Having successfully grafted together the legacy IT systems of the three predecessor organisations of Natural Resources Wales, Martin Britton then added to his great programme of rationalisation and replatforming of hundreds of applications by discarding mere physical infrastructure and delivering the lot via cloud services that tablet-equipped operational staff use to dispense with trips to the office and large-scale OS maps.

When did you start your current role?
December 2012.

What is your reporting line?
Chief executive.

Do you meet with and discuss business strategy with the CEO every week?
Yes, more than once.

Are you a member of the board of directors?

What other executive boards do you sit on?
Executive team, transition board, good organisation board, good enterprise board.

Does your organisation have a CDO?

What non-technology responsibilities do you have in the organisation?
LGBT champion, assisted user champion.

How many employees does your organisation have?

How many users does your department supply services to?
Directly, 1,900; indirectly, all of Wales.

How do you ensure that you have a good understanding of your business and how your customers use your business's products?
We ensure we have full business representation at both strategic and governance boards. Identification of key stakeholders across the business is fundamental to how we operate ICT and therefore we have user representatives present wherever possible in any meetings and decision-making forums. I firmly set out the strategy that ICT is there to meet the business's needs and make sure we can work effectively as an organisation. Working with the wider organisation is critical to ensure we can deliver this aim.

Natural Resources Wales technology strategy and agenda

Is your organisation being disrupted by the internet, mobility or technology-oriented start-ups?

Are you empowered by your organisation to disrupt from the inside?

Describe a disruptive measure you’ve led or played a major part in?
We have implemented the first cloud-based Esri GIS in the world, which has made a radical shift away from 'power at the desktop' and given tablet users GIS functionality for the first time. This has meant that operational staff in the field no longer need to make trips to and from the office or carry sets of maps; they are also able to upload their data in real time.

What major transformation project has been recently completed or is under way at your organisation?
Our transformation programme to merge the systems of three legacy bodies (the Environment Agency Wales, Countryside Council for Wales and Forestry Commission Wales) has just completed and now all 1,900 staff are on NRW equipment and systems. This was a very large-scale programme consisting of the rationalisation and replatforming of hundreds of applications and roll-out of desktops, laptops, tablets and mobiles to over 50 offices and depots across Wales. We have moved away from physical infrastructure and all our applications are now delivered via cloud services, either hosted in our own Azure farm or by SaaS vendors.

What impact will the above transformation have on your organisation?
NRW will now be able to operate effectively as a single organisation, and we are unique in that we are the only organisation in the world with this sort of environmental and economic remit. Having all our systems replatformed has enabled our information to be stored in a single location and allows our evidence base to be shared among colleagues of different disciplines and locations.

How has your leadership style contributed to the outcomes of the transformation project?
My style of engaging with the business and being very delivery-focused has allowed us to deliver huge swathes of change into the organisation while ensuring that we are bringing the staff along with us, by helping them understand the necessity for change and making sure they are part of the process.

What key technologies do you consider enable transformation?
Cloud and software as a service (SaaS) have played the largest role for us in enabling our transformation, along with big data.

Are you increasing the number of cloud applications or infrastructure in use at your organisation?

What is your information and data analytics vision for the organisation?
A multitiered big data reporting mechanism is currently being designed which will provide dashboard-style reports for executives, statutory reports to other bodies in the legally required format, analytical presentations of data for staff, and detailed reporting for our statistical experts within the business. The approach centres on having easily generated standard suites of reports accessing a virtual data warehouse, while also empowering staff to create reports themselves. The virtual data warehouse is underpinned by a canonical data model that describes all the information the organisation holds and is maintained by our data team, who ensure it is up to date and as accessible as possible.

How is mobile and social networking impacting operations and customer experience?
This financial year we have rolled out 600 tablets and 600 smartphones to operational users, many of whom had never had IT in the legacy organisations. This has revolutionised how staff are able to conduct their duties and respond to incidents such as flooding.

We have also rolled out Yammer and Lync. Yammer has proved massively successful in enabling the sharing of knowledge and ideas across the organisation, with many departments now collaborating using it as their primary tool. We also hold YamJams, where a senior executive, the CEO or a business expert hosts a session where any member of staff can ask any question they choose. We also do this before a major roll-out of a new system and it helps reduce staff anxieties considerably. Our use of Lync as a videoconferencing and IM tool has saved us £20,000 in the last four months of 2014 compared with traditional audioconferencing; it has also reduced travel substantially, further reducing costs and our environmental footprint. Our use of Twitter to engage with the public has been a key tool for interaction this year, and we run campaigns and provide flood warnings via this mechanism.

Describe your strategic vision towards shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives and employees around choice?
We do not operate a BYOD strategy. It is my belief that the business just wants the tools to do the job, and usually it is only a minority who wish to use their own device. Instead, we show flexibility on the type of devices we provide staff with, to make sure they have exactly what they need to be as efficient and flexible as possible. 

With shadow IT, again ICT tries to be an enabler of business activity. If we a standardised deployment that is not suitable for a bespoke function within a business area, then we will provide advice and guidance to ensure a suitable solution is found.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom?
Microsoft for Azure, Dynamic CRM and Office 365. Aggresso for HR and finance. Lenovo for tablets and desktops.

Who are your main suppliers?
Microsoft and Lenovo.

Natural Resources Wales IT security and budget

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?

Has cyber-security risen up your management agenda?

Does your organisation understand the potential cyber-security threats it faces?

Has this led to an increase in your security budget?

What is the IT budget?
£20m, including our transition budget.

How much is the IT operational spend compared to the revenue as a percentage?

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
We have a key drive on efficiencies this coming year, so we are about to start leveraging the benefits of the cloud-based platform and other new technology that we have delivered. We are also looking for opportunities to commercialise our IT capability, by providing services to other organisations.

Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?

Natural Resources Wales technology department

How would you describe your leadership style?
Dynamic, creative and delivery-focused.

Explain how you’ve supported and developed your senior leadership team to support your overall objectives and vision
I provide daily mentoring to my head of ICT and my head of operations. I provide continual feedback both formally and informally, and suggest areas of development. We also utilise Academy Wales, which holds summer schools to help develop management technique.

How many employees are in your IT team?
69 in BAU, 53 in transition.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
in BAU we have one contractor only, in transition it is a 50/50 split.