How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?
The Home Office uses data and analytics across all operational and policy areas in support of its mission to promote a safe, fair and prosperous UK. We model policy options, monitor effectiveness of implementation, report on operational performance, prioritise workloads for the frontline, identify threats and, most importantly, ensure that we are delivering cost-effective and efficient public services to citizens, residents, migrants and tourists.
There is an increasing requirement for low-latency and real-time data products and services. Having the right data in the right place at the right time, with the right people having the right access and the right tools to exploit it, is therefore at the heart of everything we do.
2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?
Last year, when looking forward to 2020, I said the biggest challenge would be accelerating AI while protecting privacy. My word, was I wrong! In some respects, the work done during 2019 across government to be prepared for varying EU exit dates and scenarios meant that we were more prepared to respond to a new crisis than we might have been otherwise.
On the other hand, 2020 in government has very much meant being in the eye of the storm. We haven’t had to impact our delivery plans, although the way we’ve gone about them has had to change: we are all working from home (something my area wasn’t able to do previously); we’ve had less access to the frontline/operational staff to undertake user-centric design activities and user-testing; and we’ve had to be more flexible and fleet of foot in terms of how we prioritise emerging requests in support of the crisis response.
Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?
The appetite for data enablement will continue to grow and I anticipate that our activities in 2021 will be in two main strands. One will certainly be maintaining our responsiveness to enable us to service needs relating to the ongoing pandemic, the end of EU exit transition and the implementation of the new immigration regime. The other will be to continue to focus on using the data assets we own to create value for the internal business units and to drive efficient and effective public service. Due to the impact on public finances from the pandemic, we will need to be especially vigilant to ensure we maximise the return from any and all investments we are making.
Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?
Being a public sector organisation, societal benefit is a principal driver in all our work, so data for good is front and centre in everything the Home Office teams deliver. We consider the ethical implications of doing things, and also the ethical considerations of not doing them.
If we are aware of a potential harm or threat, or should have been, there is often a statutory, political or moral duty to act within the bounds of what is legal, proportional and appropriately respectful of individuals’ expectations of, and rights to, privacy. I anticipate a continued push to join-up data across central and local government, where doing so will enable us to take a whole-system approach to tackling the Government’s priorities.
What has been your path to power?
I spent the first 20 years of my career working in a variety of project, operational and strategy roles in the world of telecommunications, initially at One2One (which became T-Mobile), then at Cable & Wireless, which was followed by a stint working at Vodafone in Romania for three years, then with Brightstar in Moscow for a year, before returning to the UK to take a role with Vodafone Group. After 18 months at Vodafone, I moved to Sky for five years and eventually made the leap to my current role at the Home Office in Summer 2018.
Over the course of my career, my roles have evolved from customer service operational planning, to project delivery, to large-scale ERP deployments to process and performance transformations - all scattered with a healthy dose of integration, interfaces and databases. As the focus of industry and society has moved from large, monolithic systems to end-to-end processes and, more recently, to integrated data, so has my career and I have been incredibly lucky to work with some of the very best and brightest technologists and some inspirational business leaders along the way.
What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?
It was a solid team effort, rather than an individual achievement - the launch and roll-out of AdSmart targeted advertising at Sky. Using the rich data set we held, we were able to introduce a capability that enables adverts to be targeted specifically at individual customers based on their demographics, viewing history and geography.
This opened access to TV advertising to the wider SME market, activated a new revenue stream for Sky while minimally diluting existing revenue streams. It is delivered seamlessly to the customers without them being aware whether any specific advert they see is targeted or not.
How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?
As a product-centric organisation, we align with the business through robust user research and user-centred design to ensure that the solutions we develop meet the needs of the organisation. We use a portfolio approach to manage senior stakeholder engagement and align the initiatives and objectives with their overall goals.
It is the combination of that strategic alignment of priorities with tackling specific operational delivery challenges and understanding the service users which brings data and analytics and the business closer together.