Natural Resources Wales

Natural Resources Wales (or Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru in Welsh) is a public body created by the Welsh Government to replace Environment Agency Wales, Countryside Council for Wales and the Forestry Commission Wales. The public body – which opened its doors on 1 April 2014 – protects natural resources in a sustainable way.

The move to create one organisation from three left NRW with staff spread over the length and breadth of the country. NRW employs 2,000 staff in 50 locations around Wales, all on one of three legacy networks when the organisation began.

Myself and Martyn took over the ICT implementation eleven weeks prior to go live.  The key aim in that short period was to ensure that despite the staff from the three different organisations being on separate networks, they could operate as a single body with the same purpose and communicate with each other.  The first thing we did was to implement Office 365, which was the communications “glue” allowing a single email address for all staff regardless of which legacy network.  A Contact Centre using MS Dynamics, a website and an SharePoint Intranet all followed and were up and running for go live, along with telephony and other core office functions.

After day one, the next big job was to get all staff off the legacy networks– some of which were consuming services from Edinburgh and England, rationalise the applications to suit the new organisations purpose and move onto one cloud infrastructure.  This transformation programme which Red Cortex led meant that ended up with virtually zero onsite infrastructure, after it put all applications either into the Microsoft Azure platform or consumed platform services such as Office 365.

Cloud based systems and insourcing ICT meant the new BAU running cost model does not compare to the previous ICT running costs, saving approximately £7M per year.  Part of the programme was to create the new ICT Team to manage all our services, implementing new processes, recruiting staff and initiating an apprenticeship programme.

The entire organisation now uses the full Microsoft Office suite, as well as Windows devices to keep its staff connected while out and about.

In September 2014, we equipped staff with 650 Smartphones. We also deployed Microsoft Surface Tablets, as well as Lenovo Tablets running Microsoft Windows Mobile 8.1. All desktops use Microsoft Windows 7.  The staff took to the new phones really well – Blackberry was the old standard, and people appreciate the move to a smartphone.”

Because NRW is so disparate across Wales, with many people operating in the field, mobile connectivity is important. And with Microsoft’s enterprise mobility suite, we managed to break down the old-fashioned attitude to security and mobile devices. Staff are now free to use their devices in the field to record notes when sampling rivers or attending pollution incidents and flooding.

Wales is not known for its ubiquitous mobile connectivity, but all devices are “connection tolerant”, meaning staff can do their work and write emails offline, and as soon as they regain signal, the device synchronises and sends the outbound messages. The organisation isn’t tied down to one network provider, but uses the telecoms company which provides the best connectivity for wherever employees are normally based.

The mobile devices use Microsoft Lync to take photographs or start a video conference call in the field. All desktops use this system, saving over £10,000 on internal conference calls per month.

Another huge part of the transformation programme we led was to identify the necessary legacy applications needed from the bodies it replaced. We analysed 1,000 apps to decide what was needed, what the organisation could do without and which could be redeveloped. One example is where one app replaced 22 legacy applications, making it easier for staff to access functionality in the cloud on a smart browser.

NRW was also the first organisation in the world to deliver Esri GIS in the cloud. It uses geographical information systems (GIS) as mapping tools for noting instances of flooding, protected species and so on, to combine and use to analyse big datasets. Esri and NRW worked together to put this integral application in the cloud.

  • Office relocations/rationalisation and modernisation (including the development of Lync/Skype for Business Suites for Voice and Video Conferencing)

  • Implementation of a new NRW Contact Centre

  • New pan-Wales ICT network rollout

  • New cloud based data and application hosting (Microsoft Azure)

  • Rollout of new hardware to over 2200 users of desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and standard telephony

  • Launch of new cloud based email, messaging, intranet, document management systems and internal work based social forum ‘Yammer’ (Microsoft 365 Suite)

  • Development and launch of the following new core service Applications:

  • HR and Finance System using Agresso ERP:

    GIS (Geographical Information System) using ESRI products, NRW has pioneered the first fully cloud based GIS application and data service

    CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System using Microsoft Dynamics AX

    CMS (Content Management System for the new Website) using Umbraco open source software

    eDRMS using Sharepoint and Recordpoint for records compliance

    Laboratory Information Management System using StarLIMS

    Water Quality, Ecology, Hydrometry and Telemetry System using WISKI v7

    Asset Management System using AMX

    National Flood Forecasting and Flood Warning Systems

    Forest Management Systems

    Enterprise wide Change Management, following an evolutionary change management model