About Samoa Water Authority
The Samoa Water Authority (SWA) is the major water service provider in Samoa. Employing nearly 300 people, the organisation provides treated, reticulated water through an expanded, reliable network to approximately 88% of the Samoan population. Also providing wastewater treatment, the organisation is charting its way through an ever-changing environment. Together with the Samoan community, and with the support of international funding, SWA continues to replace old pipes, utilise new technology and extend its network to benefit more and more Samoan people and the economy.
With a vision to be a sustainable water and wastewater utility provider founded on excellence, SWA is an essential service provider on a digital transformation journey. A journey that sees it adopting the latest technologies from Microsoft in the form of Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Azure, helping keep employee engagement flowing, powering productivity and increasing operational efficiency.
The journey to digital transformation
According to John Mauli, the manager responsible for communications and information technology at SWA, the journey to digital transformation has been a long time in the making: “For a few years we have recognised the value in shifting from a traditional IT setup to being mobile and in the cloud. But a shortage of local expertise means there is no real depth of technical resource on island and with the very slow internet speeds we’ve had, we’ve been limited by what’s possible. New submarine fibre optic cables on island and cheaper data costs are gamechangers and have made the cloud much more compelling and achievable.
Ageing infrastructure and emails hosted on-prem
Having last upgraded hardware in 2014, SWA had ageing infrastructure and servers approaching end of life. At the same time, emails were hosted on-prem via Microsoft Exchange and the team had difficulty managing licencing. When combined, these factors were decreasing the effectiveness of the SWA team by making them focus on minor and repetitive issues.
It’s not easy providing an essential service in a developing economy with limited resources and geographic isolation – it’s 3,200 kilometres to New Zealand. Then there are the extreme weather conditions, including drought and hurricanes. The threat to infrastructure cannot be avoided and must be mitigated through robust planning for when the next natural disaster occurs. This need for continuity planning extends to IT infrastructure and security.
Dispersed office locations and an isolated main office have contributed to an unproductive working environment where employee communication was not efficient, and information couldn’t flow freely.
SWA’s requirements around digital transformation, business continuity and productivity were a clear fit with Microsoft’s 365 capabilities and the modern digital workplace. Our team developed a plan to move SWA away from their on-prem infrastructure to tap into all the goodness that comes with Microsoft 365.
The Microsoft 365 advantage
Microsoft’s familiar interface enabled SWA to transition to Office 365 without retraining users or providing additional support or administration. With Microsoft Exchange shifting to the cloud, SWA has an enterprise standard solution which has made licensing much more transparent and simpler to manage. This means increased productivity for the IT team who can focus on delivering more strategic value to the organisation.
Improved productivity and increased confidence
The introduction of Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams has enabled more efficient communications and greater efficiency. John says: “Our results have definitely improved with the use of Microsoft Teams and a reliable email solution. Our users are now better equipped to communicate and collaborate. We had a lot of problems in the past where email servers would go down or users would lose emails. We have comfort from knowing emails are accessible 24/7 and that they’re backed up in the cloud
Microsoft Teams simplifies remote work
The switch to the Microsoft Teams platform has been a blessing according to John: “The pickup and adoption from staff has been very responsive and it’s allowed for much more collaboration between units and divisions. If one of our field engineers has an issue with a particular water pipe, they can now video call a senior engineer and troubleshoot the problem in real time. Previously this would have been escalated and a senior engineer booked to travel to the site. A process that took days can now be done in minutes.
Better service in the field
According to John, the team at SWA are finding new ways to deliver a better service when out in the field: “We don’t have official addresses and street names in Samoa. When our people are out in the field reading water meters, connecting properties or locating a specific location, we use GPS. We’ve found a neat little mapping feature in Teams that we’re using to send coordinates from our GIS to help our people find locations faster. It has the potential to be a major assistance for our teams.
Peace of mind
John says: “The really great thing with Teams is that we maintain business continuity. If we suddenly need our people to all work from home, we can do that. The other benefit is a boost to our security across the organisation. We know all of our data and information is being held securely which is good for peace of mind.”
Microsoft Office 365
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