In my experience one of the biggest, and yet most rewarding, challenges in life is bringing people together with different ideas from different perspectives and different fields of expertise to agree on a single and shared way forward that works for everyone.
In government I lead process improvement for Government Shared Services - a champion of convergence, extolling the virtues of embracing advances in technology and data. We are making significant progress in improving shared services ‘the back-office’ by consolidating and modernising technology platforms, whilst maintaining choice for departments.
Specifically, my job is to work as part of a cross-government team to create simpler, easier and smarter processes for civil servants, using the same, consistent data fields and standards.
For some this might all sound super boring but indulge me a little while I explain why convergence is such an important part of transforming the Civil Service.
As an often quoted expert in this field said: “Without a Standard, there is no logical basis for decision making or taking action.” Convergence around consistent processes and data is all about having a solid foundation for decision-making, saving time and money.
What have we achieved so far? We have developed converged processes in partnership with pathfinders, HR and Finance functions and departments; published converged processes for recruitment and onboarding, expenses, and procure-to-pay; and, improved metrics for monitoring performance for key processes to enable comparisons across government.
The real test of our success will be having enabled civil servants to focus even more of their time on delivering government priorities and improving services through better decisions, based on reliable management information.
Process and data convergence carries a variety of challenges, and pursuing 100% convergence of everything is likely to lead to diminishing marginal returns.
As in many global, multinational private sector organisations, across the Civil Service there are different systems, different practices, different processes and different language for bits of data.
Working with the functions we are prioritising the areas that cause the greatest inefficiencies and have the biggest negative impact on our staff. We need to take a managed approach so that we can check that changes do deliver benefits and that they meet our colleagues’ needs.
However, by drawing on the values at the heart of the Civil Service - collaboration, trust and respect - we are starting to converge on the single best solution for everyone - including the taxpayer.
What does a converged process and data world look like? For us in shared services it would mean some fundamental changes - some of which would be undetectable to our colleagues: fewer and simpler processes, fewer and more consistent data sets, greater automation of simple, repetitive processes; more back-office data and services hosted in the cloud.
Stepping forward in the same direction together
Today marks another step along the path towards new, smarter ways of working - and more importantly - doing some things in the same way right across the civil service.
For the first time every civil servant who moves jobs to another department will use the same process and the same single form. Together we have moved from a place where on average there are 2,000 civil service transfers per month using over 4 different forms and several different processes involving a lot of duplication - to one process, one form and one set of data - a consistent, shared approach. We will be monitoring the use of the process and looking for continuous improvement, based on feedback.
Our greatest, continued effort will be on the common, large impact processes that offer the biggest returns in terms of efficiency, improved user experience and data convergence.
We will continue to challenge ourselves in shared services, human resource and finance to make sure we get the balance right in the pursuit of convergence through collaboration.
By realising the power of the data we collect, we can continue to improve the way we plan and forecast - and better serve the citizens of the UK.