While avoiding any sweeping generalisations, Scottish Government CIO Anne Moises believes some men overly focus on the nuts and bolts of technology, forgetting the ‘people’ aspect of IT. Many also make the mistake of using jargon rather than plain English, thus bewildering rather than impressing those who work outside of IT and she admits that as a young programmer she didn’t grasp the importance of communicating her messages. Understand your subject, she advises, but there’s no point in blinding your audience with technical babble; instead, communicate with your non-IT related audience in a way that develops empathy.
CIOs have to get the people aspect of IT right if their projects are going to satisfy all stakeholders and this requires an ability to listen to those that use the systems on a daily basis. By listening it becomes possible to work out what departments, teams and individuals need to solve their operational issues -- including what they will accept as a solution. The CIO can then implement the applications and systems to imporve their effectiveness.
Moises’ thinking was inspired by her predecessor, Maureen McGinn, who worked at what was known as the Scottish Office before devolution.
“She became a role model for me, demonstrating that you could and should bring emotional intelligence as well as technical know-how into the provision and support of IT,” Moises recalls. “You can have the best designed system in the world, but if users don’t like it, don’t understand it or won’t use it, then it becomes a waste of time.”
McGinn taught her that understanding people is as vital as understanding technology so one of the tasks of her current role is to take a technical idea and translate it into business terms for the Scottish Government’s user community. She believes that “it is an art that some people in IT find very difficult to master”.
A rare female CIO in one the most recently added government CIO positions, the decline in the number of women entering IT is an issue that is close to Moises’ heart. “IT is an incredibly varied career,” she says, citing the opportunity to get involved in everything from systems design to the development of applications, user interfaces and “the deeply technical stuff”.
Her department is doing what it can to address this imbalance by working with a series of interactive workshops entitled, ‘Go for IT!’, organised by e-Skills UK, which has the goal of improving the attractiveness of IT as a career option. The programme is offered to schools in order to attract pupils. They are hosted on an employer’s premises in order to give young people an opportunity to find out what it’s like to work there, and in the hope that the experience will inspire them to want to work in the industry.
“Through the e-Skills initiative we bring pre-GCSE girls of about the age of 14 into the office, and help them to broaden their understanding of what a career in IT would be like,” Moises says. It also enables her to show the girls that IT is not all “technical and geeky”. “It’s about dealing with people and looking at how to help the business”, she emphasises.
It’s therefore no surprise that she believes her greatest success has been creating a formal career development structure for the benefit of the Scottish Government’s ICT staff with mentoring, training and coaching an integral part of this process. She has seen mentoring and coaching “work wonders for other people” and has herself begun to mentor others.
“A typical mentoring engagement occurs over a 10-week period, and focuses on the skills sets and knowledge that a particular individual wants to explore and develop,” she explains.
Moises’ in-house team consists of roughly 300 people, including information management professionals and traditional IT staff. Forming the outsourced team of eight is the Scottish Government’s systems integration partner, Logica, although this element of the team flexes according to the demands of the organisation.
“We have a mixed economy with both in-house staff and access to external resources through framework contracts,” Moises says. If the appropriate expertise in-house is not available, her team contracts out.
The Scottish Government receives a block grant from Westminster of £35.1bn, and the running of its IT department costs around £25m a year. However, it is subject to the same constraints as any group within the UK’s public sector and her department is under pressure to become increasingly efficient while delivering a higher level of service and without reducing quality. Her key message is familiar -- “delivering more with less”.
Shared services are part of her plan to achieve value. They will be offered to the partners of the Scottish Government and external agencies and non-departmental public bodies.
The organisational structure of her department is formed by two parts. One element concentrates on operational elements of while the other looks after the strategic, customer engagement and compliance factors. This has to support an infrastructure that caters for 10,000 users across multiple sites including Whitehall, Brussels and the Scottish islands. There is a basic corporate infrastructure, but some ‘customers’ have their own localised business applications on site and, whenever practical, her team is working on virtualising and centralising administration.
Scotland, for example, has a marine facility for scientific research based in Aberdeen with bespoke applications hosted there. These will be focused on their specific activities. Similarly the Accountant in Bankruptcy department -- responsible for dealing with personal bankruptcies and recording corporate insolvencies, and which operates out of Ayrshire -- has custom applications for managing the processes involved in this particular legal process. The Scottish Government’s main financial system is centralised by using Oracle Financials, located in Edinburgh.
Oracle is one of approximately nine key IT suppliers. Logica provides system integration services, SAS delivers its statistical and analytical solutions and for its electronic records and document management system it is uses Objective.
The Scottish Government is still on Windows XP which Moises considers to more stable than Vista, and SharePoint enables collaboration. On the hardware front the Scottish Government has IBM servers, Dell desktop PCs, laptops from Fujitsu, and its telephony partner is Cable and Wireless.
Moises sits on, or is involved with, a number of committees, including e-Skills UK’s Employer Board Scotland, which was formed by Enterprise Minister Jim Mather in 2009. Practising yoga in her spare time she also describes gardening as being therapeutic and “a good stress reliever”. There doesn’t appear to be any geekiness in her at all, and she very much enjoys sailing on the Firth of Forth. She likes to do what she considers to be “the normal stuff”, like going to her local cinema to watch the latest film epic.