Cloud computing is the only way for Essex

Essex is one of the councils leading the way when it comes to cloud. But, as CIO David Wilde makes clear, it's part of a wider strategy

If there’s such a thing as a poster boy for public sector cloud, it’s David Wilde - the CIO of Essex County Council.  Go to any cloud event and the chances are, if there’s a speaker from a local authority there, it will be Wilde.

It’s somewhat surprising then to find that he’s not a big fan of the Government’s G-Cloud initiative – although he does see the potential.

“The procurement process for the public sector hasn’t been simplified by using G Cloud, “ he says. “I’m not getting fully formed managed services in scale.” 

He says that G Cloud will come into its own a year or so down the line, when it will deliver “fully productised” services.   “At the moment, G Cloud is not a business solution; it’s run by techies for techies.”

However, he does not want to seem negative about the initiative. He appreciates what the government is trying to do by reaching out to small and mid-sized businesses and trying to get them into the market. This is something that’s particularly appealing to Essex firms, as there are a large number of SMBs with their roots in the county.

He’s not blaming the government though. “I think the providers could do more to hone the services, but G-Cloud is heading in the right direction. The government is trying to change a multi-billion pound marketplace – it’s not going to happen in a year,” he says.

I think the providers could do more to hone the services, but G Cloud is heading in the right direction

Wilde came to Essex from Westminster Council. It’s fair to say that Essex hasn’t got the best of reputations – cue jokes about white stilettos and triangular flapjacks  - but its image as some eastern outcrop of London is rather inappropriate, claims Wilde. 

Bandwidth issues
He points out that Essex is mainly a rural county and that causes problems when it comes to rolling out services beyond its Chelmsford HQ, with broadband  an almost unknown term there. “Half of the county has connectivity below 2 meg and a third runs below a meg,” he says. 

He knows that this isn’t always the case .“When I was at Westminster, we had a network connectivity coming out of our ears,” but he realises that many rural counties in the UK will have a similar problem.

It’s heartening then to see the county has been quick to adopt cloud, particularly in face of its connectivity challenges.

The authority was on the path to cloud before Wilde joined but he has embraced the technology wholeheartedly. However, he is not a cloud zealot and emphasises that there have to be solid business reasons for embracing cloud.

However, Wilde has begun streamlining council services and has already moved several to the cloud. One of the first was the payroll system, an easy one to start the process rolling as there were overwhelming obstacles.  “Payroll is payroll, it doesn’t burn bandwidth,” he says.

CRM system
The council has adopted a cloud-based CRM system for wider engagement with its citizens. “It’s a pretty straightforward system,” says Wilde. “We went for (KANA) Lagan, normally an on-premise solution."

He says that while it wasn’t a big name, the company was very accommodating in expediting the move to cloud.

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