Defra recruits for chief digital officer

Written by Rebecca Hill on 31 January 2017 in News

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is seeking a chief digital officer, as incumbent Sally Meecham's interim position as head of digital comes to an end.

Defra's offices are moving to Marsham Street by early next year - Photo credit: Steve Cadman, CC BY-SA 2.0

In a statement to PublicTechnology, a Defra spokeswoman said that Meecham - who joined Defra in April last year and has held a number of other short-term positions in government departments, including the Government Digital Service - had been hired on an interim basis "to help shape our digital services and recruit a permanent CDO". 

The role is advertised at £115,000 and, according to the job advert, the new recruit will be responsible for defining the long-term strategic goals of the digital services function within Defra, as well as setting wider priorities and promoting digital adoption across the department.

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 The CDO, the job description said, will be expected to “radically transform” how the department works and interacts with businesses and customers and create an “exemplary” team environment and a culture that is “orientated toward tangible delivery of outcomes”.

It also sets out a number of requirements that echo Defra’s digital principles, which Meecham recently defined in a blogpost as being to focus on the customer; work in an agile, iterative way in multi-disciplinary teams; use low-cost cloud services and common components; and always have clear business benefits in mind.

Sharing the job advert on Twitter, Meecham described it as a “brilliant role” within a “focused department with excellent leadership” that would involve a lot of data-driven work.

The department has been championing data-focused projects over recent months through both grassroots efforts and a strong top-down focus from permanent secretary Clare Moriarty.

Speaking at last year’s Open Data Institute annual summit in November, Moriarty noted that Defra had surpassed its target of publishing more than 8,000 datasets by June 2016, saying that underlying such successes was a shift in approach to a “much more non-hierarchical way of working”.

She said that there was “a bit less structure, a bit less design, but more collaboration and more open culture” – for instance through unconferences and wider discussions – and that this had gone beyond the data and digital teams, into the whole Defra group.

The closing date for applications is 20 February.


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