How are Wigan & Bolton Council's approaching Digital Transformation?
An interview with Lucy Olivia Hopkins, Digital Marketing Manager, We Build Bots and Alison Hughes, Assistant Director of ICT Strategic Partnerships at Wigan & Bolton Council
I’m Alison Hughes the Assistant Director responsible for the ICT Strategic Partnership at Wigan & Bolton Councils. That is a strategic relationship with our IT provider Agilisys, but it spans across Bolton Council, Wigan Council, and inspiring healthy lifestyles. We used to also include a housing trust but that’s been brought back in-house now. So, I act as the strategic client on behalf of all of those partners and I also manage some internal ICT delivery across those partners.
It’s a very challenging role. I think for me, my job is to make sure that we can maximise the opportunities for sharing resources, for moving change forward at a pace. We’ve got lots of things that probably would not be affordable in the public sector if we didn’t do them in a partnership way. We have things like a 24/7 service desk which I know can be extremely expensive if you run that as a single organisation. We can move forward on changes at a greater pace because we can share resources and learnings and only do things once on behalf of all the partners.
But for me, it’s about making sure that I manage all those opportunities and manage the strategic technology roadmap with our partners, whilst respecting that each individual organisation has got its own identity and its own specific priorities. So, it is quite an unusual role.
Lucy Hopkins: That’s so interesting. You must be constantly inspired by all of the different areas of your role?
Alison Hughes: I think it’s interesting because it’s very much about listening to customers, and I think my job is to make sure that I’m really in tune and I really listen to those organisations that I work for. My salary is paid by each of those organisations in different component parts, so that in itself is quite unusual. And there are five of us in a client team who are paid in that way. So we are very specifically people who work for the strategic partnership element of it and then each partner has their own day-to-day service delivery team, which is things like IT business partners.
We’ve got some staff who look after applications, people who are transformation programme managers, and they’re looking after the specific business requirements in relation to IT or in relation to business change. We look after all of the big technology stuff like what’s our strategy around agile working? What is the technology that’s going to support us on that journey? Cybersecurity and how do we deal with those challenges collectively? What are the things that are going to help take us in the right direction going forward? So, it’s very much a balancing act and I would say that in my role, the most important thing is about listening and communicating really well because you’re bearing in mind just how many people you’re trying to represent in terms of your role.
The contract itself is very different from a traditional outsourcing contract, it’s unique and people find that quite interesting because I think traditional outsourcing contracts were very much about having a list of requirements - you go to the market and the market provides specific technologies and you decide which one provides the technologies you like and you go with that provider.
Our relationship is a very outcome-based contract in that we wanted to develop a proper partnership and we wanted to be able to say to our provider these are the outcomes that we’re seeking, you go away and as long as the solutions you recommend meet our requirements in terms of quality and delivery of those outcomes, we’re happy for you to take the lead role in that. That changes the relationship that you have with your provider really because it’s always about focusing on the outcomes that you want from the technology which means that you can always revisit those technologies in terms of have our outcomes changed. Are they delivering on the things that are really important to us as an organisation?
Congratulations on being awarded #2 Female Gov Tech Leaders 2018 and Top 30 Women In Tech in Manchester!
Thank you! I must have an awful lot of people in my camp and I’m very, very grateful to those people. I was honoured to be given that because I just think I’m an ordinary person doing my job as best I can every day. So, thank you. I was delighted.
I think it was an amazing honour to be named alongside the other top 29, some of whom I know personally and are absolutely fantastic women doing an amazing job every day, but I think we’re all different. One of my passions is encouraging more women to get involved in tech. I’m absolutely passionate about it and that’s why I try and put myself forward with things like this.
The tech industry is an absolutely fantastic place to work if you’re a women because there’s so many different jobs and roles and it offers so much flexibility - you can very much do a lot of the roles around your lifestyle. I think a lot of women see the tech industry in a very traditional way in that it’s all about developers or it’s all about infrastructure people and they don’t realise that there’s so many other roles that really, really are interesting and I think they can bring something to those roles.