Data driven public sector CIOs are improving the efficiency of the UK’s civic services and creating a more customer centric health service and government.
The Horizon CIO Podcast season January to July 2018 heard CIOs from the NHS, major Whitehall departments, universities, local government and former public service CIOs describe the importance of good data practices.
The public sector is no different from the myriad other vertical markets that take part in the UK’s only CIO podcast, it faces a change in the way citizens and consumers interact with their services. Like many parts of retail, financial services and media businesses, the public sector is having to do more with less and therefore technology plays a key role in achieving these two divergent demands.
“People often forget that the I in IT is the I in information,” Mayank Prakash, Chief Digital and Information Officer at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told the CIO Podcast. “We got a bit too focused on technology in the last few decades and the profession has changed to turn data into reliable information and to turn that information into insight which is a competitive advantage,” the former financial services CIO says.
Prakash has been leading technology at DWP since 2014, when he joined the public sector from Morgan Stanley. DWP is the largest department in central government with a far reaching remit from managing the state pension, child benefit and the Job Centre network to name just three. Under Prakash DWP has refocused its operations and its IT teams to be data driven as it strives to deliver user needs based digital services.
Under Prakash the Whitehall department has focused on making its data more segmented and more personalised to the citizens interacting with its services. The aim of this, Prakash says is to improve the user experience. All of this is taking place against the backdrop of the introduction of Universal Credit, a plan to simplify the range of payments made by DWP that was introduced as policy by the Conservative coalition government back in 2010, but has been hit by a number of delays.
Former local government turned head of data and technology leader in banking Aline Hayes agrees with Prakash on the importance of using data to know your customer.
“If you know your customer. You understand their relationship with you. Not yours with them,” she told listeners and over 20 attending CIOs to this podcast’s first CIO roundtable of 2018.
Hayes joined Lloyds Banking Group in December 2016 as part of its portfolio of senior business technology leaders and has led strategic work to define a new approach to the use of data to enable all areas of banking business. In addition, she has led the formation of a strong professional engineering leadership for core bank systems.
Unlike many of her peers in banking technology leadership, Hayes does not have a pure financial services career and Lloyds is her first banking role. She joined senior technology leadership in 2000 with the Sheffield Hallam University and remained with the higher education institution until 2014, having been Head of Faculty Technical Services, Head of Customer Support Services and Director of Information Systems and Technology. From 2014 until joining Lloyds, Hayes was with Sheffield City Council as Interim IT Director and then Director of Business change.
“You know a lot about your customers. You have all the data. People always started with ‘we need more data’. No we really don’t, we know lots about them now. We don’t use the data, we don’t join it up,” Hayes says with great honesty. She tells her peers the most important thing is to really consider the data the organisation has.
Hayes and her peers that remain in the public sector make it clear throughout the first season of CIO podcasts in 2018 that data is important if used to ensure organisations has a better relationship with their users, which in turn drives greater efficiency in the organisation.
CIOs in academia and government are seeing technology change the way that students, patients and taxpayers interact with the public sector. As Claudette Jones, CIO at the University of the West of Scotland told the podcast, students now refer to themselves as customers and therefore the institutions have to become “customer outcome focused”. This change in operational landscape requires a change in the technology estate. Standard off-the-shelf technologies with an ability to collate and track knowledge about the student are now key and CIOs in academia find themselves focusing on the implementation of customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
As well as the changing behaviour, the public sector has seen its funding at record low levels since the days of the coalition government and the majority of public sector CIOs believe Brexit will see funding reduced even further. An added complication of Brexit is the likely decrease in the availability of technology skills available to public sector CIOs, just at the time when they are trying to deliver digital services that reduce costs and meet the demands of a changing community.
“We are facing a resource crisis and that is before we look at 18% loss through Brexit and we are not seeing the graduates come though, so there are some sound arguments for every creative opportunity to build resources,” Claire Priestley, CIO of City, University of London told the podcast.
“We have a talent gap in the quality and capability of the skills we have coming through,” agrees Omid Shiraji, CIO of the London Borough of Camden. “Part of that the positioning of IT is a consequence of the lack of the diversity, as it has been pigeonholed.
But CIOs continue to be positive in the face of decreasing budgets and Brexit austerity. NHS CIO Cindy Fedell told the Horizon CIO Podcast how increasing levels of collaboration are taking place and delivering results in and beyond the NHS.
Fedell says her trust has already experienced improvements in bargaining power with suppliers through the efficiency of scale as a group rather than as a single trust: “We have saved £5m, so that is very important.”