Plymouth City Council has migrated to a Windows 7 desktop environment from Windows XP, and has also slashed the number of seats it operates through hot-desking.

To reduce costs and increase efficiencies, the council was looking to consolidate its office space and assets by enabling a more flexible working environment.

Plymouth "tuned" its Microsoft System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM) platform to deliver greater control over on-going administration. As a result, the council has been able to consolidate its desktop environment from 4,000 to 3,200 and introduce hot-desking to help reduce property overheads.

Tom Unwin, technical architect at Plymouth City Council, said: "Our key goal was to have eight desktops for every 10 employees, as mobile working is on the increase. However, with Windows XP, each person had their own computer configured for their use, which meant our workers weren't able to work flexibly."

Unwin said the council started to investigate the move to Windows 7 as well as expanding its deployment of SCCM, which would enable it to consolidate and manage its desktop environment more easily.

Reseller Trustmarque was brought in to deliver Windows 7 and expand the deployment of SCCM. Trustmarque took a staged approach to the technical deployment of Windows 7, first migrating the office-based staff, such as HR and finance, and then moving on to more mobile workers, such as social workers.

Unwin said: "Like many public sector organisations there were multiple applications that were bound to be troublesome in a Windows 7 environment. Trustmarque kept in close contact, providing us with weekly progress updates."

SCCM assesses, deploys and updates servers, client computers and devices across physical, virtual and mobile environments. Previously, if the council wanted to add a new device, it would have taken three or four days to get the configurations correct and to get that system up and working.

Now, with the new SCCM build, it takes half a day, with configurations for devices done automatically.

Trustmarque also adjusted the Windows software to enable roaming capabilities using Active Directory and folder redirection to ensure each set of configurations are assigned to individuals, rather than devices.

Microsoft this week claimed the annual support costs for the 11-year-old Windows XP are more than five times that of Windows 7, as it stepped up its campaign to get organisations to upgrade. All Microsoft support for Windows XP - including security updates - will end in April 2014.