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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.

"That's what end-user computing is about, and that's what we've set on this year."

The TfL pilot of 1,000 users finishes in September, which will serve as the production platform for all 27,000 TfL members of staff.

Mobile and BYOD
Of course, an end-user computing project or pilot scheme has to take into account whatever kind of bring-your-own device trend exists at the organisation. Townsend acknowledges that this is absolutely no different at TfL and he faces similar issues to plenty of other CIOs.

"Where there's a need for the business to be more mobile, we'll justify the business case and we'll supply those devices to our people to carry out their job," he said.

But Townsend is concerned about some of the pitfalls of employees who have one personal device to carry out their role with no back-up, and thinks CIOs need to be wary of the pressures this can put on staff.

"As a secondary tool I think there's an opportunity to allow people to their personal devices. And that should be some basic information we transfer from our own internal networks on to those personal devices.

"But we have to be careful because everybody who works for TfL contributes to TfL and they are more and more reliant on technology. Therefore if the tech breaks, fails or it's lost — we need to be able to control it and I need to be able to replace it very quickly, and I think that would be unfair to put the burden on someone to replace their device in 24 hours.

"We've got critical business services that we can't afford to be without for that length of time. So I think there's a place for BYOD, but I think it's a secondary device and I think we need to look at the business case very carefully."

Collaboration and the customer experience
Townsend echoed a growing theme among CIOs of the customer experience being more at the forefront of his role and his team's minds, and explained some of the duties of his C-level colleague Shashi Verma, the chief customer experience officer.

Townsend said: "The customer experience is the first consideration of not just information management, but for every department at TfL. One of the first considerations when you're making a simple change across the IT estate is what the impact is on the travelling customer. And if there is an impact, what is the benefit?

"We realise we have improvements to make; our customer satisfaction survey is at an all-time high but we're not sitting back — we're looking at ways we can improve that.

"We're exploring all avenues but not all areas of technology always enhance the customer experience so we have to make sure we're spending our budgets wisely."


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