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Suffolk Council CIO Mark Adams-Wright packing local punch

Mark Chillingworth | April 12, 2013
"The enthusiasm to take risks and make big changes is pretty healthy," says Mark Adams-Wright, CIO of Suffolk County Council. At the council's Ipswich headquarters he describes the journey the authority is on to become a thriving community that subtly embraces technology while remaining a rural idyll.

"This strategy shows we can be valid and we are trying to break moulds and actively challenge. I think this is a brave new world and that only the brave can do well in it."

A broader base

Adams-Wright shrugs off the cloud's doom-mongers. "There is a cottage industry in data-loss scares. A lot of the people that talk about this are in fear of their business revenues. It is easy to be bleak and we continue to talk about data loss, but also by being more free with our data we can move things forward towards a better end. Data should always be a half-full, half-empty discussion and we have to be careful that we don't over-balance fear. It is easy to build for now, but people in our organisations are not the youth of now and they have been sold a message of insecurity."

With an open mind to cloud, it is no surprise that Adams-Wright is equally a benefactor of consumerisation and how it can plug into the Suffolk strategy.

"We have virtualised every possible server and are moving towards an enterprise VDI solution, so by 2014 we can look at our PC and physical estates differently and that will be an interesting journey. A 300-user Citrix implementation has already taken place for the authority's Public Health team.

"Our vision is to create a simple to run and operate PC environment with browser and thin-client access that users will need to do their jobs. Device ownership is less the issue in this world and concepts of BYOD begin to have genuine impact." Along those lines he is installing a public wifi at the headquarters using a commercial ISP.

"You need to get in amongst it. It's not about accepting terms and conditions and most people don't challenge their suppliers. The market is enthused by how much we understand the cloud, and the vendors want someone to be the leader.

"Suppliers are in business to make money, not lose business, so cloud services will be lost and won by service," he says with a nod to the new breed of suppliers available to local government.

"Look at RIM and how bad news can spread for an organisation; so Microsoft, Google and Amazon are not in this market to have bad press."

But what about the councillors and the authority's leadership team? Are they ready for this brave new world of mixed vendors, data in the cloud and employee-owned devices?

"I have really enjoyed helping my colleagues understand the art of the possible. Technology was akin to the dark arts for some and now it is more mainstream for them," says the CIO.


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