The Ministry of Justice is one of the largest UK government departments, employing around 76,000 people (including those in the Probation Service), with a budget of approximately £9 billion. Each year, millions of people use the Ministry’s services across the UK, including 500 courts and tribunals, and 133 prisons in England and Wales.
A key part of the Civil Service Reform plan is making government more unified and enabling civil servants to focus on delivering exceptional public services. The government’s Next Generation Shared Services (NGSS) programme is a key element of this agenda for a more cost-effective and unified Civil Service.
Shared services allows core back office functions, including IT, HR, finance, procurement and payroll, to be shared across independent, standalone shared service centres. As part of this reform programme, The Ministry of Justice is working towards a greater sharing of services to provide a step change in the delivery of agile services and increased efficiency.
The programme is ambitious, yet achievable. Goals include improved service quality, value for money and price certainty. However, none of it can happen without collaboration. The challenge for the Ministry of Justice has been to facilitate content collaboration with its network of supporting suppliers, such as Shared Services Connected Limited (SSCL). Some of these partners have access to the Government Secure intranet (GSi), a government-wide area network. The network’s main purpose is to enable connected organisations to communicate electronically and securely at low protective marking levels. However, some do not have access to the GSi and this presents some challenges when it comes to collaborating effectively together.
“It goes without saying that if you’re going to share services, you need to share data,” explains Roopesh Mandalia, Executive Officer at the Ministry of Justice. “Some partners didn’t have access to GSi, so there was no secure means of sharing content externally. Without secure, seamless collaboration, the programme was in danger of stalling.”
What were the options for Mandalia and his team? They could have simply collaborated on the Shared Services development programme using email, but there are limits to mailbox sizes. Content can also be lost in the sheer volume of email arriving in people’s inboxes and there were issues surrounding version control. SharePoint? This made it very difficult to share content outside the firewall with external partners. Couriers? These can be expensive and present security issues.
“The Ministry of Justice already had Huddle licenses, so it was a natural step to extend this for the Shared Services programme,” says Mandalia. “The cloud-based platform is pan government accredited at IL2, quick and easy to deploy, and very popular with users.”
Huddle enables all stakeholders to securely access, review, edit and approve content associated with the Shared Services programme. Individual workspaces are created according to the discipline or project in hand, with participants invited to the secure environment to collaborate.
“We no longer send attachments on email; relevant parties simply receive a link to the Huddle workspace containing the file,” says Mandalia. “If they are authorised to see the workspace, then they can review the document. There they can access it, comment on the content, and either approve it or request additional comment from other contributors. We know the status of every action, every download and every comment.”
Benefits of this cloud-based collaboration abound. The Ministry of Justice now has the flexibility to share content—documents, images, attachments and other materials—with external partners on the other side of the firewall. The previous limitations of not having a GSi account have been overcome and the content is secure.
In addition, stakeholders can log into Huddle from anywhere—on the train, at home or from the office.
“Put simply, Huddle makes the Ministry of Justice more productive,” says Mandalia “By sharing more content quickly and securely, we are able to push forward this ambitious Shared Services programme and make the Ministry of Justice more efficient at delivering excellent public services.”