Ministry of Justice bags BEIS’s chief technology officer

The Ministry of Justice has named the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s chief technology officer as its new chief digital and information officer.

Tom Read, who has been at BEIS for just seven months, will take over from Arif Harbott – who has been at the MoJ for just over a year.

Read previously worked at the consultancy company North Highland, which helps organisations with digital transformation, and before that was chief technology officer at the Cabinet Office.

Announcing his new job on Twitter, Read said he was “thrilled” about the move, adding that Harbott would be “a hard act to follow”.

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On his LinkedIn profile, Read says that his successes so far “have been built on a few key beliefs”.

These are: that everything must start with the user; that “people can do amazing things and will love change if you include them in every decision”; and that things don’t need to be complicated in digital.

“Start small, iterate and use simple language to describe what you’re doing,” he says.

He lists his experience as being in delivering large change programmes, which fits with the MoJ’s plans for a major digital reform of the justice system and a transformation of its own systems, including a move to the cloud.

The reforms of the justice system, announced last week, include increased use of video-link technologies for vulnerable witnesses, processing minor crimes online and plans to scrap paper by 2019.

Describing Read’s appointment as an “excellent choice”, Henry Rex, techUK’s programme manager for justice and emergency services, said that the digital justice programme “has made some good steps forward over the past years, but more work needs to be done”.

He added: “The various interested departments within the MoJ must work closely with their counterparts in policing to deliver a digitally enabled end-to-end justice system which puts the user first.”

Meanwhile, the department itself is planning to replace legacy hardware that is making staff’s work more difficult.

Writing in a blogpost last month, Harbott outlined nine principles that would be guiding the MoJ’s work, which included being free to consider any solution without being “tied down” by old architecture or contracts, that solutions be based on user-need and to provide alternative permanent storage for information, such as using the cloud rather than devices that have a limited shelf-life. The Ministry of Defence announced earlier this month that it would be using Microsoft’s UK data centres to move to the cloud – a move that has been described as a turning point for public sector cloud use for storing sensitive data securely.

The MoJ is also looking for a chief information security officer and a deputy director of digital delivery, with both roles paying around £90,000, who will help oversee the security and rebuild of the digital systems in the team.


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