Olympics CIO joins University of Manchester as new IT director

Gerry Pennell, former CIO of LOCOG, has joined his alma mater as director of IT as it implements strategic transformation

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University of Manchester's John Rylands Library

Gerry Pennell, the former CIO of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), has joined the University of Manchester as its new director of IT. 

Pennell studied at the university as an undergraduate and was previously CIO for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which took place in Manchester. 

He replaces Paul Harness, who left in February to become director of information systems services at Lancaster University. 

According to a statement from the university, Penell will be responsible for leading the IT function "to ensure it supports all aspects of the University’s activities and enables the delivery of its ambitious Manchester 2020 Vision," the university said in a statement today.

Launched in 2011, the Manchester 2020 Vision strategy lays out a number of objectives for the university, including an information management strategy. 

The objectives of that strategy are as follows: 

"Continually modernised IT facilities": the university will keep put date with the latest developments in technology, it says. At the time of publication, the priority was to deliver "deliver online and mobile information environments for students and staff" and to provide a "high quality study environment". 

"Consolidated infrastructure: We will provide a responsive, flexible, robust and secure infrastructure for all services, taking advantage of public and private cloud solutions".

"Highly effective information systems": Corporate information systems will be "maintained and developed in support of core goals. This will include a number of projects developed through the Manchester Working and Learning Environment programmes.

"Expertise. We will provide knowledge and expertise in the use of technology and information content to further activities of teaching, learning and research, and there will be increased opportunities for students, and staff continuously to develop their skills in the use of technology, information discovery, interpretation and management."

"Research support". IT will assist academic research through services relating to trendsin scholarly publishing, bibliometrics and the storage, management and preservation of research outputs. "We will develop a sustained research data management infrastructure supporting the whole data life cycle according to researchers’ needs as part of a wider strategy for e-infrastructure".

According to David Aron, a Gartner analyst specialising in CIO leadership, Pennell is the text-book example of a "transformational CIO", who moves between organisations undergoing significant change. 

"He's consciously building his career, and the way he builds business relationships, around that vision," Aron told Information Age last year. 

The current University of Manchester was created in 2004 following the merger of the Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST. It has around 40,000 students, and its endowment in 2011 was £159 million. 

The university developed the first ever "stored program" computer, called the Baby, in the 1940s, and was the first in the UK to set up a dedicated computer science department, back in 1964.