Management > CIO

A diverse week in the life of a CIO

David Wilde Published 30 September 2013

Essex County Council's chief information officer David Wilde on fighting the ghost in the machine, supporting economic growth, delivering flexible work in action and joining up public services


It's been a busy couple of weeks and a number of major initiatives alongside 3 major service incidents have all come together to remind me of 3 big things: just how integral technology is to the very fabric of what we develop, think, do and change; the pivotal role it has in economic recovery and growth; and the importance of implementing and sustaining good professional practice across our now incredibly complex and changing technology and information landscapes.

Let's take the incidents first, and the importance professional discipline and practice. In August we closed down one of the most ambitious yet successful ICT modernisation programmes I've seen: transforming a 10,000 strong user base across a large geography and over 400 locations from a 2003 technology platform to one that's cut costs by 40%, improved service levels by 30% and enabled 85% of the workforce to be truly mobile.

At the heart of this was the implementation and embedding of ITIL and SFIA across our ICT profession (which is 30% smaller now). Two weeks ago we encountered the nightmare incident no ICT service wants, a drop in performance, random hikes in latency and all affecting random staff and locations - I called it 'the ghost in the machine.'

You can spot most incidents: failed hardware, malicious attack, software failure or performance issues but this one. What I saw from the technical teams was a controlled incident management process kick in, discipline brought to bear on driving down through the enterprise architecture to eliminate lines of enquiry, collaboration and co-working, good communications with our users to keep them informed (and a fair bit of sympathy from them) and eventually performance being brought back to where we want it.

We're not out of the woods yet, but I'm confident we'll finish it off. To me it was one of those rare occasions where what you saw was ITIL being brought to life. Incidentally while it was going on we had 2 other major incidents, both picked up in the teams' stride and nailed in short order.

While I was dipping in and out of the 'war room', we were also finalising our BDUK initial roll-out plan, something we believe is absolutely critical to the survival and growth of businesses across Essex, where we have over 57,000 small and medium enterprises in a county that's over 70% rural.

So now for something completely different: working up the right communications about what the programme is and isn't; setting up the communications cascades for the all 15 local authorities across Essex plus over 300 parishes, MPs, MEPs and so on; and then preparing the detailed information parish by parish on the initial plan, tying it into our broader next generation access programme.

Lastly, Essex has just concluded the next stage of its reorganisation towards becoming a commissioning council. At the heart of that is the enabling capabilities that technology brings so that people can work mobile, in creative and constantly changing teams and occupying real estate much smaller than we have today.

This takes us back to where I started and then through to next generation access, all cogs that come together to make the county work effectively and deliver the services out residents need.

Visitors to Essex County Council are usually surprised by the sight of staff all wandering around with laptops and no paper in meetings (really!). We are demonstrating collaboration in action with hybrid virtual and face to face meetings through products like Lync. Home working is just a fact of life and there is an expectation that Wifi is everywhere and works (though sometimes we're still working on that one!).

Mobility and flexible working is now part of what we do, and our drive going forward is to grow that thinking and behaviour and engage with our partners through the capability it gives us. For ICT it has to work. Yes, it is very complex but with good discipline and best practice in play it will continue to be the core enabler it is.

Interesting times then, but never dull and it certainly stretches our thinking. It's great to be the CIO here.


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