Despite 30% of NMC's membership using its online services, digital was pretty much a foreign country at the organisation. Rachel Murphy has changed all that, implementing agile and co-locating business and IT teams to build momentum around delivering digital services. She rapidly built a tactical data warehouse to get data flowing from the key systems to support operational decision-making. While her restructuring of the IT function has resulted in financial savings of nearly 30% simply by elminiating the use of interims to run business-as-usual functions. All in all, that's some start.

Name and job title
Rachel Murphy, Chief Technology Officer, Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
Initially by insisting that when I came on board I joined at board level to ensure I had a voice at the top table and gained a better understanding of the business. The IT team needed to become a trusted partner from a delivery standpoint, which we achieved rapidly. This allowed us to be taken seriously around discussions for digitising services.

Back in April 2015, the term customer journey was unknown for NMC, and use of online services with about 30%. We now have 80% of our registrants using NMC online and have clarity on the segmentation of our customers – eg 200,000 millennials are keen to adopt our digital services.

Having recently undertaken cohort one of the Advanced Digital Business Leaders diploma, I have been able to drip-feed learning into colleague directors around the opportunities digital can bring to the organisation; a three-minute video I put together around my personal digital diary was an early stepping stone for this.

We had to implement agile (effectively) and co-locate business and IT teams to really get some momentum around delivering for our customers our digital services. The heavily publicised go-live of our revalidation service post-Christmas has been testament to the success of these digital services.

How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
As an interim you are expected to pitch up and hit the ground running – never an issue for me. It has never been about putting in a new datacentre or a new application; it absolutely has to be about recognising the talent you have within your team, getting rid of the people who are not looking to move with the times (for varying reasons), and then building confidence in the team, focusing on their strengths rather than weaknesses.

In a way NMC was easier as we were heavily reliant on interims within IT. 70% of the team were interims, so the priority had to be hiring talent to drive consistency and stability, and, of course, cutting costs. Nine months on, the team bears no resemblance to the team I picked up in April. The senior leadership team and delivery management group (newly established) have all been through some basic management and leadership development to understand better their strengths and weaknesses and how to work better together, which has included development around Six Thinking Hats and other de bono principles.

Over this period the data function has been moved into IT, another previously underperforming function; the entirety of business change and records management will come over during 2016. These are functions that have been languishing for some time and are being improved using a tried, tested and proven process.

In being asked to apply for the director of business transformation role for NMC, I guess the turnaround from a cultural piece has been recognised. We now have a team who want to deliver, who know how to engage with our customers and actively want to.

Finally, I think in being who I am, what you see is what you get. There are few airs and graces, but I think people respond in the main to the authenticity: they can believe what they see and they like being part of a delivering function.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
In reviewing the corporate strategy when I came onboard in April 2015 it became apparent a lot of the portfolio of change activities had strayed away from priority items. IT ended up taking the lead in the prioritisation discussion with directors and agreeing the portfolio for delivery. This prioritisation and resource management was a new concept for NMC.

Over the last nine months we have helped the business in achieving outcomes as a direct result of the following programmes

  • Enabling our registrants to phase their payments and therefore split the registration fee on a monthly or quarterly basis rather than everything having to be paid in one hit.
  • Mutual recognition of qualifications has enabled registrants to use qualifications from other countries to be accepted and approved by the NMC register.
  • Revalidation is a fundamental change in how registrants operate and how they ensure they comply with the code and have their ongoing training confirmed.

The implementation of the above meant from an IT perspective we had to implement agile across both the business and IT teams. We had to co-locate teams, we had to ensure our third parties were developing to an agile framework, and we needed to train staff, drive the cultural change and ensure reporting went in place to quantify progress. We have successfully delivered all elements of the above programmes from an MVP 1 perspective, and 2016 will see us refining the product owner roles and moving into MVP 2.

Another key business outcome was around providing a consistent and stable IT service, both from an infra and app perspective but most importantly around engagement. Our restructure of the IT function has resulted in financial savings of nearly 30% against previously using interim resources to run business-as-usual functions.

Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
When I joined we had four or five key line-of-business systems. At that time to undertake any review of datasets across systems, we had to manually export to Excel and manipulate.

We rapidly built a tactical data warehouse and ensured data flows from the key systems to start to improve our understanding of trends and support operational decision-making. At this time this data warehouse is still being managed within IT, and we are looking at both governance and training approaches to open it up for wider use. We now run all of our reporting to the PSA using this data warehouse rather than manual feeds.

From a customer segmentation perspective we have started to look at our existing registrant data to assess which sorts of customers would respond better to digital services – eg our 200,000 millennials. Other basic information we have reviewed relates to the devices our customers use to engage with our digital services – browsers, operating systems, etc. The bulk of our users are now coming in via mobile devices and tablets, which is a huge shift from last year and is starting to have us think about developing mobile applications.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
When I came on board I stipulated a need to report into the CEO and sit on the executive board. This has resulted in IT being able to have conversations at the right level and to better understand the business strategy and how we can support the implementation. I needed to create a senior leadership team and delivery management group across IT and ensure these people were clear on their roles and accountability, and that they were aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses. Additionally business partners were invited from finance, procurement and HR to start building up their knowledge base on how IT was operating and to understand our priorities better.

All-IT townhall meetings were introduced; these run every six weeks. They have landed really well. We also get out as a team a fair bit, paddleboarding, go-karting and off to do a Moriarty treasure hunt next week. The new IT structure is a run and change model with a heavy emphasis on business engagement roles – in particular, business relationship managers, business architecture, service management, etc, and commercial management of our third parties (IAAS and development). The days of IT teams being back-office are long gone!

Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
Digital is an incredibly new concept at NMC and I guess my role has been twofold. The first is in openly sharing my view that digital is business transformation and as such we shouldn't be creating a new strategy rather ensuring we implement our business strategy. The second is in making that real and adopting pieces of digital where appropriate as quickly as possible. Implementing agile over the last year and co-locating teams has enabled me to show the benefits of agile (digital approaches) to the executive team. The proof here is in the pudding, with our ability to deliver.

I have successfully managed to get digital on the agenda for discussion, workshops, agile training of the exec team and embedded into the 2016 business plans across the piece, closing last year out with a workshop with council members wanting to pretty much digitise everything – you can have too much interest! I facilitated a session last week with colleagues directors to explore what transformation meant for them and we discussed a number of digital transformations within organisations – Burberry, Nike, etc – and some disruptors to the market such as Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, etc.

Having spent the last six months undertaking the ADBL I'm as fluent as one can be in the opportunities around digital. For me it's about adopting what is appropriate rapidly and not spending aeons writing strategies when we should just crack on!

One huge success in the digital space has been the uptake around social media within NMC. Our CEO is an avid Twitter user, and we now run Twitter sessions with our registrants both from an engagement and feedback standpoint. #Revalidation has gained huge momentum in supporting the implementation of our new digital service in this space. We have many opportunities to explore this further in 2016 but interestingly we now have an executive team and council members who are very keen to do so, and in a conservative organisation like NMC that is no mean feat!

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
First and foremost we try to understand the business problem fully before trying to solutionise too early. A lot of the time we have something that would fit the 80/20 rule, but our business may well not be aware of it. As with many businesses, our legacy application environment has been built up on point solutions rather than architectural best practice.

Mapping our customer Journey has enabled us to better understand the physical and digital touchpoints of our customers with the NMC. This was absolutely an unknown piece for IT previously and, although known in individual silos, the business was not 'fluent' from a holistic perspective. Agile and the adoption of business architecture at NMC has started to identify huge opportunities for improvement across the organisation.

In mapping our customer journey and as-is environment, we identified 70% of our total business spend is in one area – our fitness to practise operation. If we can use technology to step into that process earlier and avoid cases progressing in the way that they do through education and training, we can reduce our operating costs. This will be one of our key drivers for transformation during 2016-17 and after formulating our target operating model for the future we will be looking at our customer journey, our data sets and legacy applications to map out how we can swing from our legacy tech stack into a brave new world.

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?
This is an essential part of the CTO role. The days of being back-office are long gone. Thankfully I quite like an audience, so I'm happy to share where we are and take feedback from our customers. I use lots of different ways (blogs, both internal and external, an end-of-the-month roundup email, our internal 'insider weekly' magazine, posters, all-staff briefings, focus groups) and try hard to use different mediums to ensure they are engaging – animations, videos, etc.

From an impact perspective I always run a survey when I join to take the temperature and then carry out on a rolling six months thereafter. The results speak for themselves, but I think it is good to temper any CMMI assessments about process changes within your department with a perspective check too. We absolutely have areas where we still need to improve and these are rolled up into continual service improvement plans.

How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
As an avid user of Twitter, Linked In and Medium (blogger) I am keen to use social media to its maximum potential. For me it's another way to engage and reach out, whether that be writing and sharing blogs and ideas, recommending people for work, keeping an eye on the latest trends, engaging with startups using things like www.peopleperhour.com etc.

I think the ADBL qualification opened my eyes to a much larger world around social media and collaboration. I also learned how to use tools to maximum advantage – eg Powtoon for bringing presentations to life, We Video, creation of memes, etc.

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?
The introduction of BRMs into the business from IT has helped with this, as has having our business partners from other functions join our weekly SLT meets, and IT people sitting in on operational meetings across the organisation in a listening capacity. In a broader sense we have opened up focus groups for the business where we have groups of up to 40 people attend from different areas of the business. We listen first-hand to challenges and issues, and share updates on progress, but also make it real by bringing new devices in for people to look at, get familiar with, and start to introduce new technologies, lunch-and-learn sessions around social media, etc.

Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
My involvement with a number of startup businesses in the technology and digital space means I tend to have my ear to the ground with new developments in the technology space. A recent example of this would be in visiting a development centre while on holiday in India to have a look at cutting-edge innovations for organisations such as challenger bank Atom.

I am heavily plugged into the CIO community through CIO.uk, but also through my previously involvement with Technology Leaders Network and the Government Digital Service. Events such as Ignite, Chemistry Club and my six-month qualification through ADBL during the second half of 2015 have meant I am probably as fluent in digital as anybody could be.

Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
In ways of developing diversity this has been achieved in two different ways. One is by hiring permanent staff rather than the previous reliance on interim resources; the second is by hiring for skills rather than the previous approach of a heavily male-dominated organisation. We now have the following split across IT: male 60% female 40%.

From a cultural standpoint, we have transformed the feel of the IT department to a committed service delivery-focused team engaged with the business and starting to talk its language. The team is upbeat and energised and regularly celebrates success, whether this be for team or personal achievements. Events such as paddle-boarding, crazy golf and treasure hunts are commonplace for team building.

Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
Co-location of the teams across IT and the business has been incredibly successful at driving collaboration and delivery. From a person standpoint, what you see is what you get. I am always keen to share my knowledge and contacts to help others out.

By way of influencing the organisation and its leadership team, I insisted on this being a board level role when I came in to ensure IT was getting a voice at the top table and so that issues that had been brushed under the carpet would be addressed to ensure the business could start transforming.

I have a lot of energy and drive, and very much a can-do attitude, which is helpful when driving sustained change. The success of turnaround activities in IT has meant additional departments – data intelligence and business change – have moved under my remit. These are both now turning a corner too. On a personal note, videoing my digital diary allowed me to start the process of discussing digital and the opportunities it brings for NMC with the COO and CEO.

Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
For the past five years I have engaged various different third parties to mentor me in the interim roles I fulfil. This year is no different and I will start 2016 with a new mentor who is tried, tested and proven in the CIO and business transformation world. From a leadership perspective I undertook an intensive period of coaching in leadership focusing on emotional intelligence during the first part of 2015, focused on de bono principles.

The bulk of the second half of 2015 was taken up with the Advanced Digital Business Leadership Diploma, which was an online course focused on upskilling me around the latest in digital trends, innovation, operating models, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it wholeheartedly to anybody in the IT/digital space.

Finally the most import thing for me with learning is the full circle aspect of it. As such I mentor two individuals. One is a lad who has been in prison and has now set up his own design business and is at uni; the second is a girl who is at uni (she's a mature student) who has set up a subscription-based business in the fitness arena and needed access to experience in running businesses.

What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
We are starting to explore AI from a customer service perspective, having looked into the Celeron product that DWP and Virgin Trains implemented, to assist with large volumes of data being transacted automatically. This is likely to be a 2017 initiative for us.

Data analytics is key. Our first foray into this is in the adoption of a data warehouse but we have desires to start to use analytics from a social media perspective too. In a personal capacity I'm particularly keen on wearable tech and currently playing with a Fitbit!

How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
Through our TDA would be the direct response. This is a new thing for NMC and has only been established in the last six months. We currently have IaaS and all of our development happens through the use of third parties, so we have a blend-in way of current approach.

Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
I guess like everyone else we put this into the nice-to-do bucket, and if there is time then it happens. I personally am lucky enough to have one day a week where I get to play in the startup space, so I find myself often bringing things in for the team to consider and contacts to progress.

Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
Although we are not officially government we are pretty close to it. As such we are now using standard frameworks like G Cloud to procure services. I am keen that during 2016 we tap into the startup market more and explore things like innovation dens and hacks in more detail.

A number of our existing suppliers have been in place for a long time. As such they are unlikely to meet our requirements of today, so these may well change. We have tightened up about supplier management over the last nine months, by effectively managing contracts better, ensuring value for money and most importantly holding suppliers to account for the services they are supposed to provide. We managed to recoup service credits into the IT department for the first time ever during my first six weeks onboard.

Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the past year and what they have enabled
Implementing agile has allowed us to successfully deliver a number of business outcomes. The reporting aspect of this using JIRA has enabled us to share clarity with the business of our time to develop and test releases in the product lifecycle. We have successfully implemented a new ITSM system that allows self-service and daily reporting. Yammer has been introduced as a collaboration tool – frankly, with mixed results – and we have started using Trello across project teams. A wide range of mobile and tablet devices are in play, with our CEO piloting a Surface at present. We are keen to explore MDM and mobile application deployment during 2016.

What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring
To be honest, very few. We will be re-letting our IaaS contract during early 2016 and then focusing on unlocking our legacy application environment. We have deliberately stayed away from large outsource deals, We are exploring an innovation partner in way of Mastek.

Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are

  • Always referred to: CIO peers, industry body.
  • Often use: media.
  • Occasionally use: consultants.
  • Never use: analyst houses.

Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
No.

How is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
IGSG meets every six weeks and reports into the executive board.

When did you start your current role?
January 2015.

What is your reporting line?
CEO.

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

What is the annual IT budget?
£8m (run and change).

What is your budget's operational/development split?
£3m/£5m.

How many users does your department supply services to?
Internally 790, and externally we support nearly 800,000 registrants.

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?
Being developed for 2016/17.

How many employees are there in your IT team?
55.

Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
Yes.

What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
We outsource our development and will move to IaaS during 2016.