In this taster for the October BAPCO Journal, director of the police National Enabling Programmes, Wayne Parkes, discusses how the innovative use of Microsoft Teams during COVID-19 has paved the way for a wholesale cultural shift across the service
The NEP first came about in 2016, when it was established through government funding. The Home Office asked policing – via the National Police Technology Council – what the money should be spent on, and the clear answer was cloud migration, with Microsoft 365 as a starting point.
It was a conversation that everyone was starting to have at that point, looking in particular at assurance and security challenges, which people were finding quite difficult. It was essentially all about building confidence in the migration and storage of police data in the cloud.
We workshopped it out, and came up with the three core areas of focus – Microsoft 365, which sits at the core of everything, identity access management, and the cyber security centre. They’re the three elements which make up the NEP.
I came in as we started to head towards delivery, in order to help co-ordinate what I call the heavy lifting, which needed to be carried out at the centre. That included the design, the assurance, bringing in a common model and helping forces onboard. We appointed Deloitte as our delivery partner in the first instance as we moved towards a blueprint. All Home Office forces are now signed up and in various stages of migration.
How has the strategy evolved since that initial phase? Where does forces’ recent leveraging of Teams during the COVID-19 pandemic fit in this?
The initial focus was cloud migration, with the intention that – once the strategy was locked down – forces wouldn’t have to repeat the process at local level 40-plus times. We also wanted it to be very much by policing for policing, with ideas and innovations specific to what we need as an organisation, and brought through by us.
We were in the middle of the delivery process and then COVID-19 hit at the beginning of this year. While I think it would be fair to say that very few good things have come out of the virus, one positive is the way that it’s changed people’s mindset when it comes to new ways of working, and accelerated delivery.
Around 70,000 police staff are using Teams at the moment, something which we never would have been able to do 12 months ago. We would have been stuck using audio conference calls.
We had a whole load of original business cases for the use of Teams. Interestingly enough, one of them was a pandemic.
How has organisational culture changed since the start of the pandemic? Are organisations less risk-averse now when it comes to technology?
Traditionally, change in policing is quite slow, something which also tended to be reflected in people’s attitude to the cloud as a new piece of technology. The other side of that is that, as an organisation, we’re brilliant in a crisis – that’s what policing is about, after all.
When COVID-19 came along, we were actually able to use it as a vehicle to accelerate adoption of Teams. We were inundated with communications from business-change leads within forces, telling us that everyone had gone home so they had to have something to help them carry out business as usual. It was an absolute necessity.
In terms of work that went on at the centre, we built Gold, Silver and Bronze management capabilities into the platform, through which forces were able to deploy more or less straight away. We also went through an acceleration process with 21 forces who, up until that point, had been quite a long way behind. It’s represented a wholesale cultural change.
To read the rest of the interview, check out the October edition of the BAPCO Journal.
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Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
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