David Wilde has led the move from an office-based culture to mobile, flexible working for a workforce of 10,000 people resulting in a better work/life balance, improved customer service and a more collaborative environment. His large-scale programmes have not only improved performance but also helped secure over £100m in cost savings.

Name and job title
David Wilde, executive director for place operations, and CIO, Essex County Council.

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
As one of the board members for the council I'm heavily involved in setting our strategic direction for meeting the needs of our residents and businesses across Essex, which includes our service offers, engagement, efficiency, investment and fitness for purpose.

How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
I have led the culture change across the organisation and with partners around how we collect, use, look after and share information assets to ensure we make the best-informed decisions whilst protecting the rights of our residents. We are now an exemplar in this field in the eyes of the ICO. I have also led the move from an office-based culture to mobile, flexible working for almost our entire workforce of 10,000 people resulting in a better work/life balance, improved customer service and a more collaborative environment, and all contributes to greater productivity alongside a nicer working environment.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
I have delivered a range of large-scale programmes which have:

  • reduced costs and improved performance
  • significantly improved our county's economic prospects through improved broadband infrastructure and workforce mobility
  • ensured the quality of our leisure environment is maintained as one of our selling points as a great place to live by ensuring our green assets are self-funded (now generating net revenues to the council)
  • securing high assurance from the ICO information audit
  • ensuring our technology base and information assets are well protected, which is endorsed by securing ISO27001 accreditation.

All these have helped the county deliver significant cost reductions in the last year (over £100m) yet sustain many of our services.

Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
Multiagency data from across public services is being used to identify public land that can be released for development to meet our housing demands in the most efficient way, including the provision of supported living for our most vulnerable residents. This significantly improves quality of life for many while also maximising value in our assets. We are also using shared information to target support for some our most troubled families, working with health, police, other local government agencies and charities. To counter benefits fraud, we are sharing information with multiple agencies to identify where it may be taking place, and acting on it.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
IT is centralised for delivery and strategy, but works into the business from the board to the frontline through integration rather than as standalone project delivery. Customer feedback on performance is collected continuously and used to inform changes in service delivery throughout the year on a continuous improvement basis, so it remains relevant to strategic and operational direction across the organisation.

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I am responsible for its definition and delivery as the CIO and a board member. It is also about our wider remit, and I am leading on the Smart Greater Essex work we are doing as part of devolution to ensure we make the most of digital and wider technological developments to grow the economy and improve people's quality of life.

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
Technology and information are core considerations in all our transformation intentions for improved and redesigned services. In our latest transformation programme it is being treated as a cross-organisation enabler, not an end in itself or an overhead to be reduced.

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 and ad hoc around a wide range of projects and programmes. The latest examples are around information sharing to improve health prevention, superfast broadband and its impact on economic growth, and the importance of good information governance for effective service delivery and maintaining public trust in us.

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
LinkedIn groups around specialist fields to develop and exchange ideas, a number of specialist research outfits through various closed and open groups to track tech developments, Facebook for some of our campaigns around what we're doing with tech and information, along with Twitter for real-time short exchanges and to seek feedback.

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?
On a number of fronts: a series of formal technology futures sessions delivered by a range of external experts; regular briefings and discussions on new projects and challenging issues with various leadership teams; drop-in sessions with staff to discuss technology; leading and taking part in formal multiagency boards (Essex CIO board, NHS board); participation in regular pan-organisation development events; Yammer.

Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
Through professional membership bodies (BCS, IoD, WICT) and research groups (IT Forum, TechTarget, etc), various groups in LinkedIn and others via email, tracking some major influencers through Twitter, speaking and engagement with several major events nationally and internationally.

However, to sift through all the noise, I take a step back, identify seven or eight major tech or information developments and track them across media to see how they evolve. The top ones right now for me are 3D printing, autonomous travel, energy efficiency, information legislation across the globe, prevention in health and smart housing.

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
Essex was a hierarchical and old-school leadership model five years ago, male dominated and built on instruction. Now it is collaborative, the gender balance has shifted greatly, and staff are confident in engaging at all levels, including in difficult debate. I led the engagement effort with staff through formal and informal engagement sessions, well supported by our HR colleagues, but most importantly customer was at the heart of how we needed to change.

In terms of recruitment I established an apprenticeship programme which drew in younger people with social and disability challenges who we have helped develop effective work skills and remain with us as employees or find employment elsewhere.

Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
As part of the board I am able to influence strategic direction and leadership through governance but more effective is personal effort to engage with colleagues informally and help to work through those really tough issues together rather than in silos.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
Through a combination of professional development (through the IoD chartered director programme), continuous professional development through my memberships with BCS, CIPD and WICT, mentoring with senior leaders from other organisations, and engagement with peers, observing and learning from how others have succeeded.

What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
I am tracking 3D printing and its impact on manufacturing, leading on information sharing and advanced analytics activities to improve decision making, and researching IoT and smart movement. I am also leading on the county's housing development strategy, which includes technology-enabled housing for people who need support and strategic spatial planning using technology to improve the built environment.

How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
Through an iterative process so we can maintain pace and close down when it isn't working. Key is partnership working, as we don't have al the answers and often need to pull together expertise from a range of sources.

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Yes, and the strategy arm of our IT function actively scans the landscape for opportunities to bring in new tech. Examples of developments include a multimodal travel app using real-time and social media data, technology-supported living units and the Target Tracker service for schools, which generates over £2m profit per annum for the council.

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
Multisourced strategy. Strategic suppliers are Capita, Dell, CoreLogic, Fujitsu and BT.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
Next-generation network contract with Updata, which has provisioned a converged voice, video and data wired and wireless network managed service across the county and beyond, used by all local authorities, the police, fire service and other counties. It has formed the sore of other successful services in Kent, Scotland and north Norfolk. We have also set up a deal with Visteo and the University of Essex to develop a mulitmodal travel app using multiple data sources to improve movement of people and goods. It is in test mode and has attracted international interest.

Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are

  • Often use: analyst houses, CIO peers, industry body, media.
  • Occasionally use: consultants.

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

How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
It is one of the core strategic drivers for ICT across the council, and we have invested in and secured ISO 27001. It is actively managed through corporate risk and reported on at the most senior level in the organisation. I am also SIRO for the council and cover this as part of the corporate management board.

When did you start your current role?
July 2011.

What is your reporting line?
CEO.

Are you a member of the board of directors?
Yes.

What is the annual IT budget?
£52m.

How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
£30m revenue, £22m capital.

What is your budget's operational/development split?
40/60.

How many users does your department supply services to?
9,600 corporate and 38,000 in schools.

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

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

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Yes.

How many employees are there in your IT team?
210.

Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
No.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
80/20.