Customer Story

Moûtiers: Keeping citizens safe and informed through an innovative approach to local government

Leading the way in local government, the town of Moûtiers is transforming its emergency response communications using Google Workspace and connecting more directly with citizens through livestreaming.

Google Workspace Results

Cuts IT costs in half, reducing burden on public funds

• Increases departmental efficiency by saving time and money thanks to more effective collaboration tools
• Supports real-time management of emergency situations using Chat and Sheets
• Helps to keep public services running during the COVID-19 lockdown by enabling an easy switch to home working
• Encourages citizens to engage with democratic processes by transmitting town council meetings over YouTube Live

"We were one of the first towns of our kind to migrate to Google Workspace. I was inspired by the way I communicate privately, transferring that flexibility into the way we work within local government." —Fabrice Pannekoucke, Mayor, Moûtiers

The local government of Moûtiers, a small town in the southeast of France, is used to handling emergency situations. It's located close to some of France's most popular skiing resorts, and in the case of an avalanche or heavy snowfall, emergency responses covering 25 other municipalities are coordinated from there. The city is a center for commerce and tourism activities in the area and participates in important administrative functions.

While the town itself has just under 4,000 inhabitants, the council is responsible for a much larger area through its participation in the Communauté des Communes, a federation of municipalities that covers around 10,000 inhabitants, as well as shared municipal resources such as a mediatheque, art school, and a water syndicate. Like many local governmental organizations, Moûtiers doesn't have access to huge resources, but its mayor's mission is to serve all its populations equally. That means ensuring a good quality of life for the town's permanent inhabitants and providing a welcome reception to visitors from the outside. The path to achieving this? Not being afraid to take the initiative.

"Our strategy is to innovate, and that means not being scared to try new things," explains Fabrice Pannekoucke, who is both the mayor of Moûtiers and regional councillor for the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Region. "That includes in our approaches to technology, energy-generation, and mobility."

The IT system in Moûtiers was based around an on-premises server that required large maintenance costs and was difficult to update without investment in new hardware and software licences. In order to make the most of its IT spending, Moûtiers decided to switch to a SaaS provider for its email and productivity needs. It wanted a solution that was flexible and could be easily rolled out to its various departments. In his previous position, the Mayor had already had some experience using Google Workspace, then G Suite. He knew it was up to the job, and the volume of data storage it offered was the deciding factor.

"We were one of the first towns of our kind to migrate to Google Workspace," says the mayor. "I was inspired by the way I communicate privately, transferring that flexibility into the way we work within the local government. The important thing was to have an overall vision that included every one of our tools, which is what enables us to perform efficiently, even under pressure."

Helping employees work more flexibly and autonomously

"During emergency situations, our teams use Chat to communicate. Not only does it enable them to share information in real time, it also means that phone lines are left free for critical purposes." —Sylvain Torchot, CIO, Moûtiers

Previously, Moûtiers used an on-premise server to store its files, with personal information management software to manage its emails, contacts, and calendar. While employees could connect from any workstation within the Mairie building, they were not able to access files from outside the office. There was no easy way to maintain control over confidentiality and access when sharing documents.

The migration, implementation, and training was led by Sylvain Torchot, CIO for Moûtiers. "When we made the decision six years ago, we were the first local government in France to migrate to Google Workspace," says Sylvain."We did look at other options, but the Google tools were simpler to use. Everything is clearly explained, ergonomically designed, and intuitive, without too many unnecessary options."

The IT team migrated 150 employees to G Suite Business accounts, starting with switching to Gmail and then migrating files to Drive. Those employees are spread between the town council, the Communauté des Communes, the Tourism Office, and other public services. By using shared drives and the access control features on Docs and Sheets, employees are now able to access files from anywhere as well as control access in a much more targeted way.

"For example, an employee can grant someone reading rights to a particular file in a shared Drive," says Sylvain. "Before, we had issues with files being deleted and folders disappearing. Now, that doesn't happen, and if something is deleted, the user can restore it themselves without having to ask an IT administrator. People are much more autonomous using Drive."

Using Google Workspace, it's now easier to work together in a dynamic and flexible way. A good example of this is Calendar, as employees working as part of multiple teams can easily choose which agendas to display on weekly or monthly planners. "To book in meetings, we used to have to spend an hour or more calling around to ask about availability," says Sylvain. "Now, using Calendar to synchronize the next available slot, it takes minutes."

Within the context of local government, it's also important to be able to easily locate emails relating to matters that may have been discussed several years ago. "By searching using a single word, you can instantly locate all the relevant emails," says Sylvain. "It's difficult to quantify, but altogether, all the little time-saving tricks probably save employees a day's worth of working hours over a working week."

"For us, switching to Google Workspace has brought an enormous gain in productivity," says Sylvain. "New useful features keep appearing, such as multiple signatures and intelligent editing on Gmail. It's an indispensable tool, and colleagues tell me they would struggle to switch back to any other."

Acting fast when an emergency strikes with real-time communication

"As a mayor, my priority in an emergency situation is making sure public services continue to function. With the help of Google Workspace, our employees are reachable and available for our citizens." —Fabrice Pannekoucke, Mayor, Moûtiers

As the town already had Google Workspace in place when the COVID-19 lockdown measures were implemented in France in March 2020, the switch to home-working for its employees was relatively simple. "For other organizations and companies, the lockdown triggered a blackout period of two weeks, as they rushed to find distance working solutions and recuperate files using USBs or hard drives," says the mayor. "We were ready in 10 minutes."

As it's a mountainous region, one of the challenges to home working is that not all employees have access to a good internet connection at home. "Being able to dial into Meet using a local phone number and being able to work with files in offline mode using Drive meant that didn't matter," explains Sylvain.

Like many organizations, the municipal council replaced its meetings with video calls, holding a meeting of its crisis management team every morning using Google Meet during the peak of the pandemic. But it also used Google Chat as an essential part of its communication strategy, creating separate threads for specific teams. "During emergency situations, our teams use Chat to communicate," says Sylvain. “Not only does it enable them to share information in real time, it also means that phone lines are left free for critical purposes."

To keep track of masks being distributed during the pandemic, the crisis management team used a Sheet that was updated in real time, enabling the mayor to keep track of the response as it unfolded. This reflects the way the council uses Sheets as part of its standard emergency procedure, where emergency calls are logged using a Sheet that is then updated by key services, to centralize information and track developments. For sharing information regarding COVID-19, and as part of its broader accident prevention strategy, Sites is used internally as an intranet.

Because the council was able to switch so effectively to home working, that meant citizens didn't lose out on essential services. "We made sure to keep our front desk at the Mairie open," says the mayor. "As a mayor, my priority in an emergency situation is making sure public services continue to function. With the help of Google Workspace, our employees are reachable and available for our citizens. They were able to work almost exactly how they would have done from the office."

Encouraging citizens to take a greater interest in local government

In terms of the initial goals of the migration, the project has been a success. "Previously, we had a structure that was rigid, and that needed investment if we wanted it to evolve," says Sylvain. "Now we have a solution that evolves from day to day, with features introduced simply and efficiently." Sylvain estimates that costs have been halved, with a saving of €10,000 on annual maintenance costs alone. "Financially, the gains have been significant," he says.

The town has also been able to break new ground in communicating directly with its citizens during the pandemic, by livestreaming its municipal board monthly meeting using YouTube Live. "It was something we'd thought about previously, but as the public was not able to attend in person during the lockdown, we decided to go ahead," says Sylvain. "Now, the plan is to continue doing that."

As it plans to continue using video calls and livestreaming as key ways of communicating, Sylvain's team is looking to create a dedicated video-conferencing Google Workspace with new hardware.

"Our overall ambition is to encourage participation in our democratic processes," says the mayor. "Something like livestreaming our council meetings so they can be viewed from home helps to put citizens at the heart of our democratic life."

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