Matthew Scott runs the largest local government shared service in England. He is using the integration of two separate IT departments to fast-track service improvements and deliver opex cost reductions, halving the size of the IT and digital leadership team and driving a review of contract spend.

Job title
Chief information officer

Company name
East Sussex and Surrey County Councils

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I am the CIO and leader of the Orbis IT and digital service. Orbis is a public sector partnership between East Sussex and Surrey County Councils, which was established with the vision to develop an integrated business service offering to their staff and customers.

Orbis is formed of the following functions:

  • IT and digital
  • human resources and organisational development
  • property services
  • procurement
  • finance
  • business operations.

As a member of the Orbis leadership team, I have been shaping the Orbis service offer, including the refinement of the target operating model, growth model and the Orbis culture and behaviours. The service is now being developed and deployed across East Sussex and Surrey as part of a three-year transformation plan. I have been able to apply my business leadership experience and knowledge to both shape and drive strategies and initiatives.

Brighton and Hove City Council has recently confirmed that it will join the Orbis partnership, having concluded its period of due diligence. I am now in the process of continuing the process of service integration of East Sussex and Surrey IT and preparing an onboarding phase for the Brighton and Hove IT teams.

I have ensured that my influence has not solely replied on me developing ideas and strategies. While I have applied direct influence, I have also championed opportunities for staff across my department to participate in workstreams, task and finish groups and networking events.

In addition to the Orbis- wide development of services, I have been reviewing and adjusting the service catalogue for IT and digital. This is involving a strategic review of the traded markets within which my service operates, such as IT for schools and datacentre service.

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

  • Service integration: I have started the process of integrating two separate IT departments. This has provided an opportunity to fast-track service improvements, using experience and capabilities from across the Orbis partnership. This has made available a broader set of resources to support the IT and digital projects for East Sussex and Surrey County Council.
  • Cost reduction: The process of service integration has delivered opex cost reductions, with a 50% reduction in the size of the IT and digital leadership team. Alongside this I have driven a review of contract spend. These savings have contributed to the Orbis business plan, which forms part of the medium-term financial plan.
  • Technology-enabled change: It has been recognised within the Orbis business plan that investing in technology is a key requirement to integrate services, achieve economies of scale and adopt common practices. A set of foundation enablers have been put in place for Orbis to assist with collaboration and working across the partner sites.

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: I have provided executive sponsorship and funding for a digital exemplar project to redesign the processes for a customer-facing service. This work led to significant demand management efficiency and changes in behaviour.

Business model innovation: East Sussex and Surrey County Councils are undertaking significant business model innovation as they respond to the challenges of deep funding reductions from central government and rapid growth in cost and demand for social care services. Over the last 12 months, I have had involvement in three areas:

  1. Orbis: As a service lead and member of the leadership team, I have driven the establishment of Orbis, which is now the largest local government shared service in England.
  2. The 3SC (three southern counties) devolution programme: I am providing support and challenge, and expert resource from my service, within the digital workstream that underpins the prospectus of new models of public service delivery across East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey.
  3. Health and social care integration: There are a number of parallel programmes of change looking at establishing new models of delivery across the health and social care landscape. In my capacity as Orbis CIO, I have engaged across the Sussex and Surrey subregion and provided specialist resources to support the development of new accountable care model in East Sussex and the Sussex and Surrey sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).

Technology innovation: I have provided direction, executive sponsorship and funding to support the following:

  • collaboration – using the Microsoft tech stack, particularly Skype, Yammer and SharePoint
  • collaboration – spinning up a Jive demonstrator project
  • data analytics – partnering with a tech company to apply the power of predictive analytics to an area of high-cost spend
  • data visualisation – developing demonstrator projects to demonstrate the value of developing these as business capabilities.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
I have defined the five characteristics of the future-state IT department that I envision for Orbis. These characteristics are known as the Orbis digital DNA and are being used as reference points and tests to validate activities and, most importantly, to promote the desired behaviours across the IT teams in East Sussex and Surrey County Council.

The five characteristics are:

  1. consistent (clear service offer, standard processes, aligned and orchestrated)
  2. networked (responsible at all levels, connected, engaged, trusted)
  3. curator (applied expert knowledge, insight, influence and shaping and present to inform)
  4. adaptive (entrepreneurial, learning organisation, versatile and relevant)
  5. enabler (obsessively customer-focused, making things happen, achieve and succeed, create and demonstrate value).

I have worked with my leadership team and the extended IT management community within Orbis to model these behaviours and use staff engagement and communication to promote good practice demonstrated by teams and individuals. An example of this communication is a fortnightly IT e-newsletter (The Digital Download) that is sent to all IT staff and copied to key stakeholders. I write the introduction, in a reflective blog style, and use this to signal my values and promote the ways of working and behaviours that are needed. 

Looking beyond the IT department, I have supported a wider cultural change programme that underpins the Orbis programme. This has involved presenting and engaging with senior stakeholders to promote the Orbis ethos, along with meeting with other local government shared service organisations to share experiences and reflect on behaviour-based transformation.

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 fulfil the chief digital officer role at East Sussex County Council and Surrey County Council, and I am responsible for driving the digital culture and programmes of change at both organisations.

At East Sussex County Council, I have been taking the CEO and board on a journey of awareness and discovery about what digital means for the organisation. This has involved the delivery of four exemplar projects and dissemination of learning to the board and the wider leadership community. This process has delivered both digital service redesign and an exploratory application of data analytics capabilities.

At Surrey County Council, I have been sponsoring a digital programme that has supported the adoption of agile development techniques, collaboration technologies and a set of digital architectural principles that have underpinned the procurement of solutions. The programme has the full support of the CEO and has significant visibility across the organisation.

The impact and value generated by the Surrey programme of work has been celebrated and communicated through a number of IT and digital awards. Two examples, involving members of the IT and digital service are:

  • Surrey County Council and a coalition of Surrey authorities became the first to create a nationwide address lookup API available to the public sector. Created with minimal funding and using source code originally created by the Government Digital Service (GDS), the project launched in alpha form. The address search web service could be used throughout any online digital services – for example, within web forms and FindMyNearest portals. For more information, visit:
  • The vulnerable people emergency response digital exemplar reached the longlist of nominees for this year’s Digital Leaders awards in the category of Digital Public Service Innovation of the Year. Prompted by previous widespread flooding incidents, this project delivers a data sharing hub to aid the local resilience partnership in emergency relief efforts for protecting vulnerable people.

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?
I am responsible for the delivery of two public service network consortia that provide voice and data services across the south of England.

The Unicorn (unified communities over regional networks) is a managed voice and data network run by BT for Surrey County Council and its partners. It provides connectivity to 500 sites and has more than 25 partners, including 11 districts and boroughs within Surrey, as well as Berkshire Fire and Rescue services, Bracknell Forest Council, Central Surrey Health and Surrey schools. The original seven-year contract signed in 2012 will now run to 2021; extension follows council expectation of achieving £3.5m savings.

The Sussex PSN (known as The Link) is a secure private network for the public sector in Sussex. Data services are provided by Interoute, and voice services are provided by KCOM. The shared data infrastructure is used by East Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, district and borough councils across East Sussex, East Sussex Fire and Rescue and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. The aim of the partnership is to achieve cost savings through aggregation and facilitate access to multi-agency networks and systems from any building within the partnership.

In addition to the influence achieved through the Unicorn and Link, I am putting in place the foundation blocks to deliver broader influence over the IT marketplace and establish a blend of large and small-scale suppliers that could be considered strategic partners. These foundation activities include: chairing the South East 7 CIO network (a collaborative partnership of five county councils and two unitary councils), holding operational review and strategic planning meetings with existing suppliers to East Sussex and Surrey County Councils, speaking to a number of suppliers during conference events and via referrals from my professional network, and testing digital concepts with companies willing to participate in small-scale demonstrators.

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
The recruitment, retention and talent management of my department is based on competency, capability and delivery track record. The workforce is drawn from a wide geographic area that is inherently diverse. The team reflects this social-economic diversity.

I have appointed an IT leadership team that has a gender and demographic mix to provide a rich set of perspectives and difference of experience. I have encouraged diversity of opinion and constructive challenge within the team.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
The Orbis business strategy is to provide a value for money, integrated IT department across Orbis, with a core service offer that can be flexed to respond to the needs of the partner organisations and that can scale for growth. The partner organisations are looking for an IT function that can provide reliable, secure and highly available services and systems while supporting digital service innovation.

I have structured the IT and digital department with three centres of expertise, and a strategy and engagement service for each partner organisation. The service leads are members of my leadership team.

The IT department is primarily an in-house model with selective contracts that complement and provide supplementary levels of capacity or expertise. This model will provide the ability to set a core vision and set of behaviours, centrally orchestrate service delivery through a blend of remote and on-site/local delivery, and close strategic engagement with the senior decision-makers from the partner organisations.

What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
IT procurement in the last 12 months has primarily been of a business as usual nature or-small scale investments to support experimental digital exemplars.

Infrastructure/foundation IT suppliers include:

  • Microsoft
  • BT
  • Interoute

What are your key strategic aims for next year?

  • Service delivery: Harmonise IT delivery across East Sussex, Surrey and Brighton and Hove Councils.
  • Digital leadership through partnership: Develop a set of public service digital capabilities for the south-east region.
  • Sector diversification: Support the social care and health integration agenda, and provide services to the health economy.

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
Horizon scanning work is being undertaken to identify potential implications. This includes changes to exchange rates, data protection regulations and impacts to funding.


When did you start your current role?
February 2016

What is your reporting line?
Chief operating officers at East Sussex and Surrey County Councils.

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?
I fulfil the CDO role. No other emerging roles exist at East Sussex and Surrey County Councils.

How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
On a quarterly basis.

How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
15,000 (combined total for East Sussex and Surrey County Councils – excludes service users at maintained schools).


What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
£47m (opex £38m, capex £9m).

What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
80/20 split


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

  1. CIO peers
  2. Analyst houses
  3. Media
  4. Consultants
  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?
No. There are cybersecurity specialists that work within my department.


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?
375 FTE

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
  • enterprise applications
  • machine learning/artificial intelligence.

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

  • cloud
  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • datacentre/infrastructure/server
  • IoT
  • enterprise applications
  • machine learning/artificial intelligence
  • devices (mobile)
  • networking/communications.

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
AI /robotics for simple transactional services and IoT/wearables/data analytics in the sphere of health and social care.


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?