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'Build once, use many times' - UK Crown Representative Nick Griffin on how firms like Oracle can help improve government service delivery

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan April 5, 2024
Summary:
Oracle is one of the strategic suppliers to government which can help to re-shape services with the citizen at the center. Crown Representative Nick Griffin explains how.

Parliament
(PIxabay )

For those of us with long enough memories and too many wrinkles, there was a time when Oracle was essentially the underdog in the UK public sector. Back in the days when ICL was the national computing platform and first choice in any public sector tendering, Ingres was the relational database of choice and Oracle was the outsider fighting for a place at the table.

Changed days indeed. With Ingres long ago a distant memory for most and ICL lurking somewhere in the belly of Fujitsu, Oracle’s footprint across UK government, both Central Government and the wider public sector, consists of around 3,500 touch points across contracts across about 750 entities.

That’s the estimate from Nick Griffin, Crown Representative at the Cabinet Office in the UK Government. What’s a Crown Representative? Griffin explains: 

My role as a Crown Representative is to work with a number of those suppliers, one of which is Oracle. Really, what that role is about is actually getting the best value out of [Oracle] as a supplier and the best value out of us as a user of [Oracle] as a supplier, which means that we have to do things differently sometimes on the client side. We have to work with [Oracle] collaboratively, work out how best to use [its] resources. It's about managing risk. It's about understanding where innovation can be applied, and it's about actually getting the best value for all of us as taxpayers.

While Griffin is talking about Oracle in this instance, the same principle applies to other key vendors. The Cabinet Office has developed a program with its strategic suppliers which has been running for over a decade as part of which It identified 39 suppliers, all of whom are critical to the running of business across government. Those suppliers have a major role to play in delivering essential services, Griffin goes on: 

The UK Government is organized across a number of government departments and, in fact, they're kind of siloed. Working through those departments, as we have to to deliver services, is sometimes kind of a challenge and I think suppliers sometimes see things that we're doing where we can avoid duplication. The nature of 'build once, use many times' is something that our suppliers should be helping us with, bringing that internal innovation to us and pointing out where we can actually save efforts by not duplicating or building new things all the time.

He adds: 

Productivity is a key issue now and technology is at the heart of that...We have to harness it, we've got to. We've got a huge technical debt that we've got to service. We need to improve the infrastructure so it's able now to take advantage of some thing...anything that our suppliers can do, including Oracle, to bring that to the table to show us what we can do better is welcome.

Sharing

The UK Government has a strategy to look at pulling together clusters of departments to do things together, particularly in shared services and back office functions. One of the ones that Griffin been involved in is the overseas cluster, which involves a number of departments, including the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO): 

The FCDO is front and center of that. FCDO transformed from Oracle E-Business Suite to Oracle Fusion. It's now providing a platform to develop new ways of thinking, new ways of doing things across a very, very complex department, which has something like 300 geographies and outposts to service, and 40 or so other agencies to draw together. 

One of the things that I thought that worked really well was that it's quite a unique environment and, although Fusion is software-as-a-service and we're using well-tested and tried processes, there had to be some real critical thinking about how they could work in an environment like that. So one of the things that I was impressed with is how Oracle actually came to the table with some very constructive ideas about how that could be put together in such a way that it served the FCDO in a really effective way. The technology is one thing, but I think Oracle brought to the table a lot of insight into how that technology should be used and how we can benefit from it.

AI 

As with every other sector, governments around the world are contemplating and evaluating the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in delivering public services. The UK is no exception. But along with the promised upsides of the tech come the usual caveats around trust and confidence that can be seen in both the private and public sectors. Griffin’s glass seems half full in this regard: 

Security of data is obviously front-and-center, we have been incredibly mindful of that. But you know, from a personal point of view, I hope that doesn't get in the way of actually harnessing the technology. I think we can find a way through the security issues because the advances there are so immense that we could really benefit from.

There are a number of examples right the way through government where AI is being applied now, not just to speed things up, but actually to improve the accuracy of the data and the accuracy of the outcomes. I think for all of us who use government services, it's not just about productivity, it's about the benefits we get from them as well through being able to access services in a way that is much more suitable to us. We can reach in and get those services. It makes our life more efficient as well.

Most of all, government needs to be about putting the citizen at the center, he argues:

Everything we do is about providing services ultimately to the citizen. If we think about the citizen as the key stakeholder, that then drives the development of the services in a different way than the way it's been driven before. We have huge operations across government, some of the largest operations certainly in the UK, if not Europe. They have to now re-focus, they have to re-focus on the citizen in order to come and get that improvement that we need.

Griffin concludes: 

The opportunities are there, right the way through, but I think the critical thing now is we could spend a lot of time developing stuff, but let's do it once and let's share it. I think that's a key issue for us now. It's too easy at the moment to develop something in one place and not have sight of that from other places. 

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