David Wilde has defined and driven a new commercial approach across the council’s traded services. It embraces digital to improve marketing, customer access and business operational effectiveness, and it promotes an understanding of the value proposition of the business and how to maximise that. Eight very different businesses covering almost 1,000 staff have moved through this model over the last 16 months, resulting in improved profitability, raised morale and a clear direction for success. He has also developed a consumer-based business model for domiciliary care, which moves away from institutional provision and brings together the health, social and private-funded markets.

Job title
Executive director place operations and CIO

Company name
Essex County Council

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I am setting our digital strategy and the delivery plans that will make it a success, which is centred on how we can improve the lives of our residents, maintain Essex as a great place to live, and improve prosperity. Information, technology and digital all enable our ambitions to make these happen. In practical terms I am driving several significant investment programmes around streamlined public service delivery, technology-enabled domiciliary care as a service, design of future places to live, and upskilling our residents in STEM to improve productivity and increase net worth.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance

  1. Established a commercial strategy across the organisation, resulting in moving several of our business to self-funded and profit-making business models, driven by the adoption of digital approaches (sales, marketing, asset management, customer access), and generating increased net profit of £9m pa.
  2. Established a housing growth strategy designed to meet the county’s needs over the next 15 years. Integral to the strategy is the development of ‘smart places’, technology-enabled to support our growing and diverse communities.
  3. Established a heritage, culture and arts strategy designed to celebrate our legacy, expand tourism and investment, and increase access to and understanding of our diverse heritage and culture. Digital and technology are significant enablers in this through digitisation, virtual experiences and virtual access, alongside e-commerce and customer intelligence
  4. Embedded and strengthened the Whole Essex Information Sharing Framework so it is on a sustainable financial footing and unlocking more integrated public service delivery across multiple agencies (health and social care, counterfraud, One Public Estate).

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 defining and driving a new commercial approach across our traded services which a) embraces digital to improve marketing, customer access and business operational effectiveness, and b) changes the culture within those businesses to one that understands the value proposition of their business and how to maximise that. Eight very different businesses covering almost 1,000 staff have moved through this model over the last 16 months, and it has effected fundamental change which has improved profitability, raised morale and provided a clear direction for success.

I have developed a consumer-based new business model for domiciliary care, which we are progressing through 2017 with a view to turning that market upside down. It moves away from institutional provision and brings together the health, social and private-funded markets.

We have developed a multimodal travel app in partnership with a university and a multinational transport development company. It is expected to hit the market in 2017, and is a project I have sponsored, give direction to and ensured it was supported over the last two years.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
As a corporate leader and board member, I have played an integral part in a fundamental restructure across the organisation. Core to it has been a recalibration of values and behaviours. It is still early days, but we are seeing some significant improvement in behaviour around customer focus, outcome-based delivery rather than institutional thinking, and collaboration with partners.

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 work very closely with the CEO, other board colleagues and our political leadership team to ensure technology, information and digital are central to our thinking on organisation design, productivity and access to services. For our workforce we have a range of formal and informal learning development programmes, ranging from very structured delivered training for specialist systems through to universal e-learning for corporate standards and behaviours. These have received particular praise from the Information Commissioner’s Office and other inspection bodies in terms of effectiveness of staff development.

I also represent our organisation at several national and international events across the sector to share our experience and inform debate on where the sector is going. We are regularly called on by others in the private and public sector to help with their thinking on technology futures, information governance and IT delivery in complex organisations.

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?
We have a strategic sourcing model for our range of technology needs and strive to establish mature partnerships which encourage innovation alongside high-level service performance. Examples include Servelec on social care case management, where we support and drive their product development plans, and Daisy Updata Communicsations, where we are still driving (with them) voice, video, data wired and wireless convergence across our organisation and others in line with PSN thinking.

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
I have established a range of active measures to encourage diversity across the IT functions and over the last 18 months into the range of place businesses for which I have responsibility. These include apprenticeships drawn from challenged parts of our communities (NEET, deprived and disabled communities), an active disability access programme for our technology deployments, working with our own staff with disabilities as well as charities, and active engagement in the women in IT leadership activities promoted by SOCITM and BCS.

More generally I actively support and promote an inclusive culture across all our services and extend that into our engagement with our communities. Examples include our community computing scheme, which has given away almost 1,000 computers to over 400 charities, and leadership and support we provide in receiving Syrian refugees by co-ordinating the welcome and support arrangements across the county. 

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Our IT function is delivered as a central service with outreach to all parts of the organisation through super users, my representation of IT on the board and close collaboration with our programme management and strategy functions to keep ahead of the curve on change and new development. With all these working with each other, we are able to support and inform changing business needs and act as an enabler rather than a blocker. It is something I am keen to continue to develop as we think more fundamentally about how information, digital and technology will affect our residents, geography and businesses.

What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
We have a strategic deal with Dell on devices, Microsoft on software and Capita on data and voice network managed services. We also have a strategic deal with Fujitsu for ERP, Servelec for social care case management, and Capita for education systems.

We are also working closely with some smaller companies around digital, including Futuregov for our digital strategy, our own internal Essex education service, which delivers Target Tracker to over 6,000 schools, and a range of local companies around app development, technology training and new digital channels development.

What are your key strategic aims for next year?
Establishing a digital strategy which will improve the lives of our residents, sustain where we are as a great place to live, and increase prosperity by embracing it as part of what we need to do to redefine public service delivery.

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
We are engaging closely with our local businesses and, as part of my remit is economic growth, assessing the likely impact on our economy and taking steps to mitigate it, including reshaping our skills development programmes to pre-empt potential gaps, attracting new companies to diversify our economy, and actively supporting international trade in economies like China and the Asia-Pacific region.


When did you start your current role?
June 2015

What is your reporting line?
Chief executive

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?
Director digital (part of my role from 17 April); digital enterprise architect, reporting to me; futurologists, included in the new digital function from 17 April.

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?
2% of £1bn.

What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?


Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:

  1. Media
  2. CIO peers
  3. Consultants
  4. Analyst houses
  5. Industry bodies


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?
Yes, reports to my head of strategy, but has a direct line to me.


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?

  • cloud
  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • CRM
  • IoT
  • security
  • AR/VR
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • wearables
  • networking/communications.

Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?

  • cloud
  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • CRM
  • IoT
  • security
  • AR/VR
  • enterprise applications
  • machine learning/artificial intelligence
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • wearables
  • 3D printing
  • networking/communications.

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
IoT, cognitive computing, deep learning, VR.


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?