The Situation

When the global pandemic hit in 2020 and forced Victorians to work from home, Cecilia Connellan, Transformation Manager at Buloke Shire Council, understood the challenges that this would bring to councillors and staff.

Buloke Shire Council (Buloke) is a rural Victorian council located in Wycheproof, about 4 hours north-west of Melbourne with offices located in Charlton, Birchip, Donald and Sea Lake. The council was yet to start their cloud journey when the pandemic hit and relied on on-premises infrastructure to deliver services to staff and councillors.

Many Buloke staff live in rural locations and on farms, with slow Internet connectivity. To make matters worse, the council did not have a dedicated Internet link and shared Internet services with the local town residents. This made it very difficult for council staff to remain productive while working from home. Cecilia worked with the Victorian government to organise a grant to help the council accelerate their journey to Microsoft 365.

The Challenge

The immediate challenge facing the council was keeping staff productive while working from home, which had been a struggle during the first Victorian issued lockdown. Cecilia knew that the council had to hasten their transformation of key services, such as email and collaboration, to Microsoft 365 while adhering to the Victorian Protective Data Security Standards (VPDSS) guidelines for information security. Additionally, information governance had to be clearly defined, documented and technologically implemented to standardise how Microsoft 365 services were used and information stored.

Delivering the project in the middle of a global pandemic, and the uncertainty that came with it was also a challenge. The entire project would have to be delivered remotely and all communication via video calls. Additionally, the unreliable Internet connection made remote access difficult and impacted key project components, such as migrating mailboxes from Exchange Server to Exchange Online.

The Solution

Cecilia and her team partnered with Endpoint Focus to design and deliver key services to allow staff and councillors to more effectively work from any location without relying on VPN or on-premises network connectivity. The Microsoft 365 solution included:

  • An Active Directory and Group Policy review and recommendations in preparation for onboarding Azure AD

  • Exchange Server to Exchange Online migration, allowing Buloke to provide a modern mailbox experience for all staff and councillors

  • SharePoint Online hub and team sites allowing council departments to work together, including an automated workflow for Councillor Q&A using Azure’s Power Automate

  • Microsoft Teams for enterprise collaboration, transforming how Buloke staff and councillors work together and with external parties. This introduced rich features such as real-time chat and video conferencing, and reduced the need to rely on email for collaboration

  • Council applications, including Microsoft 365 Apps, deployed from Microsoft Endpoint Manager to provide staff with a modern operating platform

  • iOS / iPadOS onboarding and device management using Microsoft Endpoint Manager

  • OneDrive for Business Known Folder Move allowing staff to access personal files from any location and any device without relying on redirected profile folders stored on their file server

  • Identity and Access Management platform to ensure staff and councillors could access Microsoft 365 resources securely, utilising Multi-Factor Authentication and Conditional Access rules

  • Windows 10 Hybrid Azure AD join to provide staff with a seamless single sign-on experience to Microsoft 365 services

  • Windows Autopilot to on-board new Windows 10 devices into the council, and Microsoft Endpoint Manager to deploy applications and Device Configuration profiles

  • A VPDSS compliant governance policy implemented, including the required Business Impact Level (BIL) content labels, in conjunction with Microsoft Data Loss Prevention polices and automation. This ensures Microsoft 365 services such as SharePoint Online and Microsoft Teams operate within Victorian Government guidelines for data security, management and retention

The Results

The resulting solution provides Buloke with a modern workplace platform, allowing staff and councillors to work efficiently and effectively from any device and any location securely without having to rely on connectivity to local infrastructure. The Buloke team can utilise SharePoint Online for document and team collaboration while following Victorian data security standards through governance.

“As a result of the solution implemented by Endpoint Focus, Buloke staff are able to collaborate and communicate far more effectively”

Cecilia Connellan

Transformation Manager, Buloke Shire Council

About Buloke Shire Council

Buloke Shire Council is a Victorian local government body with its primary office located in Wycheproof, which is about 4 hours north west of Melbourne, Victoria. The council also has offices located in Birchip, Charlton, Donald and Sea Lake.

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