by Mark Chillingworth

National Trust teddy embeds IT culture change

Nov 12, 20142 mins
IT LeadershipNonprofits

“We have gone from the department of NO, to being completely engaged with the National Trust cause,” CIO Sarah Flannigan tells CIO UK in a profile interview.

TheNational Trust is currently under-going a three year £40 million renovation project dubbed Systems Simplification Programme (SSP) for its technology and processes, the project is being led by CIO Flannigan.

“We’ve had to have a DNA change in IT so we have brought in people who are as brilliant at communicating as they are at technology.

“The organisation is heavily devolved so IT and finance can become disenfranchised,” she said before revealing how she prevents this happening again:

“I have also introduced mandatory work experience. No one can work in our team unless they do time outside of the headquarters. So we have a blog where people post their pictures and experiences of working in the properties.” The National Trust IT team have a cuddly bear that wears a T-shirt that reads “IT loves special places”, a slogan similar to the organisational wide slogan that in recent times has reinvented the image of the National Trust as more than just the custodians of former stately homes.

“The teams take it to wherever they are visiting and have to take a picture. It is a way in for people and a talking point and it is very very powerful. This teddy has been to the summer solstice in Avesbury and to see a newly-discovered Rembrandt at Buckland Abbey. It has been a really important part of IT to be embedded. I am always on the look-out for fun ways to engage the staff. “

Founded in 1895 the National Trust in fact had a remit to give kids of the London slums access to the countryside in its early days, but it was the National Trust Act of 1907, which enabled wealthy families to leave their historic houses to the trust and avoid taxation, that has shaped the image. Today the National Trust manages a wide variety of landscapes from southern Downs, East Anglian fens to the Lakeland fells and mountains, as well as castles, manors or mill houses.