The Department For Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has likened its digital transformation to “rebuilding a house while the people are still in it.”
Darren Scates, CIO (chief information officer) at DCLG, make the remark at last week’s Whitehall Media CGBT event as he explained the challenges he took on when he joined the Department.
DCLG currently has around 300 employees including operation staff, inspectors and its own Secretary of State across 20 offices in England in Wales.
According to Scates, staff in the Department are fond of new technology and somewhere in the region of 50 business applications are in use on a daily basis.
“We’ve got a decent estate, laptops, desktops, mobile devices and actually some diagnostic services we provide as well,” he explained.
“Perhaps quite unusually, our staff tend to quite like their technology. I’d be lying to you if I said 100% of our staff are deliriously happy every time they turn a computer on, but in general, we’re getting some good feedback from our people on some of the technology,” the CDO added.
When he joined DCLG in 2011, large businesses changes were occurring and Scates inherited a very old IT infrastructure with old, unsupported software and no wi-fi access.
“We had a [PC] log in time of between eight and 20 minutes, we couldn’t get onto our network, we had a load of business changes going on at the time so a lot of our agencies were being closed down,” he claimed.
Scates likened the challenge he faced to rebuilding an occupied house, explaining that he needed to build a “totally different IT environment” with as little disruption to day-to-day business as possible.
“The first challenge we had was IT would be brilliant if you could just turn it all off, spend some time improving it and then turn it all back on again,” he claimed.
“But of course you have live users and so you are effectively trying to rebuild a house while people are still living there,” he added.
Scates also praised the Public Service Network (PSN) – a secure infrastructure in which the public sector can communicate and share information in a secure environment.
He claimed that using the Network has saved his Department a lot of money by using the PSN procurement framework for communications services.
“We love PSN, it has saved us 50% on our connectivity charges,” the CIO claimed.