Former civil servant picked as Whitehall’s top techie
Former HM Revenue and Customs and NHS senior manager Mike Potter has been announced as the new government chief digital officer.
Potter, who will start work in the autumn, has joined from Thames Water, where he currently holds a post as group chief information officer and executive director of digital transformation. Prior to joining the utilities firm, Potter spent 15 years in the public sector – including 15 months serving an interim group CDIO of HMRC.
Beginning in 2004, the new government digital leader also spent a cumulative five years at the Environment Agency and Rural Payments Agency, followed by another half decade at NHS Blood and Transplant, where he held the post of director of business transformation.
Following his stint at HMRC, his final job before departing for the private sector was as director of EU Exit capability at the Cabinet Office, according to his LinkedIn profile. Earlier in his career, Potter worked for companies including Boots and ICI.
In his new role – which was advertised with a salary of up to £190,000 a year – he will take on responsibility for “owning the vision and strategy for digital, data and technology” across government, as well as leading the civil service DDaT function and working with HM Treasury to oversee the £8bn-plus spent by departments on tech products and services each year.
The digital leadership post will sit within the Cabinet Office; the department’s permanent secretary Alex Chisholm – who last month told PublicTechnology he expected to announce the appointment of a GCDO “very shortly” – said that “Mike will be harnessing the unprecedented opportunities for digital technologies and data across the civil service, strengthening UK government delivery both immediately and in the years to come”.
Potter added: “It’s an honour and a privilege to take on the role of government CDO and I’m delighted to be returning to public service at such an important time. I’m looking forward to working with colleagues across the civil service to continue to grow the digital skills we need for the future and deliver the roadmap for digital and data.”
When applications for the job were opened in February, it marked the third time in less than two and a half years that a recruitment process had been launched to hire a cross-Whitehall digital leader.
A newly created position as government chief digital and information officer was first advertised in September 2019 and – after this failed to result in an appointment – the process was, effectively, relaunched 11 months later.
That recruitment exercise was also not concluded as planned although, instead of opening applications for a third time, government instead appointed former Home Office chief DDaT officer Joanna Davinson to lead a newly created entity: the Central Digital and Data Office.
It is understood that Davinson is to step down once Potter is in post.
Alongside the appointment of a chief digital officer, government also announced that Fiona Ryland will be joining from University College London as government chief people officer – the civil service’s most senior HR professional.