Lewisham Council has become one of the first users of Microsoft's new application suite, Office 2003.
The council has been trialling both Exchange Server 2003 and Office 2003, initially on a small scale but with plans to roll the software out over the whole organisation.
Lewisham employs property inspectors to assess whether dwellings are occupied and to calculate council tax bills.
Until recently forms were printed out, filled in manually and then run through the council's document image processing system before being distributed to the relevant departments.
Now inspectors are equipped with Tablet PCs running the Infopath 2003 application, which allows them to build their own XML forms and distribute the information electronically to other departments.
The council estimates that its staff can now spend over half of their time out in the field and process the information in the forms in one hour, compared to the 24 to 48 hours it had taken previously.
"This is part of a longer term plan to standardise on Office and Exchange 2003. It is part of our modernising agenda and we took the decision to go with Microsoft," said Mike Ireland, project manager, public services division, at Lewisham Council.
"We had both Linux and Microsoft in for full analysis and discussed both robustly. We already use a couple of Microsoft applications and the new office applications are very similar."
Angela Ashenden, a senior analyst at Ovum, indicated that the Office applications integrate well in the new suite but, to get the benefits, everyone has to have the latest upgrades.
"If you are upgrading there are significant costs before you get full functionality. This tight integration makes a lot of sense for Microsoft," she said.
The council is integrating the new software as part of its drive towards better electronic government ahead of the 2005 deadline, which Lewisham claims to be on schedule to meet.
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