UK's Department for Education CTO Adrian Tucker mobilises workforce through major IT overhaul

The CTO moved the department's systems to the cloud and completely overhauled end-user devices in rapid 18-month transformation.

By Thomas Macaulay
July 3, 2017

"When I started the role of CTO, I talked a lot about what technology was about and what technology could do, but I soon became aware that it probably wasn't going to be the right way of approaching it," he says.

"We started talking about what the technology would give in terms of the business and the efficiency that it would drive, and converting that into making sure that people understood that with more efficient IT there could be more heads doing other roles.

"We also talked quite a lot about some of the softer benefits around digital that could lead to us having a much more flexible work team with less time being spent doing manual tasks."

Tucker regularly works with the DfE management committee to explain the value of technology, and invited them to a Microsoft innovation centre to show how it can solve specific problems.

If that wasn't enough to convince them, the committee members also received a Christmas gift of a book on digital transformation as a festive boost to their understanding.

The management committee meetings of today prove his approach has been a success.

"A lot of the paper has gone, and most of them are now sat there with their devices, so they're living that mobility during the meeting," says Tucker.

"You've got people that are very au fait with these things at home; and just glad that it's finally at work, but at the same time, we've got people that thought Windows 3.1 was a step too far as well, so you're trying to accommodate across that whole line.

"When you see Directors and Director Generals using them, getting rid of the big piles of paper that once were in their place, collaborating and using the pen and annotating on screens, if you sat there 18 months ago you probably would have found that quite a hard jump to get through in that short period of time, but in the last six months that's become a reality."


Future plans

The new infrastructure requires new skills to run it, and Tucker is currently recruiting a CISO to ensure the systems are secure.

His principal objective for the year ahead is to continue to reap the benefits of the modernisation programme, and ensure that all the elements are running smoothly, but Tucker is also exploring emerging technologies and exploiting the department's extensive data troves.

"Digital's not there to make a bad process faster, it's about exposing value chains," he says. "One thing the Department for Education is not short of is data, and we also want to make fact-based decisions and data-based decisions, so machine learning with the right algorithms and the right target means that we can start making decisions based on what's really happening."

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