Interview: BJSS public sector head on government tech trends
BJSS is a technology consultancy with nearly ten years experience helping the public sector deliver a range of projects. Head of public sector Susheel Dodeja sits down with Geoffrey Lyons to discuss some of the work to date and the digital trends that will define the coming years
Susheel Dodeja is keeping a close eye on the latest technology trends.
The head of public sector practice for IT consultancy BJSS predicts a surge in the use of artificial intelligence to manage threats from… artificial intelligence.
“It’s AI to combat AI,” he says enthusiastically.
Since developments in AI create vulnerabilities within networks (e.g., it can be used to sidestep malware defences), Dodeja (pictured above) says there’s a growing need to protect these systems. “And I think the best way to protect AI systems is with AI itself,” he says. “I see a lot of focus going into this in 2020 and beyond and the importance at that top table becomes imperative.”
While “AI to combat AI” develops across sectors, Dodeja predicts the defining trend for the public sector will be cloud. As public sector organisations continue to embrace the technology, he says the natural next step is a move towards “distributed cloud”, which is the distribution of public cloud services to different locations while responsibility for the operation, governance and evolution of the services remains with the originating provider.
“I’m interested to see how this pans out because there are a lot of key players in the market,” he says. “The bottom line is that we need to embrace digital. We’ve effectively been in the digital revolution for 50 years and it has transformed our lives in a significant way. It continues to evolve and it’s changed the way we order food, book holidays, drive cars, communicate, and combat diseases in ways that were once considered to be science fiction.”
On the benefits of working with the public sector
“Having worked for large multinational clients in the past, there was always a regimented process in the way delivery needed to be done, and it’s not dissimilar to the way the public sector operates. So it was quite easy for me to apply some of my experience to the way public sector digital delivery is undertaken. What I enjoy about public sector delivery is the simple fact that what you deliver is used by the entire UK population – it’s extremely motivational and rewarding.”
AI and cloud are just two areas in which BJSS offers its consulting services. Billing itself as the UK’s leading privately owned IT consultancy, the 27-year-old firm provides expertise across five markets: energy and utilities; retail; financial services; healthcare; and the public sector. Dodeja leads on the last, building relationships with public sector clients to deliver BJSS’s technical proficiency. “Delivery is core to our DNA,” he says. Besides his keen interest in technology, Dodeja was drawn to BJSS for its company culture. He says the firm isn’t very hierarchical so everybody has a voice and that this “light structure” is the ideal environment for ideas to flourish.
“We like to get things done, and we like to talk about the best ways to do it,” he says. Since BJSS doesn’t sell any products, Dodeja says the company’s main asset is its people, so it’s careful to select the most talented consultants.
“Here it’s all about the people,” he explains. “We’re a people-based company that takes great pride in doing the right thing for our customers, and to do that we need the right talent.”
BJSS has been servicing the public sector for almost 10 years, and has delivered a number of high-profile IT projects. An early example is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s “Crisis Hub”, an IT platform for British nationals affected by emergencies overseas.
The system works by gathering data during crisis situations that the FCO can use to develop a response strategy. Replacing a legacy system that was decommissioned in 2013, the hub was an immediate success and was deployed within months of launching to help British nationals evacuate South Sudan during the outbreak of the country’s six-year civil war. In addition to its work with the FCO, BJSS has been heavily involved in several implementations of critical infrastructure systems for the NHS.
It helped launch the health service’s app, replaced its Choose and Book software, and implemented Spine 2, the central system for patient data that joins together over 23,000 healthcare IT systems. The firm also operates across a number of different areas in the Department for Transport, including the Civil Aviation Authority, where it recently supported a drone registration programme, and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, where it engineered the digitisation of the agency’s driving test.
On the meaning of transformation
“It’s a ubiquitous term really. For me, it’s not about digitising forms on the internet. At the core it’s about transforming the way you operate as an organisation. As Darwin said, ‘it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change.’ In my mind, digital transformation is about the ability to adapt.”
Our experience gives us the opportunity to work on some of the most rewarding projects and initiatives,” Dodeja says. “There’s a big variety in the work that we do, so the challenge is to continue to do good work and to do work that’s rewarding to our people.”
BJSS is currently partnering with over 12 government departments, agencies, and arm’s-length bodies, and Dodeja says the list continues to grow.
“Even since the start of this year we’ve added new agencies to our account listing,” he says.
As new work rolls through, Dodeja says he continues to see the public sector struggle with the same two challenges: implementing significant technology change at pace and managing its accompanying costs. But they’re good challenges, healthy challenges. He says that since the government is under constant watch from the public eye, there’s pressure to make absolutely sure that their projects justify their costs.
“As taxpayers we pay for public sector services, so it’s important that the public sector leverages tech in such a way that it can demonstrate tangible value,” he says. “Transforming and evolving citizen-facing services so they’re more efficient and intuitive is so important and is at the absolute core of what the government is set up to do.”
This article is part of PublicTechnology's How to Design a Government Service project, in association with BJSS. This specially created content week will feature a range of exclusive interview, feature, and analysis content dedicated to the art of delivering digital services for citizens and public sector professionals - from the earliest stages of discovery, right through to maintaining live services in use by millions of people. Click here to access all the content.
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