Home Office appoints former Credit Suisse technology head as CTO

Home Office appoints former Credit Suisse employee Sarah Wilkinson as its new chief technology officer

The Home Office has appointed Credit Suisse's head of corporate systems technology, Sarah Wilkinson, as its chief technology officer (CTO).

Wilkinson will replace retiring Denise McDonagh from February 2015, the Home Office has said.

Wilkinson held was managing director and head of corporate systems technology at Credit Suisse for over two years, having previously worked at HSBC, UBS and Deutsche Bank in various senior IT roles. She also sits on Telefonica’s startup accelerator Wayra as a board adviser.

This is the second time government has offered a chief technology position to a senior Credit Suisse employee, having appointed its CIO Magnus Falk as the government deputy chief technology officer (CTO) in the summer.

The department has also confirmed the appointment of Norman Driskell for its newly created chief digital officer (CDO) post, a role he has been filling initially on an interim basis from June 2014.

The two posts will report to the Home Office chief operating officer (COO), Mike Parsons. The combination of a CTO and CDO reflects the preferred structure put in place by the Government Digital Service, which has largely done away with the former CIO role in Whitehall.

According to the job adverts released in July, the CTO is responsible for a team of 1,000 technology professionals with an annual spend of £254m in resources and £71m in capital.

The key responsibilities listed for the new CTO include: 

  • Designing, developing and delivering a technology strategy aligned with the department’s overall strategy
  • Demonstrably meeting business and customer needs
  • Incorporating best practice and enabling the delivery of the government’s digital by default agenda
  • Leading the development of a clear strategy for technology investment to deliver the department’s overall strategy and goals

The CDO will be responsible for a team of 300 digital professionals with an annual spend of £29m. The job holder will be expected to provide “first class, visionary leadership and act as a strong advocate for the digital transformation of the Home Office, developing and delivering an ambitious digital strategy, including the use of data analytics and the delivery of digital by default public services”.

The chief digital officer will also be expected to lead the drive to create a data-driven, digital Home Office, including police, borders and immigration.

Both roles were advertised with a salary of between £85,000 and £140,000.

G-Cloud’s McDonagh

McDonagh is stepping down after 37 years in government IT, and most recently after being one of the main champions of reform in public sector technology as one of the pioneers and former director of the G-Cloud programme.

McDonagh has worked in government IT for more than 30 years, beginning her career at one of the most junior levels to eventually take one of the top Whitehall IT roles. During the last decade she has been focused on dealing with big suppliers - one of her key roles was director of outsourcing at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, before moving to the Home Office.

McDonagh implemented an "extend and blend programme" in 2009 for the Home Office, which broke up supplier duplication on a number of systems management contracts in the department, including desktops, hosting, and networks. That activity rationalised and improved hosting capabilities and took out more than £100m in costs over the life of the contracts.

McDonagh has been an advocate for change in the way government conducts IT, with the public sector having come under fire for spending around £16bn a year IT with just a handful of suppliers.

“We’ve got to the point where things have to change," she told Computer Weekly in an interview. "We can’t continue to deliver IT in the way we do. I have many examples of frustrated customers, as they can't get IT quickly enough and at a price they can afford.”

McDonagh has regularly featured in Computer Weekly’s UKtech50 list of the most influential people in UK IT, and in 2013was awarded a CBE for services to government IT.

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