30 Jun 2021

Elastic: Greater collaboration is the right first step on government reform journey

In mid-June, the UK government unveiled its Declaration on Government Reform, outlining how civil servants and ministers will work together on an ambitious shake-up of Whitehall in the wake of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

Digital technology and data-driven decision-making take starring roles in the government’s plans. There will be investment to build expertise in these areas, according to Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove. The delivery of improved digital services will be a key focus, as will improving data-sharing across government.

While all this is welcomed, we must recognise the wealth of digital skills and experience that already exists within the UK government, not to mention the wealth of data. So, reform aside, it’s vital that we start making better use of what’s already there.

The problem, as ever, is silos. Silos that stand in the way of inter-departmental collaboration. Silos that exist in the way data is managed and stored. If the government’s aim, as it has stated, is “putting digital at the heart of everything we do”, then it has the potential to get there a great deal faster. It’s my belief it could do so by breaking down those silos; establishing communities of interest to share new approaches and lessons learned on digital projects; and promoting greater transparency and searchability when it comes to what data is stored, and where.

From my extensive work with Elastic’s UK government clients, I’ve already seen the significant benefits to public services that a consolidated view of data can bring: deeper insight, better decision-making and, ultimately, improved experiences for government employees and the UK public. It’s a question of taking a platform approach that enables government departments to centralise data and quickly search for information in structured and unstructured formats across a wide range of disparate departmental and legacy systems.

Delivering a ‘one platform, many use cases’ approach opens the door to greater collaboration and better data-sharing between different departments and teams, while simultaneously ensuring that rules around security and compliance are always observed. It also enables new analytical workloads to be developed and deployed more easily as new use cases emerge. In this way, users can ‘connect the dots’, spotting trends, patterns and anomalies that tend to remain under the radar where silos are allowed to persist.

It can be easy to forget, with all the talk of reform, what already exists today. But, as Alex Chisholm, Civil Service Chief Operating Officer, put it: “With enhanced skills, better use of data, and a relentless focus on the end user, we can transform public services.”

I firmly believe that Alex is correct. However, transformation succeeds when there is effective communication and collaboration across teams. Transformation initiatives should

always start with input from the end-user to help shape the innovation. In my experience, when smart, talented people from sometimes vastly different areas of the public sector start to share ideas and common goals regularly, the appropriate patterns, architectures, and public service outcomes are more likely to happen.

Better collaboration today, not somewhere down the road, could make the path to future reform far smoother.


This blog was written by Peter Dutton, Head of Public Sector, UK&I, Elastic. Peter leads a team supporting departments across the government. Peter has over 14 years of experience working with the UK Government and is a passionate supporter of raising skills at all levels and how technology can affect positive change and digital transformation in Government that helps us all. Read more...

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