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Meeting the technology needs of government

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: GDS team, Technology

We asked Matthew Coats from the Ministry of Justice, to talk about his experience at the first meeting of the Technology Leaders Network

In the Ministry of Justice I’ve already seen the positive impact that doing things a different way can have. We’ve had a great response to our lasting power of attorney beta (one of the 25 digital exemplars), and I’m excited to be building on this success. Last week I went along to the first Technology Leaders Network meeting. It was opened by Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, and chaired by Liam Maxwell, Government CTO.

Setting the scene

Francis Maude talked about how important it is to get technology in the civil service right, as civil servants (and Ministers) are often frustrated by their experiences of IT. His personal conviction, that the procurement and delivery model needs to change, is a source of support for us all in departments.

He then set out 4 challenges for the network and the civil service:

  • we should be able to share documents to work on together
  • we should be able to see each others diaries
  • to be able to send an email to the whole of the civil service
  • the technology at work should be better than technology at home

Liam talked about some of the things his team had done since the review of governance for technology began. A new, simpler model replaces the old: where the Technology Leaders network sits alongside, and complements, the Digital Leaders network. At the moment I am both the Technology Leader and Digital Leader for the MoJ, so I will have my hands full!

We agreed that this model should now be considered a ‘beta’ and, will be run in practice until January 2014 - at which point we’ll review again.

Technology leaders using the walls to arrange priorities for the next 12 months

Working together

The group took some time to think about our priorities for the next 3 - 12 months, as well as thinking about what behaviours we must adopt and avoid.

Common themes included:

  • finding great people - we need to ensure we have the right skills and capability in our organisations to take us through the changes ahead
  • we need to make the common services (a cross government approach to the things that everyone uses like desktops, hosting etc) offering work
  • we must share the resources we have - for example being able to see information on new projects across departments

In technology there’s a huge legacy to deal with - both in terms of governance and the technology itself. However, the consensus at the meeting was absolutely clear. In order to meet the needs of a twenty first century digital government a new approach to technology is required.

The last year or so has been all about the direction being set by the centre. The coming year will be all about departments grasping the challenge and increasing the pace of implementation.

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  1. Comment by RRockstroh posted on

    It's what people who actually have to endure government IT have been saying for years. The problem is that IT teams will want to find an expensive solution to meet these challenges. They all have big budgets! For example we can share documents already for free - Google docs, Microsoft sky drive, the list is endless. The trouble is most IT teams will want to spend a fortune on procuring a new thing to do this that will inevitably not work and will be ignored by their department. Changing this IT mindset will be crucial. Failing that, just get someone who knows how best to do this sort of thing to approve their spend.

  2. Comment by btderek posted on

    Not often that I would find myself agreeing with Francis Maude but he has hit the nail on the head with his comment that the procurement and delivery model needs to change.

  3. Comment by brahmdas posted on

    Hope the initiatives of UK Government in adopting more IT technologies with civil service matters can speed up all process. The technology leaders will be helpful for it. Government’s decision for digital leader's network is good. The concept of working together with technology leaders, digital leaders’ network can contribute a lot for many upcoming development process of UK

  4. Comment by mikethacker posted on

    "the technology at work should be better than technology at home" - that's a really good one.

    As I recall, GDS web stats show newer browsers used more at non-working times. We developers expend time/money and endure frustrations from supporting old browsers (especially old versions of Internet Explorer). A bit of money to free government (including local government) from the ties of old browsers would be a good investment.