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Home Office launches three-year digital strategy

The strategy sets out six principles, aiming to reduce cost and complexity while driving innovation and developing better digital products and services

The Home Office has launched a three-year digital, data and technology strategy, aiming to embrace innovation and tackle evolving challenges.

The strategy, which will run over the next three years, is based on six principles which are all about reducing cost and complexity while also being an organisation that’s responsive and meeting user needs.

“Like many other departments, the Home Office has spent the past decade radically transforming its relationship with large suppliers. We’ve taken back control of the design, build and operational aspects of technology services, wherever appropriate,” the strategy said.

“In many cases, such changes have lowered our costs, increased our use of niche suppliers with deep subject matter expertise, reduced our technical risk and enabled us to be more agile and responsive to evolving business needs.”

The Home Office digital, data and technology (DDaT) profession now sits at 3,800 strong, including supplier partners. Those staff will be the ones delivering the ambitious strategy, based on the six principles, which includes converging technologies.

The Home Office wants to look at products or systems that are originally unrelated and see if they can be joined to solve the same or a similar purpose. This, the strategy said, will ensure similar “systems, platforms and frameworks are brought together to avoid duplication”, as well as “bringing together technologies to meet new challenges”.

“Convergence will only be applied to systems that need continued investment or maintenance. The production of shared technology products will help facilitate this technical convergence.”

Cost and time savings

The Home Office hopes that the use of shared technology and infrastructure will reduce the amount of money the DDaT function spends on duplicated capabilities and silos, as well as speed up the delivery of projects.

It is currently working to deliver three shared technology product exemplars, including a form building and hosting solution, convergence to a unified DevOps platform and looking at the potential for a Home Office wide identity and access management solution.

Other principles in the strategy include being product-centric, rather than programme centric, taking a DevOps approach to delivery, as well as becoming a data-driven organisation.

“Our data scientists and frontline teams will ensure we use our data to inform our policy decisions and monitor our performance,” the strategy said.

“We aim to improve data sharing across the Home Office and wider, removing the unnecessary blockers we face when trying to access and share data, to improve our services to the public.

“When doing so, we will ensure governance processes are transparent and continue to consider not only whether data sharing is legal, but also whether it is safe, ethical and beneficial to share.”

The Home Office also aims to increase the transparency around which data it holds on people and how that data is being used.

Being bold leaders

Key to being able to deliver the strategy is to have the right leadership in place. The Home Office wants leaders with in-depth understanding and digital literacy, who are able to engage both technical and non-technical staff, as well as suppliers.

Senior DDaT staff at the Home Office will be able to partake in training programmes to improve leadership and help them feel confident in leading “diverse teams, navigate change and make courageous decisions”.

“Our most senior digital professionals should be permanent civil servants. We will use contractors and consultants to meet spikes in demand and provide specialist skills that we do not want to invest in long-term,” the strategy said.

While the Home Office wants to embrace innovation, it does not always want to be at “the leading edge of change,” the strategy adds.

“Instead, we can look at innovation that’s happening across government and elsewhere to understand how we can benefit or use it to our advantage.

“At the same time, to tackle emerging threats and challenges, we need to create a culture that nurtures our workforce to become innovators. We want people to feel confident about proposing bold ideas, experimenting, learning through experience and designing creative solutions.”

Read more about the Home Office and technology

In the strategy’s foreword, Home Office chief digital, data and technology officer (CDDTO) Simon Bourne said that during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the staff at the department showed “great creativity and passion as they sought to deliver new policy and services in difficult circumstances, but they often had to work harder because they were wrestling with legacy systems and unintuitive processes”.

“We must now become digital by design in everything that we do and change the way we operate,” he said. “This means embracing automation and investing in our cyber capabilities while also becoming more efficient, user-centric and adaptable to changing conditions.

“We must have a renewed focus on data, making it central to how we strategically and operationally manage the department.”

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