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Green IT, nominate top tech women – Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast

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Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna discuss the CW IT sustainability think-tank, the launch of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2022 list, and Lambeth Council in the cloud

In this episode, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna talk about the new Computer Weekly IT sustainability think-tank, the launch of the Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2022 list, and Lambeth Council’s modernisation of its business applications stack.

Since the last podcast team episode, CW’s managing editor (technology) Cliff Saran has published a couple of podcasts under the CW Downtime Upload banner, and Brian refers to those.

One was with Gartner research director Annette Zimmerman about reducing the carbon emissions of IT hardware, and the other was with Shawn Edwards, chief technology officer at Bloomberg, about the changes he has seen over two decades in corporate IT.

Caroline had been missing from the previous group podcast while she was welcoming her Calabrian rescue dog, Bruno, who has a growing social media presence. She relates how the young dog has been settling into west London, with its alarming road signs and big red buses. The team chat about that, the recent heatwave, and Brian’s take on this year’s Love Island.

Caroline then gives an account of Computer Weekly’s heritage in IT sustainability coverage, as a prelude to highlighting two new things: the resuscitated Green Tech blog, and the launch of the publication’s IT Sustainability Think Tank.

This is a group of industry experts, to whom Caroline poses a regular question, they respond, and then those responses are packaged up on ComputerWeekly.com. It’s similar to a think-tank the publication has run on security matters for many years.

The first tranche of opinion pieces under the think-tank banner was published in June. The topic was the circular economy, and one of the pieces is this by Praveen Shanker, head of technology, media and telecommunications at EY UK & Ireland: IT Sustainability Think Tank: Getting a measure on the circular economy.

The pieces for the July edition are going out next week and the week after. These are about the importance of partnerships in helping enterprises achieve their IT sustainability goals, including in terms of intra-organisational collaboration.

On the podcast, Caroline explains the rationale for this venture – how it is about joining up our coverage up more and elevating it. Also, about applying more consistency to our IT sustainability editorial programme, in the same way as Clare McDonald and other CW colleagues do with our ongoing focus on women in IT, and diversity and inclusion.

Cliff Saran and Sebastian Klovig Skelton are also notable CW writers on this topic, the former often from a hardware perspective, and the latter from an ethical supply chain angle, focused on rare earth metals, and the human toll the mining of those takes. Caroline’s point of entry, and her lens, is the sustainability of datacentres, and she has written extensively on that, including on datacentres’ water consumption habits. She is driving the think-tank.

Caroline relates how consumers are demanding sustainability from the brands they buy, she says on the podcast; likewise, investors are looking to invest in companies that have committed to executing their sustainability strategies.

The think-tank is an organic thing that will grow. At present, its members include experts from the Uptime Institute, the BCS, TechUK, EY, the Eco-Friendly Web Alliance and BackMarket. There are also some consultancies represented that either specialise in advising enterprises and SMEs on making their IT strategies more sustainable: CGI, 3 Step IT, Cervest and Posetiv Cloud. But it is growing and will grow organically on ComputerWeekly.com.

Nominate influential women in tech

Another Computer Weekly venture that is growing, and has grown a great deal over the past decade, is the Most Influential Women in UK Technology list that we do in partnership with recruitment and talent firm Spinks. This showcases the top 50 women in the UK’s tech sector. When it first launched in 2012, there were 25 women on the list.

In the next segment of the episode, Clare talks about the launch article for the programme, Nominate: Most Influential Women in UK Technology 2022.

At this stage, the priority is for readers to nominate candidates for the list. Last year’s longlist featured more than 500 women. There is simple online form to be found here where you can submit your nominations.

Clare explains the overall process on the podcast. At this stage, though: get nominating!

Last year, Clare interviewed the winner, Poppy Gustafsson, CEO of artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber security firm Darktrace. Gustafsson said the technology sector increasingly needs a mix of skillsets, including soft skills, emphasising that the key to innovation is applying your skillset in a creative way to solve a problem.

Doing the Lambeth walk

Brian then moves the episode into the realm of accountancy (and other business functions) in local government.

He talks about a case study, recently published on the CW site, about Lambeth Council’s modernisation of its business applications stack: Lambeth maps future with cloud applications. This is based on an interview with Hamant Bharadia, assistant director of finance at Lambeth Council, which was the first local government body to implement the full suite of Oracle’s Fusion applications in the Oracle cloud.

But first, Brian pauses to deliver the cast-iron historical fact (thank you, Wikipedia) that Lambeth was a “landing place for lambs” in the medieval period? Hence the name.

The gist of the story, as related by Bharadia, is that the council decided to go on a cloud journey for the usual benefits of simplicity, agility, and being able to work from anywhere. That became vital during the pandemic, of course.

A big theme for the finance team is promoting self-service in the business, thereby liberating the finance team to do more high-value work. For example, engaging with budget holders sooner, playing a more advisory role with respect to activities such as procurement, and so on.

The big picture is doing more with less – the council’s central government funding has been dramatically cut in recent years.

Brian highlights that towards the very end of the interview, Bharadia said Lambeth Council wants to do more with data. The key technology here is Microsoft, specifically Power BI. Indeed, the council had gone to the cloud first with Microsoft’s Office365 suite.

The Lambeth data science team is small and relatively new. It proved its value during the Covid-19 pandemic by identifying residents who were particularly vulnerable through joining up a plethora of datasets, including housing and social care data. The team is continuing this effort into the present cost-of-living crisis.

The podcast team then have a knockabout discussion about the journalistic, story-telling value that often lies at the end of an interview, when both parties are getting ready to pack up, and it seems to be all over. But it’s not.

Podcast music courtesy of Joseph McDade

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