The National Archives’ mission is to collect, preserve and provide access to iconic national documents. With 5% of the archive currently available online, there is a continued drive to make existing records available digitally as well as capturing new content.
Helping to identify ways in which The National Archives’ IT function could help to maintain its world-leading digital status.
As the official archive and publisher for the UK government, The National Archives is responsible for content spanning 1000 years: from Domesday Book to government Twitter feeds. In order to manage an increasing amount of digitally originated data, as well as providing digital access to paper and parchment, The National Archives needs top-class IT services. The National Archives wanted to rapidly understand what changes might be needed to ensure that the organisation maintains its world-leading digital status over the next four years.
Working closely with The National Archives, we aimed to understand the vision of the Executive Team and the priorities of the business. The National Archives aspires to become a ‘digital archive by design’, inspiring the public with new ways of experiencing the collection, providing expert advice and scrutiny, and being a leader for the archive sector. In order to deliver that vision, The National Archives needed to make sure it had solid foundations in place for IT systems that are increasingly at the heart of its services. A review of the current IT strategy and architecture was commissioned to assess the foundations and identify changes required to achieve a level of service delivery that is aligned to The National Archives’ vision.
As part of this assessment, The National Archives also highlighted some specific areas of focus, including the progress being made on its large-scale IT infrastructure projects, the desire to rationalise its applications, and the need to formalise its IT governance model.
Mason Advisory reviewed the data centre and network projects that were in progress, providing a red-flag report on key risks. We supported The National Archives’ team in developing and implementing mitigation strategies that enabled the organisation to continue with migration of services to the new network achieving an improved service without negatively affecting customers or users.
Drawing on our broad technical and IT architecture skills we also conducted a review of applications and systems, delivering a ‘hold, invest or retire’ assessment for The National Archives’ technology services, and supporting The National Archives in identifying risks.
We worked on site with senior management, users, and the IT team to assess the IT governance, processes, service management, and delivery model. We discovered that The National Archives had made positive progress around service management processes, but we also identified some significant gaps in demand and capacity management processes for IT delivery, as well as a lack of a framework to use performance data to drive continuous service improvement. In relation to IT governance, we suggested ways to formalise decision making around both IT strategy and the technical architecture that provides the blueprint for technology decisions.
Based on our understanding of the environment, it was clear that beyond the focus areas of strategy and architecture, there were wider opportunities to improve. We delivered observations and recommendations across a wider scope of IT/digital service delivery with a principal recommendation for TNA to develop an IT strategy and target operating model (TOM).
Recommendations resulting from our review established the basis for a roadmap to build on improvements in IT service delivery in alignment with its vision to become ‘digital by default’. We made a number of immediate-term recommendations in relation to active projects and initiatives that resulted in migration of services to a new, more stable network without affecting existing service performance. In addition, we made some tactical recommendations identifying a number of areas for improvement, which we advised should be encompassed into a new business-aligned IT strategy and TOM. Our recommendations – in areas ranging across organisation roles and responsibilities, technical design and architecture, service measurement and portfolio management – provided input to some initial improvement activities in addition to helping to shape requirements and plans for a stream of work to redefine the IT strategy for the organisation.
“Mason Advisory helped us to build a picture of our IT priorities and put together a roadmap for future improvements at a time of change in The National Archives. Working closely with our team, they demonstrated an insightful yet pragmatic approach to the challenges faced by an organisation with large and technically challenging responsibilities”.
Mary Gledhill, Commercial and Digital Director.