Saturday, 14 March 2015

Transforming IT at MoJ

From this mornings Guest Blog 32:-

"The IT systems that have been poorly managed since their inception are proving to be impervious to the changes necessary to facilitate their ‘home-working’ operating model.

It is this last rumour that needs consideration at the moment. Rumour has it that the technology required to allow provider’s own systems to ‘talk to’ nDelius, the main case management software for the entire operation, doesn’t work.

The inability of the MoJ to give anyone a straight answer means that some of the ‘facts’ around the issue are speculative but, in a nutshell, until the issue is resolved, the providers are irrevocably tied into the Steria IT infra-structure. This, in turn, means that not only is the proposed ‘flexible working’ (working alone from your car with an ipad) potentially on hold but that the CRCs will be unable to move out of the buildings where they are currently located until the MoJ have resolved the ‘bug’ that is currently exercising them is resolved. Rumour has it that this could be many months. This will have financial implications for both the CRCs and the NPS."

It generated this response:-

"The IT failure to 'system link' I was told was known about at the point of sale but overlooked as essentially it means that all of the proposed 'community working plans' were doomed before they got off the drawing board. Everyone in IT knew it but no-one would listen or chose to ignore...."

Compare and contrast this with the following extracts from a recent interview in Computer Weekly. I especially love this bit:-

  “It’s early days, but it’s fair to say the new systems are all being used as planned"

CIO interview: Ben Booth on transforming IT at the National Offender Management Service
The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is the biggest agency of the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ), with 60,000 staff. It has just concluded a year of deep IT-led transformation and is now shifting to a much sharper focus on digital. Last month, interim director of change and IT Ben Booth ended his year-long contract at the agency, having overseen the technology changes to support Transforming Rehabilitation (TR), one of the government’s top five change programmes.

Booth was hired in February 2014 as a temporary leader to cover for previous incumbent Martin Bellamy, who left to become the first chief information officer at Cambridge University. “My main role over the past year has been to make sure the technological changes to support the initiative were fully completed on time,” says Booth. “In terms of the technology and the business change, it’s been completely successful, to the extent that everything was ready and about 10% under budget.

“We delivered a significant programme, which is in very good shape. The system supporting Transforming Rehabilitation is solid and is being used. At the same time, we have been working on an upgrade to the technology infrastructure for prisons and NOMS HQ.”

The technology underpinning these processes – which had to be up and running on 1 February 2015 – involved taking data and access protocols designed around 35 probation trusts, which had to be restructured to support the new NPS and the various CRCs, as well as work to support integration with systems in prisons and courts. “To use private-sector terminology, we have integrated 35 separate acquisitions and divested 21 independent companies, together with setting up a separate business unit of 9,000 staff,” says Booth. “In all, 20,000 staff were affected. “To achieve this, we involved our two large suppliers, Steria and HP, together with smaller software houses and a team composed of civil servants, contractors and specialist service providers.”

By 2013, NOMS had replaced 43 separate case management systems with a single system, National Delius, from Beaumont Colson (BCL). According to Booth, the data in this system had to be restructured to support the new organisation and some functionality was added. The changes were carried out by Steria, which looks after the infrastructure and environment for probation, with BCL responsible for changes to the software code. HP provides the prison management software, which is a variant of a product from Syscon.

“It’s early days, but it’s fair to say the new systems are all being used as planned, with the first few offenders coming into the new regime and the new organisational structure of NPS and CRCs in place,” says Booth. Now that the technology foundations for NOMS are in place, the agency is better placed to pursue digital opportunities, in step with the government’s digital agenda. This was reinforced by the appointment of Booth’s permanent successor, Bryan Clark, who started work last week. Unlike Booth’s title of director of change and IT, Clark’s role is director of digital and change.

In prisons, NOMS is also looking at mobile technologies for prison officers and what can be provided in prisoners’ cells, to add to the landing-based kiosks that are already deployed. Upgrading ways of working is also on the agency’s digital radar and the plan is to move from a “pretty much desk-based model with desktops and PCs and so on” to doing much more with mobile technology and supporting more flexible working, says Booth.

Another key task he had was to “cement the relationship” between the agency and its two main IT suppliers, HP and Steria. HP provides services to more than 100 prisons around the UK, as well as to the NOMS HQ. Steria is the main supplier for probation. The model for technology provision across the MoJ is also changing under the Future IT Strategy (FITS), an approach based on ITIL methodologies and following government best practice to move away from a single supplier.

“This is a big change, as instead of one supplier across the whole of a particular area of business, we will have several, but covering the whole ministry,” says Booth. “FITS is projected to yield significant savings and we lose the dependence on single suppliers. However, the transition to the new model and subsequent service will need to be closely managed and the IT team is working with [MoJ CTO] Ian Sayer and his team in MoJ technology to make sure this all goes smoothly.”

Although FITS is the future, HP and Steria are still the two big technology suppliers for NOMS and are instrumental in the TR initiative. “We have been working very closely with them, and one of my tasks when I started in February last year was to make our relationship a much stronger partnership, as we had a very aggressive timescale to achieve delivery,” says Booth.

“That we delivered on time and under budget is, in my view, entirely due to this teamwork approach,” he says. However, with the introduction of FITS, the model for technology provision will change again, so at the same time as they have been implementing TR, both Steria and HP have been involved in planning the transition to the new strategy. According to Booth, the biggest challenge of leading the technology changes to support TR was the fixed-term timetable, which had no flexibility. However, backing from senior government figures was a major help during the process, he says.

“I suppose the key to success there was having the support of, and close interest from, top management, including the secretary of state, Chris Grayling, and NOMS chief executive Michael Spurr,” he adds. “Both took a close interest in the technology strand and met us in various forums almost on a weekly basis to look at progress. So we had an extremely tough timetable, but with very good support from the top.”

Given that the foundations of TR are now in place, it would be easy to suggest that his successor’s role will be more “business as usual” – but there is still a lot to be done. “I think the reality will be much more demanding – completing the changes in probation, working with FITS and developing a range of digital opportunities,” says Booth. “Also, there is much to be done to build on the existing capabilities of the team and there is the whole change agenda to be addressed.

“I’d say that Transforming Rehabilitation has got a good foundation, and my successor has got a good team, as well as the basis of a strong infrastructure. But there are still plenty of challenges for him to apply his initiative, skills and feelings to. It’s a very exciting role going forward.”

Finally, I'll round this off with something I spotted in the MoJ internal bulletin for senior managers:-

"Mercury system users will be aware that we had to bring the system down on the morning of Monday 9 March at short notice. This was because a disaster recovery exercise for P-NOMIS on Saturday 7 March resulted in an older data file being uploaded into Mercury. As a result incorrect locations were recorded against many of the prisoner profiles and those using the system on Monday morning were not able to see some prisoners located within their prison.

To update the system to reflect accurate prisoner locations Mercury needs to be rolled back to a date before the error occurred and then the relevant data loaded in sequence to bring the information on the system up to date. Unfortunately, this has not been possible given issues we have experienced in rolling the system back to an accurate position. While work is in hand to rectify this we have made the decison to require establishments to activate their contingency plans for 48 hours and revert to a paper based intelligence reporting system." 


  1. To those on the previous day's blog stating they don't always undertake children's services checks I say two things. One - have you heard of statutory obligation? Two - you are the types of people who let the scandal of Rotherham and Oxford happen.

    You are paid to protect the public. It's one flipping form. If there is nothing to find out you've fulfilled your legal and moral obligation. If there is something you can work with other agencies to support your client and their family.

    Simples. Anyone who thinks or does otherwise does probation a disservice and should not be in employment.

    1. Just a quick email in my area, Social Services are normally fairly prompt with replies and make a telephone call to you if there are any significant concerns about the family. My PDA would to this day string me up alive if I did not carry such checks out!

    2. Oh the ignorance that shines through...

    3. How is doing your job properly in every case ignorant?

    4. 15:51 because what you suggest is overkill and it is patronising of you to suggest that our failure to do this in every case means we aren't doing our job properly. IMO we're assessing the overall circumstances and doing checks as appropriate.

    5. Perhaps we should terminate pregnancies if there are risks of "annormality"? To protect the child, of course. And the parents' feelings? And the public purse? "Its one flipping procedure."

    6. To "simples" at 15:51 above - perhaps we should subject all Muslims to security checks, just in case they might be extremist jihadis? Or stop & search all young black men, just in case they're planning something naughty? BBC History Extra:

      "In  1983 a Home Office report identified the controversial nature of  police powers to stop and search. The report claimed that the issue is at the heart of a much wider debate about policing in general and is fired by the conflict between those who argue that the control of crime lies primarily in the exercise of stop and search, and those who maintain that civil liberties are likely to be threatened if such powers are unchecked.  

      Historically, the power of police to stop, search and detain on reasonable suspicion for anything stolen or unlawfully obtained was confined to London and a number of other cities and towns – each of which had been granted local legislation for the purpose.

      In those areas where no such power existed, police not infrequently used the so-called “ways and means Act” – which some claimed to be a euphemism for deceit – in order to obtain compliance from those they wished to stop and search. Meanwhile Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824, which controversially became known as the ‘sus’ law, enabled police to stop and search certain individuals they suspected of frequenting or loitering in a public place with intent to commit an arrestable offence.

      The 1970s saw a growing drive for greater police accountability in the use of stop and search, as black men – particularly young black men – increasingly took exception to the manner and frequency with which they were stopped and searched.

      Yet, at the time, proving that they were being treated unfairly was difficult. This was illustrated on 16  April 1973, when The  Times reported that, “The Metropolitan Police… stated last week that no statistics were kept on searches because none were requested by the home secretary and the commissioner of police did not feel that they were of sufficient interest or importance”.

      Representative pressure groups, such as the West Indian Standing Conference and the Scrap Sus Campaign, highlighted the uses and abuses of stop and search and ‘sus’ – and, in doing so, galvanised support for a revision of the law. This culminated in the abolition of ‘sus’ in 1981, and the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure (also in 1981), which, among other things, found that the police were allowing too many weak cases to go to court."

    7. Front page of today's Sunday Times. An FOI request has revealed that almost 300 children under the age of 5, 612 under the age of 10 have been stopped and searched by the Police in the past 5 years on suspicion of offences including drugs, terrorism and 'anticipated violence. Y'know, just in case........

  2. I've noticed over the past fortnight or so the Data System Share on delius isn't working, this is a useful IT database that tells OM what prison establishment their offender is in plus it gives HDC / CRD / dates etc - I have missed this whilst it's been down - I also use this if I write to people as it gives their noms & prison number.

  3. This is so deja vu. This is C-Nomis all over again, so many grand promises and tight deadlines that turn into delays, epic money pits of money and failure to deliver. Ha CRC are supposedly bringing in new technology by the end of the year. If the government, bank rolling private IT contractors with lots of workers could get that working, what hope in hell do each CRC have. C-Nomis cost £600 million plus

    1. A government IT project for tracking offenders in England and Wales through the criminal justice system was a "shambles", MPs have said.
      Officials in charge of the scheme - abandoned after costs trebled - lacked even a "minimum level of competence", the Public Accounts Committee found.
      It highlighted a "culture of over-optimism" and lack of "rigorous" scrutiny of the scheme.
      The Prison Service said it was working to ensure mistakes are not repeated.
      Plans for the £234m National Offender Management Information System system, known as C-NOMIS, began in 2004 with the aim of allowing the prison and probation services in England and Wales to follow offenders "end-to-end" through the criminal justice system.

      But by July 2007 the project was two years behind schedule and its estimated costs had increased to £690m. It was later abandoned.
      The committee's report finds that staff "grossly underestimated" the likely cost and neither ministers nor senior management at the Home Office, nor even the project board, were aware of problems until May 2007.

      Even now, the National Offender Management Service, which runs prisons and probation, has no idea what £161m spent before October 2007 was used for, it adds.
      The committee's chairman, Conservative MP Edward Leigh, said: "This committee has become inured to the dismal procession of government IT failures which have passed before us, but even we were surprised by the extent of the failure of C-NOMIS, the ambitious project to institute a single database to manage individual offenders through the prison and probation systems.
      "There was not even a minimum level of competence in the planning and execution of this project.
      "The result has been a three-year delay in the roll-out of the programme, envisaged separate databases for prisons and probation instead of the original one, each with different information about an offender, and a doubling of costs.

    2. "This project has been a shambles."
      Its replacement, NOMIS, will instead use three separate databases and is not expected to be working fully until 2011.
      A Prison Service spokesman said: "The C-NOMIS project was stopped when it was recognised that it was going to be over-budget and late.
      "Steps have been taken to ensure that the mistakes made are not repeated.
      "The work done so far has not been lost but is being used as the basis of the revised NOMIS programme.
      "This will support our commitment to ensuring that prison and probation service staff have improved access to the information they need to protect the public by managing offenders in custody and in the community.
      "The prison element of the programme commenced roll out to public sector prisons on 22 May 2009 and is on schedule to complete in summer 2010."


  5. " BBC prison drug scanner story: “a fiction” "

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  6. Anyone know where I can buy a pair of Ben Booth's rose tinted glasses?

  7. Anyone know why HP are taking on Probation service work next week, work currently being undertaken by Steria presumably?