2014 Winner Profile

National Trust

Sarah Flannigan

RANK: #41



The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Trust does not operate in Scotland, where there is an independent National Trust for Scotland. The trust was founded in 1895 and given statutory powers, starting with the National Trust Act 1907. Historically the Trust tended to focus on English country houses, which still make up the largest part of its holdings, but it also protects historic landscapes such as in the Lake District, historic urban properties, and nature reserves.

When did you start your current role?
May 2010

Have you completed an MBA?

Order the following sources of advice/information by value to you:
1.    In-house
2.    Consultant
3.    Analyst
4.    Peer Group
5.    Vendors

Technology strategy and spending

What is the major transformational IT project that has been recently completed, or is underway at your organisation?
The "Systems Simplification Programme" (SSP): a 3 year £40m programme that will transform the National Trust.  The SSP is my baby: I wrote a 2 page paper in Dec 2012 for our newly arrrived CEO, describing a series of related strategic goals that I believed we needed to achieve, and the idea immediately became the SSP which I now run with a "CIO+" hat on, still described in exactly the same terms as in that paper over a year ago and easily the single most ambitious and transformative programme of its kind ever undertaken by the National Trust.

What impact will it/does it have on the organisation?
Two transformative outcomes, resulting in £25m of annual benefit:-
one, to completely change how we interact with our customers (4m members, 10m visitors) - by capturing and understanding their behaviour and preferences, we will start to communicate with them on an individual basis to grow their long term financial and non financial support for the National Trust, and
two, to overhaul our grossly inefficient back office systems and processes, especially in the finance and EPOS arena - eliminating manual processes, standardising ways of working, simplifying finance regime etc

These 2 goals are interlinked in many ways and one of the good things about the SSP is that it joins them together instead of being pursued within silos.  For example, we're putting in place a customer loyalty scheme with the appropriate datawarehousing technology for that but need new EPOS systems to capture and reward customer behaviour at the point of sale across our 350 properties.  A further integration point is around management information - getting the best possible information to decision makers at all levels of the Trust via common tools and with one version of the truth.

What new strategic technology deals has your organisation struck and with whom?
Customer loyalty and data warehousing - cloud hosting solution via Amazon Redshift, to give flexibility to our expanding data storage needs. Deals about to be signed with strategic finance system (ERP) and EPOS vendors.

Name your strategic technology suppliers?
BT - managing and upgrading our remote rural network is key to how we do business at the Trust
SCC - service desk, engineer support etc
Claremont - niche Oracle CRM support
Adapt - hosting

What is the IT budget?
£17m opex and in 2014 £21 capex

What is the strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year?
To balance delivering the SSP and other strategic programmes at pace whilst also ensuring we put our IT house in order behind the scenes - I'm too busy no longer an excuse for not documenting something, for example.  The next 3 years are about strong delivery at pace coupled with rigour and control.

Transformation achievements

Would you describe the CIO role as a transformation leader in your organisation?
Yes.  The role was created 4 years ago becase IT was in crisis - I have transitioned it crisis management through to building organisational confidence in IT through to statregic transformation.

Describe the transformations you have led / been involved in, how did they transform operations, customer experience or the organisation?
1. The SSP - above - is completely changing how we engage with our customers and how efficiently we do business
2. "Back to basics" - a highly successful £15m programme, commissioned and sponsored by me, to upgrade our extremely slow, antiquated IT infrastructure to our 350 properties- this was the 4 years ago the single biggest impediment to staff efficiency and satisfaction.  Typical log in time - 45 mins - staff had time to make a cup of tea and hold a mtg in the time it took for their PC to boot.  Programme is due to finish in next 6 months - ahead of schedule, on budget and with exceptionally high customer satisfaction scores (90%+).
3. CRM from crisis to stable strategic platform - 4 years ago I inherited a failed CRM implementation - many of our 4m customers complained we hadn't issued their membership card, or we hadn't taken payment, or had taken it more than once; CRM system was unstable and business processes unclear. Now we have a stable CRM solution, which is fit for purpose, on which we can build the next phase of customer loyalty.  For example we have now introduced monthly membership payments instead of annual, for which research shows we are likely to improve member retention rates - this wasn't possible 4 years ago.

Beyond technology, can you describe a business transformation programme that you own or contribute to?
The Chief Executive (Dame Helen Ghosh) starts every leadership speech with the words, "the SSP is NOT an IT project".  The SSP is a strategic transformation programme, led by me, which happens to have some enabling technology investment included within it.  The executive team has debated the name at length - we now wish we'd never put the word "system" in there as the programme is much more about business processes and cultural transformation than it is about IT....

What key technologies are being considered to enable transformation?
As above; upgraded WAN, combo of cloud and data centre hosting, mid tier ERP solutions.

What percentage of your applications / infrastructure is run from the Cloud?
Today - 10%; tomorrow. 20%

How is the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and social networking impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation at present?
We were early adopters of BYOD at the National Trust.  We allow apple devices only, for security control, and we allow people to access their work email from their own device.  This saves us money - essential to us as a charity - because peopel swap their work device for their own.  They have to sign an agreement before we give them network access and we have wipe procedures for when they leave.  This year we're implementing MDM which will allow us greater control and provide an expanded BYOD policy shoudl we need to.

Social media - is key to how we interact with our customers.  Our many rangers, conservation experts, gardeners etc etc all use a range of social media to more directly engage with our suppoters, to great effect.

Do you have a plan in place for how to deal with shadow IT and BYOD. How do you influence and engage executives, place the right controls around employee choice and engage with the organisation on this issue?
We had a series of shadow IT teams 4 years ago (digital; finance; EPOS etc) and we have now successfully integrated all of them into IT.

We achieved this mainly through simply insisting (!) - I had written an IT strategy which was approved by the Board of Trustees, in which integrating shadow IT was a key plank.

In practice we went on to demonstrate we had the capability to support teams better from within IT and that we could achieve savings.  Savings + confidence building were key to success.

For the first time ever, this year our IT budget has gone down not up - despite delivering more IT to a higher quality than before - as a result partly of this centralisation of IT.

Where do you seek transformational inspiration from?
It's not hard at the National Trust - this is an inspirational, passionate organisation - and we are all committed to anything that helps us deliver our core purpose, engage with as many supporters as possible and achieve the best possible levels of cost.

The CIO role in the business

Who do they report to?CEO

Does the CIO have a seat on the board?

How often do you meet with the CEO?

Does your organisation have a digital leader and what is the difference in their responsibilities to yours?
Yes - they are a content marketing person and report into someone who in turn reports into one of my peers (Brand and Marketing Director)

What percentage of IT budget do you control and what percentage of IT budget does your digital peer hold?
I control 100% of IT budget (which includes a lot of digital projects), the digital teams also control the equivalent of about 5% again, but that's as much on content/training/user epxerience work as IT elements.

The IT department

How many staff make up the IT team?(What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff)
85 in house/30 outsourced + further strategic outsourcing contracts (eg service desk).

Describe the CIO’s management team, do you have direct reports that develop the relationship and services between the business and IT?
I have 3 direct reports - Head of Technology, IT Ops Director and Head of Management Information

Head of Tech covers IT architecture, design, development etc
IT Ops Director has 3 senior managers: Head of IT Business Partners (14 business partners managing relationship with different parts of the business); Head of IT Service Delivery (ops, maintenance, supplier mgmt, service desk etc); Head of IT Projects (PMO, project managers, business analysts etc)
Head of MI - responsible for integrated MI strategy and delivery across all of the above

How many log-in accounts do you issue across you organisation?
C. 7000

What is the primary technology platform?
Oracle CRM and HR; Microsoft desktop; bespoke Property Management System and Collections Management system; the rest TBC following SSP tenders

LOCATION: The National Trust Heelis, Kemble Drive, Swindon, United Kingdom

INDUSTRY: Nonprofit