In just 18 months Adrian Tucker completely upgraded the department’s technology stack. A full cloud-first strategy, removal of physical datacentres, and the roll-out of 4,000 Microsoft Surface devices in eight weeks, alongside a Windows 10 and Office 365 upgrade, allow end users to work more flexibly, with less downtime and a work-anywhere mantra. The power of annotation, paperless meetings and the exploitation of social collaboration tools have become a reality.
Chief technology officer
Department for Education
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I have just completed a rapid 18-month complete upgrade of the department’s technology stack. This has included a full cloud-first strategy, the removal of physical datacentres and the refresh of desk to Microsoft Surface devices, alongside a Windows 10 and Office 365 upgrade.
This has given my customers a completely refreshed look to technology, offering faster and more up-to-date equipment, which allows them to deliver in a more flexible way with less downtime and a work-anywhere mantra.
Customer engagement has been very high at 80%, and the new technology acts a springboard for the digital and education sector agendas.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
Replacing a slowing VDI desktop solution with state of the art Windows Surface 4 or SurfaceBook, running Windows 10 and Office 365, has primarily driven mobility, allowing better use of space and time. It has also unlocked seven years of underinvestment, meaning the power of annotation, paperless meetings and exploitation of the Yammer, One Note and the enhanced BI tool have become a reality. This was delivered in rapid order, with 4,000 devices rolled out over eight weeks, minimising disruption.
It has all been complemented by auto-connect Wi-Fi, the removal of token authentication, and the exploitation of Skype for Business, to give a rounded, bang up to date solution.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
I have been responsible for driving the evolution of products across the department, including new digital, cloud thinking across the delivery portfolios. This has allowed a different approach to solve business problems in a more rounded and modern way, without directorate silo thinking.
Business modelling has transformed in the past year, moving away from individual solutions to more department-unified solutions to improve services to the sector. This has been done by demonstrating the art of possible and consulting technical solutions as a result of modernisation.
I have been heavily involved in technology innovation, supporting a cloud-based strategy, removing aging internal datacentres and upgrading all technology access devices. This has included driving a leading-edge approach to solutions, including annotation, Surface devices, and a change in security modelling to achieve a balance between usability and secure data.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
I have driven a strong brand ethic through my team that is recognised within the business teams. By creating a brand identity around technology we have been able to exercise a clear strategy and ethos. This brand has given confidence to those who work for it, with many customer- facing events held throughout the year. This has been especially important with the amount of change being effected on the business to ensure readiness and immediate adoption.
The team now operates on a set of operating principles, and the business team is clear about what the function does and doesn’t do, as well the timescales likely. This has engendered a trust between the business and the team.
How have you worked with your CEO and/or board to communicate whatever ‘digital’ and IT means to your organisation/sector and improve digital literacy at the highest levels of the organisation?
I have regularly worked with the management committee to inform them of the technology progress, and explain the technology innovation being delivered. This included a senior civil servant conference, where technology was a large part of the agenda. I have also brought in industry experts to explain the connection with technology and digital process. This has given the committee a much broader of what technology can deliver while at the same time understanding it is not a panacea.
I have also started an annual Christmas event by giving all committee members a book on digital transformation that brings a more humorous approach to the subject.
How have you worked with the technology and IT vendor market to achieve your business goals? How have you been able to influence IT suppliers and successfully manage your partnerships/relationships with large IT companies, SMEs and startups?
This year has been a significant one in changing the relationship with suppliers. I set out with the knowledge that the existing team, while capable, did not have the experience of cloud. Therefore I engendered a partnership culture with suppliers that ensures we have a blended approach to problems. This was particularly successful with Microsoft, which moved from just a supplier to a partner with a shared approach to issue and problems, driving value add. I had Microsoft people sat next to my own as part of the process. At first it was challenging as each side got out of the habits of supplier/customer.
Another area where we have been successful with all suppliers is driving pace. This has been daunting for both internal staff and partners. I have asked for the impossible at times, but by co-operation have been able to get suppliers to change their approach and often achieve more than they thought was possible.
These elements were confirm at a recent conference where our suppliers were invited to talk about their experiences of the year.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
We have worked hard to ensure diversity and skills with the technology function.
We have reviewed how we attract diversity, and have worked on advertising routes outside of the usual civil service route. This has included working directly with universities to create a talent and diverse pipeline, encourage representation on Women in IT forums, and involvement in the department diversity programme.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
I put in place a neutral portfolio function that sat between IT and the business. This ensures that duplication and overall strategies are followed.
To ensure alignment I have created six core portfolios. They are managed so the business and technology managers work together to ensure successful outcomes. This also ensures the agenda and spend are appropriate and aligned with the business objectives.
A new digital team is in the process of being created, enhanced by department mergers last June.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
The biggest strategic deal this year was with Microsoft for the provision of Azure and Surface tablets, as described above. This was achieved through a true partnership, with shared risk but shared gain at the end.
Another key deal was with Computercenter for the very fast roll-out of the 400 Surface devices.
Further deals have included Trustmark and Cap Gemini for the transition of on premise to the cloud.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
The key strategic aims next year are to ensure the stability of all elements that were delivered in the modernisation programme. Machine learning and digital will continue to grow in the department’s agenda, and the next technology stack will be well positioned to deliver this.
The key internal aim will be to ensure the business is exploiting all that has been delivered to it and gaining maximum benefit.
I will also continue to expand capacity and capability in cloud operations and the newly created cloud security operations centre.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
Because the DFE is predominately focused on England, the impact isn’t as great for us as for others. However, the reduction of government time for bills, etc, will mean that more will need to be done to ensure their success.
On a more specific note, we are reviewing contracts particularly for hosting outside of the UK and the implications. We are also reviewing the cost base for any likely cost changes as a result of Brexit.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Director general – main board.
Are you a member of the executive leadership?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What other emerging roles does your organisation have and what is their relationship to you?
Chief data officer, chief digital officer – both peers.
How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
30% operational, 60% IT functional delivery, 10% security.
Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:
- Analyst houses
- Industry bodies
- CIO peers
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Are you expecting an increase in budget specific to security in order to tackle the cyber threat?
Does your organisation have a designated security professional – CISO or otherwise – and what is their relationship to you?
CISO directly reports.
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?
Are you increasing your headcount or planning to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next year?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- machine learning/artificial intelligence.
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- enterprise applications
- devices (mobile)
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
Machine learning and IoT.
Does your organisation do a significant amount of trade with the EU?
Does your department include technology staff from the EU?
Are you or have you been looking to the EU to recruit key skills?