The City of Zagreb facilitates kindergarten enrollment and management with Microsoft Azure

The City of Zagreb facilitates kindergarten enrollment and management with Microsoft Azure

Home to more than one million people, the City of Zagreb prides itself on being one of Croatia’s most forward-thinking, socially responsible cities. As part of its commitment to a sustainable, inclusive future, the city recently embarked on a number of digitalization projects. Among them, reimagining the decentralized, on-premises infrastructure behind the city’s kindergartens. Thanks to its new Microsoft Azure-based system, enrolling children in kindergartens around the city is easier than ever, while budgeting and reporting are faster, simpler and more transparent.

“Digitalization is one of the main goals for the government of the city,” begins Damir Trbušić, Head of IT Infrastructure and Operations at the City of Zagreb. “The challenge was that the 60 different kindergartens in the city all relied on different business systems applications for their daily management and especially in the area of budget planning. By doing the same basic business processes in different ways, there was inefficiency and confusion.”
For example, every kindergarten had their own internal systems and applications for financial management. “Those applications were on separate servers, which meant high costs,” Trbušić shares. Public procurement was also partially decentralized, leading to opaque decision making and potentially unnecessary spending.
The City of Zagreb needed a better way forward. “The idea was to create a central digital platform so that every kindergarten would have the same rules for every business process. The system needed to comply with both legal regulations and technical standards, and make life easier for parents and the city’s Office for Education.”

Switching to the cloud

The City of Zagreb first considered an on-premises deployment for its new system. But it ultimately decided on the Microsoft Azure cloud due to the pricing, security and deployment support.
“We began testing the solution with the Microsoft FastTrack team and our partner Combis. The FastTrack team helped us solve some of the issues we hadn’t anticipated in production,” says Trbušić. “Plus, thanks to Combis, we had the experts we needed for deploying and maintaining the entire infrastructure successfully.”

Simplifying daily management

With interconnected systems, the new platform offers streamlined services such as enrollment, reporting, document management and more. In addition, the speed of processes and data collection have increased due to the integration with Croatia’s national identification system (NIAS) and the Ministry of the Interior’s database. Trbušić says, “Today, parents don’t have to physically visit an office of the Ministry of Interior and wait in line to get application papers. Instead, they can enroll their kids from home with their government ID.” In Zagreb, kindergarten enrollments spike in May each year, meaning the system had to be flexible enough to scale up and down with usage. “To manage the demands of public access, we decided to use the Azure Application Gateway for load balancing,” Trbušić shares. “We like it because the Application Gateway also protects us against certain types of network attacks. Initially, the idea of having a public network was a big concern for us, but the security offered by Azure convinced us it was a good way to go.”
There have also been significant cost and time savings from the implemented solution. Not only has the new management platform saved 30 percent in infrastructure costs, but “Public procurement used to take four to six months from preparation to installation for on-prem infrastructure,” says Trbušić. “That time has now been shortened by as much as 70 percent thanks to Azure.”
Yet the biggest benefit of the system is the satisfaction of parents. “They are really happy with this system because now we have a faster and more efficient system through which they can easily enroll a child in kindergarten from their home,” says Trbušić.
The advantages of the centralized system are also felt deeply by the city office responsible for schools and kindergartens. “They’re really happy with the reports they’re getting from the systems. Now they have a clear picture of exactly what the kindergartens are spending their budget on.”
In future, the City of Zagreb is looking forward to leveraging Microsoft Analytics together with its city services app “MojZagreb” (MyZagreb) for strategic decision making and reporting. Yet its ambitions go further still. “In considering smart city solutions, big data projects or other technologies, we believe Microsoft is a strategic partner for the City of Zagreb,” Trbušić sums up.

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