On 1 August 1861, The Times published the first ever weather forecast. This milestone in meteorological history was put together by Admiral Robert Fitzroy, who led the meteorological department in the Board of Trade – later renamed The Met Office.

Over the last 150 years the Met Office and the technology it uses has grown and changed significantly. A Trading Fund within the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, the Met Office is recognized as one of the world’s most accurate forecasters, using more than 10 million weather observations a day, an advanced atmospheric model and a high performance supercomputer to create 3,000 tailored forecasts and briefings a day. Due to its expertise, the Met Office can provide advice on observations, weather forecasting and climate predictions to government, businesses and the public alike.

The Met Office employs more than 1,800 people at 60 sites across the globe -approximately 15 per cent overseas – and incorporates the Met Office Hadley Centre, which is a world leading centre for climate change research. With team members based across the globe, providing everyone with secure access to and the means to work together on scientific documents with colleagues around the world proved a significant challenge. Regularly working with UK government departments, external partners, agents and stakeholders, people were relying on shared drives, emails and wikis to share information and it was clear that some basic rationalisation of systems and an easier way of navigating this information would result in significant efficiencies. The Met Office started to investigate collaboration tools that would enable more effective working.

Prior to joining the Met Office, I held co-ownership of two small businesses and, having worked in the public and private sectors, my collaboration experiences have varied. In the private sector, I used tools such as Skype and Google Apps to communicate and share information with my customers and suppliers. In the public sector, email and meetings are the predominant tools for communication and collaboration. As a member of the Information Management team in Technology, I work closely with the HR, finance and business units to deliver and support IT services and I’ve taken a keen interest in the ways in which the Met Office can broaden and improve the ways it communicates and collaborates. Imagine my excitement when I became involved in the implementation of a legacy technology system, which was set to transform how the Met Office worked and enable everyone to share files, create intranets and work together on documents.

With programmes across the office demanding a different set of requirements and certain customisations, it wasn’t long before the project scope ballooned in size. Users didn’t understand the core features, which resulted in ongoing resource costs, training and a lot of confusion. Being very different from other systems and not very intuitive, the tool simply didn’t fit with our information sharing vision and we turned to Huddle to try and achieve what we’d originally set out to do.

Our Chief IT Architect required a service that would enable him to collaborate on scientific documents with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), UK government departments and stakeholders. Consequently, we needed something that would enable secure collaboration with external teams and provide sufficient structure so that information wouldn’t become disorganized. As the WMO was already using Huddle, our IT security team researched the content collaboration platform and was happy that it ticked all of the security boxes. The fact that Huddle was already being used in other central government departments was a key contributor that led to procurement.

Huddle was easy to setup and has an intuitive interface. Within the tool is an excellent knowledge base, including a help and support module and the training required for users has been minimal. People have been keen to get up and running on Huddle and, as access requires nothing more than a web browser, there’s no fuss. Workspaces can be created easily and all features within the tool are intuitive. The platform has considerably reduced reliance on email but- more importantly – it has helped users to understand that information can be shared simply, which is an important component of collaboration.

Huddle came into its own when we used it to support Met Office staff being immediately deployed to Rwanda.  The UK Met Office has been working with the Rwandan meteorological Service since 2001, providing training to meteorologists and sharing their forecasting expertise with Rwandan weather experts. I knew that Huddle would be very quick to set-up up and provide training on and would allow for sufficient information transfer despite the slow internet speeds in Rwanda. In less than a couple of hours, training and creation of workspaces were completed for staff and Huddle has been used very successfully to facilitate collaboration by Met Offices staff in Rwanda for more than a year. The team agrees that Huddle has provided an essential means of communication and has proved to be an invaluable tool for the Met Office and international collaboration.

I will be discussing the Met Office’s move to the cloud at Huddle’s Government in Cloud conference.


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