July 23, 2021

Microsoft solution suite for New Zealand's new water services regulator, Taumata Arowai

Taumata Arowai was born out of the commitment to wai and tangata, people and water and their connection to each other.

With the passage of The Water Services Act 2021,  Taumata Arowai became the new water services regulator for Aotearoa.

Taumata Arowai is committed to helping communities access safe drinking water and playing an oversight role in protecting the environment from the harmful impacts of wastewater and stormwater.

New organisation, new team, new tools

Having its existence as a new Crown Entity foreshadowed during 2020, Taumata Arowai needed a partner to establish its core IT environment. Within 4 months, we'd set them up with a minimum viable solution to go-live, and a full suite of solutions in place at 6 months. Jessie Larsen, Establishment Lead at Taumata Arowai, summed up their experience:

"Our Chief Executive said it was the smoothest go-live he'd experienced! It's a great reflection on Microsoft and Theta."

They had selected the Microsoft stack as the preferred technology and believed Theta was best placed to implement it. Larsen explains why:

"We wanted a vendor whose size and culture aligned with ours. Responsiveness is important to us, and we knew that Theta, as a small-medium IT provider, would deliver this. Another key selling point was Theta's strength in security."

Zane Windle, Enterprise Architect at Taumata Arowai, elaborates on the organisational requirements:

"We needed a provider that would deliver and support the chosen services whilst understanding who we are. Theta brought their A-team to the table. It gave us confidence that we were dealing with people who knew their stuff."

Introducing the modern workplace

As a new organisation, Taumata Arowai was in a prime position to take a modern approach to its workplace and systems – looking to secure productivity, efficiency and collaboration benefits from implementing best in class solutions.

Working across several Theta practices, we implemented a suite of new solutions, including Microsoft Teams, SharePoint for Intranet and Document Management, AvePoint cloud records, Dynamics 365 Business Central, telephony and meeting room conferencing, and Microsoft 365. Microsoft Intune and Mobile Application Management (MAM) were configured to manage the range of new Taumata Arowai devices.

All chosen solutions were SaaS-based and with advantages of scalability, flexibility, security and the benefits of easy support and maintenance.  We chose a 'zero trust' security design approach with a consistent interface to services both inside and outside the office.

Delivering within tight timeframes

We delivered the entire suite of modern workplace solutions to have the business up and running from scratch within 6 months.

In the initial discovery and design period, workshops focused on Taumata Arowai's needs and how to create fit-for-purpose solutions. With all-new staff (primarily contractors and secondees), a robust training programme was organised to support migration to the new tools.

Agile delivery meant we could easily evolve alongside the newly formed Taumata Arowai, meeting requirements as they arose. Larsen commends how Theta brought a range of experience to the table:

"There was a total commitment from Theta. They rolled up their sleeves to meet the tight timeframe of 4 months from awarding the contract to go-live. We had strong functional leads in all of the project areas: from Carl (Theta Dynamics 365 Practice Lead) to Patrick (Theta Digital Lead Consultant), to Steve (Head of Theta Continuous Computing). They were easy to work with, helped with product decisions and were dedicated to getting the job done."

Windle was impressed with the delivery timeframes:

"The tech we put in place is by design, but the commitment and ability to be pragmatic and deliver on challenging timeframes is a real standout."

Choosing a finance system

Taumata Arowai selected Dynamics 365 Business Central to handle financials as it has the necessary advantages for an organisation such as Taumata Arowai, as Larsen explains:

"We've got limited resource and needed something that could be easily supported and updated. With Business Central, the updates are automatic, it's well-integrated, and it's cost-effective."

A smooth go-live

The go-live date went as planned, and the tech worked as expected, with no critical issues. The new Teams and SharePoint document management system were ready to use, with all documents migrated from the host agency successfully and securely. Devices and laptops were prepared for the team, with Intune and MAM keeping users safe. The office environment is easy to work within, and it is seamless to the users when working outside the office.

IT support was present throughout the project, as well as the go-live and post go-live days:

"Theta knew we didn't have a lot of technical people, so they filled that role. We felt well supported and had people to answer our questions throughout."

Public Records Act compliance

We worked with our partner AvePoint to ensure we took the proper steps to adhere to the Public Records Act requirements during the document migration and ongoing management. Read more about this part of the project in Taumata Arowai's collaboration case study.

Ora wai. Ora tangata.

With a suite of new tools at their disposal, Taumata Arowai has a Modern Workplace that will help them get their work done and fulfil the water needs of Aotearoa: Ora wai. Ora tangata (Healthy water. Healthy people). Windle comments on the positive experience:

"Theta has been able to pivot as our requirements change. They've dealt with our unique situation,  and challenges didn't feel insurmountable. The team just got on with the work."

Easily integrated, user-friendly technologies mean that Taumata Arowai has minimised siloed teams from forming, especially important as they continue to grow the size of their workforce. As a result, they can achieve their goals without tech frustrations, and we can focus on future projects together. Larsen comments on the newfound relationship:

"We continue to work well together. It's a brand new relationship, and Theta has come to the table to make it a partnership".

Theta continues to support Taumata Arowai as it grows and develops