UK.gov is on the lookout for a Government Chief Digital Information Officer (GCDIO) – a permanent secretary role that sets the strategic direction of travel for public sector IT in return for up to £180,000 a year.
The job advert was published today and the speedy turnaround process has caught some onlookers in government IT circles by surprise.
"The GCDIO will lead HMG's 17,000 strong DDaT (digital, data and technology) community. You will be responsible for shaping and delivering HMG's innovation and transformation strategies to overhaul government's legacy IT systems, strengthen our cyber security, improve capability and ensure government can better leverage data and emerging technologies to design and deliver citizen-centric services...”
The successful candidate will "publicly" cheerlead the work of the DDaT function at Parliamentary Select Committees and other events, including ones overseas – as former government tech advisor Liam Maxwell did before he hot-footed it to work in a senior role at AWS.
"You will oversee the range of activities of the DDaT function as set out in the DDaT Capability Framework. In practice this will be done through the leadership of teams of senior DDaT leaders across government, both through professional and functional leadership of departmental teams, and direct accountability for approximately 800 DDaT professional in the Government Digital Services," the ad continued.
Closing date for applications is 7 October, with a long list of candidates to be drawn up by the middle of next month, a short list by early November and final interviews by the end of it.
The person that is awarded the role will "work closely" with the Minister for the Cabinet Office and report to John Manzoni, chief executive of the Civil Services – it is unusual that a permanent secretary reports to another permanent secretary.
One contact familiar with the matter pointed out Manzoni’s five year spell as head of the British civil service comes to an end in 2020 and the interview process is due to be short and sweet, indicating that the powers that be might already have someone in mind for the job.
The centralised nature of this position suggests UK government wants someone to power through material changes to the way data, digital and technology are handled. "Sit in the centre… and own it," one source said.
The first remit of the GCDIO will be to appoint the long-awaited government chief data officer, and then presumably someone to advise on the technological and data side of things.
"This, coupled with the reinstatement of a pan-government supplier relationship management programme being run out of the Cabinet Office, suggests that many of the structures Maxwell worked hard to dismantle are coming back into play," another source told The Reg.
"With previous incarnations of this role, it's always a challenge to do this sort of thing from the centre. It's not like the chief medical officer where you have quite a lot of levers, it's all about soft power, standards and guidance. You could end up with a Maxwell acolyte or a policy wonk, neither of which is what HMG really needs," they added. ®