In the last year Bob Brown has taken ICT from a poor-performing function with limited leadership capability to one with clear goals and objectives. His strategy and vision is to have the most business-aligned ICT service in local government, leading the way in technical innovation, data analytics and intelligence.
Your name and job title
Bob Brown, Chief Information Officer, Manchester City Council.
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Having had to architect a complete organisational redesign of the service in 2015, we have now set out a two-year transformation journey. It encompasses a new technical and information strategy, legacy rebuild, investment strategy, recruitment, and embedding our ways of working to fully facilitate ICT empowering our business as the key enabler of what they must achieve, having put the customer at the heart of our strategy.
How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
Manchester is unique in the UK and its devolution, growth and public service reform agenda is huge. In the last year ICT has gone from a poor-performing function with limited leadership capability to one that has clear goals and objectives. Our strategy and vision is to be the most business-aligned ICT service in local government, leading the way in technical innovation, data analytics and intelligence to support the council in achieving its goals. As CIO I now report direct to the chief exec and have a seat at the top table of executive leadership ensuring that ICT is viable and connected to business strategy.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
In the past 12 months we have redesigned the service bottom-up. We have recruited talent and produced a strategy aligned to the objectives of the council and city. We have turned a poor-performing service and delivery function into one that bring delivery certainty to our customers. Service availability has much improved and with the clear service improvement plan in place will go from strength to strength. Our risks are clear and under management, and our costs are well under control for the first time in three years at a time of reducing budgets for local government.
Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
We have aligned our operating model to be the enabler function/IT engine room behind the business strategy. We have put ICT and information strategy at the heart of the council's future. We recognise the value of our third-party network and now hold quarterly strategy sharing sessions with our entire supplier base. We pose questions for them to solve, we ask them to bring through innovation and give them a voice. Our service reviews have been extended to include strategy conversations helping those parties understand how to invest in Manchester City Council. Finally we have sent out our draft multi-year strategy to all parties, asking for comment and feedback.
We do not dictate solutions, but create an atmosphere for investment, best practice and speed to implementation. My ICT strategic business partners now sit on the boards of our business units to help coordinate investment and ICT development.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
ICT is now a centralised function in Manchester City Council, with service and delivery provided in one place. We specifically built an ICT/business partner function in ICT, with business partners now sitting on the management boards of the businesses we support, thereby helping to influence strategy through technology and innovation. We have aligned enabling strategy to the business unit objectives in every way. By strengthening our service and delivery functions we are also building confidence in day-to-day delivery and service availability.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
In a sector where cost pressures are significant year on year we must embrace a digital agenda for our city as never before. Digital for me means more online services available 24x7, more automation and speed through the system, ease of interaction, and technology being proactive in helping decisions especially in the health and social care space – eg telemedicine. My role in this is central and critical.
Describe how you use and promote technology to redesign the processes, services and structures of your organisation to enable it to become more efficient and customer-focused
It's important to recognise the significant changes we have made in the past year. We have adopted an ITIL operating model, we have recruited for success, and we recognise our leadership role across the city and the UK. For Manchester to truly benefit from the devolution, growth and reform agenda we must come together more and align our technologies and operating structure, unlocking the power of centres of excellence that already exist across the council if we are truly to gain customer focus. We do not underestimate how hard this will be: trust is earned over time, but the agenda is clear. It's a city agenda to benefit all our residents – that is the most important thing to achieve.
How do you engage regularly with your organisation about your team and the role of technology in the organisation, and what impact is this having?
Weekly team stand-ups, monthly Sharepoint updates, brown-bag lunchtime conversations, one-to-ones, staff shadow opportunities, seminars, quarterly strategy sharing session with all our suppliers in one location, closing speech at ITSMF annual conference, interviews, etc. This has helped to fundamentally change the way we are perceived by others. We are also about to launch a colleague feedback survey to help see how the changes we have made are impacting frontline staff.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
We underutilise this media at the moment, but recognise the power it could have for us. We have restrictions on social media across our network, but we are members of ITSMF and this allows all my staff to converse about technology with other members. We are also listed on other forums, TOGAF, etc, for my architects, and use our supplier network extensively to help solve problems.
How do you bring the organisation together to explore and discuss technology and its challenges and to develop stronger alignment of the technology function with the full business?
During the design of the new operating model we consulted many leaders across the council. All of them said that ICT was too remote from the business and not engaged at the right strategic level. We put forward recommendations and once they had been agreed started our recruitment for the ICT strategic business partner role. By securing the right skills and capability we have been able to embed these colleagues with the senior leadership teams of the business. They don't just sit on their boards and help drive technology solutions, but also drive technology solutions for business problems – eg data sharing across health authorities. ICT is there to enable our business, not hinder its development.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
We have developed an enterprise architecture function whose role it is to set technology direction for the council over the next five years. This function has become the design authority for technology solutions and is currently mapping the as-is structure of our estate.
We also drive technology strategy workshops using the team's skills and facilitated by the ICT strategic business partner. All of my leadership team are involved with external industry bodies and are expanding their external network all the time. We also allow our partner/supplier network to bring innovation to us and facilitate that through our regular service reviews and account planning sessions. If we have a particular challenge, we are not afraid to put the concept out to this group to see if they have anything off the shelf that could help or are prepared to invest with us to build.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
Being an entire new leadership team we have been able to recruit from scratch. We have looked to secure the best people we can attract and been clear about the journey we are on. This has resulted in a very focused and close leadership team who are all working to a common goal. This is shared with our teams and we are working hard to ensure that our colleagues understand their role in the development of ICT at MCC and beyond. We focus on the basics and doing those things well, one-to-ones, team meetings, objective setting, vision, strategy, etc.
Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
MCC recognises the value of ICT and how this will help transform the organisation. The CIO incumbent now sits on the senior exec team at the council, and I report direct to the chief executive. This ensures that the right debates can happen at the right levels with other leadership, that we support each other and that we work together for a common purpose.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
Personally, I have moved my team to one location; my office is in a fish bowl in the middle of my team, and I have an open door policy, I am visible every day with my people. I block time out to talk to my team, and spend time every month taking service desk calls, and attending CAB and project meetings. I mentor a number of colleagues and attend and present at multiple events.
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
IoT, wearable tech, enterprise apps. Our efforts are currently focusing on the health and social care solutions across Greater Manchester.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
We are developing our cloud service offering right now, but it's early days. We have tactically selected Microsoft Azure to provide some services.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
We have a very clear procurement and sourcing strategy at MCC. We will use frameworks to help us get speed to market, but we have also introduced social value into our scoring matrix. It's critical for Manchester that we invest in organisations that support our local economy, driving up the amount of local people they employ, etc. We actively measure every £1 we spend on contracts and how much of that is reinvested into our local market. No data will leave our shores and we will not look to push roles to India, etc.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
We have delivered a new HR self-service solution for colleagues and managers using SAP, allowing staff to streamline the way that many HR services are delivered. A real-time and proactive diary management solution enables frontline staff to keep and track health and social care appointments. We have also delivered new email and calendar functionality to elected members, allowing them to stay in touch more easily with residents.
Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are
- Often use: analyst houses, industry body, media.
- Occasionally use: consultants, CIO peers.
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
Cyber security is recognised as a critical issue for us. We have invested significantly recently in anti-virus and are working toward new PSN accreditation. We recognise the skills of the industry in helping us to protect the information we hold and will be further strengthening our security over the next few months. Every cyber crime is reported and addressed.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Chief executive of Manchester City Council and the leader of Manchester City Council.
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What is the annual IT budget?
How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
Capital around £15m-£20m, rev around £15m.
What is your budget's operational/development split?
How many users does your department supply services to?
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?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Being developed for 2016/17.
How many employees are there in your IT team?
Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
80% perm, 20% flex (contract staff). We have managed services also but no outsourced staff.