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Aligning Data, Digital and Technology to deliver better services

At the Defra Data Function Unconference, we had a chance to speak to Defra group CTO John Seglias, who is the SRO for the Data Programme, his thoughts on how data is used in Defra.

We made a video, and transcribed it below for your reading pleasure. (You can also watch the video with captions if you prefer).

– Hi, John. would you like to introduce yourself?

I'm John Seglias, the Defra group Chief Technology Officer for Digital, Data and Technology. Today has been really good – Defra will be moving more towards data-driven decision making, data-driven services, data-driven operations.

This is the beginning of how we shape the function; how we deliver a data-driven Department. I've just spent 45 minutes in a very exciting session about how we become more data-driven; what the principles are, and so on.

So today is absolutely bang on the money in terms of, 'is this relevant to what we're doing?' – yes it is, there is a lot of excitement and energy in the room. Hopefully there will be some true actions we can take forward for the next step, which is to become a data-driven organisation.

– what do you think the real value of a meeting like this is? How is it different?

Where do I start?

Ok, the first thing is to lift our head from our day-to-day work. To kind of say, 'what's going on in the organisation?' We can become so bogged-down with the day-to-day workload that sometimes we don't even know what's happening in the office next door, let alone in a 22,000 people organisation.

It's a big opportunity for colleagues to get together to discuss common themes, and actually find out what's going on in other parts of the organisation.

But, in a way it's also about a common purpose and a common direction, and I think today, hopefully, what we'll get out of this session, is the beginning of this; it's an unconference, so it's a little bit unstructured by design, if I can put it this way – but hopefully after this, we can sit down and put in some structure and guide what it is we're going to do around data.

– and just finally, what do you think the potential is for data to transform Defra?

I think the potential is massive. I think what we saw last year with opendefra and the open data initiative is that we have a lot of data that we use – I think, honestly, that we only use a small percentage of what we actually produce.

But what we didn't do a lot of thinking about the value we can extract from the data internally.

I think there's an incredible opportunity to do this as an organisation. I think there's some cost-benefits in terms of processes and making better decisions.

I think there's some benefits in terms of providing better services to our customers.

And what I really want us to do, when we design new services, is to design with data at the core of the design. From policy, to delivery, technology, to operations and so on. I think that's a massive cultural shift that we need to work on over the next year.

– that's being truly data-driven, isn't it?

Being truly data-driven is to start with: 'I have to deliver some policy on this subject - how can data help me? What are the data elements?' And, you know, we don't want policy people to have to become data-experts - we have the experts in this room; the 150 people here, who potentially could work with their policy colleagues to provide that expertise.

And that's where we're going to transform the way we operate.

You can read about Defra's concerted approach to digital technology and data in this blog post on livestock information.

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