CIO Interview: Ann-Marie Rafferty, head of IT, Access, on partnership models

Ann-Marie Rafferty, who heads up IT for the partnership between Serco and Glasgow council, discusses strategic frameworks

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Five years ago, Glasgow City Council formed a joint venture with Serco to develop a centre of excellence for IT. Ann Marie Rafferty heads up IT for the partnership.

Access, the joint venture between Serco and Glasgow City Council, is a 10-year programme, which started in 2008 to provide a centre of excellence for information technology and property management for the council.

The project has been going remarkably well, according to head of IT, Ann Marie Rafferty. “We have saved a significant amount of money,” she says. 

Rafferty, who previously worked as CIO for the National Trust for Scotland, says the 50:50 joint venture was originally set up to provide a managed service for the council in a bid to reduce cost. She says the partnership has resulted in “millions of pounds of savings”.

One of the key objectives of the partnership was to increase investment in the council's core SAP system. But her approach to SAP is going beyond an implementation of back office systems. “We are working to develop an SAP practice model,” she says. 

Rafferty's overall objective is to work closely with SAP as the supplier of the software, to develop a methodology for working with large suppliers. “We want to develop a framework [to work with suppliers], that we can use for other larger systems, such as our Care First social work platform,” she says.

Glasgow City Council uses Centrix to support XP migration

Glasgow City Council has used WorkSpace iQ from Centrix to audit desktops from migrations off Windows XP, which will no longer be supported after April 2014. The WorkSpace iQ product identified 6,700 applications being used, including 83 versions of Adobe Reader and 40 paid-for Adobe applications.

The council has used Centrix to help it identify line of business applications that may have potential Windows 7 compatibility issues. The WorkSpace iQ tool provides usage analysis, which has helped the project team to validate the requirements of each council department and every user – a task that had not previously been possible. The team now expects to be able to submit the full migration proposal to the council for approval.

Essentially, the model will define who owns the overall strategy and outline the change requirement. She says it will specify hardware and platforms. 

Her aspiration is to include SAP accreditation as part of the practice model. She says the framework will allow the SAP team to build a five-year strategy for the SAP system and allow the council to determine whether a migration from Oracle to SAP Hana makes sense. Rafferty admits that the practice model will be a challenge, given the fast pace of IT. “Anything over three years and the world turns on its head as the market changes.”

New compliance rules

As a public sector organisation, Glasgow City Council must meet certain standards to use the PSN (Public Services Network)

“The PSN Authority requires local authorities to pass an annual compliance test,” says Rafferty. “The desktop is the first part of the compliance piece for users. All our applications have to comply with PSN.”

Desktops need to be compliant under PSN. One of the big deadlines looming is the end of support of Windows XP in April 2014. After this date XP systems will no longer be PSN-compliant.

The council has used the WorkSpace iQ-auditing tool from Centrix to support the migration from Windows XP to Window 7. Rafferty says the Centrix tool provides hardware and software inventory data, which helps the company plan its migration and upgrade strategy. 

“We have more than 30,000 desktops. So far, we have migrated 10,000. We have rolled out education and will now roll out the migration to the rest of the user community,” she says. This will kick off in November 2013.

We want to develop a framework [to work with suppliers] that we can use for other larger systems, such as our Care First social work platform

Anne Marie Rafferty, Access

Mobile opportunity in local government

Given the significance of passing the PSN compliance test, it is no surprise that Rafferty is cautiously optimistic about the opportunities and risks of mobile devices in local government. 

“We are currently looking at mobile working and how we deploy them, such as with social workers. Tablets are more efficient for social workers,” she adds. 

Social care staff could potentially access applications in the field, rather than having to take notes that are typed up back in the office. “There is potential to have [access to] more real-time data, which can be critical when people’s lives are affected,” says Rafferty.

Since mobile technology changes how people work, Rafferty is also looking at working practices from an HR and trade unions perspective. She admits that the technology is the easier part. Even so, she says security is its biggest hurdle: "We deployed iPads and installed a security add-on, but as soon as there is the iOS 7 upgrade, iPads are no longer compliant [with the PSN].”

Earlier this year, the information commissioner fined Glasgow City Council for the loss of laptops with unencrypted data.

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