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CDDO chief argues ‘legacy IT’ is hindering transformation efforts – Conga comments

As the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) progresses with its vision to evolve the UK Government’s digital, data and technology (DDaT) function, its leader, Joanna Davinson said tackling legacy would be key to achieving digital transformation ambitions across central government. The CDDO was set up in January 2021 to lead the DDaT function across departments and strengthen its collective leadership, in collaboration with senior IT decision-makers across government.

Working alongside the Government Digital Service (GDS), the brief at the CDDO also includes monitoring and assessing the delivery of major digital and data programmes across government, looking at issues such as systems resilience and interoperability. At an event held yesterday, 22 September*, CDDO executive director Davinson talked about the office’s broader agenda, which has the delivery of public services as one of its key pillars.

Ash Finnegan, digital transformation officer at Conga, offers the following comments:

“Despite the acceleration we have witnessed throughout the private sector, public sector transformation is some way behind, and government agencies can be far too reliant on legacy systems and technology. In most cases, it is down to cost-cutting initiatives, or budget constraints, but legacy IT can be disastrous – political leaders need to consider the consequences of such ‘dated’ systems. Indeed, not only do they pose serious cybersecurity risks, but inefficient or manual processes can lead to bottlenecks, and miscommunication between departments can lead to further costs later down the line. 

“Earlier this year, the National Audit Office (NAO) stated that the UK Government has been performing poorly with regards to digital change for quite some time. A more recent investigation by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), indicated that the pandemic has revealed the true extent of these ‘legacy’ IT issues across the public sector. The slow progress in tackling poor data structures and inefficiencies across government departments has had a clear impact on decision-making throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As Joanna Davinson has affirmed, public sector digital transformation is an imperative. Now more than ever, there is a need for higher quality data and improved processes. It is vital that we ramp up our digital change efforts to improve service delivery for all citizens. As the CDDO starts to roll out its digital change programme, it must be mindful of how it approaches this. Whilst digital transformation offers many advantages, that does not necessarily mean it is easy to define, plan or execute. Digitally ‘maturing’ each government department will no doubt prove a tremendous challenge.

“Agency leads need to reconsider their current operational model and where a particular solution would be best suited or where a certain technology may be better placed to improve overall operability. Too many prioritise technology over strategy, and do not have a clear understanding of the outcomes that digital transformation can and should drive. At a basic level, it is all about reconsidering the relationship between people, processes, and data, establishing a pathway that connects all these variables. Each department must address all operational inefficiencies if they are to establish true data intelligence.”