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Tony Collins

Tony Collins is an investigative and campaigning journalist and former Executive Editor at Computer Weekly. With his friend and colleague David Bicknell he wrote "Crash", which found common factors in the world's largest public and private sector IT-related failures. He wrote "Open Verdict", a book on the strange deaths of defence scientists. He writes, and gives talks, on the tensions and disputes between suppliers and users.

Council CIO on indefinite leave

But Essex council's transformation programme with IBM continues

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Essex County Council has confirmed that its CIO, Mark Briggs, is on indefinite leave, though its officials have declined to say why.
A spokesman said today that the council’s transformation programme with IBM is continuing. 

“It has not been affecting by what is happening,” said the spokesman. He added:
“Essex County Council remains 100% committed to its transformation project, and fully intends to achieve its goal of making £300m in savings by 2012/13. This is the largest value for money programme of any council in the history of local government..."
A local newspaper in Essex, the Echo, questions why Briggs is on indefinite leave while a major transformation project is taking place. The paper also claims that two senior figures on the transformation programme have been removed, which the council has declined to confirm. 
“Essex County Council does not comment on individual staffing matters. In line with best practice guidelines we use a leave of absence as part of our resolution procedures," said the council's spokesman today.
IBM’s eight-year contract with the council was signed in December 2009. The supplier says that the deal forms the cornerstone of the council’s plan to divert £300m from back-end processes, property management and procurement, into front-line services. 

IBM's work for the council is likely to include the design, management and delivery of front-end customer services, back-office and corporate systems. 

Briggs joined Essex County Council as a consultant in May 2006 and was later appointed CIO.

A biography, which was compiled for his speaking engagement at a cloud computing conference in March 2010, says that his major achievement at Essex has been overseeing the successful in-sourcing of their IT operation without any significant issues or problems. The IT had been outsourced to BT Global Services,
Before joining Essex, Briggs worked for Andersen Consulting, IBM and Microsoft. At IBM and Microsoft he fulfilled a lead technical architect role based in the UK and in Seattle.

Briggs’ view of technology is that it “should be powerful, easy to use, but with significant customisability for power users”. He is said to be an advocate of cloud computing and software as a service and believes that in house infrastructure should be kept to a minimum wherever possible, to increase simplicity and drive down cost.
The IBM deal has been controversial in Essex where union officials are predicting large job losses.

The council said in a statement to ComputerworldUK that the success of the transformation programme is not dependent on one individual: 
"We have delivered £190m savings over the past four years, and are working hard to drive cost out of the organisation whilst maintaining frontline services for our residents. The delivery of the transformation project is not dependent on one individual but on the whole Council, and good progress continues to be made reflecting the dedication of all of our staff to reach our goal.”


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