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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

"If you work well with partners, what you tend to find is that you're aligning yourselves to work better together," Brown said. "If I just hide behind a relationship, because you provide a transactional service for me and I let you guess what I need, and you keep trying to sell me stuff over and over, you're throwing darts in the dark. I live my life a little bit more transparently than that."

Brown said that not only has Manchester City Council found a number of new smaller technology partners, they have also been able to attract others to Manchester and the north west serving a broader purpose to the region.

"We do have some mega-vendors in our world: BT, SAP, Oracle and these sorts of places," Brown said. "But crucially, our strategy is akin to an SME base.

"That can give us some of the dynamics that help us to underpin a closeness of the relationships that we want to forge, supporting the growth agenda we've got from Manchester because they are based here.

"For us to be able to underpin our whole social value agenda of having organisations that are obviously breeding future technology by simply being located here to support social value paying business rates, using our transport network, using our hospitals, doctors. It's a virtuous circle."

Vendor management

Since starting the new vendor management and sourcing aspect of Manchester City Council's IT strategy and agenda, Brown said that 70% of the authority's IT supplier account managers have had to change. Having been involved in pre-sales but having a ruthless focus on the customer and positive outcomes, Brown has put the onus on their partners to build relationships with account managers who are outcome-based driven rather than driven by revenue.

Furthermore, the CIO is keen to see more of his peers working across local government to push the boundaries of the situation they are in.

"If our partners and our suppliers paid and rewarded their people on the basis of successful outcomes, we would have a far better and mutually beneficial relationship than if somebody is just determined to sell me - as far as our company is concerned - the next thing," Brown explained. "I know there are some mega vendors whose sole mission in life is to sell their agenda, to the extent that they don't even listen to what their customers are after.

"As has happened in local authority and local government for years and years, they've just accepted what they've been given. If you work with my city council, I guarantee you'll know who the customer is."

One of Manchester City Council's newest suppliers is Google, with Brown describing its suite of office apps as an enormous leap forward in the organisation's ability to collaborate and work differently. The mobility and improved service also comes with a seven-figure saving, Brown added.

 

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