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Manchester City Council CIO Bob Brown interview: Customer-centric IT alignment

Edward Qualtrough | Dec. 13, 2016
From service desk to CIO - Manchester City Council's Bob Brown on vendor management, CIO leadership, IT skills, and aligning IT with the strategic goals of the council

Rationalisation and shared services

Having delivered a first-class IT service desk, delivered the IT to the whole of the UK for the June 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union, aligned Manchester City Council's technology with its other goals and refashioned the way it sources and works with its suppliers, Brown said that his next focus is to reduce costs. The CIO said that this was a financial imperative which meant the council would "have to do things differently".

From an IT perspective, Brown said that there is also a great opportunity to develop en masse a shared services agenda to rationalise and standardise architectures and partner environments, as well as the tackling the health and social care agenda to reduce the council's costs and pressures on the NHS budget.

This involves a move from the reactive end of acute care to the preventative end, Brown added, and will involve many conversations around standards, data sharing and data protection until progress is made and the benefits are realised.

IT skills

Recruitment and a lack of relevant IT skills are a challenge for Manchester City Council CIO Brown, who said that there were not enough people with the right skill levels to meet demand at the moment in the region.

While appreciating that in many instances the local authority is unable to compete with some private sector organisations on pay, Brown believes some of the larger organisations in the region are exacerbating the problem by driving the salary structure for daily rate contractors ever upwards.

"I think there's still far too many organisations here who don't recruit from the bottom up and then develop their staff," Brown said.

During CIO UK's visit to Manchester Brown reiterated the comments of Graham Benson, CIO of Manchester-based Rentalcars.com, that to some degree the region is becoming the victim of its own success by attracting big companies to the area.

"We just do not have enough of the right skilled individuals or the right level of experience across Greater Manchester today; there's too much going on," Brown said.

One proposal mooted by Brown was for the CIOs to come together and develop plans for sharing skills, resources and training development across Greater Manchester.

CIO leadership

Brown is approaching his two-year anniversary as Manchester City Council's first CIO as the organisation enters a new period under incoming CEO Joanne Roney - following the announcement Sir Howard Bernstein would retire - and with an inaugural mayoral election for Greater Manchester in May 2017.

Operating in this political environment, Brown knows that it is by delivery and offering the improved service that the CIO and executive tech leadership role can flourish.

 

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