matthew scott east sussex surreycc

Orbis CIO Matthew Scott has helped power a transformation in the IT and digital structure of the public sector shared service, driving best practice across the three local authorities the organisation covers and creating efficiencies as a result.

Orbis is a partnership of three local authorities: Surrey County Council, East Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council. Scott is responsible for the IT and digital work for each of the authorities.

The partnership was formed to combine various back office functions, strategic and transactional resources across the three organisations and bring them together to drive a transformation effort across all the local authorities.

"The idea was basically to drive out efficiencies and bring that change to stimulate innovation, look at the different ways of working and actually trying to look at adopting the best overall approach from the different organisations," he adds.

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As a result, in the last three years, each of the local authorities has undertaken a full IT transformation. Scott's remit has since expanded to fulfil the duties of Chief Digital Officer alongside his current role as CIO.

"I've been implementing a programme, which I've now completed, to merge the three previously separate IT departments and create a single IT department," Scott says. "So what I now do is I operate a single IT department, which then meets the needs of the three different organisations."

IT development

Innovation has become an increasingly important topic for Scott since the shift to a single IT department, starting with the use of AI and automation.

"We've introduced and set up a robotics lab, so we're about a year or so into the development of a robotics RPA capability," he adds. "To be honest we started off fairly experimental, and what we were looking at doing is applying the robotics to fairly low-level task automation and clear process backlogs."

"That was mainly within the back office, but we've actually just started scaling it corporately to support our wider transformation plan. So the use of RPA has been the priority in the last 12 months and alongside that, we plan to develop a server-based chatbot capability," Scott says.

Scott explains that the chatbots will be implemented to support HR processes and simple FAQs online.

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In light of these developments, it was clear that Orbis had to look into the core infrastructure which supports its customer-facing processes.

Scott's department currently operates multiple data centres, but is turning its attention to public cloud with Microsoft Azure. "I also recently gained agreement from the three councils to put in place a step change in the infrastructure capability, so we've started to invest in hyper-converged technology in the data centre," he added.

"So the intention is to step change it with an infrastructure capability that enables us to actually provide the resilience and high performance and security required to support the digital business."

Collaborative support

Scott often talks about the importance of collaboration during the transformation process, which isn't surprising when working across three different public sector bodies.

There is an appointed head of strategy and engagement for each authority who reports back to the CIO. Scott is then able to maintain regular insight into their priorities and meet the demands of stakeholders to drive an ongoing improvement of service.

"So what I do is make use of the insights gained from the day to day support of the three organisations, and bring those together so that we as a leadership team can have a regular stock take of changing pressures and priorities," he adds.

In order to develop consistent engagement across the leadership team, Scott reports to the chief operating officer at East Sussex and the equivalent at Surrey and Brighton & Hove councils, who each operate as a joint leadership board.

"I established governance boards within each of the three councils, which are typically chaired by chief executives or an executive director, and the proposals are actually put forward formally within that governance structure," Scott said. "This allows us to look at our support of resource to projects and programs, as well as input into the development of the corporate strategy and business critical initiatives."

The political format of Orbis means that discussion with elected members is also required, followed by approval from the counsellors.

Scott says he has learnt to master the act of convincing various people. "If I'm able to convince the elected members, that will help them to understand the value and benefits of the technologies and also respond because they're then becoming increasingly aware of development within a digital business."