Policy paper

Home Office digital strategy update: 2015 to 2016

Published 6 March 2015

Quality services for digital government


Home Office Digital designs, builds and develops services for the rest of the department and for government. Our capability is at the core of Home Office transformation and of keeping the UK’s streets safe and borders secure.

We last published a Digital Strategy in 2012. Since then we have developed simpler, more cost-effective ways of meeting the needs of our users, working with partners across the organisation. Whilst we are working towards the Home Office 2020 vision, here we concentrate on what we will do in the 2015/16 business year. We will update this strategy every 12 to 24 months, and will provide regular updates on the progress we are making.

Digital and technology solutions are helping the Home Office to provide simpler, clearer, faster services that meet the needs of our users. We now must support increasing demand for services at a time where there is less money, and significantly fewer people.

We are all aware of the increased pressure on our budgets… With this in mind, we must learn to do things differently, use our data effectively and apply our specialist skills for the benefit of the Home Office and wider-Government.

Mike Parsons, COO, December 2014

Underpinning our approach to meeting this challenge is our intention to work closely with Home Office Technology to provide a joint enabling function to the wider department. We must invest in shared services instead of silo systems, we must reuse the best of what others across government have already done, and we must improve the services we already operate. Doing things differently means constantly challenging ourselves to innovate, iterate and accelerate. We must also work with others across government to share and use data to create better public services.

We cannot succeed if the department does not have the digital and technology skills it needs. We are committed to building specialist skills within own team and to increasing the digital capability of staff throughout the department.

Norman Driskell, Home Office Chief Digital Officer

Home Office vision for the future

By 2020, the Home Office will be:

  • integrated: our ability to protect the public is dependent on swiftly and accurately identifying threats. We will be more effective and efficient, having removed artificial separation within the Home Office family between policing, passports, borders, immigration and counter terrorism, and through person-centric shared services. As a result, we will be able to make better decisions faster, with shared data and with confidence Working together with Home Office Technology, we will have established a core set of shared services. The Home Office portfolio will deliver services and components that are reused across government, and likewise reuse others’ services

  • digital: our digital services will be so good that people choose to use them and there will be support to help others get online. Our data will be well managed, shared and enable innovative technical approaches. Where physical processes remain, we will use digital to transform the way we operate

  • trusted: we will remain the recognised and trusted body to handle data for immigration, passports, crime and security. We will only collect and hold the data we need to. We will use that data effectively within the legal safeguards, balancing the need to keep the UK safe with the need to protect citizens’ privacy, building and maintaining trust through transparency

  • user led: we will put the user first. We will work with users to address all parts of a business problem: people, processes and technology. We will use a range of sources, such as user research and data to build a rich and evidence-led picture of what is needed. We will only build services and technology that meet a user need.

Our role

Home Office Digital provides the leadership for digital activities in the Home Office. Our role is to enable transformation through improved business efficiency, the elimination of paper from the system and the creation of quality services. We transform interaction with the Home Office through streamlined user journeys. Through digital, the Home Office will innovate, iterate and accelerate quality service delivery based on user needs.

As Home Office Digital grows, we expect that more aspects of digital activity in the Home Office will move under the umbrella of Home Office Digital. There is great digital work underway across the department. We are keen to bring this together to set a common standard for digital in the Home Office.

Home Office Digital vision

  • we will build a government-leading digital department with the in-house specialist skills required to design, build, test and iterate quality services
  • all of our staff will understand and be able to use digital tools that enable them to work more effectively and efficiently
  • the rest of the Home Office will work with Home Office Digital to build solutions that enable the department’s objectives. Home Office Digital will move from a position of supplier to partner and trusted advisor
  • digital projects and services will be measured and benchmarked to ensure that the right business outcome, value and user experience are achieved and keep getting better
  • Home Office Digital will use and create services and components that are reused across the organisation, and across government
  • the delivery of our digital strategy is underpinned by high quality, high speed data being made available across the wider Home Office

Our principles


  • are an integrated delivery team with Home Office Technology: working with our partners across the organisation to create solutions that help keep the UK safe, cut crime, reduce immigration and prevent terrorism
  • own the design of our services and are responsible for determining our future digital landscape. We accept the risk that this brings and manage it by developing our in-house teams
  • value data: we make high quality data available - as appropriate and proportionate – securely and at speed to those across the Home Office who need it as and when they need it
  • add value early and often: we start with prototypes and build small services which are easily set up and easily changed. We actively seek opportunities to reduce cost of our services
  • are part of Government as a Platform: we build, and reuse services and technology that are better connected across government
  • provide quality services: these are measured and benchmarked to ensure that we achieve the performance, end-user experience and value that our customers and partners expect
  • champion digital skills: we invest in specialist skills within our own teams and increase awareness and capability in all staff
  • provide leadership: we show how the Home Office can use digital delivery to do things differently, seeking opportunities to make our business processes smarter
  • are open, making the costs of our services transparent to consumers and partners. We use open source software and make our own designs and code open source. Wherever possible our data is open and transparent


As part of the government-wide digital transformation, we published a digital strategy in 2012 setting out how we would:

  • uphold the Digital by Default service standard
  • produce three exemplar programmes
  • create a digital directorate in the department

We set out these goals in the 2012 strategy and have reported our achievements to the 16 actions of the government digital strategy since then.

In 2012 we said:

We want the Home Office to be a department where policy will be created through ongoing engagement with citizens, and our published information will be organised around the needs of the user. All of our transactions will be transformed to meet the highest standards for digital services. This process will begin with the development of 3 ‘exemplars’ - high profile, high volume public services which will be designed to meet a new digital service standard currently being developed by the Government Digital Service

Since 2012 we have achieved a great deal including:

  • Growth of digital skills:

    • we have established a digital leadership team and recruited digital and technology specialists, hiring 11 new members of staff
    • we have built partnerships with universities and professional communities to attract top technology talent to the department
    • we actively promote staff understanding of digital methodologies and their ability to use digital tools through show and tells, code club, digital month and digital road shows
    • we host regular events in Home Office locations around the country to showcase what the digital team is working on and how people can get involved
  • New services:

    • all new and redesigned digital services are assessed internally by a specialist digital team against the Digital by Default service standard. High volume services are assessed by the Government Digital Service

    • we have revolutionised the way the public interacts with the Home Office through our exemplar programmes: Registered Traveller, enabling eligible frequent travellers to the UK to apply to use e-passport gates, achieved its live service accreditation in December 2014. Our Visit Visas exemplar is on track for live service by March 2015. The Passports exemplar, enabling passport renewals online is shortly entering its beta phase and on track for live service in 2015

    • Beyond the exemplars, we have delivered a portfolio of 20 additional services serving both internal and external users. We are simplifying the way the Home Office works by removing the need for paper systems with new tools for staff

      • the digital team built Hercule, a correspondence and small case tracking and management system, to simplify how correspondence is handled. Hercule merges several major systems into 1, saving time and effort for the user and removing paper processes. Hercule can communicate with other systems across government, such as the Parliament QA system, making access to quality data much simpler

      • we are not only transforming front-end services but also end-to-end business transformation. In the case of Registered Traveller, our teams built a brand new case-working system to sit behind the public interface enabling greater efficiencies for case-working staff

      • the Dynamic Response Tool (DRT) is a smart resourcing tool that helps Border Force manage passenger queues by picking up on pressure points during the day at primary check points. DRT has correctly predicted flights known to require greater processing coming in at the same time as other major flights, enabling the distribution of additional staff to handle the increased workload at the Primary Check Point. The feedback received from ports tells us that users are impressed with the accuracy of the service

    • Home Office transactional services are designed to work effectively with common technology platforms such as GOV.UK Verify, Performance Platform, and Digital Marketplace, generating efficiencies and building a consistent user experience across all government services

    • The Home Office Data Analytics Capability has successfully concluded its alpha phase. This phase proved the concept of data analytics and provided real benefits to the Home Office in terms of generating new investigative leads on Organised Crime Groups; providing enriched information to front-line operations and informing business strategies

  • Cultural change

    • since 2012 we have successfully embedded multi-disciplinary teams in business areas and inspired the department through rapid delivery of innovative solutions
    • we have embedded agile principles across the organisation
    • we have begun to build a joint Home Office Technology and Home Office Digital operating framework

Our next steps

The 2012 strategy was the beginning. The exemplars gave us the opportunity to start driving end-to-end transformation; we will now take that momentum and deliver that transformation across the department. This strategy sets out the vision for how Home Office Digital will support the department to pave the way to being ‘consistently competent’ in 2015 ‘consistently excellent’ by 2017 and ‘consistently trusted’ by 2020 in line with the Home Office improvement plan. Our priorities and objectives for the medium term are set out in this strategy, with particular focus on the 2015/16 business year.

As needs change, our work will continue to evolve and adapt to those needs. As our capacity grows, we will create even more services with Home Office Technology and, through partnerships with the rest of the Home Office, we will achieve end-to-end business transformation. Consolidating work across the Home Office by thinking about products and services that cut across areas of the business will be central to doing more with less.

Our priorities for 2015 to 2016:

  1. Building specialist capability
  2. Building digital capability across the organisation
  3. Delivering through partnerships
  4. Continuously improving quality
  5. Adopting a platform approach
  6. Standardising and managing data

As a result,

  • Staff will:
    • increase their awareness of digital services
    • improve their digital skills and digital literacy
    • aspire to work with or for digital in the Home Office
    • understand and participate in user-centred design
    • understand Home Office Digital’s role within the department and within digital government
    • have access to the data they need and an understanding of the value and potential of high quality data
  • Home Office business areas will:
    • recognise Home Office Digital as an enabler and delivery partner to achieve their objectives
    • understand the art of the possible and the limitations of digital service delivery
    • understand how to define who their users, both from the public and amongst our staff, are and how to put the user at the centre of policy or service design and delivery
    • begin to embed digital service managers, product owners and other core roles within their business
    • involve Home Office Digital in decision-making processes at the right times and places
    • create efficiencies by reducing paper, being data-led and working iteratively
    • maintain a high standard of data management, quality and accuracy
    • ensure that benefits resulting from digital initiatives are appropriately identified and reflected in their business plans
  • The public will:
    • benefit from simpler, clearer and faster transactions with the Home Office as a result of intuitive services they can use as well as improved systems that our staff use
    • benefit from a consistent experience across Home Office services
    • benefit through a reduced cost of government for the taxpayer as a result of digital services
    • have trust in improved data that enables high quality, change-responsive and value for money services

1: Building specialist capability


To be a government- leading digital department with the in-house specialist skills required to design, build, test and iterate quality services.


The department’s strategic direction to become Digital by Default requires a fundamental shift in skills. We need different kinds of teams with specialist skills who can integrate with our existing policy and operational experts. Currently, the majority of our specialist digital skills are provided by contingent labour. This is costly both financially and in terms of knowledge lost when a contractor leaves the team. As a result we will grow our in-house skills pool. This will not only enable us to increase our delivery capacity but also our capacity to train and mentor new recruits. Our core delivery functions will be staffed by permanent and fixed-term contract staff. At the same time, maintaining an element of flexibility though contingent labour will enable us to be agile, to respond to demand and to the changing technology landscape.

In 2015 to 2016:

  • we will build more delivery teams
  • we will up-skill and increase the proportion of civil servants in those teams
  • we can fund up to 80 discoveries to enable businesses to articulate their needs and support staffing dozens of projects from alpha through to live service
  • we will increase the Home Office’s capability to exploit insights arising from data analytics

How will we do it?

  • we will continue to recruit specialist skills
  • we will engage with professional communities and civil service pay and reward to better understand the changing market
  • we will partner with universities to recruit graduate talent and build awareness of careers available in the Home Office
  • we will use G-Cloud resources and small and medium-sized enterprises •* we will partner with other government departments to create a joined up approach to grade and career progression challenges
  • we will explore expanding our digital hubs beyond London

2: Building digital capability across the organisation


All of our staff will understand and be able to use digital tools that enable them to work more effectively and efficiently and be empowered to drive continuous improvement.


A digital organisation is not just about specialist digital teams building tools. It is where all staff have the right skills to use those tools to assist their customers. It is where staff understand the art of the possible of digital services and can articulate problems in terms of user stories that will form the basis of innovative and creative solutions.

In 2015 to 2016:

We will establish what digital skills mean to the wider organisation and the methods by which those skills can be obtained. We will support staff in acquiring digital skills relevant to their roles. By building staff confidence in digital skills and by giving staff quality tools to use, we will help meet our objectives in line with the government’s Digital inclusion strategy.

How will we do it?

  • we will set out a common digital skills framework for the Home Office
  • we will significantly increase Home Office employees’ awareness of digital by January 2016 using a pulse survey to measure awareness
  • as part of our engagement plan, we will go out to the wider department to define digital literacy, introduce the skills framework and explain how to acquire those skills
  • Home Office will use the results of the Annual Skills Review to inform our approach to basic digital skills training with the aim of enabling more staff to reach level 7 on the digital inclusion scale.
  • we will tailor our skills engagement to individual roles and operational areas.
  • we will test and learn this approach with 1 specific business area before iterating across the rest of the department

3: Delivering through partnerships


Business areas across the Home Office will work with Home Office Digital to build solutions that enable Home Office objectives concentrated on user needs. Home Office Digital will move from a position of supplier to partner and trusted advisor.


To reach the objective of a ‘consistently trusted’ Home Office by 2020, it is essential to build confidence in the delivery of Home Office services through digital channels. This trust will be gained through the Digital team and business areas working together closely to ensure the design and delivery of services meet rapidly changing and evolving user needs. Stakeholder feedback tells us that few business areas are actively engaged with digital during planning or delivery processes. As the Digital team grows, we will engage with more areas of the Home Office and we will lead by example iteratively delivering solutions in partnership with business areas. We have created a service management model for business areas to adopt as they develop digital services.

In 2015 to 2016:

  • we will show the benefits of services built by Home Office Digital to date and the ways in which we will continue to create value for money for the business and for the public
  • we will embed digital ways of working across the organisation so that all staff have the opportunity to see first-hand the possibilities offered by digital ways of working, the opportunity to learn digital skills on the job and understand how digital skills apply to their roles
  • we will create dozens of new digital services, both external and internal facing
  • we will be 1 delivery team, working with Home Office Technology and our partners across the department to build solutions to enable the Home Office’s objectives
  • we will build according to user needs brought to us by business areas, responding rapidly to change •* we will maintain an open and accessible portfolio of projects and capabilities that we are working on to make our work visible to all

How will we do it?

  • we will create a single entry point for people starting projects with Home Office Digital and with Home Office Technology
  • we will set out how to work with Home Office Digital through a series of publications and face to face engagement. This will include how the rest of the organisation should access digital services, an explanation of our service management model, how to put forward proposals for discovery work, how we prioritise and look for common opportunities and how will be continuously improved when live through the Digital Service Optimisation team
  • prioritisation of projects is assessed on a number of factors including transaction volumes, anticipated business value delivered, ongoing support from the business area and opportunities for reuse. We will continuously improve our prioritisation strategy as we engage with more business areas and demand for digital services grows
  • we will embed essential digital delivery roles into other parts of the department in line with our service management model: service manager, product manager, delivery manager, and a dynamic combination of user researchers, developers, designers and other skills required to build and maintain services
  • we will set out and communicate a clear funding model for digital service provision
  • we will provide advice and leadership on how to work with agile methodologies, encouraging a shift in thinking from projects to services and common capabilities
  • we will work with Commercial to streamline the way Home Office Digital procures people and services to facilitate delivery and ensuring that the Digital by Default service standard is embedded in procurement exercises and encouraging procurement through SME partners. We anticipate that some of our services will be made up of third part components but these will still be required to meet the service standard
  • we will test and learn from our approach with 1 pilot business area before iterating across the rest of the department

4: Continuously improving quality


Digital projects and services will be measured and benchmarked to ensure that the right business outcome, value and user experience are achieved and keep getting better.


Delivering quality services underpins the aspiration to create ‘services so good, people choose to use them’. It is therefore essential to measure and monitor the quality of our services to the public, to staff and to business areas. What is more, we need to be able to articulate the benefits of digital services to support businesses with Home Office transformation objectives. That means that metrics need to be well understood at the inception of a project and at each phase of the development process. These measures will crystallise as the project progresses through its development lifecycle, and continuing when the service is live. At each phase, the most appropriate evidence possible should be made available.

In 2015 to 2016:

We will measure performance at each stage of the development lifecycle. Our ability to respond to user needs quickly and to deliver value early and often underpins the quality of digital services. We will build our commercial model to articulate how digital enables growth, and how efficient digital services are for us and for our customers. We will apply the Digital by Default service standard to all internal and external digital services.

The Information Digitalisation Programme will introduce new ways of collecting, storing and despatching the documents and data we use. Greater digitisation of documents and direct verification of existing data sources will lead to a reduction in the amount of paper-based documentation required and managed by the Home Office. As well as generating processing and commercial efficiencies, we expect to see improvements in data management and integrity. These capabilities will make our workforce more flexible and thereby delivering efficiently for our internal partners and the public.

How will we do it?

  • Home Office Digital will continue to review and improve management information within transactional services.
  • where possible, dashboards will be built for the high volume transactional services and will link to the Performance Platform.
  • the alpha performance dashboard will be taken through to production as part of the preparation for the Visit Visas live service assessment by March 2015.
  • in partnership with the rest of the organisation and delivery teams, we will build measures into services to articulate the following:
    • real cost savings projected and achieved at each phase
    • the downstream cost savings of digital services
    • achieving the Digital by Default service standard
    • customer satisfaction for public transactions
    • public time saves through digital transactions
    • digital uptake and channel shift
    • staff time saved
    • service efficiencies through data-led decision making
    • customer satisfaction of the business areas that we enable

5: Adopting a platform approach


Home Office Digital will work together with Home Office Technology to consume and produce services and components that are reused across the organisation, and across government as part of the move towards creating Government as a Platform. We will be a lead on the Digital Criminal Justice system, on Casework and on Freight at the Border; three of the next pan-government platforms envisaged for development in the next parliament.


Our ability to protect the public is dependent on consistently identifying people, determining their status, and assessing the threat they pose. We will be more effective and efficient by working towards a platform of shared services and common capabilities, across the department and across government. As a result, we will be able to make better decisions faster, and with confidence.

The creation of GOV.UK began a transformation of the way the public interacts with government. Common platforms enable simplified journeys designed around the user rather than journeys designed around the silos of government departments. GOV.UK gives users a single platform for all their transactions with government. Furthering this approach means building services that can operate across departmental boundaries, standardising what our data looks like and sharing practices to build common services. We recognise that common services will more often be small capabilities or products which can be reused many times.

In 2015 to 2016

Both our public-facing and internal digital services will usually be formed from a combination of common small enabling and large platform services. Wherever possible, we will reuse and build common services. That means building small high quality services that can be reused across multiple programmes and projects. We will embrace opportunities to consume from and contribute services into the Government as a Platform portfolio.

We will work towards opening up data and transactions by building APIs and data standards, leveraging the Home Office Data Analytics Capability. We will raise the profile of our successful initiatives so that they get recognition across government and we can help other departments with similar challenges.

How will we do it?

  • as services we build mature, we will seek opportunities to add new groups of users with shared but additional needs and new data
  • Home Office Digital will:
    • provide access to Government as a Platform services
    • identify opportunities for implementation
    • look for opportunities to contribute services into the Government as a Platform portfolio
  • we will be systematic about code reuse, about what we have built that can be reused and about which services we have enabled
  • we will improve our sharing of open source code and reusable products by publicising our service catalogue to the government community

6: Standardising and managing data


Data is high quality, accurate, current, accessed digitally and available securely to authorised users at speed for appropriate and proportionate use across the Home Office, government, and third parties.


Data sharing and management is at the core of the Home Office’s ability to achieve its objectives. Home Office business areas need access to data in the volumes and speeds necessary to reduce risk and improve performance. Innovation in how we standardise, share, secure, and manage data will help set the direction for business change and underpin departmental transformation. It will help to shape our decisions on the business capabilities we need to invest in and direct the innovation we want in refreshing and purchasing new technology.

In 2015 to 2016:

  • we will improve methods of using and sharing data and information operationally and corporately, across the Home Office and the rest of government
  • we will promote a data-driven, intelligence led, and evidence based Home Office
  • we will develop mechanisms to access further digital capabilities, enable greater data availability, and implement access to Government as a Platform services
  • where appropriate we will become more open and transparent in our operations

How will we do it?

  • we will engage with professional communities and other government departments to maximise opportunities for standardisation of data and cross government data standards
  • we will implement a core data analytics capability programme to ensure maximum use is made of information held by the Home Office and to enable digital ways of working
  • we will develop application programme interfaces and tools to enable greater data availability
  • we will create a data catalogue which will challenge duplication, ensure clear ownership and enable process owners to access and share data in line with common standards
  • we will support transparency work streams across government, including the adoption of open document format file types