Interview: The Crown Prosecution Service & esynergy, DevOps Excellence Awards finalist

The public sector has to combat the perception of lagging behind the private sector

clock • 5 min read
Peter Haddock, head of digital solutions and innovation, Crown Prosecution Service
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Peter Haddock, head of digital solutions and innovation, Crown Prosecution Service

DevOps is widely acknowledged as bringing agility, innovation, and resilience to businesses, providing numerous benefits within the industry.

Computing's DevOps Excellence Awards showcase outstanding achievements from organisations, personalities and solutions that have successfully applied DevOps methodologies.

This year's winners will be announced at a live awards ceremony on Thursday, 14th March in London.

Among the finalists are the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) & esynergy, who have jointly reached the shortlist for two categories: Best DevOps Transformation and DevOps Project of the Year.

We talked to Peter Haddock, head of digital solutions and innovation at CPS, to find out how his organisation has used IT for success.

At CPS, Peter spearheads the strategic implementation of digital initiatives, modernising processes and enhancing efficiency within the legal system. He focuses on innovation and user-centric design, to oversee the delivery of digital solutions tailored to meet the unique user needs of prosecutors and support the wider justice system. Peter also leads in Agile Delivery Management implementing technology integration and the successful execution of transformation projects, optimising case management and facilitating collaboration across government departments. Peter has a passion for Digital Delivery, leveraging cutting-edge technology to drive CPS forward, enabling better access to justice and upholding the integrity of the legal process.

Computing: Please provide some background on your company for our readers.  What makes you different from other companies?

Peter Haddock: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are a non-ministerial government department, and we are responsible for prosecuting criminal cases that have been investigated by the police and other investigative organisations in England and Wales. It makes its decisions independently of the police and government.

CPS's mission is to discover innovative ways to save time, improve intelligence, and reduce wrong prosecutions from case errors.  As the nature of crime continually evolves, CPS consistently adapts, with digital capability forming the foundational pillar of its response and commitment to enhancing justice.

What one company achievement in the last 12 months are you most proud of?

The spirit of innovation is continuing to thrive at CPS, I couldn't be prouder of the Casework App (Polaris) team for securing finalist positions in not just one, but two categories at the DevOps Excellence Awards: DevOps Project of the Year and Best DevOps Transformation. This achievement is particularly significant, being the first digital award CPS has ever been recognised for.

Our Casework App was delivered through the name of Polaris, aptly named after the North Star. This emerged from a collaborative effort between CPS and esynergy with the goal of modernising legacy infrastructure and enhancing the efficiency of the Case Management System (CMS). With a sizeable user base of over 3,000 users, this initiative is savings colleagues thousands of hours each year.

View the full case study here.

Why are events like the DevOps Excellence Awards important to the IT industry?

The DevOps Excellence Awards serve as an invaluable platform for the industry to showcase its successes and achievements. These occasions hold particular significance for professionals in the public sector, as they often combat the perception of lagging behind the private sector, despite having some really passionate digital professionals and using their skills to utilise cutting-edge tools and technologies.

The team is honoured to receive recognition for its accomplishments, especially when working in complex environments that have multiple challenges. These include, modernising architecture and establishing connectivity with a legacy system spanning three decades. This is amongst championing and instigating a significant cultural shift within the organisation to adopt Agile delivery methodology, and wholeheartedly embrace digital transformation to drive initiatives like Polaris.

What have been the biggest challenges of 2023 so far and how have you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges we encountered was supporting our colleagues with new ways of working. User research was relatively new as a concept but we've been able to show everyone the value of embracing new technology and adopting User-Centered Design (UCD) principles - and we now have supporters of this across the whole organisation which is so rewarding to see. We adopted the successful GDS patterns you see across all Gov.uk services, which allowed users to feel a familiar and comfortable product that served better user journeys. Sustaining this newfound culture of innovation opened up the implementation of frequent feedback loops, both in development and now within Public Beta as a service. Key delivery outcomes achieved to land the product successfully, and resulting in a shift from deployment releases occurring every 3-6 months (Legacy CMS) to daily updates.

The most significant technical challenge the team faced in developing the Polaris solution was devising a method to interface with the legacy system and connect it to the CMS. Upon realising the impossibility of a direct CMS endpoint connection, the teams responded with innovation by creating their own CMS integration API known as DDEI (Direct Document Extraction and Ingestion). This marked a notable milestone for CPS as it represented the first instance of internal digital product ownership and infrastructure development. The approach centred on leveraging API interfaces already exposed by the legacy application. Through system analysis, well-structured and stable GraphQL and SOAP APIs integrated into the CMS were identified. To simplify access, a RESTful API was crafted to serve as a controlled facade over these existing APIs.

What do you see as the main opportunities for the IT industry in the coming year? How do you plan to capitalise on those opportunities?

GenAI is leading the charge into a new era of innovation poised to revolutionise business operations and disrupt conventional practices across various sectors. CPS is actively seeking to leverage the potential of AI to enhance tools like the Casework App.

We are now in an experimentation phase, looking at how we can use cutting-edge technology to make it easier for prosecutors to understand a case amongst other challenges.

DevOps Excellence Awards will take place on 14th March in London. Click here to view the shortlist and here to book your table.

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