James Findlay has been CIO for the HS2 proposed high speed rail service since October 2012 as part of the Department for Transport. Prior to this position he was CTO of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency

When did you start your current role?
October 2012

Have you completed an MBA?
MSc

Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:

  1. Peer Group
  2. In-house
  3. Analyst
  4. Vendors
  5. Consultant

Technology strategy and spending

What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
The first digital deposit of legislation to Parliament in British history, namely the ‘High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill’.  The IT project to deliver this included the production of over 3000 devices and the on-line publication of which could only be loaded with the data 72 hours before the 1st reading and had to then be distrubuted to Parliament, bodies required under the Standing Order such as Parish Councils and public libraries, as well as being published on-line through Gov.uk and the Parliamentary websites. This included the Bill, the formal Environmental Statement and supporting documentation.

What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
The digital deposit allows for on-line and off-line accessibility of all the documents to all interested parties, with full text retrieval without the use of a database or specialist IT equipment. This will allow greater transparency and access to information related to HS2 Phase 1 to inform and support the debate in Parliament and the petition process to the Select Committtee. There is no precident for this so it remains to be seen what the impact of this digital approach will be, both on Parliament, the general public, businesses and private citizens affected by the line of route and future legislation submitted digitally.

What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
VMWare will be a key strategic partner as we look to move towards hybrid cloud solutions. With over 90% of our business systems virtualised now, we will be looking at how we can fully leverage commodity computing services.

Name your strategic technology suppliers?
Fujitsu, Critigen, Bentley, VMWare, Virgin Media, Microsoft, Vodafone, Optavia, Systems Up, Imprima, F5. Emergn

IT operational spend compared to the revenue or company turnover as a percentage?
Less than 1/4 of 1%.

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
The delivery of the BIM strategy (Building Information Modelling) including 3D visualisation and to continue to expand the number of SME technology suppliers to HS2 as part of our corporate strategy to be an engine for growth within the UK.

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?
As described earlier I have led the IT team that delivered the first digital submission of legislation in British history. I have also led the implementation of an agile approach to the delivery of technology based projects and services, which has now been adopted more widely across the organisation. This has seen faster delivery of projects, better quality designed around the user need and it has brought teams together improving collaboration across all areas of the organisation.

Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
The purpose of HS2 is to build railway infrastructure on a scale which has not been seen for over 100 years in this country. Technology underpins this as the railway is being designed, built and operated in a virtual environment as part of the BIM strategy which will realise massive efficiencies which could transform the way mega-infrstructure projects are delivered not just in the UK, but globally.

What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
Real time collaboration tools and the 3D visualisation of data. But open technology standards and open API's are the key to success.

What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
Private Cloud 90%.

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?
At the moment we are moving towards public cloud commodity services to allow employees and business partners to use the technology of their choice with a heavy emphasis on mobility and the use of social networking tools to improve collaboration and accessibility of business systems.

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?
As mentioned above we are ensuring that this is a non-issue. The importance is meeting the user need, whilst maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of the data, both at rest and on-line.

Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
There are some real visionaries who are leading the way in the digital world namely Mike Bracken and Liam Maxwell who are transforming UK government digital delivery, Simon Wardley at the Leading Edge Forum whose mapping technique allows me to view technology in 5 dimensions, Joe Baguely at VMWare who is able to describe a compelling future vision of computing which allows me to pick my way through the technology marketing minefield. But the real transformational inspiration comes from the engineers and staff working on the HS2 project who are looking to successfully design and construct a new high speed rail network for the UK and challenge the existing thinking about how railways are built.

The CIO role in the business

Who do they report to?
FD

Does the CIO have a seat on the board?
No

How often do you meet with the CEO?
Monthly

Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
I am the digital and technology leader within HS2 and I am the technology leader for the Department for Transport as well as my role a CIO at HS2.

The IT department

How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
18 in house and 5 outsourced staff

Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
I have two direct reports. A Deputy CIO who develops the relationship and services with the organisation and our delivery partners and a CTO who focuses on current and future technologies.

How many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
3000-5000 as it includes our engineering delivery partners which varies depending on the project milestones.

What is the primary technology platform?
HS2 is building a BIM technology platform, which essentially is an eco-system of technologies.