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Don’t let IT changes happen “behind closed doors” says Cheshire ACC

Cheshire has implemented a range of technology changes over the past few years, including moving the majority of their data and systems into the Cloud.

As of today, the force has largely moved into the Cloud (Microsoft Azure) - having started creating their platform at the end of last year. 

The force has 80 “super-users” who are frontline officers who work with the development team at each stage to give ideas and to trial products. 

ACC Matt Welsted told Police Oracle: “A real part of this is actually starting to showcase the impact that IT has on the wider organisation. It absolutely should not be IT behind closed doors. 

“You need to have people like me, and people from the operational part of the business involved in this, particularly when it comes to prioritisation - because we’re hugely ambitious and the pressure we can put on our IT staff can be quite significant”. 

At the start of this month, Cheshire brought their Entreprise Resource Planning (ERP) system into the Cloud (HR, finance, procurement, payroll, duty management). They also have Duty Management and Command and Control within the Cloud, although their 999 call centre has not yet been moved there. 

ACC Welsted said: “Ultimately, this is all going into the Cloud but we've got to balance the benefits and costs of doing so and you can't do everything all at once. 

“When it comes to the ERP changes - we were with a collaboration around that, but the collaboration itself decided it wanted to go a separate way. So it wasn't a decision we made because we wanted to come out of that and in-source it, but it was more of an opportunity. 

"We've learned a lot of lessons around when it's best to have a third party and when it's not. 

“What officers don’t want is any form of IT challenge. How does the IT team go from old legacy technology to brand new, cloud-based forward-facing technology, when you've got people like me saying, 'There must be no break in service, it's got to be seamless'?"

Head of IT Andy Robson told Police Oracle that by managing their own cloud infrastructure, it is a lot quicker both to get to the end product and to fix it. 

They did however bring in a third party to help build the landing zone and to help with the user-based transition.

He also explained that Data Protection Impact Assessments have been completed for the move to the Cloud. 

The force has produced schedules of data protection to understand exactly who is the processor and the controller (as per the Data Protection Act), what data is going where and who can see it. 

Part of that has included ensuring the data will only be held in the UK, and not transferred internationally  -  Microsoft does have data centres in the UK 

Outside of the Cloud base, Cheshire have other tools that frontline officers can use, including a mapping tool so officers can visually see the locations of criminal activity to come up with patrol plans. 

ACC Welsted explained:  “I think our success in Cheshire is that we really capture that voice of the workforce, that business lead, and we align that to the work that we do. So we put a business lead in front to say, what is it that our neighbourhood officers and PCSOs actually need and want to see every single day, and then link them through to the developers. 

“That sort of approach we've done across the board, whether it's automation, where we will have achieved a million pounds worth of cost avoidance by the end of this financial year, or whether it's facial recognition. 

“We know and we've learned some awful lessons in the past  -  the language difference between a operational police officer and a developer is huge. 

“We don't do anything without a business lead, minimum viable product, and feedback. That's our whole approach and it works."

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