by Mark Chillingworth

2011, the editor’s year

Jan 03, 20126 mins

So 2011 is behind us and for many it was a tough year. A while back I heard an economist, but sadly can’t remember his name, on Radio 4 predict that 2011 will be a bad year for the economy and his justification for it was that there were no distractions from the difficulties. With Olympics, European football and a Royal celebration in 2012 we will see if he was right.

But 2011 wasn’t all bad, as the economy proved to remain a challenge, CIOs continued to demonstrate their value to improve and simplify organisations, which helped them remain relevant and to react to the difficulties. As a result, being Editor in Chief of CIO remained one of the very best jobs in journalism.

January: I began January by calling for the CIO readership to be proud of technology and proud to be a CIO and as I write this post exactly a year later the same rings true. A year on I still see public sector duplication and business opportunities that technology can unleash. Although increasing unemployment, a theme throughout last year, is a worry to us all, I do believe that technology will improve services and allow people to innovate and then create new opportunities.

February: Written by online editor Julian Goldsmith our February issue and focus took a little tack off-course with a cover feature on a CIOs other life. Philip Langsdale may pilot the tricky course of being CIO at airport operator BAA, but he “relaxes”  by operating a traditional boat builder Cornish Crabbers. The aim of this article, and we hope to do more, was to demonstrate the depth of personality that the CIO world in Great Britain has and how their pursuits demonstrate the business acumen and team spirit analysts claim CIOs lack.

March: It isn’t just the big corporations that attract inspiring CIOs, in March I had the pleasure of interviewing James Thomas CIO at the UCLH NHS Trust. His hospital is at the end of the road from my office and it just goes to show that the best stories are often right under your nose. Thomas is just the sort of CIO the public sector needs; a man who sees things differently and has a vision for what technology can do to make that organisation as successful as possible. In another year when the NHS and its IT was shelled as if it were involved in the Libya crisis of 2011, Thomas and UCLH showed what bold ambition and clear understanding of contracts and usage by customers and workers can really do.

April: Team Lotus, British Telecom and HMRC, an exhausting and fun month of interview three stalwarts of Britain. Although to be honest, the new Team Lotus is a name licence to a Malaysian business, but the team operate from and build their cars in Blighty and its ambition is typical of Britain in motorsport. HMRC deputy CIO Mark Hall demonstrated that he may be a tax man, but he is prepared to be open and frank about his plans for what technology can do for the organisation and the problems they have had to tackle.

May: In-between interviewing the CIO at Boots Andy Haywood as well as retailer White Stuff, the CIO team put on the Transformation Summit. I like the idea of our events encompassing the bigger themes of the CIO role and this event focussed on transformation because transforming a business involves business, technology and leadership, you cannot transform without involving all three.

June: Andrew Turner, CIO at insurance firm Hiscox showed that finance can be interesting and as the Eurozone began to creek, Hiscox expanded successfully.

July: The cover that worried me, Ailsa Beaton, CIO at the Met Police as the summer heat increased, so did the heat on the Met following revelations of phone hacking carried out by the newspaper owned by Australian Rupert Murdoch. An earlier Met investigation failed to uncover the size of the hacking scandal and then the relationships between the Met Police and Murdoch’s News International became uncomfortable reading. So it was difficult to know whether we should put the Met’s CIO on the cover, but I felt that CIOs do the best they can, there will always be people who will abuse their position, we ran the cover and it has been well received by readers.

September: No summer relaxation for the CIO team as Managing Editor Rhys Lewis led a redesign of the print title, something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. The new look reflects the business and quality ambitions that we and CIOs have. Remodelling the magazine was a very enjoyable experience with great team spirit and brilliant contributions by the designers and photographers.

October:Flying Low was our cover line for Trevor Didcock, CIO at easyJet. Some remarked that it was a trouser joke, but Didcock demonstrates that CIOs with low budgets can and in his case, are the ones who achieve the most. IT is central to everything at easyJet and the CIO has a strong influence as a result. But there was something inspiring about Didcock and easyJet, against a weak economy this British company flourishes, it has turned a market on its head, my six journeys with them in 2011 were pleasant and they continue to innovate. Didcock and easyJet are relaxed and professional, there were no PR minders in the room to irritate and deviate and as the CIO 100 judging panel agreed, that alone says a lot for this company and its CIO.

November: The month kicked off with the CIO Summit, our second annual gathering and a tremendous success. Our ambition of keeping the event by CIOs, for CIOs with an audience of just CIOs means we had some frank and co-operative discussion and a strong sense of community throughout the day.

Gwyn Thomas, CIO for the Welsh Assembly was our cover star and showed that some of the most innovative public sector leadership is not in Whitehall. Thomas was an inspiring speaker on the leadership role a CIO has to have.

December: From the summer onwards CIO has been campaigning for the CIO community to get involved with training and recruiting the next generation of IT workforce. It’s a topic we will continue with in 2012 and authors Mike Altendorf and Tony Westbrook are keen to push the agenda. There are good reasons for it: innovation, wage inflation in BRIC economies, unemployment here and yet a skills shortage show that action must be taken by CIOs.

It was a great year and I really believe 2012 will be another good year for CIOs and CIO.