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Queensland council shrinks geography and boosts collaboration with Surface Hub

Technology is at its very best when it just works. Just turn it on and start using it – no weighty manuals; no lengthy training sessions.

Instead of having to twist the way we work to fit the technology, the technology is flexible enough to fit in with our plans, but still offers a fresh way to tackle challenges.

One such challenge in my workplace, Queensland’s Central Highlands Regional Council, is its geography and, like all of Australia’s councils, the need to run lean and mean.

Located 350 km west of Rockhampton, the region encompasses an area of around 60,000 square kilometres, similar in area to Tasmania, and supports 30,000 people.

Council headquarters is in Emerald, but there are five satellite offices, the closest is a 45-minute drive; the furthest is two and a half hours away.

My task was to find a streamlined solution to reduce travel time for meetings, therefore boosting efficiency, productivity and safety.

Communications technology, like Skype for Business, has proven helpful, as has cloud-based software such as Office 365. Teams regularly hold ‘virtual’ meetings, communicating and collaborating remotely on documents and we are only at the start of our Office 365 journey.

The Microsoft’s Surface Hub has taken this approach to a whole new level.

Traditional videoconferencing solutions are very limited, cumbersome and confusing necessitating IT personnel to help get people started.

I run a tight team with just five people to support the IT needs of 500 employees, so there’s no guarantee someone is available to crank the videoconferencing.

Thinking beyond the square, council opted for the latest technology and purchased eight Microsoft Surface Hubs.

Now our teams easily communicate across the region. They share data and collaborate using a single easy-to-use system—and the IT team isn’t needed to hold any hands.

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to get the correct infrastructure and communications in place. We worked with Microsoft partner InSync and Telstra to get this right and to make sure we had the best connections and systems to access the applications and data required for any meeting.

We’ve now got a user-friendly tool that is really changing the way our people work throughout the region.

What’s really interesting is that the IT team isn’t telling people how to use the Microsoft Surface Hubs, we’re letting them experiment and explore what works best for them.

Generally, people just walk into a room and figure it out themselves—that’s how I know we picked a winner.

Even with Skype we had to teach people how to use the camera and explain the system’s benefits. Since installing the Hubs it’s been a case of, ‘When do I use it?’ There’s real ‘can’t wait to get my hands on it’ feeling.

The Microsoft Surface Hubs have given our business the ability to easily collaborate and communicate visually in real-time saving us time and money, while keeping our people connected and safe.