Ian Turfrey inherited a department seen as a housekeeping function, whose only job was to keep systems running. He has turned it into a team that are respected as leaders, earning that reputation by keeping its promises and delivering high-quality projects on time and on budget. He has leveraged cloud technologies to deliver new product propositions in days rather than the months it used to take. He has shown the business that digital tools don’t just help members, but also cut internal workload. And his introduction of BI has created a data-driven organisation, with a clear picture of trends and gaps.

Job title
Chief Information Officer

Company name
British Medical Association

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
The BMA is a trade union and a membership organisation that represents over 160,000 doctors at each stage their careers. I have directly influenced member experience in five key ways.

1) Strategy: As a regular board attendee, I set the tone for other departments by creating an IT strategy, vision and roadmap focused on our members. Customer service was at the core of every IT project this year. We have proved to the business that investment in the right technology and platforms not only makes our members’ lives better, but also enables staff to serve members better.

2) Attitude: Before I joined the BMA, the Technology Services department was seen as a housekeeping function; it’s only job was to keep systems running. Now, with the right strategy and capability in the team, we are respected as leaders. We earned that reputation by keeping our promises and delivering high-quality projects on time and on budget. By giving excellent service to the business, they are in a better position to serve members. One example is that we’ve dramatically improved the way the BMA handles trade union cases, thanks to a CRM improvement programme.

3) Agility: I’ve structured the department so it can react quickly and appropriately to member needs. It used to take months to develop any technology for members. But now, I’ve leveraged cloud technologies to deliver new product propositions in a fraction of the time. For example, we developed an online rota checker service for junior doctors in just six weeks. That way, they can instantly see if their work schedule breaks any rules.

4) Efficiency: I’ve introduced new technology platforms that make members’ lives easier. Much of the BMA’s processes were manual when I joined. I’ve shown the business that digital tools don’t just help members, but also cut internal workload. One of the most time-intensive processes used to be committee member elections. Before, the whole process was done by hand – from nominations to counting ballots. So we developed a true platform as a service tool online, which takes the process from months to minutes. The platform is capable of running millions of different elections at once, and integrates seamlessly behind the scenes.

5) Data: I’ve introduce Power BI so we can become a data-driven organisation. There was information before, but it existed in disparate parts of the business. This system brings together all the data in a central place, and gives a clear picture of trends and gaps. The more we can understand about our members’ needs, the better we can serve them.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
I joined the BMA in February 2016 to deliver a digital transformation. I had three objectives:

1) Stabilise the infrastructure. The technology infrastructure had reached the end of its economic life and was preventing progress. The majority of the team’s time was spent on just keeping the lights on. I knew that we couldn’t truly influence the organisation until we had a solid, secure, and reliable foundation. That’s why I overhauled the infrastructure and platforms, leveraging cloud technologies for innovation and speed. Now there’s little risk of down time, and the team has more time to serve members and customers.

2) Improve culture and collaboration. An IT department is rarely known for improving a business’ culture. But that’s exactly what we set out to do with our new infrastructure in place. We knew we could help break down silos if we improved collaboration – particularly as we need to connect office-based staff with our 150 home workers. That’s why we introduced Office 365, and, together with a new internal communications team, the company’s first intranet. Staff can now connect anytime and anyplace, and it’s changing how people work together. That shift didn’t happen automatically, and some were anxious at first about the security of cloud storage. But we developed an extensive training programme with the internal communications team, and many staff are now advocates.

3) Become data driven. I knew that the BMA could get much more insight out of data than it did when I joined. That’s why I implemented Power BI, which is completely changing the way the board approaches strategy. We have migrated our own data to the platform and integrated it with public data to get an accurate picture of our members and their needs.

What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?

Product innovation. Following discussions with colleagues in communications, policy and products and services the BMA decided it could have a big impact by introducing an online rota checker tool. It allows junior doctors to check their work schedule against their contract, making sure it hasn’t broken any rules like working too many weekends in a row. Before, junior doctors would send the BMA their schedule and we will manually check it for them. Our staff are happy to provide this service, but it takes up a lot of time and it forces doctors to wait on us. That’s why we developed an online rota checker in a matter of weeks so doctors can instantly check their own schedules. This allows them to raise any concerns with their managers in a timely manner. Plus, our staff have more time to serve members in other ways.

Business model innovation. Power BI has become an essential tool for board members and other stakeholders in the business. Now, they can make crucial decisions that are backed by sound data, and understand new ways to serve our members. They can also find trends in member behaviour and understand how internal processes need to change to meet the doctors’ needs. I have also started a major programme of work with the product team to understand how we can start personalising and tailoring the online experience for the individual member – following a website refresh that I oversaw last year.

Technology innovation. I have led the move from a solely on-premise data centre to a hybrid approach. By using a combination of the cloud and colocation hosting, we have greater security, less downtime, and more capacity to think beyond data centre maintenance. We’ve introduced Microsoft Azure, where our platforms and service engines are now built. This enabled us to create an online engine that’s hooked up with single sign-on access, and paves the way for further seamless access for members. Additionally, we are looking to the future of technology and have acquired a HoloLens. We are looking to understand how virtual reality services will help doctors.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
Before I came, my department was severely limited. The team was spending so much time repairing ageing systems and responding to P1 incidents, they didn’t have time to think about innovation – let alone career development.

Now, I’ve developed a simple acronym that underpins everything we do: MAST.

It means:

  • Working for members
  • Working anywhere
  • Working smarter
  • Working together

I have implemented a strategic roadmap with clear responsibilities for the team, empowering them to deliver projects and programmes. We now share the same vision of MAST, and we’re moving faster than ever. We’ve developed a culture of delivering smaller projects faster, in addition to longer term transitions.

This has greatly improved the service we can deliver to staff and members. We have secured our place as trusted partners in the business, and earned a reputation for being efficient, agile and helpful.

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?
As a regular board attendee, I show them what’s possible, get them excited about new technology, and give them hands-on demos so they have a good understanding of capability. All of our technology projects for 2017 are directly aligned with business objectives. Not only does that give our department focus, it helps the CEO and board to see how our team drives and underpins the BMA’s success. That investment in building relationships with the board and anticipating their needs has resulted in a high level of trust. In return, they approach new technology with an open mind and become ambassadors to their teams. That has had a profound effect on how quickly staff are willing to adopt new technology like sharing documents through OneDrive.

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 work very closely with suppliers, which is why we’re so selective about them. We see them less as suppliers and more as partners – a natural extension of our team. That approach has delivered benefits to us and those we work with. For example, we recently negotiated a contract with a new WAN provider. They offered us a substantial discount after we explained the vision of what we wanted to achieve. That savings will be invested back into the business to provide better services for our members. And if a company does a good job for us, I am willing to provide a testimonial and recommend them to others, so everyone wins.

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
I’ve spent a significant amount time over the past year understanding what are the right skills and capability we need for the future. Rather than outsourcing key functions, I’ve tried to acquire them through recruitment and up-skilling existing staff. We’ve seen a lot of benefits in bringing these skills in house, and it’s allowed us to complete projects even more quickly. I’ve also revamped every team member’s role profile to make sure there is clear progression and areas to develop. That way, people feel empowered and will naturally contribute more to accomplish team objectives.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
We have agreed on a new target operating model in our department. It will enable us to deliver projects effectively, while giving individual team members more ownership over their work. It also gives the rest of the business clear points of contact, so they can feel confident in reaching out us. We have the right structure now to react quickly to issues, and communicate appropriately with the rest of the business. This also allows us to respond to the needs of the business more quickly, and we’re completing projects in four months that used to take a year.

What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
We have contracted with Exponential E to deliver WAN services and hybrid IT. We have also purchased licences from Microsoft to run programmes like Office 365 and Power BI. Additionally, we purchased several Surface Pro 4 units which we will trial with staff who frequently travel around the country.

What are your key strategic aims for next year?
Our projects fall into four main categories, all aligned with business priorities. They are improving member experience, improving committee collaboration, data relocation, and business intelligence. These are all underpinned by our team’s mission of MAST. Last year was all about getting the right foundation in place, from infrastructure to team structure. Now we are in an excellent position to keep delivering agile, effective, innovative solutions that will help members and staff alike.

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
As an organisation, we are calling on the government to end ongoing uncertainty surrounding the future of EU nationals living and working in the UK and the risk that the lack of certainty may cause some health professionals to leave the UK, or they may decide not to come and work or study in the UK.


When did you start your current role?
February 2016

What is your reporting line?

Are you a member of the executive leadership?

Are you a member of the board of directors?

How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?


What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
Around 15%

What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
Operational spend is 50% and new developments is 50%


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

  1. Consultants
  2. CIO peers
  3. Media
  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?
We contract this as a service directly responsible to the Head of Architecture and Governance


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
  • ERP
  • CRM
  • datacentre/infrastructure/server
  • security
  • Machine learning/artificial intelligence
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • devices (desktop)
  • 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
  • ERP
  • CRM

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
We’ve purchased a Hololens to see how this could help our medical students learn about the human body. We are also doing POC on machine learning to help understand how complex cases impact our member experience.


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?