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INFORMATION by Stephen Ibaraki

Success lessons, Paul Danneels, CIO, VDAB, winner of the 2015 European CIO of the Year Award

Quoted from Digital Leadership Report (see for more info)

Paul Danneels, CIO, VDAB

Category: Public Sector

Activity: Official employment agency for the region of Flanders

Turnover (budget) (EUR): 0,67B €

Employees (FTE): 4700

About the IT division

Full Time Equivalents: 70

% of Total IT Budget from last year spent on:

Operations and Maintenance: 70%

New Application Development: 30%

A selection of recent accomplishments

Installed a business disruption lab to enhance the agility of VDAB and to harness the possibilities of co-creation for bringing new services to the market. The lab has 6 guiding principles:

  1. from digital support to digital first;
  2. from service provisioning to ecosystems;
  3. from offering services to coordinating service journeys;
  4. from 'have to' partners to 'want to' partnerships;
  5. from traditional planning to agility and
  6. from 'ad hoc' initiatives to continuous development of organizational capabilities. This outside-in approach has led to the development of specific apps to help school-leavers land their first job effectively. By a smart use of the ecosystem these apps are delivered to 70,000 youngsters with a minimum of budget and employees.

Moved open government data into open job-matching services of the VDAB, which is recognized as a best practice by the International Public Employment Services. The rule-based matching engine consists of an in-memory database of 3 million search objects allowing up to 50 matching requests per second with a response time of 17-20 milliseconds/matching search. This has made incremental services possible such as competence based matching, online assistance to suggest vacancy improvements and advanced CV-based matching. This tool is integrated with private interim-offices applications, and adopted by the employment agency in Malta. Other European countries have shown great interest in adopting this tool as well.

Established an Agile Software Development Factory consisting of 100 people in 8 teams. The SAFE framework is now applied on all development and maintenance activities throughout the organization. Priorities are set in common agreement with business owners, who work next to each other. Instead of yearly planning VDAB now runs on quarterly releases with 2-week sprints starting on Tuesdays.

A selection of key lessons and advice

Develop the capabilities to include smaller, specialized providers in your sourcing portfolio instead of exclusively working with global players. Multi-sourcing with smaller, specialized providers has worked well for VDAB. Not only has it enabled a better monitoring of improvements, overall it has also lead to around 25% savings on the total contract volume. Though this needs some organizational shift as well, each contract is monitored and managed by a dedicated service delivery manager, headed by an end service delivery manager.

Help the CEO become a leader of digital innovations. The vital role IT plays in the innovation efforts of VDAB undoubtedly has to do with the particular attention its CEO is bringing to technological developments within his organization. This close partnership between CEO and CIO has permitted to leverage the potential of IT as a business innovation enabler to a maximum.

Foster synergies across projects. Danneels hosts a two-day planning exercise, where participants look at the requirements and needs across multiple projects. "This has helped to foster a culture where the bigger objective of what the IT team is doing is constantly focused on and, hence, deeply understood."


"I give my team as much responsibility as possible so that they can take ownership and make change happen."

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