Collaborative working is essential to us here at SVGC. Our ongoing project, working with FCDO Services to execute The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) Digital Sensitivity Review (DSR) is a perfect example of the incredible results that come from collaboration. Combining our expertise with the innovative thinkers from the University of Glasgow, as well as establishing a team of specialist suppliers, enabled us to deliver an efficient and effective business process and the creation of cutting edge technology solutions for the public sector.
Transparency is vital within the public sector, and all records created by crown servants are considered for transfer to the National Archives (TNA). Every Government department is required by the Public Records Act and Freedom of Information Act to select, review for sensitivity and transfer public records (digital and paper) and transfer to The National Archives (TNA). This is a colossal project and one which requires careful planning, experience and state of the art technological advancements – enter SVGC.
The aims within this project were: from a blank sheet of paper, to determine a way of processing millions of records in a policy compliant and auditable way, whilst achieving a zero-risk tolerance in processing sensitivities for transfer to TNA. This also meant identification, implementation and integration of new technology solutions to enable large scale processing of records was required, as well as training, support and guidance for operations managers and sensitivity reviewers using the system.
The UK FCDO had already made great strides within their digital technology programmes working with FCDO Services, but required innovative solutions to execute the next phase of the project: the Digital Sensitivity Review (DSR).
All FCDO digital files need to be checked for any sensitive information prior to their transfer to TNA and redacted as necessary to ensure they are safe for publication. In the last 10 years alone, TNA has identified over 1,000 different digital file types, anything from a word document to a voice recording and everything in between.
The amount of FCDO files subject to sensitivity review is extensive, and although only a small amount require sensitive topics redacted it’s essential this process is correctly delivered. FCDO required support and expert guidance to advance and shape their business processes and technologies to ensure these records were processed and made available for the British public in a timely and cost-effective manner.
A unique and blended team of business, security and digital experts provided the high-quality, rapid and cost-effective solutions FCDO required. By supporting FCDO Services as a collaborative partner we were able to offer technology engineering experience and take FCDO to the next stage of this project.
SVGC was originally founded to provide support to the Ministry of Defence and associated industry, and we have over 24 years’ experience offering our expertise. With substantial knowledge of highly regulated public sector decision environments, we were perfectly suited to work on this project. As a result, our approach to design and delivery of these services is now increasingly in demand from other UK government departments with the potential to apply to similar Government processes outside the UK.
SVGC and FCDO Services joined forces to establish an ISO 44001 accredited collaborative business relationship. This enabled us to share resources, experience and skills to develop something that had never been done before – a system that is able to handle many different file types, enabling efficient, secure sensitivity review to happen and the transfer of digital files to TNA. Not only were we able to provide solutions for process management but also utilise our technology engineering experience to deliver a full end to end package.
The Approach – Collaboration
Working closely with the Office for Digital & Innovation at FCDO Services, we examined the existing business operations and identified digital solutions to improve, accelerate and shape the DSR process, whilst also acknowledging areas where the expert reviewer could never be replaced.
Our multi-phase, agile systems approach enabled us to introduce state of the art technologies that are not only beneficial now, but enable future evolution. Partnering with between six and twelve organisations at different stages of the project to date – and with the ability to vary arrangements as the challenges dictate, we are able to bring novel and innovative solutions continually to the table. These organisations were brought together under a trusting and collaborative framework, providing the most up to date insight, ensuring the system created for FCDO Services’ customers is constantly evolving and becoming more efficient over time.
A crucial part of our collaborative approach has been establishing a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Glasgow. The KTP is providing validation, peer review and development of new technologies for specific application to this problem domain. Working closely with Glasgow University means that our solutions are independently reviewed and bring the most applicable academically validated solutions to ensure the best outcome for the public.
Jim Berryman, Knowledge Transfer Advisor from Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network commented that this partnership between FCDO Services and SVGC is:
“… one of the best examples of the ability to pull through technologies into the industrial supply chain and to make a real difference ultimately to the benefit of the British people.”
The aims within this project were to establish from the ground-up an efficient approach to sensitivity reviewing digital records for transfer to TNA, identifying and integrating new technology solutions to enable this, and training, support and guidance for sensitivity reviewers using the system.
The customer feedback was that SVGC exceeded users’ needs and extended their appetite for further capability. Through the implementation of this project, team members have changed from digitally nervous, to embracing technologies and becoming idea generators for digital innovation.
The In-Service capability introduced by SVGC has enabled users to sensitively review the digital records to meet the legislative requirements for transfer to the public domain. Support continues to be delivered to budget and the project has enabled the completion of the relevant year of essential sensitivity review.
Dr Jonathan Gudgeon, Digital Innovation Office:
“Digital Review is a complex and particularly challenging problem but SVGC delivered – bringing innovation, novel solutions, academic rigour and a robust engineered approach in a collaborative, open, honest and tenacious way”.