Kevin Gibbs focuses on selling the organisation a dream of a digital future, of making colleagues’ work lives better and them more effective. Economy of resources is key – as is making the right investments at the right time. He has demonstrated to partners that he is focused and results-oriented, and the team is delivering real change on the ground. Faced with a true evidence-based IT service, people can see and feel the changes being made.
Deputy director of corporate resources
Royal Borough of Greenwich
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
The council is a key player in bringing the communities of Greenwich together, building the communities’ resilience and ensuring that the communities have the skills to be successful in a digital world. The ICT team are the toolmakers, providing the infrastructure that makes this possible. Fast, reliable networked services are at the core of great service delivery.
The team have kept a ruthless focus on the needs of the internal and external customer, implementing only tools that reduce the number of customer contacts to the council, bring down the costs of each customer contact handled within the council, and cut the administrative burden of transaction processing. They are simple and easy to use for the user base, but complex and technically challenging for the ICT staff.
This design ethos has meant putting innovation at the heart of our service delivery, pushing our contracted service providers not just to deliver solutions that they have delivered for other organisations but solutions that are specifically tailored for the council and its customers. Best value in its truest sense.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
- An innovative procurement process: The council worked with Dell to specify, design and run a full procurement process for a £3m Dell blade and SAN environment in two months. We pulled together an implementation partnership that cut the estimated project elapse time, traditionally three years, to 13 months, while still having class-leading governance, public transparency and economy of the use of resources (time, financial and staff skills).
- Impact on the users: In the council’s staff survey, in response to the question of how well ICT supports the objects of the organisation, this was one of only 13 indicators to improve over the last 12 months.
- Productivity: The service has launched/ delivered over 180 projects, up from 20 in 2015/16.
- Economy of the use of corporate resources: Given the challenging budget landscape, the ICT team has been seen as an important area for corporate investment, enabling other areas to meet their objectives.
- Mobile: We have implemented a handset swap of over 400 Blackberries with no impact on service delivery. Members (elected councillors) have gone paper-free, using iPads for all public meetings, saving £21,000, over the three-year life cycle. This has been accompanied by the rolling out of follow me printing, which has saved around £276,000 in paper costs.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
The corporate change programme is led from within the customer services and ICT team. The customer aspect of the directorate provides the intelligence for the toolmakers to design and implement solutions that make a real difference on the ground.
The service group has been added to with HR and payroll to become the engine room of corporate change. This team has rolled out employee self-service to users, providing e-payslips and e-leave booking. This has been linked to the roll-out of smartphones and BYOD, supported by information governance and security training.
None of these single aspects is innovative, but doing this as a single programme of coordinated work is. Now the council has over 750 smartphones in operations, providing a platform for putting CRM out in the field, by allowing staff to use using their smartphones as the centre of their work information world as well as their personal world.
Our paperless council strategy uses similar tools to prepare a different group of users for the same objective. Members now have iPads, which they use for all aspects of their corporate lives. We provide tools that makes these devices more ‘sticky’. When we roll out CRM, they will find it easier to adopt this new technology.
However, getting this far has been far from an easy technical journey. We have had to rethink the toolsets that support the council. MDM solutions have had to be implemented to ensure that our users have a full choice of devices they want to use to access the council. We have had to implement apps that make the iPad come alive in members’ hands – a group with very low IT skills. And finally, we had to rethink how we provide support to users, building support teams that are focused on desktop, mobile and cloud services, ensuring that we are ready to provide the help that users need when the barrier to getting things done is more to do with the skill of the users than the complexity of the technology.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
When I took over the service in 2012, development of IT skills wasn’t an objective. The skills that staff had varied enormously, and this impacted on service delivery. Over the years, we have ensured that training and skilled staff is central to our work. All staff are ITIL-qualified, project managers have Prince2 and agile qualifications. Leadership and management training has been at the core of service improvement. This has resulted in the majority of leadership roles in 2016 being internal promotions, based on open competitive processes, where we advertised widely.
The number and quality of our projects are the highest they have ever been – currently we have over 180 projects in flight. This had fed into a can-do customer-focused service. Everyone works for each other and the customers as a whole. This is down to them. I simply set them free to express their creativity, drive and ability to deliver, moving from a fearful, risk-focused team to one that understands risk and uses it to make the right decision every time. I am proud of my team and what they have achieved together.
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?
Although as a local authority, you have to prepare and present a number of formal reports on what is your strategy, how it will be measured and what resources you need, my real focus is on selling the organisation a dream of a digital future of making their work lives better and them more effective.
Economy of resources is key to the organisation, but also to making the right investments at the right time. The key driving force is really the CE, who held this brief 10 years ago. We are signed up as a pathfinder for digital cities, and we have a digital company to exploit this. Our link has demonstrated to partners that we are focused and results-oriented, and this has made my life easier, as success make success easier, as we deliver real change on the ground. We are a true evidence-based IT service. People can see and feel the changes we are making.
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?
Although the dominant model of service provision to local authorities is a managed service, this hasn’t worked for Greenwich. When I took the leadership role within the council for ICT, I reviewed our relationships and found no agreed roadmap for the council’s IT provision. Therefore, the managed services weren’t clear what the council’s objectives were. The council had abdicated its responsibilities for leading and setting standards.
Under my leadership, the council has worked with its suppliers to agree a four-year ICT strategy, covering the ethos of the service, roles and responsibilities, and technology roadmap. Decision could therefore be made against the strategic roadmap and relationship, focused on delivering the council priorities. We have moved from the managed service model to an intelligent client model, with the council doing the thinking and the suppliers executing the council’s plans.
This has been a tough change for suppliers, who have been used to agreeing broad objectives, but having little need to sort the detail out before hitting the keyboard. Having fewer strategic partners – who, most importantly, share our values – has been key to the services success. The model, strangely, is also more rewarding for the contractor staff, given that they now know the roadmap and have a structure that allows them to exercise their professional skills, rather than just being on an endless sales trip.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
The council has an objective of reflecting the communities that it serves, and the ICT team is not exempt from this objective. The team broadly does reflect the community it serves, with the main equality strands covered. This is beyond simple gender diversity. The team is 40% female, and 17% of the service’s leadership posts are held by women; 30% of the team are also BME, with 15% holding leadership posts. We have a good spread of ages, with staff in each of the age brackets up to the 60+ group.
We have a strong programme to being apprentices and work returners into the service. In terms of working with our supplier network, we insist that project teams presented to the council are gender-balanced and have good representation of BME staff. We also seek to have the suppliers make offer of local employment, therefore giving local opportunities.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
The majority of chief officers and heads of service in the council have basic ICT skills and knowledge. With no history of working with ICT and therefore no template that project sponsors and system owners can follow, they have traditionally looked to ICT to provide this, without realising they are equally responsible for ensuring that what is delivered is what is needed. We have since moved to much more co-creation.
Any system failure used to be seen as a failure of the ICT service – an ‘it’s all broken again’ mindset. Since November 2013, the service hasn’t has a total system failure/crash. When the service first transitioned, we had a critical issue every week. We now have policy of having ICT breakdowns, which are emergencies for the ICT operations team but unnoticed by the users. This then is a design principle around resilience of systems and always-on services.
Given that things break when they get old, managing the product’s life-cycle is key to the management of the environment and its resilience. After all, the environment is complicated, and you need to know what you are doing with all of this modern stuff! Documentation is key, as is training to use the documentation.
Directorate core service priorities are to ensure the resilience of the council’s IT infrastructure, be responsive to customers, and maximise the use of our corporate human resources, ensuring that the workforce has the right skills and knowledge. We are a hygiene service: people shouldn’t notice us doing our work, because a great IT team is invisible to its users. Ultimately, this isn’t about technology, it is about having a great customer focus and letting that guide your decisions.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
We have reprocured our key compute and storage. This £3m project was purchased from Dell, which is a major strategic partner of the council.
We have taken the decision to move our data centre out of London, as we are a terrorist target. Logicalis is our strategic network services partner. It has recently won our datac entre contract, hosting the kit, providing smart hands for it, plus providing the data connectivity back to our hubs, using diverse routing for resilience.
Trustmarque is our technical partner, providing second and third-line resources to the council. This partnerships allows the council to grow its own skills, with the backup of an established IT provider. The call-off contract allows the council to vary the level and type of resources it needs, complementing its own capabilities.
Civic has been a trusted partner for the provision of our financial system and the hosting of our systems.
Blackberry has provided the backbone of our smartphone MDM, as handset, technology solution and message protection provider. It works hand in hand with our mobile phone provider, O2, which manages this environment for us, and provides on-site resources to the team.
Finally, we are a Microsoft house and this year moved to the cloud. We are now running Office 365 for our VIP estate, with Dynamics CRM due to go live in June.
These partners have worked well with us to achieve our objectives of being a partnership of services, working in concert.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
Our year starts in April 2017. We will upgrade our core infrastructure, enabling us to deploy more user-facing technologies in the cloud. We have bold plans of rolling out CRM to all 3,500 staff, using SharePoint as our document management system and Power BI to create a big data hub for intelligence and evidence-based planning. These all seem big things, but I have a team able to do it and do it well. I simply need to point them in the right direction and let them go. The are great and next year is going to be great too.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
The only real impact on a local authority, is the data protection legislation. Although the great repeal act will translate EU regs into UK law, we would expect data territories to change and hosting data in the EEA to become a problem for UK government. We have worked with our cloud providers to ensure that data is hosted in the UK. Microsoft has confirmed that its UK data centres are up and running, and the council’s Office 365/Dynamics implementations are hosted in the UK.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Director of finance, deputy 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?
All technology decisions go via my office.
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?
£5.4m revenue, £7m capital.
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
About £4m on keeping the lights on, and the rest in projects and R&D.
Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:
- CIO peers
- Industry bodies
- Analyst houses
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 have a corporate data guardian. The post reports to the ICT strategy manager, who reports 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?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- devices (mobile)
- devices (desktop).
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- devices (mobile)
- devices (desktop).
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
Not looking to be at the bleeding edge of change.
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?