be given targeted training and consultations as needed. These early adopters helped to bring colleagues on board at later waves of the migration. Following this migration plan, within three months, 80% of users had already migrated to Google Workspace.

“We provided training using Google Meet for people who weren’t familiar with Google Workspace yet, but many already used Gmail in their personal lives, making the transition easier,” says Jānis Trejis, CEO, DATA Technologies. “Still, very soon, people noticed they could now do things at work with an ease that their old tools didn’t enable.”

For example, collaboration between Gulbene Municipality institutions used to be stifled by siloed information systems. Employees in the administration office could collaborate between themselves with an internal file-sharing solution, but other institutions that were part of the county were excluded. “Some used their personal Gmail accounts to share files because they lacked a better way to do things. This resulted in management challenges such as shadow IT in our legacy system,” explains Biezais. “Now, using Google Drive and Google Docs, they can work closer together in a much more comfortable way. An immediate benefit was the possibility of creating shared drives for individual institutions and departments, enabling employees easy access to important documents and templates instead of relying on email versioning, where version control was challenging, leading to errors and loss of data. Storing important files on Google Drive gives us peace of mind that we can recover missing or corrupted files if the endpoints break down. My team is also happier because the infrastructure is now secure, reliable, and easier to manage.”

In 2022, statewide restrictions were still in place due to COVID-19, so remote work was going full speed ahead when the council finished its migration. Initially, the council worried about its work culture, which thrived with in-person gatherings. Gulbene County is big, and some employees used to drive half an hour just to participate in 10-minute meetings. “We wanted to keep relationships the same as when we shared an office,” says Caunītis. “But what we’ve noticed is that this new way of working is flowing so seamlessly that, as we return to the office, some people are still opting to join meetings remotely using Google Meet to save time and money on commuting, and that works just as well.”

Helping teams communicate with ease, stability, and security

“What we’ve noticed is that this new way of working is flowing so seamlessly that as we return to the office, some people are still opting to join meetings remotely using Google Meet to save time and money on commuting, and that works just as well.” - Andis Caunītis, chairman, Gulbene County Council

With new solutions in place, the council is focused on making communication easy, secure, and efficient internally and externally. Great leaps in that direction were made when Gmail replaced the legacy email system. “Our previous legacy email system was unreliable. We had a lot of downtime, and it couldn’t keep up with our user demands. It often became overloaded and stopped working. With Gmail, we’re experiencing 100% uptime,” explains Biezais.

An additional benefit is that less malicious software is coming through the council’s email services. “We used to get lots of tickets around suspicious emails, which have gone down considerably. This speaks to the advanced phishing and malware protection Gmail enables by default,” he shares.

More recently, aside from email, employees have taken to Spaces using Google Chat, where they collaborate on long-term projects with their teams or other groups.

Making the most of technology to better serve the local community

“Effective digital tools and information delivery systems help us communicate effectively not only internally, but also with the local population. Google Workspace enables that, which is crucial, especially in cases of crises or disasters.” - Andis Caunītis, chairman, Gulbene County Council

Soon after Gulbene Municipality selected Google Workspace as its work environment, the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science rolled out Google for Education, providing Chromebooks to education institutions across the country. “It was a great thing that we already had our Google Workspace environment up and running in the Gulbene Municipality. We simply added the Chromebooks to it and started using them from the get-go,” says Biezais.

Currently, all 300 Gulbene County Council office workers are using Google Workspace every day to better serve their community. A separate Google Workspace domain was set up for the county’s educational institutions, with 800 active users and growing. “Google Workspace helps us communicate effectively not only internally, but also with the local population,” says Caunītis. “This is crucial, especially in a crisis.”

*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.

Deployment Partner (Google Workspace authorized reseller)

DATA Technologies

DATA Technologies specializes in the implementation, integration, and day-to-day support of information systems.