By creating a business warehouse in Azure, Vic Falcus has given the council the power to base its key priorities and strategies on data, with clear frontline benefits. For example, data analysis is now used to monitor early warning signs about children, allowing early interventions and support to help avoid more complex and costly interventions. Likewise he has equipped social workers with mobile technologies that let them assist clients in their own homes and carry out emergency interventions without having to return to the office. This has brought huge benefits financially and in productivity.
Head of ICT
Staffordshire County Council
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I direct an excellent business engagement function that ensures that the needs and aspirations of senior business leaders are fully understood and facilitated by digital technology. I personally represent Staffordshire in a number of external groups including the health and care sustainability and transformation plan, which has led to the creation of a local digital roadmap that shapes the use of technology in health and care services across the region.
I have also created a cross-sector technology group to ensure that public sector agencies in the region are joined up, avoid unnecessary duplication and share research and development opportunities. Staffordshire has an excellent digital offer and was listed in the top 20 best UK local authority websites in the latest SOCITM review. I recently revised the council’s ICT strategy for 2016-21 following an extensive business consultation and sign-off process.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
There are a number of significant outcomes that have been delivered in the last 12 months, including the following:
- The creation of a business warehouse in Azure is providing excellent analytical capabilities to ensure that the council’s key priorities and strategies are based on data. An excellent example of how the council has used data analysis is the monitoring of early warning signs about children. The merged data collates around 30 data sets from a variety of agencies including health, schools, police and youth offending services to ensure that early interventions and support are provided that help to avoid more complex interventions that are not only costly, but can also significantly impact on life outcomes for children.
- At a practical level, the council through its partner Entrust has migrated schools off the Staffordshire public services network (PSN) and utilised the increasingly available superfast broadband (FTTC) footprint to reduce the cost to Staffordshire schools by over £1m a year.
- The Staffordshire PSN has grown through the further consolidation of all health providers in the region and the retention of existing partners such as fire and rescue and district/borough councils. Increasingly, this is facilitating the sharing of accommodation across various agencies and has meant simple innovations such as the sharing of wireless networks across partners is a painless technical exercise.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
The ICT department has facilitated innovation throughout the council.
Recent examples include a complete redesign of technology in libraries, offering not only free public Wi-Fi access but services such as 3D print and wireless print from users’ own devices, touchscreen and interactive digi-tablets. The library in Stafford is now also host to a new children’s coding club.
We have worked with frontline practitioners to ensure that mobile working technologies allow social workers to be fully productive, assist clients in their own homes and carry out emergency interventions without having to return to the office. The success of this work has been phenomenal, achieving huge benefits both financially and in terms of providing improved work/life balance for this section of the workforce, not to mention the benefits to their clients through improved time spent in the field.
Significant frontline benefits are now being accrued as a consequence of improved data analytic solutions as outlined earlier.
Staffordshire continues to develop its digital service offering, and the IT team has worked with the customer services team to significantly improve the digital offer to those clients that seek to interact with the council using digital channels. A My Staffs app has been commissioned that provides access to information and alerts for a variety of council services across a number of public sector agencies.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
It is fair to say that the ICT department has had its challenges in terms of culture and behaviour. We have instigated a cultural development programme that has focused on the following themes in order to improve the service:
- closer working between identified team representatives
- increased ownership of cross-team issues
- further breaking down of barriers between teams
- stronger focus on customers and their service delivery
- greater awareness of corporate strategy and priorities
- teams and individuals being able to challenge and consider alternative ways of doing things, through creative thinking and innovation
- increased empowerment for staff, including greater delegation and ownership throughout all levels of teams
- greater awareness of what other teams do and the pressures they may be under
- the whole team working towards common goals and objectives.
At an organisational level the IT function is now seen as ‘can do’ and supportive of corporate priorities. There are very few transformational activities that do not embrace technology, so ICT staff are increasingly seen as business partners to support transformational and change activities. I have endeavoured to make my team become customer focussed and knowledgeable around business processes with a view to understanding how new technology can effectively improve services.
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?
Staffordshire County Council has worked with a partner organisation called Adapt to Digital on an awareness-raising and literacy programme to ensure that its most senior leaders are cognisant of the potential opportunities that digital transformation and service redesign can offer.
Staffordshire has created a digital strategy and ‘digital’ is one of the four key enabling themes helping the organisation to redesign itself in line with the severe financial pressures it is undergoing.
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?
As a diverse organisation we work with a variety of different IT providers. These include large-scale vendors such as Microsoft, SAP and KCom, right the way through to niche providers such as Risual – a Stafford partner that helped the council deliver its Azure business warehouse.
As an organisation we have endeavoured to become a commissioning organisation, and this has led to a different focus, with the technology provision being part of the transfer of responsibility for the delivery of services. This has led to complex contractual discussions as services are removed from the council and integrated into the new providers’ standard models.
Increasingly the council has had to examine alternatives to traditional supply chain arrangements to drive down its cost base. It is apparent that there is real opportunity still to consolidate public sector back-office services. I have recently agreed that the council will not upgrade its on-premise telephony platform but instead will share the platform owned by Staffordshire health, which sits in another datacentre within the county. I have also agreed to share datacentre floor space, and infrastructure and internet connectivity, again reducing the burden on the public purse.
Inevitably, such relationships come with a degree of risk and require robust examination of the service and underpinning commercial principles. However, I am confident that this remains the right thing to do while the technology landscape continues to go through a radical shift.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
The team I manage is already quite diverse and in a shrinking environment there are constraints to radically change this. The current environment is conducive to most individual aspirations, offering flexible working, home-working facilitated through technology and flexible working hours. Workspaces and technology are adaptive to ensure they can accommodate disabilities. Modern apprentice schemes have been used to bring new talent into the team and these will continue to be used moving forwards. Staffordshire supports an open door programme to offer work experience to those that have struggled to gain employment and the IT department has supported a number of individuals in gaining experience.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
IT is a centralised function and is split into two primary areas – service management and improvements. The service management team is responsible for technical operations, including networks, datacentres, support and technical design, and architecture. The improvements team takes care of development, business engagement and project management functions.
The business engagement function is responsible for the management of business stakeholders, and was the key area responsible for determining the updated ICT strategy.
ICT supports all of the council’s key business processes and holds service level agreements for key services.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
The council agreed a number of Technology deals last year including the following:
- data warehouse and analytics using Power BI in Azure – Risual
- renegotiation of PSN, consolidating the North Staffs health network into the wider Staffordshire core network – KCom
- replacement of SAP HR and finance solutions – Integra Financials (Capita), HR/payroll BPAAS – Liberata
- upgrade of Cisco IP telephony and contact centre platforms (health partnership – Cisco technology)
- datacentre sharing agreement (health partnership to consolidate/share datacentre facilities)
- upgrade of GIS platform – ESRI
- Other key suppliers/partners: Microsoft, ANS, SCC, Capita, Citrix, Care Works.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
- Facilitate improvements to health and care using technology, including the exploitation of the internet of things to facilitate automated care services, improved quality of life and reduced costs.
- Work with health and care providers to improve information sharing and improve patient outcomes.
- Continue to derive improved value from data analytical platforms to improve organisational performance.
- Facilitate increased smart working to support property consolidation, improve organisational agility and increased staff productivity.
- Replace SAP with new cloud alternatives.
- Consolidation of datacentre with health partner, sharing services such as infrastructure, internet connections and N3 connections.
- Upgrade current VoIP deployment, including full unified communications.
- Review and agree the council’s public cloud roadmap in advance of technology refresh cycles.
- Improve security in line with ever increasing cybersecurity threats.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
To date the impact of Brexit on Staffordshire County Council has been relatively negative, with the impact of the falling pound leading to cost increases from US-based vendors.
I have been working with information governance colleagues to understand the ramifications of the GDPR and what we will need to do in order to comply with the new legislation.
The council facilitated a special Staffordshire strategic partnership meeting that focused on Brexit. The meeting considered the complexity of EU procurement, the importance of raising skill levels, and the long-term potential for increased exports in our economy. Inevitably, some of these areas will have ramifications on the council and its use of technology moving forwards.
When did you start your current role?
January 2017. I have been acting as joint head of IT since January 2015.
What is your reporting line?
I report to the director of finance and resources, who reports to the CEO.
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?
The council has a number of roles that I see in parallel with more industry-known terms – eg head of insight (chief data officer), head of information governance (chief security officer), head of digital/customer services. I operate at the same level as all the aforementioned roles. I am part of the same management team as the head of digital, and ICT supports the digital strategy. I also sit on the digital board.
How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
Quarterly on a one-to-one basis, monthly at larger management briefings or individual CEO-sponsored project boards.
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?
£16,503,000 (includes schools’ PSN expenditure in 2016/17 that will be removed in 2017/18).
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
The above budget is primarily for operational expenditure. An IT reserve is available that can be called on where an innovation budget has been approved through a governance board. I would estimate that circa 5% of the above budget is used for ongoing projects of a truly innovative or research nature.
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?
There is a head of information governance that is responsible for information security. I have a ‘virtual’ head of IT security who co-ordinates our security activities in terms of compliance and threat mitigation.
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?
125 reducing to 96 by end of 17/18
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?
- enterprise applications
- devices (mobile)
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?
- machine learning/artificial intelligence.
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
IOT in relation to Health and Social Care, Artificial Intelligence in relation to routine activities.
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?