How Minnesota Migrated 40,000 Users to the Cloud in Less Than Two Months

Minnesota shares strategies for rolling out enterprise unified communications across the state.
A Month of Messaging

More than 70 state agencies, commissions, boards, cities and counties use Minnesota's Enterprise Unified Communication and Collaboration (EUCC) services. Here are some typical monthly statistics:

8.3 million e-mail messages sent

310,000 Lync instant messages sent

69,500 total Lync audio minutes

47,000 Exchange mailboxes

34,800 provisioned SharePoint users

32,500 total Lync video minutes

31,600 desktop sharing minutes

8.7 terabytes current SharePoint capacity

Aristotle's observation that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is powerfully exemplified by Minnesota state government's migration to an Enterprise Unified Communication and Collaboration (EUCC) platform.

Minnesota needed unified communications tools that could do more with less. In June 2010, our state's centralized IT agency, MN.IT Services, launched a landmark project that culminated in the seamless migration of more than 40,000 users, four terabytes of data, and 66.5 million e-mails, calendar entries, contacts and notes in less than two months. The new EUCC deployment has helped the state's agencies increase productivity and enhance constituent services without requiring additional infrastructure or capital investments.

MN.IT Services designed and deployed a custom, cloud-based system modeled on tools from Microsoft Office 365. Our team collaborated with senior-level Microsoft staff to determine and fully leverage the capabilities of a cloud-based system able to support varied business requirements, access levels and security needs. Together, we designed a highly secure and reliable enterprise platform that can be accessed from wherever users are working. We also customized Office 365's security compliance requirements, Active Directory integration points, user provisioning process and network configuration. The resulting EUCC platform includes e-mail, voice communication, video conferencing, instant messaging, desktop sharing, web collaboration, storage, mobile phone options and more.

Today, our state has what many consider to be the most advanced communication and collaboration ecosystem in the public sector, all designed, tested and deployed in record time. In the 18 months between June 2010 and November 2011, we consolidated existing e-mail systems, centralized collaboration serv­ices, negotiated an agreement with Microsoft, developed project plans, performed migration tests and completed final migrations. This initiative has been well received by our customers and has garnered national awards, including recognition from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).

Here are the basic steps we followed that could help other organizations get there:

1. Determine what your platform needs to do.

We sought a single functional platform upon which to unify all state agencies to maximize daily teamwork. Communication and collaboration tools were needed to increase productivity across agency boundaries and deliver enhanced constituent services without adding infrastructure or capital investments.

The migration to and ongoing operation of this new platform needed to ensure security levels befitting law enforcement, even as it allowed the governor immediate communication with every one of 30,000-plus state em­ployees in the event of a natural disaster or crisis. It was a tall order, even for Microsoft, and required groundbreaking innovation.

2. Understand who will be impacted and how.

We began with a thorough analysis of the key systems and groups impacted by the project. It defined needs such as capacity, accessibility, security and performance. Each of these areas was evaluated in terms of how resulting EUCC tools would address the governor's priorities.

3. Define what success looks like.

We took the time to clearly identify our goals for the project, so we knew what success would look like. The following goals were defined:

  • Seamless migration and easy adoption;
  • Enhanced services and features;
  • Scalability without large investments;
  • Fully leveraged deployment (that lowers prices as service volumes increase); and
  • Security levels at or above existing levels.

4. Carefully select your implementation partner.

The resulting design created a technology foundation with long-term sustainability. Evaluation of service provider capabilities revealed a magnitude of complexity beyond any existing model. We realized we'd need a heavy-hitting partner to assist in crafting a customized solution. Because of the power and flexibility of the Office 365 platform, we chose Microsoft as our partner.

To meet Minnesota's specific needs, Microsoft provided a "dedicated" implementation of Office 365 that supports the custom configurations necessary for the state's infrastructure, security requirements and management processes. We charted a course through new territory by designing and deploying a unique, cloud-based system that blends state resources with Office 365 tools. Project management was handled by our state's consolidated IT agency, but the work was completed in partnership with all departments and entities that make up Minnesota's executive branch.

5. Design your system.

Minnesota moved from a distributed to a unified model by selecting and implementing a broad, capable toolset matched to the needs of state workers. Microsoft Exchange, Lync and SharePoint are the main components of the system. Consistent with MN.IT's ongoing commitment to ITIL's Continual Service Improvement (CSI), this transformation also allowed us to increase existing service levels and options. In particular, we improved service uptime, security configuration and speed of new user provisioning. And we gained enhanced capabilities for e-mail, web collaboration, instant messaging, desktop sharing and web conferencing as well as improved security and disaster recovery management tools.

The solution's architecture employs a creative, hybrid infrastructure that merges the best elements of cloud-based and on-premises capabilities. By leveraging Minnesota's network infrastructure, user management tools and talented staff, this hybrid model delivers value that is greater than the sum of its parts.

6. Communicate early and often.

A communications plan was deployed to manage expectations and provide meaningful, clear and frequent information updates. The goal was to educate users while promoting EUCC awareness and adoption.

The morning after migration, users launched their e-mail clients as usual and most didn't even notice that their data was now in a new location. What they have noticed are the user experience benefits of increased cross-agency information sharing and accelerated decision-making. We're proud to have developed a system that is scalable, flexible and designed to meet Minnesota's needs for productivity, reliability, redundancy and security.

<p>Image courtesy of scottchan / <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net" target="_blank">FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>
Jan 16 2013