by Mark Chillingworth

That was August 2011

Sep 05, 20119 mins

The month’s news in business technology leadership

August, usually a month to relax a little, tidy the desk, make a few off-site visits and re-assess the odd process before the autumn and winter workloads really kick in. Not a bit of it in 2011, as BBC Radio 4 political journalist Nick Robinson said just this morning, “it was the summer of never ending breaking news”. As if rioting selfish yobs, the fall of Tripoli and continued economic difficulties in Europe were not enough, the technology world hardly relaxed with big changes at Apple and Autonomy the most obvious headlines.

So here’s what’s happened and for more detail follow the links to the CIO news channel.


John Suffolk, government CIO under Labour and the first UK government CIO went vendor side joining rising telecoms provider Huawei. Suffolk was appointed as global security officer at the telecoms firm Huawei. Suffolk, who as a CIO argued the government could radically cut IT costs by slashing datacentres, making more use of cloud computing, and improving procurement. The government’s current chief information officer is Joe Harley, former CIO at the Department for Work and Pensions.

At Huawei, Suffolkwill develop and manage a global cyber security assurance strategy and related systems, which will be adopted across all departments including research and development, supply chain, marketing and sales, project delivery and technical service. His office will be at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China.

Huawei provides telecoms and security services to businesses and governments around the world.

Earlier in his career, Suffolk was an adviser to the World Bank High-Level Experts group, advising governments on how IT can help transform the public sector and generate economic growth. He was also director general of the Criminal Justice Transformation Programme.


Tesco the retail giant and regular star as bad boy of supermarkets in Channel 4 documentaries signed a new eight year agreement with Microsoft. Tesco CIO Mike McNamara told CIO that the deal includes unlimited licences for the British company.

“It is a long contract,” said the Tesco CIO of the new eight year deal with Microsoft. “It is about as long as we would sign.” McNamara describes the deal as an “enterprise subscription agreement”.

“So we have unlimited licensing over the duration of the contract. It is important not to count them [licences] all the time when you are a large distributed organisation like us,” he said of the benefits.

David Wilde, the new CIO at Essex County Council is cutting IT jobs as part of a programme to modernise its information services and save £32 million in costs. The cuts are part of a wider job cull at the council, as part of its transformation programme to achieve £300 million over four years, which may result in 429 redundancies. Essex County Council said that it had already saved half, £150 million, of the savings target through “smarter working”.


Steven VanRoekel, formerly managing director at the Federal Communications Commission, was announced as the replacement for Vivek Kundra as US chief information officer (CIO).

VanRoekel joined the US government in June as executive director for citizen and organisational engagement at the Agency for International Development (USAID), on detail from his position as managing director of the FCC.Vivek Kundra, the first CIO of the US government, resigned in June after two and a half years on the job. He was appointed CIO a few months after President Barack Obama took office. Kundra is moving to Harvard to serve as a joint fellow at the Kennedy School and at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

VanRoekel worked for Microsoft for 15 years, including a stint as an assistant to co-founder Bill Gates, before he joined the FCC. He was a supporter of Obama and attended the inauguration.


Ladbrokes the betting shop firmreported an increase in digital profits following significant investment in its online platform. In its interim financial results for the half year to 30 June, the betting company reported a 6.5 per cent increase in profits for its digital operation from £29.1 million in 2010 to £31 million this year.

Ladbrokes has invested in its e-commerce platform by improving its search function to reduce the time it takes customers to find the bet they want, and enabling them to place bets directly from ranked search results. This is part of the company’s plans to refresh its Sportsbook [sports betting functionality] ahead of a full re-launch in early 2012.


In the face of shocking riots as groups looted the streets of London, Birmingham and Liverpool and destroyed the livelihoods of people, mugged Malaysian students and even killed a man technology came under the spotlight for its usage by the looters. Blackberry manufacturer RIM promised to work closely with police after claims that rioters who spread destruction across London, Birmingham and Liverpool last night used their Blackberry devices to co-ordinate action.

London’s Metropolitan Policevowed to track down people who posted “inflammatory” messages on the BlackBerry Messenger network, as well as on Twitter and Facebook.

Blackberry devices have, in recent years proved almost as popular among young people as among the business community, because of the low cost of the Blackberry Messaging service (BBM) compared to texts.


IBM CTO Mark Deanof the company’s Middle East and Africa division was one of a dozen IBM engineers who designed that first PC, which was unveiled on August 12, 1981, but 30 years later he said PCs are “going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs.” In other words, it faces extinction.

IBM, of course, sold its PC division to Lenovo in 2005. Dean said in a blog post: “I, personally, have moved beyond the PC as well. My primary computer now is a tablet. When I helped design the PC, I didn’t think I’d live long enough to witness its decline. But, while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they’re no longer at the leading edge of computing.”


TheLondon Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), which runs the London Fire Brigade, announced it was looking for a contractor to provide new control and mobilising IT systems. The authority said it may choose to either award a contract for new software solutions, or a managed services contract.

The 10-year contract has a value of between £21 million and £297.6 million, and is open as a framework to three other fire services – Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Services, Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority and Royal Berkshire Fire Authority.


Google needs to strengthen its privacy policies, in spite of some improvements in recent month, the Information Commissioner ruled. Google has been under scrutiny by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) since the company admitted in May 2010 to collecting payload data from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks it was indexing as part of its Street View imaging.


TalkTalk the telcowas fined £3 million by telecoms regulator Ofcom, after IT system problems led to it incorrectly billing 65,000 of its own and subsidiary Tiscali’s customers.

The telecoms firm acquired Tiscali in 2009, and major billing issues emerged during the switchover. Last March, TalkTalk repaid nearly £2.5 million in total to customers. At one point during the companies’ integration, TalkTalk was running nine billing systems.

The company’s own ‘Trio’ (The Right Information Online) platform has now replaced all billing systems in the group. Trio is understood to be based on technology from suppliers Chordiant and Tibco.


CIO columnist and founder of search technology specialists Autonomy sold his company to HP for £6.7 billion on the day HP announced it was exiting the growing tablet device market and spinning off its PC sales division. HP is the world’s largest maker of computers, but now intends to focus on software and services.

It is examining options for exiting its PC business, including spinning it off to shareholders, the company said. HP’s Personal Systems Group, which sells PCs, tablets and smartphones, has the company’s lowest profit margin although it accounted for nearly a third of HP’s overall revenues in 2010.

HP is following in the footsteps of IBM, which spun off its PC business to Lenovo in 2005 to focus on the higher-margin software and services business, although arguably from a stronger position in software and services than HP finds itself.

22nd said it is hiringfor its IT team in the UK and abroad. The online hotel room reservation company currently has just over 130 IT staff, which it wants to increase to around 150 to support the business’s growth strategy.

Ex-Avis CIOand now CTO at Adam Gerrard said: “One of the biggest challenges is attracting the right kind of talent, in Manchester and Singapore.

“We’re looking for people who understand Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) and front-end architecture”.


You may or may not have heard, but Apple co-founder Steve Jobs stepped down from his position as chief executive of the company. Tim Cook, the company’s chief operating officer, will take over, and Jobs will become chairman.

Jobs has wrestled with cancer in recent years and took an indefinite leave of absence in January to focus on his health. Jobs has been elected chairman of Apple’s board, effective immediately, and Cook has been made a board member.


Within a year, Amazon will be a major player in the tablet market, second only to Apple’s iPad, Forrester research said. The analyst house says that Amazon is readying an Android tablet that may cost “hundreds less” than the iPad, and may launch the product this year.


Australian Rupert Murdoch’s News International, which owns The Times and The Sun newspapers, has appointed law firm Linklaters to trawl through thousands of emails under a fresh internal investigation into phone hacking as the summer’s big story about Murdoch continues.

The email search is expected to form a major part of the internal review, which will also see journalists interviewed and financial records examined.

What a month, what a summer, we didn’t really need the weather to be great, there was so much going on!