‘Transformation won’t come easy’: Megan Lee on keeping a 'razor-sharp focus’ at CDDO and tackling recruitment challenges head on

Achieving the Central Digital and Data Office's commitments will be hard but the benefits are incalculable, its chief strategy and transformation officer says
Image: Adrian/Pixabay

By Civil Service World

09 Jan 2023


What has been your highlight of the last 12 months? 

Establishing a new organisation at the heart of government, the Central Digital and Data Office, has been a hugely exciting endeavour and rife with lots of successes to be proud of. Difficult though it is to choose, my highlight has been launching our Transforming for a Digital Future roadmap alongside departments. The roadmap was a real collaborative effort across government to focus all departments around a single strategy and ultimately ensure we have the right priorities, funding, resources, conditions and senior buy-in in place to transform government. It is humbling to think of how the work we do in the digital, data and technology function positively impacts everyone in the UK and the way they interact with the government. And the work we do to equip colleagues with tools, data and digital capabilities makes HMG a better place to work for us all. 

What was your most difficult decision in 2022? 

What to prioritise and when. Every commitment in our 2025 roadmap is exciting and important and we’d love to get it all done tomorrow; however, it will not come easily. To achieve the scale of transformation that our strategy is aiming for is hard but the benefits are incalculable to the 60 million-plus people across the UK who rely on us and our services. So we in CDDO need to keep a razor-sharp focus. We focus our time on work that adds maximum, measurable value, bringing transparency and comparability to performance across government, supporting teams that need it most, and getting the business sponsorship, capabilities and support mechanisms in place to enable digital teams to thrive. 

What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation in 2023, and how are you preparing to meet it as an organisation? 

The greatest challenge we face across the digital function is attracting and retaining top of the market digital talent. We do some of the most purpose-driven, varied, challenging and impactful work that a technologist could do in the UK. So we are leveraging that, and tackling the talent challenge head on – delivering brilliant talent programmes, strengthening skills across the profession and beyond, as well as building a stronger brand for the profession and what we do.  

And personally, as a leader? 

My role is to make sure teams across government are set up for success. It's a big challenge of course, leading teams in an organisation that sits at the centre of government but is predominantly aiming to drive transformation in other departments.  We’ve done a fantastic job in achieving collective support and momentum on the back of our strategy, but of course the trickier part is in maintaining this. However, we’re in a good position, the appetite is there, we just need to ensure we seize upon it and give something back to sustain it, such as driving from the centre the key thing departments need, systemic reform of the government machine. This is what I see as my biggest challenge to realise, but the biggest potential opportunity; the goal is to remove bureaucracy which gets in the way of digital delivery and causes inefficiencies, by creating things like flexible funding cycles and driving product-centric ways of working. 

"We’ve done a fantastic job in achieving collective support and momentum on the back of our strategy, but of course the trickier part is in maintaining this"

It's not only Santa who has to work at Christmas. What is your best, worst or weirdest experience of working in the festive season? 

In my former life I was a management consultant and I once spent Christmas morning deep in a model forecasting the impacts of health policy change. Suffice to say that the work-life balance of the civil service is something I appreciate enormously now!

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