A large focus of Mark Bramwell's IT strategy for Said Business School has been to position technology as an enabler rather than a blocker. In nine months he has effected a transformational change in IT service, technology and capability. He has restructured the team, moved from an office-hours-only service to 365x24x7, and secured the budget to deliver this change. The performance, results delivery and credibility of the team have all improved, with regular unprompted positive customer feedback.
Name and job title
Mark Bramwell, CIO, Said Business School at Oxford University; also chairman of the Corporate IT Forum and non-executive board member of Circle Care and Support (both voluntary and non-remunerated positions).
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
At Said Business School IT is leading from the front in influencing the products, experiences and services our students, staff and faculty (our customers) receive. As £44k and £77k per annum guests, our students are just that – VIP customers. Whether it be launching the brand-new open, visible and accessible IT Tech Bar, providing new digital signage, launching a mobile student app or providing new student charging stations (to enable them to charge their mobile devices free of charge), everything is focused on enhancing the experience, with the needs of the student, staff and faculty in mind.
How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
I joined Said Business School from the Wellcome Trust in March 2015. My remit was 'simple' – to effect a transformational change of the school's IT service, technology and capability. Nine months in I have produced the school's first overarching three-year IT strategy, restructured the team creating new job roles, remuneration and structure, moved from a Monday-Friday 08:00-18:00 service to 365x24x7 (an externally hosted solution and external service partner first for the university), and secured the required budget (against limited university funds and other cross-university priorities) to deliver this change. In nine months the performance, results delivery and credibility of the team have changed significantly, with regular unprompted positive customer feedback, right-first-time project delivery already up year on year, enhanced customer service with the support and delivery of over 8,000 IT service requests per annum and 13,000+ AV events, seminars and conferences per annum.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
In my first nine months at Said, we have undertaken (and delivered) an ambitious programme to transform its IT and how it is seen. This has included the successful and tangible delivery of the following activities:
- Governance: Created AV/IT strategy (currently six months into delivery); created and implemented monthly IT performance dashboard; created and published IT monthly incident report; created, prioritised and published annual IT development agenda; created quarterly cross-school IT governance board; and established executive business ownership and steering groups for all major projects.
- Projects: Delivered 25 projects (two a month), including 365x24x7 web hosting, infrastructure hosting, network upgrade, new mobile student app and IT Tech Bar (compared with five projects in financial year 14/15), closed 12 contracts (one a month), completed four major tenders, supported 13,000+ AV events (1,100 per month), fulfilled 8,000 IT service desk requests (666 per month), and supported around 2 million website page views.
During this time Said has been recognised as a global top 10 business school in the FT rankings for its open, EMBA and entrepreneurship programmes.
Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
No person is an island, and external networks, information and support have been vital in informing, supporting, underpinning and influencing the direction of Said's IT strategy and transformational programme. Whether it be CIO Connect (and the achievements of the UK's best CIOs and how they have effected organisational change), Gartner (the magic quadrant of leading solutions), Deloitte (the annual technology trends report) or the Corporate IT Forum (networking with vendor-agnostic technology peers), what other technology challenges CIOs have been facing (and more importability what and how they have tackled them) have all been vital in keeping abreast of new technology, organisational change and industry trends. This does take an investment of time and openness to collaboration, but it has been essential in building internal credibility and influence in being able to back up recommendations with tangible evidence of benchmarking and what others are doing.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
The whole focus of the new IT strategy of Said has been to create a business-aligned, service-orientated and results-focused IT organisation. This has been underpinned by having a clear top-down focus and direction that starts with having an IT strategy that supports Said's strategy and operating plan, and all activities are assessed, reviewed and prioritised in support of this. Quite simply if it doesn't support Said's strategy, it doesn't get done! Obviously there are exceptions (as there are in any organisation and it is important to have flexibility and agility to change). For example, where technology refreshes, upgrades or replacements are required, these are openly and transparently included in the annual planning processes to ensure they prioritised, budgeted and approved equally against other initiatives.
To support this IT has been re-organised to create service and support, development and business relationship teams, each of which is aligned to the business and focused on service and results. As constructive and collaborative two-way relationships are critical, new cross-school governance has been introduced to make IT more open, visible and open for business. This has included the creation of IT governance boards, monthly IT performance dashboards and incident reports, business-owned and sponsored steering groups and formal quarterly updates on IT strategy to the main Said board.
Operationally this has also required a significant and fundamental shift in moving the school's IT service from the previous Monday–Friday 08:00-18:00 service to a new 365x24x7 operation befitting a top 10 world-class business school. This precedent has set cultural change for the school and the wider Oxford University.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
As an embedded member of the school's senior management/executive team, in partnership with the dean, director of executive education and director of degree programmes, I am co-leading (a true business partnering programme) in the development and delivery of the school's digital strategy in relation to its 21 websites and delivery of education in relation to online programmes, MOOCs, blended learning, e-text books, electronic assessment and student/delegate engagement, participation and collaboration.
In relation to this we have already (as part of the new IT strategy) migrated all of the school's websites to the Acquia cloud platform, trialled digital initiatives for open programmes using the TibCo–TIBBR platform, launched a student mobile app (provided by Guidebook) and are currently exploring additional options with Deloitte, FutureLearn and Coursera to further extend our online learning offer. All of this has involved playing a leading part in developing the school's digital strategy and influencing its direction to ensure an agile (pilot fast, fail quickly) business strategy and benefits-led approach (while ensuring supportability and sustainability).
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
A large focus of the IT strategy for Said Business School has been to position technology as an enabler (and not IT as a blocker). Whether that be better exploiting existing technology (such as websites), the introduction of new technologies (such as TIBBR and a mobile student app), or changing/enhancing processes (such as the IT Tech Bar), the major focus has been on championing, enabling and delivering change (anything is possible given time, money and resource!).
The IT strategy highlighted that the school currently has six disparate CRM solutions, and the revenue, cost, functionality and business development opportunities of moving to a single solution. As a result of this (and after a competitive ITT process), the school is currently embarking on a Salesforce CRM programme to have a single CRM solution. Similarly, by highlighting the cost, functionality, collaboration and service benefits of Office365 (such as student/alumni email accounts for life), the school has agreed and supported a move to Office365 by September 2016.
This has all been part of creating a business-aligned, structured and focused IT team that works in close partnership, collaboration and harmony with the business. Everything is done with the customer (student, staff or faculty) in mind, with business benefit and world-class service at the fore. It is some of these changes that have helped the school to realise its current FT global top 10 business school ranking.
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?
I currently issue a monthly progress report (development, service, achievements), a monthly IT performance dashboard, a monthly IT incident report, internal monthly blog and daily tweets. This has been fundamental in raising the profile and role of IT in the school. In addition I chair a quarterly IT governance board, monthly project steering groups and sit on the school board and committees. All of these have been instrumental in positively changing the previous perceptions and understanding of IT. IT is now very much seen as an equal value-adding business partner as opposed to a blocker or afterthought.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I actively tweet (daily) on technology and technology matters, as well as actively supporting the Corporate IT Forum online Q&A in answering technology questions from members to share technology learning and best practice. I am an active and passionate supporter of the BCS, Stem and industry IT awards in supporting, recognising and championing the best of IT. All of this is essential in promoting IT and developing the next generation of IT professionals.
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?
Monthly one-to-ones with all directors and heads of department. Participation in monthly school board and executive education committee meetings. Quarterly cross-school IT governance board meetings. The creation and introduction of a new business relationship director post to enhance and bridge the relationship between IT and other departments/stakeholders across the business. All of these ensure a regular, open, visible and partnering technology dialogue (opportunities, challenges, risks) and as a result a closer alignment and understanding of IT (and vice versa). It is these conversations and dialogues that have been fundamental in creating, approving and delivering the school's new IT strategy and the back-to-basics new capability and IT organisation changes it set out.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
By using a number of external networks and resources such as CIO events, seminars and networking, by using personal CIO relationships/friendships, utilising third-party supplier relationships (eg Dell, HP, Deloitte, Acquia, Microsoft, Phoenix, Cisco) by building into new contracts the annual technology roadmap and strategy sessions and by being actively involved in the Corporate IT Forum as chairman.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
In working with the HR team of Said Business School, the IT organisation changes set out in the new IT strategy were designed with improvement, cultural change (service, ownership, empowerment and accountability) and diversity in mind. As a result of these changes the new IT organisation has seen the following improvements in the diversity and culture of the team: permanent/contractor has gone from 60/40 to 90/10, female/male from 10/90 to 25/75, and apprentices from zero to one. This has been backed up by cultural change, which has embedded a service focus, delivery vs promises, with job descriptions changed and updated to reflect individuals' roles and provide clear accountability. This has been backed up by open, visible and transparent monthly performance reporting.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
Through regularly making and investing time to support external events (CIO, BETT, RealIT, etc), seminars (VMWorld, HP Discover, etc), CIO network events (CIO Connect, CITF, etc). By taking up external volunteer posts (chairman of the Corporate IT Forum, non-exec board member of Circle Care and Support), by attending the Deloitte CIO Academy and Gartner CIO Academy, and by regularly seeking and obtaining 360-degree feedback, by supporting volunteer events (Stem, TeenTech, etc). By encouraging and creating a team culture of openness, honesty and feedback, by ensuring that I have SMART, clear and openly shared objectives, by having a small number of more senior and trusted external mentors (eg Warwick Goodhall of Deloitte, Tim Griffin of Dell, Tim Livett of Wellcome Trust).
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
Investigating/experimenting with wearable technology (student apps and collaboration), geo-location messaging, data analytics and research, and digital learning. Tracking the internet of things.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
For me/Said it is very simple. It is not a one-size-fits-all model, and is based on the cost, TCO, risk, service, support and sustainability of each service/solution. This is underpinned by a strong understanding and recognition of what the skills and capability of the team/organisation are vs where others may do it better!
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
Not explicitly, although each member of the team is resourced to 90% to provide headroom and capacity to personal development, external networking and horizon scanning. This is more formally backed up by annual technology roadmap and strategy sessions with each of our key strategic partners (currently Microsoft, Apple, Dell, HP, Cisco and Deloitte).
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
As part of the new IT strategy, sourcing has fundamentally changed to reduce the current number of existing 'partners' and rationalise these to identify, appoint and build partnerships with fewer truly strategic partners (based on service and value, not cost) to aid economies of scale, support, service, resource and futures. In relation to this, the school currently has six strategic partners: Dell, CAE, Centrality, Acquia, Phoenix, O2.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
- IT Tech Bar – visible, open, accessible IT service desk.
- Chargebox – free student device charging kiosks.
- Mobile student app – for all degree students to provide student/lecturer collaboration and messaging, reading lists, access to timetables, calendars and campus maps, etc.
- TIBBR – online solution for open programmes to support course delegates pre, during and post-course – for example, registration, pre-reading materials, maps, lecturer profiles, in-course collaboration, etc.
- Migration of all school Drupal websites to the Acquia cloud.
- Migration of all the school infrastructure to the Centrality Exponential-e datacentre.
- Windows10/Surface Pro tablets (trial).
- Business relationship director post.
- IP-networked digital signage – for instant student and event messaging.
- Panopto – for video lecture capture and publishing.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
Acquia Cloud provides a 365x24x7 managed service, DR and first-line application support for the our Drupal websites. Centrality provides a 365x24x7 managed hosting service, support, maintenance and DR for all the school's core infrastructure. CAE provides a 365x24x7 managed service for the school's Cisco network. Phoenix Software provides a 365x24x7 software asset management and hardware asset management managed service. Guidebook provides an embedded mobile student app to support the delivery of the degree programmes for the School and all of its students. O2 is to introduce MDM and provide more favourable international roaming tariffs (saving the school £5,000 per month).
Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are
- Always referred to: CIO peers.
- Often use: consultants, industry body, media.
- Occasionally use: analyst houses.
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
As part of the new IT strategy a monthly cross-school information security group (COO and directors of IT, HR, estates student services, marketing and finance) has been established to formally and regularly review, discuss and agree IT security risk, action and best practice. This is underpinned by an independent external third-party annual security audit and penetration test.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
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?
All revenue (no concept of capital budget at Said Business School).
What is your budget's operational/development split?
How many users does your department supply services to?
600 staff and faculty, 2,000 students per annum, 6,000 alumni, 20,000 external guests/partners and 2,000,000 web users.
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?
How many employees are there in your IT team?
40 (now more dependent on strategic external third-party managed services (eg infrastructure, hosting, development, etc).
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?
40% insourced, 60% outsourced.