Salvation Army CIO on BYO work laptops and fighting the fraudsters

Interview: Martyn Croft, UK CIO, Salvation Army

As UK CIO for the Christian homelessness charity The Salvation Army, Martyn Croft knows the importance of getting the most from a lean IT budget.

The Salvation Army is one of the 10 largest charities in the UK and is primarily focused on providing shelter and help for the homeless, typically aiding about 6,000 people in Britain at any one time.

Croft's mission is to squeeze every bit of value from an IT budget that accounts for no more than one to two per cent of the charity's UK income, which stood at £237m for the 2008/09 financial year.

"A lot of charity IT departments are very good at doing their best with little resource," he told at the recent Infosecurity Europe 2010 conference in London.

"The trick is always to deliver value for money because if you can't deliver that value for money, then we are diverting funds away from the mission," he said.

The charity has already heavily invested in server virtualisation - a process that has allowed The Salvation Army to minimise its datacentre footprint.

"The majority of our social services operation, which has about 2,000 thin client users, is served by a server farm with about 10 servers in it. It's a good rate of return," he said.

With thrift the order of the day and 4,000 staff within the charity using desktops or laptops to carry out their work, Croft is considering whether the charity could reduce the amount of computers it buys by letting staff use their own machines at work.

It's an approach that Croft anticipates could yield a hefty saving.

salvation army headquarters

The UK headquarters of The Salvation Army
(Photo credit: The Salvation Army)

"We are getting into the area where computers are commodity items - as a CIO should I be spending my pounds on providing desktops and laptops? The rule of thumb is that a laptop's lifetime is about 18 months, so that becomes an expensive resource," he said.

Apart from the cost savings, Croft said staff are increasingly frustrated at having to use work PCs that are less powerful and capable than the machines that they have at home.

"You have people asking 'What's this on my desk? I've got something five times better at home'. That's difficult to defend these days," he said.

"There is a coming day where we will say, 'If you want to bring your own computer with you, we will facilitate that access'."

For Croft the main hurdle stopping him from routinely allowing staff to use their own PCs at work today is...