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TfL CIO Steve Townsend taking Olympics confidence into new projects

Edward Qualtrough | July 30, 2013
Transport for London (TfL) CIO Steve Townsend talks about his next projects, which include building on the underground WiFi rollout and a complete overhaul of TfL's end-user computing.

"What's the health of a train, or escalator? What's the health of a lift? Then proactively we can fix them before they actually break.

"We're taking data wirelessly from a number of our mechanical and non-mechanical services. Although we haven't converged the systems, we have been able to converge the data.

"As trains trundle around the underground we're able to communicate with them in a way we've not been able to do before, picking up that data and sending it back to our maintenance teams who can make a judgement call about whether you leave that train in service, or take it out of service at the next opportunity and replace it with a healthy one.

"To have that capability in 120 stations is a tremendous achievement — through that we've seen the true leverage of the commercial marketplace."

End-user computing

One of Townsend's biggest programmes at the moment is a complete overhaul of TfL's end-user computing for its workers.

"We've got to make sure we are delivering efficient services across the organisation so people can get on with their jobs of moving people across London. We have to address our end-user computing domain," he said.

"It's due a refresh but we're not just doing a desktop upgrade by replacing shiny boxes, we're looking at the end-user experience and enabling this organisation to work on the devices it needs to work better itself and enable itself to become more efficient.

"We're looking at the desktop clearly, but also at mobility and how we can provide real-time information and management information to our end users internally in the most effective and up-to-date way."

But TfL will not be looking at leading-edge technology, Townsend told CIO, since he believes that it's not right for a public sector organisation to test and trial new adventures of the software providers around the world.

"But we are providing appropriate technology to enable the organisation to the full. This will touch everybody in the organisation," Townsend said.

"It's not about sticking the latest PC on a desktop, it's about understanding personas of the organisation and making sure the information is delivered appropriately to how people want to accept it or utilise it to the full.

"Saying that one size fits all — I don't think cuts the mustard.

"If you give basic functionality to a high-end user they're not efficient and cost-effective. But if you give everybody high-end IT, equipment and user interfaces, that's not very efficient either.

"We need to give our users what they need to support them in their duties, whether they be in maintenance, franchise management, management of roads, streets or traffic lights, and service that information up in the most appropriate way.


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