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The Team at Laudale

Natalie Asprey
Natalie Asprey
Marketing Communications Manager

Transformation Stories, Bob Brown CIO, Manchester City Council

From pigeons in the data centre roof to assembling an award-winning team delivering change, that’s just part of Manchester City Council’s Transformation Story.  

On Wednesday 12th September Laudale hosted the first ‘ Transformation Stories’ event designed to bring together experts in business transformation and change to share experiences, best practice and more. In the first session, delegates heard from Manchester City Council CIO Bob Brown – the man responsible for driving transformational change and innovation in one of the UK’s largest and most progressive councils.  

But where did that story begin? 

Having joined Manchester City Council in 2015 one of the first things Bob did was visit its’ data centre and there he discovered a few issues – not least that half of Manchester’s wildlife had taken up residence in the data centre roof but on a more technical level that he was able to walk into somewhere which should be incredibly secure without so much as a guest pass and which despite being a crucial element of the Council’s ability to deliver its core services was actually neglected and working at a disadvantage as a result. It was then he realised that the key was getting the council to understand the risks of not having the right technology and security in place for residents and for itself.  

What followed was a conversation with then Chief Executive Sir Howard Bernstein on council priorities and the issues that were troubling him, one such issue was that the current data centre was on a site which was earmarked for a school – Sir Howard was keen to build more schools, people wanted to live in the city but they didn’t have schools to send their children to but technology within the council itself and for residents Bob discovered wasn’t even close to the top of the priority list. And so project ‘ Building A School’ was born. Not about schools per se but about the large-scale job of moving the data centre and improving systems and services nonetheless the buy-in was there by simply changing the narrative and linking the activity of the ICT department to wider council and economic strategy.  

Over the next months, a formidable team was assembled with the ICT team growing more than a third at a time when council budgets were tight it was crucial to demonstrate value, it’s a team which has grown significantly adding experience and expertise to its ranks and as a result is a team which is award-winning and delivering real solutions for the business and for city residents. An example of which is the operation to move council emails and calendars from Lotus Notes to Gmail, for a traditional public sector organisation ‘Going Google’ was a really big deal but what it led to was services like the Google Garage being available to businesses and residents in the city and on a wider scale Google’s first HQ outside of London being based in Manchester.  

Manchester City Council’s Transformation Story is far from complete with many chapters yet to be written under Bob’s leadership but he shared this thought in conclusion “ Transformation has to be relevant and you have to be sure that your organisation knows the risk but if you can create that cycle that through delivering change you can give something back to those you do it on behalf of – you’ll win hearts and minds”  

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