This afternoon I've been to a briefing from the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) on their Transformation Through Technology (T3) initiative.
Started with an introduction from the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. He emphasised that there is no option but to save money by becoming more efficient. In order to make savings, we need to share resources and share common goals. They hope we can learn from their experiences.
Criminal Justice system has always relied heavily on paper, but that is changing rapidly. Lot of money spent on IT systems in last decade, but didn't always get proper return on investment, not enough joined up thinking between departments, and didn't get most out of the systems which were implemented. Now wanting to get good ROI, and achieve modern, paperless processes. Not easy. Hard to change working practices. Savings will ultimately be achieved by stopping moving paper and people. So as well as better digital processes, will make more use of video links, for example between prisons and courts. Most police forces now transferring information to CPS electronically. This is then transferred to magistrates court electronically. Lots of tablets have been bought so that cases can be heard totally electronically. CPS solicitors use them in court and can annotate and navigate through large case files. Most are finding it quicker and easier than using large paper case bundles. They also have a secure email in place. The efficiency programme has not involved major capital investment, but has used systems already in place.
Then we heard from Chief Exec of CPS, Peter Lewis. Up till a couple of years ago, CPS alone were using 1m pages of photocopying a day! To move that amount of paper is never going to be fast and responsive. Very traditional system. Hadn't embraced technology and change in the way some of the other parts of the public sector had. Had to make 30% savings. Have lost 2000 staff in last two years. Hadn't got enough people to work with that amount of paper, nor the buildings to organise and store it. Had to work differently. No choice.
Also were looking to make the system better and more responsive.
Looked at the IT system and basic infrastructure they had in place. Courts and police services were not fit for purpose. CPS had clunky, 10 yr old system. Also a cultural issue. People used to working on paper, had to fundamentally change how they worked. Biggest problem was the history of IT in CJS had been a series of disasters. Many millions of £s had been spent in a decade. People did not believe that you could be serious about changing the system through IT. Not enough that the CPS changed because it was such an integrated system with the courts and the police.
Decided to take new approach. Had to prove what could be done, change mindsets about what was achievable. Create confidence in IT. Also needed a basic level of connectivity in the system to start making immediate savings. And, needed to learn about what a digital future would be like, what was digital working going to be like.
Looked at what they could do by connecting the creaky systems together. Do as much as they could, and persuade colleagues in other areas to go with them. Had some brave people in courts and police who committed to work with them. Made bold steps to allow them to go forward. Create a sense of momentum, change is happening. Don't wait for perfection, do something now. Also create sense of inevitability. Next stage is mandation. Needs clear leadership.
Have made real progress in magistrates courts, a lot is now paperless. Now moving to crown court. But major achievement is having a shared vision. So, for example, CPS and court systems will be bought together, a common IT system for the CJS. There's a sense of ambition. Technology is part of the answer, not a cross they have to bear.
Then Jeff Thomas, Business Change and Delivery Manager for CPS. A personal story of what digital working means in the CPS. Started experimenting in 2009, before T3. Everything from police that can be electronic had to be. Master file is the digital one, not the paper one. That was a major change and was key. Connectivity in court is vital, for receiving emails and evidence. Something we take for granted, but no wireless in courts, so had to rely on 3G dongles.
When T3 came along, he reported to it. One of the key things he said was
as long as the paper file remains the master file, you are constrained by the framework of processes which support it. To move from enormous bundles of paper to a digital case file requires both a cultural change, and a different way of working. Mindsets have to be changed.
Going paperless hasn't saved the money from savings on paper and toner, it's the savings on people needed to handle and move it and space to store it.
Nationally 22.2m sheets of paper are produced by the CPS on guilty pleas, would stack as high as a mountain.
They use the HP tablet, the standard laptop which flips to become a touchscreen tablet. Demonstrated the electronic system and how easy it was to flick though the bundle, search and annotate it. Can highlight, scribble and put virtual post it notes on the bundle. Can also have lots of other stuff on your tablet for reference.
A few key points:
Digital working allows more flexible working.
Eliminate redundancy. Make systems and kit sweat for you
Standardise processes. But build in room for innovation.
Can't run two systems, paper and digital, side by side.
Don't digitise inefficient processes
Where to next, wish list:
Connectivity in the courtroom
Defence buy in
A truly electronic file
A shared platform across the CJS
Then the Ministry of Justice CIO spoke about things they were doing, many of them things we take for granted. Good, single network. Upgraded PCs. Managed print service. Joined up systems. Standardisation.
In the Q and A at the end, security was mentioned. Interesting. Going down to fewer security levels. The main challenge is classification of data and having a risk based approach to security which is standardised so no multiple copies are held. Started being nervous about it, but they were losing paper! Think they are more secure now than before. Be adult about it. Digital media is more recoverable if a lunatic burns the court down! Most of what they do is public. They share a lot of their information with criminals. :-) Need a balance. Treat really sensitive information securely, but don't apply same rules to everything.
Are looking at authenticity as an issue, but you can alter paper. Will need discovery tools because of amount of data being collected. The analogue age suggests you read everything. Can't be done now.
Looking at more modern tablets eg iPad and working out how to make them secure. But the HP ones were good enough at the time to get something working.
In summary, this was a very good case study which I found very interesting, hence the amount of notes I took! The room was packed with people from many different sectors, so the transformational story is obviously one that is in many people's minds.
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