North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County is home to the city of Charlotte, a major Southeastern U.S. commercial hub. Taking a cue from its largest city, Mecklenburg County government’s IT department is taking a business-based approach to engaging with its “customers”—the county government departments. A move to Windows 10 and Office 365 in the cloud is a big part of that collaborative approach. The county is also using VMware Horizon for virtualization and VMware AirWatch for device management that’s fully integrated with Windows 10.
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“We’re bringing together these different types of platforms that work harmoniously together to create a symphony of technology, for us to be able to share with our workforce. It’s really amazing,” said Preston Teal, senior IT business analyst for the county. “Mecklenburg County empowers its users regardless of where they are to make sure that they have the right tools to do their job. We don’t look at mobility as simple mobile devices.”
Even on computers or phones that aren’t county-owned, employees use Horizon to connect to their digital workspaces from wherever they are. Microsoft Office and Windows 10 provide similar benefits, said Teal. “Employees can edit documents, send documents, check their email, look at their files they have saved. We’re really leveraging Windows 10 to pull it all together because mobility is incorporated in that OS.”
Integrating AirWatch and Windows 10
Obtaining new devices and software upgrades will be much easier with Windows 10 and AirWatch. Cliff DuPuy, Mecklenburg’s technical services director, admitted that despite the county’s long-standing relationship with AirWatch, he didn’t realize that AirWatch can manage Windows 10 laptops or tablets just as easily as it manages phones.
AirWatch provides tight integration with Microsoft Azure Active Directory and Windows 10 management features, and the new Windows Update as a Service means that his staff can use AirWatch to push out software patches and updates automatically, making county devices much more secure. If an employee in the field needs help, the Mecklenburg IT staff will be able to remotely access their devices for tech support so the employee doesn’t have to drop everything and drive to a county office. “We will actually be leveraging AirWatch to do all that work for us. We’re really excited about it,” said DuPuy.
“We don’t want employees to have to log into this and log into that. It’s about single sign-on. It’s about understanding identity, and following that identity as a person is using the device—not ‘I’m this user on this account.’ Instead, your identity follows you regardless of what you’re using, regardless of how you’re using that device. That’s powerful to me.”
—Preston Teal, Senior IT Business Analyst, Mecklenburg County
Azure integration allows the county to provide a true out-of-the-box experience for new users or hardware upgrades. “I can mail a tablet or laptop to somebody, they fire it up and put in their work email address. All the applications, based on their security credentials in Active Directory, follow that user down so we can onboard them on the fly,” said DuPuy. Documents are stored in Microsoft OneDrive for easy, cloud-based access from any device. And Microsoft Passport for single sign-on (SSO) and Windows Hello biometric access “will empower our users and get us out of the password business.”
Mecklenburg County will use Horizon to virtualize older or custom apps that are not compatible with Windows 10. “Our app catalog is vast,” said Teal. “That software is very important to us. It’s the difference between a case worker being able to enter data for a child protection order, or not. We can’t have incompatible apps be a stumbling block for this important work.” His team can virtualize any app through Horizon and manage it with AirWatch.
Transforming Workflows with Digital Workspaces
DuPuy said that his department partnered with a wide range of county services to find out how they could use technology to make their work more efficient. Food service inspectors, for example, used to travel back to the office to print certificates, then return to the food service business to give them that certificate. DuPuy’s team rode along with the inspectors to see what kind of equipment would best suit their needs.
Now the inspectors have tablet computers and portable printers so they can score an establishment and print the certificate during that same visit. Mecklenburg also implemented tablets and credit card readers for county services such as boat rentals and recycling centers, reducing long lines for residents.
“Mecklenburg County is a very progressive county,” said DuPuy. “If you look at some of the things that we’re doing in the public sector, people around the country say, ‘You guys are light years ahead of everyone.’ We’re leveraging all the different products that VMware and Microsoft offer, and streamlining that so it’s applicable to what we’re doing.”