As Agilisys marks the first anniversary of the SMART Guernsey Partnership, we sat down with Agilisys’ Guernsey’s Partnership Director Ashley Roper to hear his thoughts on the last 12 months.
What’s your view on the progress the Partnership has made during this first year?
It’s fast become a cliché to say ‘a lot has happened in the last 12 months’, but the degree and speed of change for the Partnership has been greater than any of us could possibly have imagined.
We had set ourselves some challenging Year 1 objectives, so, from the outset, we knew we had a number of significant things to achieve, including welcoming 58 new colleagues from the States of Guernsey to the Agilisys family, taking on responsibility for the day to day running of the States’ IT estate, and setting up a new IT Service Desk.
The whole team worked hard to ensure a seamless transfer of people and services and it was fantastic when Sean Cowan, the States of Guernsey’s Head of Digital, referred to our work as ‘an exemplary transition.’
But our job is to do so much more than simply maintaining the existing States’ IT estate.
We have a major programme of work to modernise the IT infrastructure and deliver new digital services, unlocking efficiencies for the States and enabling islanders to transact with government more easily. We all knew that laying the IT foundations in Year 1 was essential if we were going to meet the Partnership’s objectives in subsequent years.
At the same time, we had committed to support the development of local digital skills in partnership with the Digital Greenhouse.
Reflecting on our vision for this year I can say without a doubt, that our greatest achievement has been meeting all of our key deliverables while responding to the impact of COVID-19.
Like every other organisation, we’ve spent the past 8 months adjusting to an entirely new world.
In many instances, achieving our objectives became more complex – while new and more pressing challenges also appeared – namely supporting the States’ response to COVID-19, which saw us deliver the technology necessary to enable a remotely located civil service as well as ensuring the continued delivery of vital services to the community.
For me, one of the biggest challenges has been to continue building the Agilisys Guernsey culture we envisioned a year ago.
We’ve implemented new ways to communicate, to engage and to learn from one another. It’s not always been easy, but I also think, looking back now, we can see just how much has been achieved this year – and what we’ve done to create something much bigger than ourselves.
It’s been said that we’ve accomplished two years of work in two months – something that would never have been possible without a team of dedicated and hardworking individuals who delivered incredible things – sometimes against all odds.
What are you most proud of achieving in 2020?
Undoubtedly the greatest achievement of 2020 has been the way the SMART Guernsey Partnership has stepped up to meet both the expected and the unexpected heads-on.
The building of two new data centres on-island is one example of this. While everybody in the industry viewed COVID-19 as an immediate move to the right for this build, a unique virtual team were able to complete the build while navigating the impact of COVID-19 – at a time when worldwide travel bans prevented specialists from coming on-site.
The critical nature of the data centres, forming not only the foundations of a modern IT service but also a critical foundation for the States’ recovery plan out of COVID-19, meant that plans were redrawn, and details painstakingly mapped out. With two locally based members of the IT Services team working virtually alongside Agilisys specialists in the UK and Dell engineers, we were able to build two data centres in the middle of a pandemic – on time and to budget.
It has undoubtedly been the commitment and dedication of our people that made all this – and much more – possible. I am extremely proud of our colleagues in Guernsey who worked tirelessly to support the States of Guernsey’s civil servants and politicians to work remotely, supporting with the staging of the first virtual sitting of the States of Deliberation, and helping the States to deliver vital services remotely.
We have also invested in comprehensive learning and development programmes for all our staff, and have been fortunate to further strengthen our team with local talent. When travel to the island has not been possible, it has been challenging to interview people remotely, but I’m hugely proud of the fantastic people we’ve brought into the organisation over the past year.
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has presented some enormous challenges during the first year of our SMART Guernsey partnership – but because of what we have had to overcome, I am even prouder of what has been achieved by the team in the first year of our Partnership.
What does the SMART Guernsey Partnership mean to you?
The opportunity to support such a major programme of public service reform through the realisation of SMART Guernsey’s ambitions is, I think, a completely unique opportunity that I will be unlikely to find again in my career.
I suspect that SMART Guernsey will be the highlight of my career – and I would think that that will be true of pretty much everyone else on the team, simply because an opportunity like this probably won’t arise again.
We have the chance to make a real difference to the local community, whether that’s through the complete reimagining of public services for Islanders, the support for the Island’s digital economy in partnership with Digital Greenhouse and Blenheim Chalcot, or enabling civil servants to work in completely new ways.
I am extremely proud to play my small role in supporting the SMART Guernsey Partnership. But I think for our colleagues based in Guernsey, who are not only former civil servants but also citizens of the Bailiwick, the legacy that they can help shape for the Island is immense.
As our Chief Executive Richard Hanrahan said in January, “We have a unique opportunity to work together to help create the best public services of any small jurisdiction in the world.” In other words, the ambitions of the programme are enormous, but the opportunities are equally unprecedented.
The SMART Guernsey Partnership is delivering a 10-year programme to modernise the States IT Services, enabling improved access to public services for islanders and greater operational efficiency for the States.