San Francisco Chooses Microsoft Cloud Email and Archiving for over 23,000 Employees

Welcome to the cloud, San Francisco! Earlier today The City and County of San Francisco and Microsoft announced their intent to bring the benefits of cloud computing to over 23,000 municipal employees by migrating the city’s on-premise email to Exchange Online.

San Francisco joins a growing number of governments that are moving to the cloud with Microsoft, including:

I’m not surprised because Exchange Online will enable the city to offer more functionality to employees and save taxpayers money by consolidating their IT resources. After all, cities gain a resilient system with modern information tools and solid, scalable support provisions.

A City with Long and Short-Term Priorities

While cost savings is a powerful driver for many public sector customers, San Francisco chose Microsoft because they want a long-term, strategic IT partner that can meet their productivity needs and security requirements.

In speaking with our field team in California, I’ve learned that the agreement for Exchange Online is consistent with San Francisco’s long-range master plan to upgrade and consolidate strategic services and share resources, while creating a disaster-resilient system that provides high-level security and reliability. With diligence, the city’s Department of Technology completed a thorough review and was satisfied that the service not only met but exceeded security needs and requirements.

More immediately, the city’s and county’s plans for Exchange Online are in keeping with the commitment from the its Department of Technology to provide customers with high-quality, valued services and to deliver them economically. Their hosted service agreement will keep service management for business-critical communications tools in the hands of the city, and will off-load costly application management to industry experts by delivering the applications directly from a world-class Microsoft facility.

Careful Selection over Google and Others

The City and County of San Francisco took a careful approach in evaluating cloud solutions over a two year period. San Francisco’s Chief Information Officer, Jon Walton, and his team examined numerous cloud-based messaging solutions, including Google’s. In the same timeframe, Google has been challenged in meeting the needs of their public sector customers, and the strains are well documented. Although Google pointed to both the cities of LA and DC as major wins, both deployments have been far from a success. For all of the fanfare around the District of Columbia’s Google deployment, few of the district’s employees were actually using the technology. After more than 20 years in the productivity space, we know that once you win business, that’s when the real work begins.

Through their extensive internal process, the team determined that the Microsoft solution not only met the needs of the city but improved the existing system significantly and opened up future avenues for collaboration. Ultimately, the architecture committee chose Microsoft Exchange Online unanimously. The city had determined that Microsoft met the security, functionality and total cost of ownership metrics they were looking for.
So, what’s next?  Employees across 60 departments and agencies are beginning the move to Microsoft Exchange Online. They are looking forward with the cloud, like Microsoft. After choosing this public, multi-tenant offering, the City and County of San Francisco plans to evaluate features and functionality for Office365 and SharePoint Online. -- As part of Microsoft’s innovation, nearly every existing product will have a corresponding cloud-based offering, residing on an infrastructure built to support cloud services at a global level.

Benefits for Residents, City Employees and IT Staff

San Francisco is arguably the most charming city in the United States, and likely a great place to live in or work in. What is the impact on San Francisco residents, including those working for the city and county? 

As I mentioned above, this move promises to save taxpayers money through consolidating resources. Not only that, the Department of Technology tells us that this cloud-based enterprise messaging solution will provide government personnel with improved communications and collaboration tools including email, calendar coordination, instant messaging, and hosted archiving. Meanwhile, provisioning email and archiving through Exchange Online will not affect current staff size at the Department of Technology. They will continue to manage the service and may adjust some job assignments. Overall, the city expects to make minimal impact on individual departments.

I’m ready to book a ticket to San Francisco to learn firsthand about this roll-out, which begins on June 1st. Tell me what you’d like me to learn in speaking to our client on this trip.

Comments (32)
  1. Anonymous says:

    @Ian Ray: Contrary to Google’s claim, here is San Francisco official’s response from  

    Ron Vinson, the director of media for San Francisco’s Department of Technology, said the process was indeed competitive.

    Solutions from Microsoft, Google, and Lotus Notes were all considered as part of a long internal process that included input from CIO’s from various City departments, with final policy and project approval from the Committee on Information Technology (COIT),"
    Vinson said in an email. "At the end, a Microsoft-based solution was agreed upon, and the City solicited and received multiple bids through a competitive process the City has in place for IT procurement."

  2. Anonymous says:

    thank you

  3. Ian Ray says:

    They chose a vendor with no RFP. This is about as careful a selection as the DOI.

  4. Ian Ray says:

    I've been to departmental tech meetings for local government software acquisition. Before I swore off working in the public sector, I attended a series of meetings listening to the peculiar requirements of various departments regarding a large software purchase. We couldn't find any Microsoft-branded software that fit all of the requirement. Instead of trying any non-Microsoft software, everybody agreed to not buy anything at that point. As a result, the existing system languished for years and was only replaced after a security breach.

    I'm not implying that San Francisco is exactly like my experience (although it sounds like it with their rogue network engineer and such), but I personally don't rank government technology acquisitions choices highly as a barometer for what technology scales best. If the S.F. BPOS roll out fails for some reason, I'm not going to blame the software.

    I am looking forward to more articles about private business roll outs. The last few have been fascinating. Unfortunately, the mass media emphasizes these large-scale government contracts as if they should mean something to everyone else.

  5. Ken N says:

    I'm with Ray on this one.  And I've worked with the city of san Francisco.  Multiple bids on a single product hardly represents a "competitive process." Be careful to not misstep in the implementation or you'll be eating your own words.

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