As the IT leader of one of the busiest, most high profile London boroughs David Wilde accepts it’s important to have soft skills such as people who understand the Westminster area and specific local issues. Despite these caveats, Wilde is running Westminster IT with an operations team of just 17. Could he drive it down even further by using public cloud infrastructure?
Wilde says Westminster “will never go completely public cloud but is more likely to move more deeply into private cloud” in part because of the nature of the apps.
However, another way to alter the IT picture might be to make the workforce even more flexible through virtualised desktops that would let staff access their desktop environments over the web from any device. Westminster’s client computing devices are already 80 per cent laptop and a partially desk-less working strategy means there are seven desktops per 10 staff.
As for open source, another classic way to save cost, Wilde is neutral. “I don’t look at it as a conscious decision but show me the business case and I’ll use it,” he says, adding that Westminster’s content management system is based on the Symphony open source system.
Also, he recognises that running Westminster has to be more than just automating and cheese-paring to the nth degree.
“That can be difficult to reconcile with demand-led services when you’re dealing with vulnerable children and the police,” he points out. “There are a number of sensitive areas where we can’t do things over the phone or the internet. It’s [more important to get] the cost down to do more [in areas such as these].”
Face-to-face interaction will always be necessary in such areas but in others IT at Westminster is being driven by staff, for example in environmental protection or environmental health where staff make it clear that they “don’t want to be nailed to their desks”. Generally, Wilde says, “Some people need to be convinced technology will work. The legal function is more difficult. We don’t push home working; we encourage flexible working.”
Looking at the capital, Wilde believes a lot more can be done across the 33 boroughs, an area that is the size of Holland and contains 11 million people. He talks about plans for shared next-generation network purchasing with Transport for London and the boroughs of Merton, Waltham Forest and Croydon, but concedes that complexity means “it’s never going to be all 33”.
Wilde is a public-sector IT veteran, having previously been across London as Waltham Forest CIO, following 20 years in the Cabinet Office and at other posts in central government. He says he has never been particularly tempted by the private sector and believes that the challenges are common across the two sides and, more broadly, across all endeavours.
“IT is so integrated into the fabric of an organisation and...