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Matt Stutely, Houses of Parliament

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Personal Factfile: Matt Stutely
Name of current organisation: Houses of Parliament
Job Title: Rapid Apps Lead
In post since: July 2011
Reports to: Head of Development 
Office location: Parliamentary Estate, London
Twitter: @MattStutely

In July 2011, after 15 years in IT in the Private sector, Matt Stutely made the move to leading the Rapid Apps Development team for UK Parliament, developing new and innovative ways to help with the digital development of a number of technology changes and associated culture changes, to try to improve the day to day lives of Members of Parliament, Peers and staff that work there.

The Rapid Apps team blog can be found at http://www.digiminster.com


Company Factfile

What does your current role involve?
I take responsibility for all the development around the Parliamentary new business programme. I am also involved with the innovation side of things through the Rapid Apps Team suggesting new ideas and building prototypes for how things could be done. I work with users from across Parliament to see what technology can do for them and find how things can change, we are here to help them improve how they work and their workflow. We strive to help our internal users to move to electronic systems that save time and money whilst enabling them to use their skills and expertise in the best way possible to help keep both Houses running. 

A few things we have also developed include a Members Information System (http://data.parliament.uk/membersdataplatform), which is Parliament's primary source of data on MPs and Peers. A beta project to deliver Hansard content over the web in a "live" online feed on the current sitting of both Houses, so you can find out quickly what your local MP is saying or have said in the past (http://membersdataportal.digiminster.com). A Committee written evidence online submission system which gives members of the public the ability to submit evidence to parliamentary committees online for the first time. Plus various mobile apps to take away the need for paper. There are large amounts of information and research on current affairs or specific topics for debate in the Houses that had always been prepared and printed on PDFs - well, we developed a Knowledge Sharing App that collates all the necessary research and information, captures the URLs, chops it all up, organises it then displays it on a tablet instead of multiple paper documents. We actually presented this 2 weeks ago as an 'Alpha' and I am pleased to say that all stakeholders were impressed with what it could do, so we are now running with it. We run these demos of our new ideas, innovations, new apps and new systems every 2 weeks in front of everyone who wants to sit in and it is good to see this number is rising every month - we are definitely having an effect. 

Many Members have tablet devices now. You used to see Members on TV wave around their pieces of paper whilst hotly debating in the House of Commons - well you may now see them wave around their iPads....safely I hope. 

Some of the things may sound simple - but to change certain processes that have evolved over hundreds of years it has needed not just technology change, but a lot of culture change and education. This is a big part of our job - introducing new technology in an agile way and helping to change the processes and adoption of new ways of doing things with our colleagues, but also help save time and money. I like a challenge! We're getting increasing support from our senior business colleagues, and I have also got a good manager (Head of Development) who has been here for a while and has some great relationships; who sponsors me internally and the work my team does. This certainly helps as we run an agile environment with automation and continuous integration, with a lot of stuff hosted in the cloud.

Why did you first get into Technology?
I have been interested in technology ever since I got a ZX Spectrum for my 7th birthday along with a book of programs. I'd sit in my room typing them in as my dad read them out. The games would be simple stuff like making a man jump over a wall, the faster your reactions, the higher he jumped. I thought wow, that is quite impressive and ever since then it just got bigger and bigger. I went to school, did an A Level in Computer Science, but didn't go to University instead I did a Management Training course at what was Allders department stores back then. However, the 'Technology bug' was well and truly within me and I knew that was the career I wanted.

What was the first Technology job you had?
I was lucky enough to get my first IT job at a company called Financial Objects a banking software house as a Trainee Programmer. I went to the interview for a Tech Support role but nothing happened which I was really disappointed about, so I phoned them up and they told me that they didn't think that I was right for it.........but they thought my mind was more geared towards development and could I go in again? So I went back in to see them and they created this job for me as a Trainee Programmer and it went from there. I was a Team Leader within 2 years and my career took off. I will be forever grateful to the guys who gave me that job there.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
Getting this Rapid Apps team up and running. From initial resistance to doing things differently, to now having a team that works as close to scrum/agile as I think I am going to get it and with all the right environments, the cloud stuff in place and to be actually building things that the business want - in short timeframes and for them to accept them - that's probably one of my greatest achievements. Our customer base is expert at what they do and have complex processes that aren't easy to digitise - my team has been fantastic.

Who has been the most influential Technology person in your career to date? It was Jim Hollingsworth and Richard Warnett at Financial Objects who gave me that first chance in IT and without them I may never have got into this career properly - so that is definitely the first mention. There was another guy when I was at a company called Perceptive whose name was Mike Sharples who was Managing Director. He was quite an entrepreneur and he was really keen to enable technology in market sectors that were not getting full benefit. One of these things was building web portals for Legal and Accountancy firms, this was before Sharepoint came along. He had a real passion and a vision for finding customer need and motivating his team to get solutions created. Maybe he had an 'American' view on things by encouraging you to take a punt on things and then rewarding you for doing a good job. He showed me that you can do a lot of things differently, that there are always a variety of approaches to take, he had new ideas and he wasn't afraid to take a gamble. I think that maybe if he was doing that now with Perceptive, instead of back then, that the organisation would have been a lot more successful, I think perhaps the market maybe wasn't quite ready for that kind of approach. I have a lot of respect for him.


Thoughts Download

What technology company do you most admire, and why?
I visited the Sky (TV) offices and operation for a day a year or so ago which was very impressive. They are constantly innovating and they are still building and building their customer base and even though it churns from time to time, they never stop trying to come up with new things. They always seem to try and push on. Everything they have done around mobile and apps is fantastic. I know that they are extremely agile in their processes and all the technology behind the way they work is extremely impressive. Also both the content they push out on your devices and at home just goes to show that even though they are nearly in a monopoly situation you can still innovate and you don't have to stand still.

In your opinion, what is the most significant technological advance of the last 5yrs?
It's got to be Smartphones. I can't think of anything that has changed so much as Smartphones. Look at Nokia and how big they were, but now they have more or less vanished. Every company who does content for the web has got to do thing differently now and IT and Digital departments have got to think differently about how they do things due to Smartphones and Tablets. Comparing the ZX Spectrum back in the day to the latest iPhone, it blows your mind.

In your opinion what is the Houses of Parliaments most significant technological advance of the last couple of years?
I think it's the fact that our users are moving forward technically within the organisation. I think that in the past there has been a lot of disjointed IT here and the ICT team have tried very hard to centralise a lot of tech and a way of working, so that has been a big challenge to get the users to work like this. The biggest change however has to be the move away from paper - again it may sound simple to some and not a massive 'technological advance' but when you think of the hundreds of years of culture here, traditions and past need for paper, to get things digitised and to get users using them on a day to day basis, it has been a massive advance. 

Another part is our data and how we get it out to the Public. As you may expect we have a massive amount of data here - I don't just mean 'Big Data', I am talking 'Big Big Big Big Data'. The Victoria Tower you can see from here is full of paper bills, Orders and archives. There are rolls and rolls of bills on what used to be goat skin with Henry the Eights signatures' on them and then rolls and rolls of paper for more recent documents. Nearly all of it has been digitised now, but there is some more to do. I don't think however that we will ever get rid of this stored paper, its interesting stuff and a part of our history and there is always a place for that regardless of how technology changes.

In your opinion what do you see the Houses of Parliament's biggest technology area of growth in the next 5yrs?
I think it's going to be about embedding the technology, the innovations and the change that I have already mentioned. We have got the buy in from the business now which is going to save them time and save money, as well as getting data out to the public a whole lot quicker. There is so much we can do to progress and innovate and make things better. For example helping Members to build their own 'bundles' of apps, information, content, orders and agendas'. This is so they can pick and choose exactly what they need, what they are interested in or what the topic of that day is, which will come straight to their device there and then. This could be the next big change.

What do you think the next big thing in technology is?
There are the obvious ones like Big Data and wearable tech, but the one that interests me most is robotics and where we can go with that. There are a couple of companies out in Japan who are doing work around support or replacement for lost/damaged limbs. Then there are all the things around drones and what they can do, and not just delivering your Amazon parcel... EasyJet are prototyping drones that can scan their planes from nose to tail with sub millimetre accuracy to show up any damage that has occurred during flight. At the moment they have to do this by hand, which takes up manpower and a lot of time as 6 or 7 people have to do it and then write up a report. These drones scan the whole plane in about 3 - 4 minutes and instantly come up with a full report or raise an alarm if they find anything. There's a whole lot more drones or robotics can do and it could fundamentally change a lot of peoples' jobs and how we work; think about warehouses, picking and packing for example, it's not a massive step to start automating that process and there will be a social impact. It's an interesting one to keep an eye on.

Where do you put the UK in terms of Technology Innovation compared to other countries?
I don't think the UK is in the same league as the US and I think that is down to different levels of risk aversion, as culturally we are still quite a conservative country. There is a real 'fear of failure' in many companies. I am pleased to see however that there are quite a few more people coming along who seem to be taking more risks and taking a punt with more start-ups which is fantastic. I think that this has been a generational thing and a more cautious group tend to be decision makers in a lot of organisations. However, I think we are now seeing a new generation come through and with that comes new thinking in terms of chasing success - and that is exciting.

Which start-up does most to impress you at the moment?
 I am not sure if you can still call these a start-up, but there is a fantastic app I have been using to replace DropBox as I have slightly gone off them. It is called Younity (http://getyounity.com/) and it's a personal file sharing system, streaming all your content between your devices but directly from each other, so it's basically a private P2P network with no content going out to the cloud. This is the biggest issue I have with any cloud based file sharing company is that they've got all your files, and there are certain things I just wouldn't want going out there. So this is a very simple concept, but a great one. Another one I like is called ThinkUp (https://www.thinkup.com/), it's analytics of your Social Media but done in a really nice, clear way. I struggle to really understand if my use of Twitter has any point whatsoever, so it's a very simple way of finding out if things are going as you'd hope - which I quite like.

Personal Technology

What's the latest personal Technology gadget you have bought?
My iPad Air. I upgraded from my previous iPad because it was tired and it needed an update - and I love it. I must admit to having an Apple addiction which I shouldn't have, as I am a Microsoft man at heart, but Apple makes fantastic products.

What's the best App you have ever downloaded?
It's not that cool, but the best app I have is probably VLC player because it lets you play MKV files natively on your iPad and the native Apple player doesn't. That's certainly my most used app.

What is on your iPod/MP3 right now?
The same stuff I was in to when I was a teenager really! I still have my Oasis lurking about, but nowadays things like Kaiser Chiefs and the Killers - that's kind of my style.

What do you do in your spare time?
I like spending time with my family - my wife and my daughter. I like writing code in my spare time which I know is really sad but you don't get/stay good at anything without lots of practise. I like a bit of photography and wandering around taking pictures. I am also a very avid sports fan, armchair in the main since I smashed my ankle to pieces last year falling through a ceiling - which hurt!

Interviewed by Steve Corbett, Associate Director, Harvey Nash Plc www.linkedin.com/in/steveacorbett/