Public Services > Central Government

Home Office urged to clear new CDDTO Joanna Davinson’s reporting line

David Bicknell Published 23 October 2017

Department-watchers say Davinson should drive “change programme to build new model Home Office” working with Perm Sec, not be “stuck down in the weeds of an operations department”


Home Office staff and Whitehall watchers are weighing up new chief digital, data and technology officer (CDDTO) Joanna Davinson’s appointment amid concerns whether the reporting line will allow her to make the most of the role when she begins it on November 20.

Davinson’s appointment was confirmed by the Home Office last week. Davinson, who will be based in Westminster, with frequent visits to Croydon and Hendon, comes from a recent IBM background but has extensive public sector experience.

Prior to her Home Office appointment, she led IBM's cognitive consulting, process consulting and business process outsourcing businesses in Europe. She is a member of IBM's Global Business Services European Management Board and prior to that she was General Manager of IBM's Public Sector GBS business in Europe.

The appointment of a chief digital or technology officer from a large vendor mirrors the appointment of Jacky Wright at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) from Microsoft, though the background of the two appointees may only be a coincidence, according to Rob Anderson, GlobalData’s Principal Analyst, Central Government.

“It is interesting that the departments are now turning to suppliers for their chiefs of IT, having moved on from sourcing them from the telco and finance sectors. Is it a trend? I’m not sure two counts as a trend but if we see an ex-HP exec move into the MoD or a former Oracle manager into BEIS then it would definitely be something to consider.

“This is a different appointment to Jacky Wright at HMRC. She has the real-life transformation experience. Joanna Davinson’s CV shows establishment of finance systems, but it’s mainly a track record of management consultancy. I think that’s more of an indication that the CDIO/CDDTO role is evolving into an organisational change position than a tech role. It remains to be seen whether Davinson is given the authority at Board Level to drive the shift in culture that is required.”

Without that clarity and uncluttered reporting line, it has been suggested, the Home Office CDDTO role is at risk of becoming something of a ‘poisoned chalice.’

Whitehall specialists familiar with the Home Office say they hope Davinson will be able to use her experience of the way large organisations work to engineer the internal political clout necessary to get things done. Some have suggested that this may have become something of a frustration for previous Home Office CDDTO Sarah Wilkinson, though Wilkinson has never publicly indicated this. However, on leaving the Home Office, Wilkinson arguably demonstrated her own confidence and ambition by becoming chief executive at NHS Digital.

One Home Office insider told Government Computing , “Let’s hope they give Davinson the power to drive improvements where previous ‘trophy hires’ have not. I assume she will not be on the Home Office board and will therefore report at a distance. That doesn’t make any sense to me. The Perm Sec should be working hand in glove with his CIO.”

Some Whitehall specialists familiar with the workings of the Home Office argue that in order to be able to work effectively, the CDDTO should ideally be “alongside” the Home Office’s recently appointed Permanent Secretary Philip Rutnam, working on a “change programme to build a new model Home Office, rather than being stuck down in the weeds of an ‘operations department’.”

However, although her reporting line is not directly to the Permanent Secretary, it could be argued that Davinson will know how to make the CDDTO role work and negotiate her way through whatever reporting lines for the role she is given. Her extensive government and public sector experience suggests that ability.

She began her career at the National Audit Office where she qualified as a Public Sector Accountant (CIPFA) before joining Coopers & Lybrand (C&L) in the UK as a Management Consultant focused on government and health clients before moving with C&L to Tanzania to work as a consultant on a variety of World Bank and donor funded transformation programmes

On returning to the UK she implemented enterprise wide finance and accounting systems and processes for a number of central and local government clients before moving to PwC in Canada to implement an integrated financial system for the Government of Ontario.

Davinson has been an IBM executive since 2007 and a vice president since 2012. Prior to her current role she held a number of positions with IBM Global Business Services including government industry leader for Europe, defence and intelligence industry leader for UK and Ireland and senior client partner for a number of large UK Government client accounts.

The Home Office could point out that the advertisement for the CDDTO position did state that the role will report to the Director General of Capabilities and Resources Mike Parsons, who is a member of the department’s executive committee and on the departmental board. It is understood that the reporting line will be kept under review.

Having recruited Davinson, the Home Office has indicated that it still looking for top talent to join the department.

In a LinkedIn post last week, Parsons said, “Delighted Joanna Davinson will be joining the UK Home Office as Chief Digital, Data & Technology Officer, following Sarah Wilkinson’s move to NHS Digital - and big thanks to Peter Rose for his leadership in the interim. If anyone is looking for amazing challenges in digital and technology roles keeping citizens safe and the country secure there are some great opportunities. Come and join Joanna Davinson, Peter Rose, Matthew Philpott, David France, Barry Gould and Jackie Keane.” 

Among its current vacancies, the Home Office is currently recruiting a Head of Quality Assurance and Testing Delivery within Digital Service at the Border (DSAB), the transformational programme within the department’s Border Force (BF) business unit. 


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