Bye Bye Big Ben
I’m leaving MOJ Digital.
I’ve met some great and fascinating people, plus had some fun, too. It’s been a fascinating two and a half years or so, we grew from about ten people and peaked at nearly 200 people. Learnt a huge amount about government and built some genuinely useful products for the UK public. We’ve changed how the the Ministry approaches change, but there remains a lot to be done. Tom Loosemore puts it well, moving from on the internet to of the internet, I remember having similar conversations at the BBC. So, what did I learn?
Back in February 2013, Digital Services was led by Roger Oldham who had a few digital people from the comms team and a remit to deliver the MOJ Digital Strategy, plus our four exemplar projects. I picked up Prison Visit Booking and started meeting prisoners and their friends, families and the prison staff.
Spin forward to 2014, we’d (Tony and his team) put Prison Visit Booking live in most of the prisons in England and Wales, changed boss to Paul Shetler and I was working on a Criminal Justice project, Make a Plea. This is part of a much larger programme, Common Platform, encouraging this to become user-centred, agile and understanding real data workflow took up much of the last year. Working as the Service Manager for Criminal Justice exposed me to a wide range of transformation programmes and their capability for change.
In 2015, another new boss David Dilley, now Arif Harbott and another new product via Tom and his team, Victims’ Information Service. I also led the service design transformation of data exchange in the Criminal Justice system. Moving these systems away from expensive, centralised services by decomposing them into user centred services, different patterns emerge and these new opportunities can be taken forwards. Often these cross Ministry boundaries, which is at the heart of government as a platform.
I led the data strand for Digital Justice, this was some of the first, multi-agency mapping activity and service design done in the justice sector. Involving Home Office, MOJ and CPS, plus the Judiciary and the Police. It was very satisfying work, we’ve generated a real working model of how the CJS operates and how it needs to change to become user centred.
So what did I learn?
- Legislation change and long term contracts with systems integrators are real barriers to moving the culture to one which is capable of brisk change.
- Each agency largely acts inside itself, but the edges are starting to soften.
- Flow of data across departments is poorly supported and common identifiers are scarce
- Much process is driven by finalised document exchange and there are often multiple beginnings to a single cross-government process.
- Large programmes gain a head of steam which makes course correction difficult.
- The ministerial commitment is the antithesis of agile working, changing that culture will take time.
- Shortening the cycle between policy recommendation and getting real feedback from the users is vital.
- Public service is powerful and at times affecting, to come to the Ministry of Justice usually something has gone wrong for you, I hope we’ve made it a more human experience.
- Embracing change is hard, government is designed to think of buying a capital asset, software is not that, it’s an unknown ready for change, not a generator
- Government processes need to operate in weeks and months, not years and quarters.
Thanks to my colleagues in both MOJ Digital and Technology (good to see us closer) and my colleagues in policy, in the various programmes, prisons and courts I’ve worked with. Best of luck for the future.
I’m going back to Shoreditch and joining EY-Seren, as a client director working with advisory clients in the government and public sector area.
Oh, and I’ll miss that view…