Computer Weekly UKtech50: Rising Stars 2014

Computer Weekly’s five rising stars of 2014

Every year, Computer Weekly lists the 50 most influential people in the IT industry as part of its UKtech50 event.

But in addition to the top 50 – which this year saw Unilever global CIO Jane Moran take the crown – we also recognise rising stars from the UK’s IT, technology and digital sector.

These are individuals who have shown the potential to shape the industry in the coming years – from disrupting retail technology to being the first female chief digital officer in local government.

Chosen by the Computer Weekly team from people we’ve met over last 12 months, our five rising stars of 2014 are listed below.

Lucie Glenday, chief digital officer, Surrey County Council

After working at the Government Digital Service (GDS) as head of business transformation, Lucie Glenday joined Surrey County Council as chief digital officer two years ago.

One of the first chief digital officers in local government, she is tasked with building and championing a “digital culture” that puts users first and delivers the best, low-cost public services possible.

Enabling a forum and the signing up to some form of standards would get us a long way

Lucie Glenday, Surrey County Council

She is also responsible for creating joined-up services through the delivery of a digital data and knowledge-sharing platform.

Talking at an event a couple of weeks ago, Glenday described the need for a set of common standards to develop digital innovations.

“There’s a lot of willing out there and a lot of acknowledgement that something needs to be done,” she said. “Just enabling a forum and the ability to sign up to some form of standards would get us an awfully long way.”

Surrey has joined up with six other councils in the south-east, forming a collaborative group called South East 7 (SE7).

“Surrey has taken over the digital role for those councils,” said Glenday, noting that products can be white-labelled and shared with other councils if common standards are adhered to.

“It’s not just local authorities – you’ve got districts, boroughs and public health, you’ve got all of the local public service providers – and there’s a conversation that has to happen around common standards and making sure we have them in place.”

Stephen Hale, head of digital, Department of Health

“I want to make digital less of a novelty,” the Department of Health’s head of digital, Stephen Hale, told Computer Weekly earlier this year.

“Part of our job is to do us out of a job in a way. We make digital mainstream, so we stop noticing it as innovative,” he said.

Part of our job is to do us out of a job in a way. We make digital mainstream, so we stop noticing it as innovative

Stephen Hale, Department of Health

The Department of Health’s digital team, which was set up at end of 2013 and is now led by Hale, ensures the department uses digital to make better policy and that it is part of everything the department does.

“The challenge is to drive up the confidence of leaders and staff so it doesn’t feel innovative, but rather the best solution the problem,” he said. “Digital is such a broad term – the more you think about it, the more it can help with everything. Not just how you can make campaigns, but how you can provide better services.”

But digital can’t just be a case study or a novel project. Hale says it needs to be a mentality that is accepted by the department to drive change.

While the Department of Health has been innovative with one-off digital campaigns, Hale said these aren’t enough and only have limited lasting value. The digital team is trying to follow in the footsteps of the GDS, he said, by bringing digital expertise into health, rather than paying other providers to do so.

Jon Rudoe, digital and technology director, Sainsbury’s

Jon Rudoe became digital and technology director at Sainsbury's this year after helping to build the supermarket's online presence. His role crosses the boundaries between the traditional chief information officer (CIO) and the chief digital officer (CDO) to create exciting propositions for Sainsbury’s customers.

We’re not working on something on the periphery of our business – we’re digitising the heart of the journey

Jon Rudoe, Sainsbury's

“If you go back 10 to 15 years, technology was obviously very important to retailers, but it wasn’t technology touched directly by consumers,” he told Computer Weekly. “It had a huge part to play in the tills and systems that put stock on the shelves, and while those things are hugely influencing customers, they’re not directly touched by them.”

Rudoe led the team that created the responsive mobile website to allow customers to pre-order their Christmas food, as well as an innovative mobile shopping application which is due to launch next year.

The Sainsbury’s mobile shopping app is currently being trialled. It will allow customers to create shopping lists which can be used to navigate the shop and to scan goods as they are placed in the basket. It will also enable the device to be used to pay for goods to avoid checkout queues.

In both of these customer-facing technologies, the Sainsbury’s technology and digital team is using an agile approach to development.

“It’s not the kind of product you can write on a piece of paper and predict everything because it’s not really something that’s been done in that form before,” he said. “We’ll release it, we’ll iterate it and we’ll release it some more.

“Something like 60% of our customers create a shopping list before they go to the supermarket,” he said. “So we’re not working on something on the periphery of our business – we’re digitising the heart of the journey.”

Dan Taylor-Watt, head of BBC iPlayer

Dan Taylor-Watt leads the development of BBC’s iPlayer. He joined the BBC in 2001, working on the launch of the original BBC Radio Player. He made the move from online radio to online TV in 2007, and took the reins as head of iPlayer in July 2013, co-ordinating a substantial redesign earlier this year.

We are in the fortunate position of not needing to contrive reasons for people to sign in. We’re only doing it to add audience benefit

Dan Taylor-Watt, BBC

The BBC redesigned the iPlayer platform “from the ground up”, changing the look and feel of the interface and improving the way users navigate the website to find shows and discover new content. The last major upgrade to iPlayer was to its web and connected TV versions back in 2010. “Four years ago is quite a long time in online,” Taylor-Watt told Computer Weekly in March.

The broadcaster claimed the redesign would make it easier for users to find something to watch, as 42% of users arrive at iPlayer with no particular programme in mind.

The new design also featured a sign-in functionality to allow users to save their favourite TV shows and seamlessly pick up programmes on multiple devices.

At the time of launch, Taylor said the BBC was “playing catch-up” in offering a sign-up service, compared with other organisations.

“We are in the fortunate position of not needing to contrive reasons for people to sign in,” said Taylor-Watt. “We’re only doing it to add audience benefit.”

With most of his professional career at the BBC, Taylor has worked his way up from project assistant for Radio & Music Interactive in the noughties.

Doug Ward, entrepreneur and co-founder, Tech Britain

A founding member of the Tech City UK Cluster Alliance and technology advisor to Greater Manchester, Manchester University and the prime minister’s office, Doug Ward has been championing technology startups inside and outside the boundaries of the capital.

We’re competing in a global market, and for global investors and businesses to take us seriously it is important cities get together

Doug Ward, Tech Britain

Ward co-founded TechBritain.com, a first attempt at mapping out the UK Tech community. While trying to grow a startup company, he and his business partner had to ask themselves whether they had to move to London or leave the UK after feeling pressured to accept attractive offers in the US.

As other cities follow in the footsteps of London’s Tech City, with the likes of Tech City North launching in the autumn, Ward said combining the strengths of cities to create clusters under one brand will help global investors and businesses take northern startups seriously.

“I think every city will naturally feel like it should have its own tech city organisation,” he told Computer Weekly earlier this year. “But in reality we’re competing in a global market, and for global investors and businesses to take us seriously it is important we get together.”

Ward is a big advocate of the Manchester tech community, believing it could one day become a top-five European startup destination – as he calls it: #MCRTOP5.

His contribution towards this is mainly being a former co-founder to TechHub Manchester and now SpaceportX, providing technology co-working space. The community event space has become the go-to place for tech meet-ups, talent, investors, press and the likes of Google and Twitter when visiting the city. 

Ward also co-organised Manchester's first two startup weekends – hackathons – and co-runs a weekly Friday drinks called Silicon Drinkabout Manchester and a monthly startup breakfast called Startup Brew.

He also speaks at length about the skills gap in the UK and the country's lack of world-class developers.

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