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DfE plans platform approach for user services


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Department for Education (DfE) is looking to increase its use of digital platforms in developing more user focused services, its chief technical officer has told a conference.

Helen Walker was speaking at the Building the Smarter State event staged by IT industry association techUK, at which she said the department is now paying more attention to user services after focusing on its back end infrastructure over the past three years.

She said it wants to build new services for functions such as data and payments and is concentrating on “core DfE” systems rather than trying to impose a common approach on other agencies in the departmental family.

“We don’t want a single approach, but we do want common technology platforms and user focused services for core DfE,” she said. “The others have their own technology strategies and create their own data, and trying to make it all homogeneous would be the wrong place to start.”

Implementation of the approach is expected to take three to five years and will involve a series of procurements, using frameworks such as G-Cloud and with an emphasis on commodity platforms and re-using existing solutions.

This follows the department’s migration of back office systems to the cloud, which has involved a heavy emphasis on the use of Microsoft Azure and all staff beginning to use Office 365. It is now working on defining its user base and establishing priorities.

Right foundations

“It’s been a significant shift for the organisation and now we can focus more on users,” Walker said. “I think we have the foundations right for a more coherent user service.”

She added that there are four priorities underlying the DfE’s transformation efforts: that it is user centred, takes in end-to-end delivery of desired outcomes, empowers staff and supports evidence based decisions.

“The approaching Spending Review will cause us to think a lot more about how to achieve all this,” she said.

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