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UKtech50 2015 - Computer Weekly's five rising stars

We select five IT leaders destined for great things, to recognise the rising stars of IT alongside our annual list of the 50 most influential people in UK technology

Computer Weekly has announced its sixth annual UKtech50 – our list of the 50 most influential people in the UK digital economy, which this year saw BT chief executive Gavin Patterson voted as the most influential person in UK IT.

But in addition to the top 50, we also recognise individuals who have demonstrated the potential to shape the industry in the coming years – our rising stars from the UK’s IT, technology and digital sector.

Chosen by the Computer Weekly team, from the people we’ve met over last 12 months, our five rising stars for 2015 are:

Seb Chakraborty, director of technology, British Gas Connected Homes

Seb Chakraborty leads the technology team at British Gas’s internet of things division – effectively a digital startup within the energy giant. His team built an operations and analytics cloud architecture to support the Hive range of connected home products.

At Connected Homes, Chakraborty has pioneered the use of public cloud, in particular Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“Prior to joining British Gas, I was at Telefonica where I had used AWS. Besides, when I was looking to hire IT professionals for the project, I found that most professionals had skill sets and experience around using AWS cloud. And when hiring, you always want to take advantage of the best skill sets available,” Chakraborty told Computer Weekly last year.

Seb Chakraborty
"You always want to take advantage of the best skill sets available"

Seb Chakraborty, British Gas Connected Homes

Previously chief architect at O2/Telefonica UK, Chakraborty was CTO at the mobile firm’s Digital UK business before joining British Gas in January 2013. The energy supplier is investing £500m in developing its connected homes business, after selling more than 200,000 of its Hive smart thermostats.

Richard Corbridge, CIO, Health Service Executive in Ireland

Richard Corbridge is leading the digital transformation of the Irish equivalent of the NHS, and doubles up as CEO of eHealth Ireland, set up to deliver innovations in healthcare technology. “I like a challenge – that’s why I work in healthcare IT,” he told Computer Weekly in an interview this year.

Corbridge started his dual role in December 2014 after a three-year stint as CIO of the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network.

He held organisation-wide responsibility for information systems and technology, implementing new strategies, delivering bespoke capabilities and innovating wherever possible. During his tenure with the organisation, the average time for a clinical trial was cut from 200 days to 20.

Richard Corbridge

"I like a challenge – that’s why I work in healthcare IT"

Richard Corbridge, Health Service Executive

“Without technology and innovation, you can’t provide great services to patients,” he said. “What we’re determined to demonstrate is that the digital transformation taking place in modern enterprises can also be applied in the healthcare sector.”

Sarah Flannigan, CIO, National Trust

A business leader turned into a CIO, Sarah Flannigan has led a major £40m IT transformation programme at the National Trust, one of the UK’s best-known charities, which will deliver £90m of business benefit. “I’m now getting into the fun stuff,” she said.

Between 2007 and 2009, she worked as sales and marketing director for conservatory maker David Salisbury, having previously worked as the firm’s operations director. Flannigan decided to take a break from work in 2009 to spend time at home after the birth of her second son. On her return to work in April 2010, she was parachuted into the National Trust and assumed the role of CIO – her first IT leadership position.

Sarah Flannigan

"I really enjoy the crossover of complex technology and change management"

Sarah Flannigan, National Trust

Flannigan’s three-year IT strategy – named the Systems Simplification Programme (SSP) – is the biggest change project in the National Trust’s history.

“When you stop and think about the amount of work required, it sounds terrifying. The SSP is a huge change programme and it affects how people work across the trust. But we’ve been honest and upfront with staff and it’s going really well because we have some great people,” Flannigan said in an interview with Computer Weekly this year.

The transformation project also provides benefits to Flannigan at a personal level. “I need a challenge to stimulate me as a leader,” she said. “I really enjoy the crossover of complex technology and change management.”

Richard Godfrey, assistant director, Digital Peterborough

One of an emerging group of digital leaders in local government, Richard Godfrey is showing other councils how digital can deliver austerity targets and improve public services. Peterborough is trialling internet of things (IoT) technology to improve social care, and using cloud and data to transform the local authority’s IT. 

Last year, Godfrey helped to launch a cloud-enabled technology strategy for Peterborough City Council (PCC) to improve how it connects with citizens. He is moving all the council’s core applications to the cloud, using Salesforce’s platform.

Richard Godfrey
"We are in the same boat as most local authorities, we have all had our budgets cut"

Richard Godfrey, Digital Peterborough

The local authority is building a 1Gbps fibre broadband network for residents and businesses and city-wide Wi-Fi. This year Godfrey started a pilot project to use wireless sensors and wearable technology to improve social care for elderly people. The trial will use IoT technologies to monitor people at home and send alerts if it detects unusual behaviour, such as changes in regular habits or a lack of movement when somebody is known to be at home.

The project hopes to demonstrate that elderly people can be more independent thanks to the technology, while improving care and cutting costs.

"With the cuts we have to make, it is simply not possible for us to wait for things to filter through. We are in the same boat as most local authorities, in that we have all had our budgets cut," said Godfrey.

Rather than looking at making the IT department more efficient, he wants to focus on the use of IT across the whole council: "The adult social care bill is £60m. The IT bill is £6m. So let’s take 10% off theirs using technology, not 10% off mine."

Simon Gratton, chief data officer, Zurich Insurance

One of an emerging breed of digital and data experts, Simon Gratton also combines experience in leading business change. He is also an advisor and mentor on the Startupbootcamp Insurance programme for finance technology (fintech) startups. 

Gratton joined Zurich Insurance in May 2015, having been business and IT transformation advisory director at Capgemini Financial Services. There, he advised executives in insurance, banking and capital markets firms on complex digital, big data, business change and operational transformation projects.

Simon Gratton

You need to understand the relationship between the interaction of people and things

Simon Gratton, Zurich Insurance

At Zurich, he has also been looking into the internet of things and its security implications. "We are moving to the era of identity relationship management, which is about identifying the relationships with something,” he told IT leaders at a Computer Weekly CW500 Club event this year.

"You need to be able to understand the relationship between the interaction of people and things, which requires an understanding of ontologies, semantics and learning algorithms. It is no longer about joining two data fields together and linking a few systems together. Now we have to teach devices to understand these relationships."

Gratton is assessing how Zurich can use big data analytics to make better use of the vast amounts information the company gathers, to improve risk management and deliver new products and services to customers.

Computer Weekly rising stars

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