Narvik Kommune brings social services to the Arctic with Google Apps for Work

Editor's note: Today we hear from Per Jakobsen, head of IT operations and development at Narvik Kommune, a Norwegian municipality 343 kilometres north of the Arctic circle. Read how Google Apps for Work is being used at Narvik Kommune to make life simpler for staff, so that they can spend less time doing paperwork and more time managing healthcare, childcare, schools, transport and housing services for the people that depend on them.

Norwegians value the human touch in social services. We call this “warm hands,” and we know nothing can replace it. But as a municipality, we need cool efficiency to make sure that our carers, teachers and medics are in the right place at the right time for 20,000 citizens across more than 2,000km².
Photo by Pål Jakobsen

Every day, Narvik Kommune coordinates 1,600 employees across 58 locations — but our old email system was holding us back from doing our best work. An obsolete user interface made it difficult to navigate, spam was a chronic problem, and we depended on expensive consultants for maintenance. Buying 750 Google Apps for Work accounts hasn’t just resolved these issues at a reasonable and predictable price; it’s made Narvik Kommune more efficient, more reliable and more mobile. We worked with Avalon Solutions, a Google Apps Premier Partner in the Nordics, who contributed to the successful migration.

We’ve gained several hours each week now that we use stable and secure Google servers, instead of wasting time servicing a spam filter and antivirus software and troubleshooting email instability. And the minimal training necessary to use Google Apps tools means departments throughout Narvik Kommune are discovering creative and productive ways to use them — all on their own:

  • Working together under tight deadlines in Sheets: Our economy team uses Sheets instead of Excel, so they can update documents simultaneously during hectic periods and avoid the delays and confusion caused by multiple copies when union representatives and others are involved in compiling records.
  • Collecting and sharing information across teams with Sites: HR uses Sites to reach out more effectively through the organisation when collecting and presenting information on large internal procedures.
  • Staying on top of meetings with Calendar: All teams use Calendar on our smartphones to organise meetings (and receive SMS notifications before they start).
  • Digital discussion notes on Docs: All teams use Docs to take notes during discussions, which keeps everyone better aligned and saves time and cost on printing.
  • Building budgets on Drive: Our councilman and managers across the administration used Drive to compile our last annual budget, saving time on a joint task that we would previously handle with fileshare documents that could only be opened and edited by one person at a time.

Most importantly, Google Apps for Work keeps our internal data secure. We have the added peace of mind knowing that our information is protected on one of the most secure infrastructures in the world.

With the flexibility of Google Apps tools, we can prepare for a smooth relocation while the Narvik town hall shuts down for two years of renovation and our core team spreads across three locations instead of one. We’ll use Hangouts on five Chromeboxes to meet and collaborate face-to-face, so we don’t lose that important personal interaction among teams.

We’ve been so impressed by the power of Google Apps, that we’ve extended the advantages of Google Apps tools to local students. We implemented Google Apps for Education accounts for each of the 2,000 pupils at our nine primary and lower secondary schools, and we’re trialling Chromebooks and Classroom. Digitizing public services with Google hasn’t just brought us national attention — it has freed up resources to invest in our future.