City of Chicago Moves to Microsoft-Hosted Email and Office Applications


In a press release issued this week, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city had adopted a new cloud strategy for delivering employee email and desktop applications, a plan he says will deliver efficiencies resulting in savings of $400,000 per year in a four-year contract for hosted office application services from Microsoft.

The press release doesn’t explicitly describe the range of products Chicago will be consuming, but it describes a new cloud system that “encompasses all email and desktop applications (such as documents and spreadsheets) for 30,000 City employees across all City departments,” which sounds a lot like Office 365. Microsoft offers a “Cloud Government” line of business, which aims to provide its cloud services to federal, state and local government agencies.

The press release suggests that the move to the Microsoft-hosted cloud office environment is a “major step” in Chicago’s strategy around modernizing the city’s digitan infrastructure “to increase transparency and foster data-driven innovation.”

Back in September, Emanuel invited a group of local technology businesses, including Chicago-based hosting provider SingleHop, to participate in a “broadband innovation” event, at which he showcased some important tech businesses in the city, and solicited input on his technology initiatives.

According to Thursday’s announcement, the new cloud strategy marks the first city-wide “enterprise” system to migrate to the cloud, a move the city says will consolidate three separately managed email systems.

“The cloud strategy gives City employees the ability to do their jobs more effectively while saving taxpayer dollars, decreasing duplication among departments and streamlining our operations across the board,” says Brett Goldstein, the City’s chief information oOfficer and the commissioner of the Department of Innovation and Technology, quoted in the press release. “The cloud strategy is a major step towards our goal of modernizing our information technology. Ultimately, updating the City’s digital infrastructure for the 21st century sets the foundation for innovation that will continue to move us forward.”

The press relase also describes a range of efficiency-focused technology projects the city has enacted, including the January 1 consolidation of the Chicago Public Library and non emergency public IT support under the Department of Innovation and Technology, the publishing of hundreds of machine-readable data sets on the city’s data portal, the trackable Open311 service request system, and a series of other web based tools around city services.

The Department of Innovation and Technology says it expects all the city’s email and desktop application users will have migrated to the cloud by the end of 2013.

Talk back: Do you think Chicago’s adoption of Microsoft’s hosted office tools sets a promising precedent for other local governments? Is this business likely to end up at a service provider, or is it more likely to continue going to providers like Microsoft? Is there an opportunity here for hosts? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. In the modern world with all the choices out there they could have saved a hell of lot more money by using open source cloud solutions.

    • Post author

      Good point. And in some ways, very true. But remember, this is a city government we're talking about. I think the best way for them to find efficiencies might be to hand the job of "handling things efficiently" off to an outside service provider. Microsoft-hosted office 365 might not be the cheapest, or the most efficient, or the best solution, but chances are it's a lot better than what they were already running in-house.

  2. Well, it is nice to see Microsoft 365 fighting back. I really do not like a situation whereby Google Apps dominate the entire market. Hopefully we can see others making inroads into this segment and providing meaningful competition which will hopefully see improvements in services and offerings due to the competition.

    • Post author

      I agree it's nice to see more competition in the market. It may not be totally applicable in the case of the Chicago city government specifically, but it's also nice for hosting providers that Microsoft's Office 365 ecosystem has a built-in opportunity for hosting providers. However, deals like this help to make the case for a hosted Office 365 type of service from a hosting provider.