Carloyn Brown has been CIO of Durham University for a year and was Group CIO of building materials supplier Travis Perkins for two years before.

The University of Durham is a collegiate research university founded by an Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837. It was one of the first universities to open in England for more than 600 years and has a claim towards being the third oldest university in England.

Durham University has a unique estate, which includes 63 listed buildings, ranging from the 11th-century Castle to a 1930s Art Deco Chapel. The university also owns and manages the World Heritage Site in partnership with Durham Cathedral.

When did you start your current role?
November 26 2012

Have you completed an MBA?
No

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Technology strategy and spending

What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
In April 2013 we began the New World Programme, a multi-year, £40M programme to replace Durham University’s unreliable, outdated, inflexible infrastructure and re-energise its demotivated IT team. Both were putting at risk the University’s ability to deliver world-leading teaching and research and to provide the experience demanded by students who now pay £9,000 a year for their education. This £40M investment in both the team (training, new roles, new Service Catalogue and improved ITIL practices) and our infrastructure (resilient network, wifi, datacenter and High Performance Computing (HPC)) is turning the situation around. Strategic relevance and rapid return on investment are key success factors.

The infrastructure and datacentre renewal are essential to develop Durham’s position as a leading university and take us from weak to robust services, including leading-edge services in big data and HPC. Key deliverables are:
• network resilience and security (previously very poor);
• new datacentres for corporate systems and HPC;
• secure wifi in all student accommodation and communal areas by summer 2014;
• flexible storage and virtualised servers tailored to diverse needs;
• collaboration tools that support joint initiatives in research and education while minimising our carbon footprint;
• increased automation and standardisation – freeing time for creativity.

For our people the change is yet more fundamental, as we build:
• a skilled, enthusiastic and responsive IT team who make a difference;
• a culture of partnership and service with our customers;
• acknowledged transformational support for new research and funding
• services our world-leading courses and researchers can be proud of
• active career management, from our new modern apprentices through to senior ILM courses (36 attendees this year), extensive mentoring, recognition of technical breadth and leadership and new leadership roles.

What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
Our IT transformation and particularly our HPC datacentre will have a significant impact on jobs and infrastructure  in the North East. This was recognised when the business case for the New World Programme secured £10M funding from NELEP (the North East Local Enterprise Partnership) as the first stage in building a Centre for Innovation and Growth, “a global hotbed for industrial innovation”.

Within the University, our key goal is to reduce risk and improve service. We are also significantly improving student facililties by installing wifi in all college and communal areas (sometimes a challenge in a World Heritage Site).

The fast pace of change has inspired the whole University to change and as CIO I am actively engaged in advising and supporting that change. My action plan for the 40M investment was presented after 3 months. In 5 weeks, I restructured the senior team, creating roles for Business Partners in Education and Research, Architects and a Transformational Change Manager to ensure Durham University as a whole makes the most of technology-enabled change. These roles focus on solving the key challenges of the University through appropriate technologies. Our focus on robust, automated, efficient technologies frees people to provide creative, leading-edge solutions to the varied challenges presented by our demanding customers.

Last week an senior university leader wrote “18 months ago I could not have believed that we would be regarded as being at the forefront of Russell Group universities in our IT thinking. Still a lot to be delivered, of course, but what a transformation”. A more junior director has said “Carolyn speaking out in a programme board meeting was a game-changing moment in my 8 years at the University, it re-vitalised me”.  This is the sort of impact I am proud to have.    

What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
As a public sector organisation we buy off framework in general, as this is far quicker than procuring independently through EU tenders.  We are in the final stages of a new EU tender for 4 years'  provision of a framework of IT skills, at various levels of seniority, in areas such as Project management, Business Analysis, DBA, Service Management, Programming etc. Total spend is expected to be about 4M.
The University has a put in place a Memo of Understanding with IBM on research.
Significant deals have been done this year with Imerja for Juniper firewalls, with Pervasive for Aruba wireless (>1M) and with Bradford Campus Manager for student security.

Name your strategic technology suppliers?
IBM, HP, Microsoft, Blackbaud, Cisco, Oracle, Aruba, VMWare, Dell, NetApp, Core.

What is the IT budget?
£13M recurrent operational spend plus a further £16M on projects this financial year.

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
Significantly reduce all aspects of IT-related risk. Successfully deliver our top programmes Engage with customers and deliver better service. Enable Durham to change.

Transformation achievements

Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Yes

Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
The biggest change the CIO has brought Durham is a clearly articulated vision of where IT is going, an approved and funded action plan to get there, a steering group and other engagement mechanisms to work with our customers as we get there, and clear communications at all levels of the organisation.

There is significant impact beyond IT: by showing everyone that rapid, transformational change is possible, we are inspiring and supporting change elsewhere (e.g. HR, Commercial Directorate) and inspiring the IT team who now understand they are making a real difference.

A key aspect is pace. The fast pace of change has inspired the whole University to change and as CIO I am actively advising and supporting that change. My action plan for the 40M investment was presented after 3 months. In 5 weeks, I restructured the senior team. People now expect rapid change from IT.

I quickly appointed Business Partners in Education and Research, Architects and a Transformational Change Manager to ensure Durham University as a whole makes the most of technology-enabled change. These roles focus on solving the key challenges of the University through appropriate technologies. Our focus on robust, automated, efficient technologies frees people to provide creative, leading-edge solutions to the varied challenges presented by our demanding customers.

Last week an Exec member wrote “18 months ago I could not have believed that we would be regarded as being at the forefront of Russell Group universities in our IT thinking. Still a lot to be delivered, of course, but what a transformation”. A more junior director said “The CIO speaking out with common sense in a programme board meeting was a game-changing moment in my 8 years at the University, it re-vitalised me”.  That is the sort of transformation I am proud to lead.

As already described, I have shaped and am delivering the New World Programme, a £40M transformation of our IT infrastructure and the people who deliver IT services. As well as a significant reduction in corporate risk this changes the way IT works with the University and provides a completely new career structure for each person in IT.  

The transformation of operations depends on IT team changes include restructuring 165 roles, the largest team being 80 in second line support, the key day to day interaction with our customers in the University (academics, support services and students). We have hired 4 modern apprentices and focused on internal promotions wherever possible, with 24 people about to start level 4 training with the Institute for Leadership and Management (ILM) as they transition from technologists to managers and leaders. There is a focus throughout IT on personal development plans and training to support people in doing their jobs. We want to recognise what is good and not risk damaging morale by bringing in a large team of consultants.

IT Operations is becoming focused on measurable outcomes. The average age of incidents has gone from 86 days in March 2013 to under 30 days now. We have now centralised all IT procurement as part of a push for standardisation. We are upgrading our standard windows and linux desktops and adding support for Macs to our standard services.

The outcome for our customers has begun with better engagement at a strategic level in IT support for research, education and organisational transformation. It will continue with a clear Service Catalogue tailored for each department (to complete March 2014). The operations teams will be shaped to deliver this service catalogue.

IT is now seen as a leader, key in delivering the University's vision. The University Executive and Council are informed about what IT does (good and bad: we recently weathered a DDoS attack) and are confident in our direction and the journey to get there.  The level of trust and communication with senior leaders and academics is greatly improved, and there is a feeling of partnership (with some residual distrust). This has been achieved by persistence, communication, listening and demonstrating success.

As a strategic partner, IT has taken the lead in developing our cross-department HPC strategy and in supporting the IT aspects of research grant applications, doctoral training centres, online courses and collaboration across universities. Often it is IT who have the widest view of what is happening across the organisation and so can shape a shared vision and help create strategy. We have used workflow and scanning to remove tens of thousands of pieces of paper across the University this year alone. By migrating 600 people onto one email and calendaring platform we have streamlined administrative and communication processes. Collaboration tools such as Lync are set to transform how people work across sites and with other Universities.

The infrastructure transformation has already greatly increased the use of central, standard technologies, including provision of 80T of storage to academic departments since August 2013. The greater resilience, compression and cost-effectiveness of such provision are appreciated. For customers, it is now easier to forget about IT and assume it works: in the past we were not trusted and this led to diversification and localisation of IT services, which is risky and not cost-effective.

Previously I have led major change programmes in Vodafone, Telstra, and IKEA.
Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
Corporate Data Security (CDS) : this key programme to drive compliance with the data protection act  and reduce the risk of data breaches of all kinds was conceived in IT and is led by IT’s Transformational Change Manager who reports to the CIO. It will include training across the University, policies, removal of ‘satellite’ databases in departments, and secure remote access. The first area of focus, alumni data, will be completed by March, with better access to data for colleges and departments, more ability to manipulate and use the data, all using a central data store with secure reporting.

The CDS programme is far reaching: the University holds significant amounts of sensitive data: intellectual property, medical research data, alumni data, student data, staff data and financial data. This must all be appropriately protected within the context of an organisation that traditionally has had little interest in protecting data, where the culture is to share openly. In IT we can provide the tools and enable the education to protect what needs to be protected while as far as possible enabling the mission of research and public service to flourish.

What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
For Corporate Data Security: 2 factor authentication, VPN, encryption, business analysis.
For collaboration - multiple tools to enable people to work remotely with others round the world on different networks, with varying levels of security.
For our processes: workflow and document management.
For the new datacentre: management of power consumption through sophisticated cooling techniques For our operations: tools for monitoring and management.

What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
Relatively little other than student email (17,000 accounts on Office 365).
How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?

Like most universities, Durham has always supported BYOD (all manner of mobiles, Mac, Linux and windows). If anything, there is greater standardisation now than in the past, making support easier. Although IT use twitter to inform of system issues, we are reviewing our use of social media, which could be improved. We are promoting the use of LinkedIn and Facebook by the Development and Alumni Relations Office, with a view to reducing the demand for an untenable “email for life” service while providing the tools for alumni and the University to develop more personalised and deeper associations. Social media and cloud-based tools for sharing and collaboration are increasingly used in education and research: our goal is to allow this but to make sure our academics and students understand the associated risk and, where appropriate, use more secure services provided or recommended by the IT team. We are considering crowd sourcing (for example, for support).   

Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
Shadow IT is always with us, especially in an organisation where some academics are changing the way the world uses IT. Our goal in central IT services is to provide secure, resilient services where needed but to enable the use of free, cloud-based or BYOD solutions where that is appropriate. The main tool in this is education of the 20,000 people using our IT services, so that they make wise choices and understand that they have a choice. We have always supported BYOD and find that this is overall becoming simpler, as our customers mainly use a few standard technologies. We support Mac, Windows and Linux and various mobile phones as standard and are significantly increasing the adoption of standard desktop solutions: almost all student teaching is on standard, centrally-managed desktops (windows and Linux) and most departments now use a standard, centrally-managed windows build. More than 600 administrative users have been moved to standard desktops in the past year, a significant cultural change.

The Executive is fully bought into the benefits of security and cost-effective management through standardization. In IT our mission is to deliver that security, resilience and efficiency while allowing people as much as possible to use the tools they need.

Centralised IT procurement began in August 2013 and has been a major cause of friction, particularly with Scientists. We have adapted the rules and our processes as fast and flexibly as we can and the inevitable resentment is reducing: we are starting to see more cooperation as people realize the new ways of working are not going to go away.

Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
I am excited by people and the amazing, creative ways they use IT. As CIO, I am privileged to be able to put in place the people, processes and technology that enable the greatest change while maintaining security and cost-effectiveness as much as possible. My passion for customer service and the vision of my colleagues both in the University and in the IT department are constant drivers for me – the best ideas often come from grass roots, so I try to keep my ears and eyes open all the time. While I read business school and industry reports - and have been an author of several in my time-  it is more to validate an existing vision than to develop new ideas: I expect to be ahead of the curve, informed by the many enthusiastic innovators who work with me, whether in IT or academia.  

The CIO role in the business

Who do they report to?
COO

Does the CIO have a seat on the board?
No

How often do you meet with the CEO?
Weekly or so.Whenever either of us wants. We share an open plan office

Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
No

What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
100% is controlled by me

The IT department

How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
165 internal, none outsourced.

Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
- IT Business Partner for Research - responsible for relationships, strategy and delivery of all aspects of IT that support research, from HPC to grant applications to collaboration tools
- IT Business Partner for Research - responsible for relationships, strategy and delivery of all aspects of IT that support education, from lecture theatre equipment to virtual learning environment to progress tracking
- IT Operations Director - responsible for delivery of all day to day IT support
- Transformational Change Manager - leader of technology-enabled change, getting the most from IT systems, Business Analysis and Corporate Data Security.
- Head of Information Systems - responsible for delivery of all Information Systems, from the web to information management to student management systems to corporate business systems
- IT Finance Manager - responsible for Financial management and all IT ordering across the University
- Infrastructure Architect - owner of infrastructure roadmaps, standards and strategy
- Applications Architect - owner of application roadmaps, standards and strategy
- Planning and administration officer - Administrative support, committee management

How many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
36,000

What is the primary technology platform?
Diverse: key are virtual learning environment, the usual corporate ERP, and student admin systems