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From service desk to leading with heart

fish swimming in a fish bowl

Mark Lumley, Socitm’s newest vice-president, on his career so far and helping Hounslow staff work from home during the pandemic

Mark Lumley, Director of digital and IT for the London Borough of Hounslow

About Mark Lumley

Mark joined Epsom and Ewell Borough Council’s IT service after taking an economics degree at University of Exeter. Having worked in technical roles he moved into management and then set up a shared IT service with its Surrey neighbour, Elmbridge Borough Council. After five years, he moved to head the shared digital and IT service for Kingston, Sutton and partner organisations. In September 2019, he joined the London Borough of Hounslow as director of digital and IT and at Socitm’s President’s Week conference this June he was announced as a vice-president.

How did you get into local government IT?

It was a bit of an accident really, but one that I have never regretted! After my degree I spent a year in the student union and used a lot of different technology, which I really enjoyed. When it came to looking for a ‘proper’ job, it was always going to be something in technology.

I hadn’t really thought of working in local government until I got into it. My first role was on the IT service desk at Epsom and Ewell, and once I got settled into it I knew there was no going back. I find the breadth of what you can do in local government, its connection into the community and its ability to make a difference, hugely powerful.

The best thing about being in IT is that you get to know and help the whole organisation. I distinctly remember at my first Christmas party at Epsom I pretty much knew everyone in the room, whereas I was conscious that people in the planning department only knew their immediate colleagues.

Why did you move to Hounslow last year?

It was an opportunity to build upon my skills in a new part of London with a very different community and culture. The council wanted to move into more digital ways of working, having just relocated to a new building, rolling out new technology and introducing hot desking…Amazingly, I’ve spent almost half of the time I have been at Hounslow working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, and I’ve been incredibly grateful for the technology that has enabled this….

In digital and IT, we have had to support about 1,800 people working at home, rather than the usual 400. Thankfully most already had the equipment they required, but culturally this was a huge shock. We needed to make sure that the infrastructure enabling them to work from home was resilient and reliable as well as provide enhanced support and help people to adapt. Although most had never used Microsoft Teams before, we are now delivering a weekly, interactive meeting for all staff hosted by a senior leader which is regularly attended by more than 400 staff. In addition, all formal council meetings, one-to-ones, team meetings and staff conferences are now being delivered through Teams…

There is an ambition, vision and collectiveness at Hounslow which I haven’t seen in other organisations I have worked in. An example is ‘lead with heart’, which is about putting ourselves in the shoes of our residents and having respect for our colleagues as well. We are trying to move IT from being a traditional back-office function that fixes the wi-fi and routers to a department that creates new connections with our community and sets up new ways of delivering services.

Why did you stand to be a Socitm vice-president?

I’ve been a member of Socitm for most of my career and it has helped me improve service delivery through BetterConnected reports, benchmarking and various other services…The reason I threw my hat into the ring to be a vice-president was to make a difference through collaboration. The user-centred service design approach is increasingly important. I think skill levels and experience vary hugely and sharing stories helps to inspire other organisations to be better and change their cultures.

This is an excerpt of the full Q&A in issue 21 of In our View.