Jos Creese, CIO of Hampshire County Council, has done a rather extraordinary thing.
He’s made local government the standard-bearer for excellence and leadership in IT, winning various accolades from industry and peers. He’s a reluctant hero, but says that if anything he’s achieved contradicts the idea that local government IT is a backwater or somehow lagging behind, then he’s pleased.
Perhaps as a result of this fame, he has a minder who doggedly rebuts the suggestion that Creese might speak about anything personal for this feature. The interview is to be strictly about Hampshire County Council and there’s no room to ask about his good works in IT or his personal role on the wider stage. Clearly, every Hampshire CC employee is on-message about the remit to provide value for money to local taxpayers.
When we meet, Creese assiduously deflects any tribute or reference to his personal leadership style and achievements. Ahead of the interview, IT peers and colleagues have enthused about Jos’s impeccable leadership credentials and his essential decency. “He’s got the ear of his CEO,” says one, but Creese will have none of it. “No, no. No more than anyone else,” he insists, and claims a lot of his IT success is down to the council’s overall organisation and ethos.
Certainly, the Council building in Winchester epitomises one of Creese’s favourite mantras, that IT should be an enabler of delivery that is ‘digital by default’. The architecture is modern and minimalist without a nod to the Wessex legendry kings, Arthur and Alfred, whose statues grace the High Street just outside. The ground floor interior and quad are open-plan, a wireless zone where huddles of employees hot-desk over a cappuccino. It’s a smart building and “the vision of my CEO”, he says.
Surely, there’s more to Creese’s success than a green building and the support of like-minded colleagues, though? The clues lie in his career history. He’s a statistician by training who worked for the Department of Health and realised early on that IT systems would let him do things. The realisation was very exciting and the austerity era has provided an unexpected opportunity to utilise IT to transform the way that local government delivers services.