Cabinet Office schemes target areas of ‘greatest exposure to legacy technology’

Department’s annual report and accounts reveals that audit agency based in HM Treasury led an assessment that identified ‘some specific areas of risk across small pockets’ of the technology estate

The Cabinet Office is undertaking programmes targeted at addressing the areas of most pressing risk arising from the organisation’s ongoing use of legacy IT systems.

The department has published its annual report and accounts for 2022/23. The document reveals that various areas of concern were identified during an assessment of the organisation’s tech estate led by specialists from the Government Internal Audit Agency.

Auditors from GIAA – which operates as an executive agency of HM Treasury – are now working in concert with the Cabinet Office’s digital and tech professionals on initiatives intended to remediate the most urgent issues.

“An audit on legacy technology identified some specific areas of risk for the department across small pockets of the official estate,” the report said. “The issues are known to the department and remediating activity is underway led by Cabinet Office Digital.  A chief technology officer is in post and is leading to address this with ongoing assurance from the GIAA. There are programmes underway to address the primary areas holding the greatest exposure to legacy technology. The programmes are focused on securing these capabilities and starting transformation work to eliminate risks going forward.  Progress reporting is being provided to the [Cabinet Office] Audit and Risk Committee to provide assurances and maintain accountability for progress.”

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Auditors provided an overall rating of ‘moderate’ for the Cabinet Office’s risk-management and governance measures – the same assessment as last year. Legacy IT was picked out among the key “areas for improvement”.

Elsewhere in the repot, the department cited the importance of an ongoing tech transformation project – a £50m-plus programme of work including the development of a new unified system for Official-level information, as well as an organisation-wide switch from Google platforms to Microsoft 365 tools.

“The department’s vision over the spending review period (to March 2025) is to enable the Cabinet Office through the provision of exemplary digital products and services, whilst transforming the department through placing digital into the DNA of the organisation,” the report said. “The department will furthermore address information security risk and resilience through significant investment in refreshing our IT platform and implementing our cybersecurity strategy. The Cabinet Office Digital team is developing the digital strategy which will incorporate data, technology, cyber and product strategic intent; guiding the development of a coherent department wide DDaT operating model. This will enable a step change in data maturity, reduce risk, reduce the legacy technology burden and improve productivity across the department.”

The department claimed that tangible progress is already being made in reforming the department’s technology, including the rollout of new devices for many staff and upgrades to internet connectivity.

“Additionally, over the year, the team have been improving the user experience through a significant refresh of laptops, monitors, video conferencing and improved WiFi; supporting both the return to office working and the Cabinet Office locations programme,” the report said. “The department’s ability to collaborate and interoperate across government will be further improved through the migration from the Google productivity suite to Microsoft Office 365. This work is now underway.  Teams across the corporate services group are working together to deliver efficiencies through automating processes wherever possible and enabling data driven decision making through democratising access to data; further supporting the development of a digital culture within the department.”

The annual update indicated that the increased use of tech and data will not only help deliver better outcomes, but will also enable the department to shrink its number of employees.

“All of this will be anchored on the greater use of technology and a more nimble, innovative culture,” the report added. “The goal is to focus on measurable change over the coming 12 months, accompanied by a significant reduction in headcount to create a more streamlined, accountable department with clarity of purpose and a demonstrable culture of excellence.”

Sam Trendall

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