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Government digital chief Mike Bracken to become chief digital officer at the Co-op

The Co-operative Group has announced outgoing GDS director Mike Bracken as its new digital chief

Mike Bracken, the outgoing government digital chief, is to become chief digital officer at the Co-operative Group.

Bracken, whose surprise departure from his role as executive director of the Government Digital Service (GDS) and government chief data officer was announced earlier this week, will join the Co-op in October.

He will be responsible for the group’s digital content and strategy, and improving digital engagement with members, to help support the organisation’s aim of “Championing a better way to do business for you and your communities”.

“I am delighted to take on this exciting role with the Co-operative,” said Bracken. “The group’s ambition to deliver an improved digital experience for members will be fundamental to achieving the rebuild programme it has embarked upon.”

Bracken will report to Co-op Group CEO Richard Pennycook, who said: “Mike brings with him outstanding and ground-breaking industry experience and will make a major contribution to our long-term recovery. His appointment is another clear demonstration that we are attracting the best talent in Britain as we rebuild our business.”

The Co-op also has a group CIO, Simon Bourne, who has been in that role for a year, following the departure of his predecessor, Andy Haywood, now group CIO at retailer N Brown. The organisation has had a difficult few years, with Pennycook leading a recovery following financial troubles at Co-op Bank that led to a £2.5bn loss in 2014.

Read more about Mike Bracken

Bracken has led GDS since 2011, and has been credited with overhauling the government’s approach to technology and digital public services. He had been expected to lead the new “government as a platform” strategy through the new Parliament, but surprised many in government IT by announcing his departure earlier this week.

Writing on his personal blog, Bracken said he intends to continue advising international governments on their digital plans alongside his new role at the Co-op.

"If you’re reading this from a government community anywhere in the world, please be aware that I’m not going away. I will be helping some international governments to engage in digital transformation. I will continue to help colleagues as far afield as Singapore, Australia, Argentina and the USA. That movement has sustained me, and I could never leave it," he said.

In the blog, Bracken outlined some of his reasons for leaving GDS: "There are many parallels between government and the Co-operative: The opportunity to work at scale, in a £10bn organisation, to chance to set a digital strategy and improve member experience; to work with inspiring colleagues all over the country; and to build strong businesses serving diverse audiences. It’s another fantastic challenge,” he said.

“The Co-operative movement is close to my heart. The values and ethics of Co-operatives are more relevant in society today than they have ever been and are highly congruent with the open internet. The organisation, after some painful years, is in rebuild mode, and it is its digital strategy, focused on its membership and people, that will define it in the next few years.”

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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