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Experimenting with new technology, stretching the limits of what is possible, developing solutions

Martin SadlerMartin Sadler is the Head of IT and Shared Services at Walsall Council. He has led the IT service for 7 years and delivered significant technical projects and cultural change; prior to that he worked for Fujitsu Services in the Retail and Financial services. This gives him a rare perspective of being able to look at the Future of Work through the eyes of a supplier, enterprise and public sector agency. He is a devotee of home grown solutions, open source products and anything that make life simpler or better value. We caught up with him to talk about this, about his role as a public sector IT leader and about his thoughts on the industry.

“My most valuable experience is that some people will only be happy if they have something to complain about”

Firstly, when thinking about the Future of Work Summit, Martin is “most looking forward to hearing more from people who are ahead of the work anywhere curve. I am discussing the move to mobility and smarter working in local government at Future of Work; I believe that I have experiences that others do not need to repeat”.

“My most valuable experience is that some people will only be happy if they have something to complain about. This led to the need to do changes sequentially in order to pinpoint what the real issue is”.

“Respond quickly; have integrity; explain thoroughly”

The complexity of a local council is unique in business terms, and presents a lot of challenges for an IT leader. Martin knows this as well as anyone, affirming that “[a council] has conflicting purposes and more diverse activities than any reasonable organisation would be expected to do”. To manage this challenge, he sets in place clear generic activities: “respond quickly; have integrity; explain thoroughly; with a huge degree of flexibility in how and when services are provided”.

There is currently a big drive towards smarter working within the public sector, with a need for increased efficiency in IT delivery, which, while exciting in many ways, presents a challenge in itself. As Martin puts it, “The diversity and number of legacy systems is a real impediment as is the pace of suppliers to convert their applications to be web based. This is then hampered by the price of providing a hosted solution”. And then, paraphrasing Einstein, “never underestimate the ability of groups of people to do stupid things”.

On a more positive note, we spoke about what Martin’s most rewarding project of his career has been: the Rolling out of Thin Clients across Walsall Council, which he describes as “one of the most exciting things I have achieved. The mix of experimenting with new technology, stretching the limits of what is possible and seeing the staff develop the solutions has been fantastic”.

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