Sheffield City Council CIO says you can keep your cloud and BYOD

By Peter Gothard
04 Jun 2012 View Comments
Sheffield town hall

Budget cuts are forcing Sheffield City Council CIO Paul Green to take a very cautious approach to new IT investments while his department focuses on getting the most out of the authority's existing infrastructure.

In an exclusive interview with Computing, Green said: "A critical area for me is to demonstrate we're truly utilising what we've already invested in. Are we truly exploiting what we've implemented over the last three years, for example? We've really invested in the last three years, and we've got a CRM system, and a robust infrastructure that enables flexible and agile working."

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Green said Sheffield Council is "slap bang in the middle" of a seven-year contract with outsourcing firm Capita to maintain and improve IT services within the organisation. However, the council has no plans currently to explore cloud computing or BYOD technologies.

"We have a very close eye on this," he told Computing. "Most of us know that cloud provision is something that obviously can work, but the one thing that hasn't yet been proven to me is its ability to support large complex enterprises. Cloud providers have got to be able to provide the same level of assurance and resilience [that on-premise systems provide]."

Cost efficiency is also an issue for Green. "We've done a little bit of research and the cloud option, believe it or not, was actually not cheaper than hosting the application."

For Green, the cloud's main attraction is that it has the potential to make data sharing and communication between departments easier. Citing Sheffield's Troubled Families Initiative, Green explained how the ability to more cleanly and directly share information should help to avoid bad data collection practices.

"[Some data collection] probably consists of a great wall of sticky notes to be perfectly honest, showing all sorts of information, but none of it on a central database."

Green is sceptical about the benefits of BYOD.

"Why would an end user wish to bring their own device into my organisation?" asked Green. "If it's because the information systems and end user devices I'm providing corporately are not reaching the demands, I need to understand why that's the case."

Green is also unsure end users may be fully aware of the sacrifices involved in BYOD. "To enable BOYD to operate, governance and control of that end user device now becomes the responsibility of the organisation," said Green.

"I'm not sure end users yet totally understand that. So for example, if Fred Smith loses his iPad, and I've allowed him to utilise it for corporate access and the rest of it, I will immediately have to wipe it clean."

Green continued: "I know people will sign up to pieces of paper and say ‘Yeah that's fine, blah, blah, blah' but I wonder if people understand that that's what I'll do with that device? There won't be any discussion about this – it'll literally happen."

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