ISU Membership Circular 21.12.17

Dear Members,

And so another eventful year comes to a close. There have been victories – the PDR system finally changed – as there have been setbacks, none more so than the continued absence of a meaningful pay rise.

We will be campaigning strongly for Fair Pay in 2018 and will reflect on those injustices at length then. However for now, a chance to address the criticism that ISU communications dwell too often on the negatives. There’s seldom much choice in the matter sadly. But we’re happy to take a more positive tone where we can and wanted to end the year both in that spirit and by updating members on an important issue for 2018.

Border Crossing

Members nationally have expressed great interest in the progress of Border Crossing, the long awaited successor to the WI. Of course, members at pilot sites are familiar already with the new system while the ISU have also been given a demonstration. We were impressed with what we saw, although we have also heard some frustration that implementation progress is not as rapid as hoped.

But we all know the history here. The Home Office, for that matter government at large, has an inglorious record in delivering large IT programmes. Ambitious plans that don’t deliver despite runaway costs creating forced reliance on antiquated systems long past their shelf life – let’s just say, taxpayers haven’t always received outstanding value for money. So we’re all now justly cautious when conversation turns to how IT will change our world…..

Always better that the hard lessons are learned – and I’m pleased to say the Border Crossing Team are doing just that. Most importantly they’re phasing the programme gradually – this is not a ‘big bang’ implementation where dozens of separate, complex elements can fail on ‘go live’ day without any adequate fall-back plan. This is a careful, measured project. The basic product will come on stream first. Additional functions will then be added gradually once that can be achieved without jeopardising the stability of the system. We have real frustrations with the current system and frankly would like to see it replaced yesterday. However Border Crossing is security critical and any less measured approach would be deeply reckless.

Roll-out nationally is planned now for 2018 – and we think that members will like the new system once it arrives. In no small measure due to the project team working closely with end-users – including many ISU members – who have contributed thoughts and suggestions on the system’s design. The user interface is far slicker, the display and search functions much improved. But familiar elements have also been retained – the new system is quite like the old, except it works far better. Certainly the feedback from pilot sites has been mostly positive – there have been teething troubles as there always are but, critically, necessary lessons have been and continue to be learned.

A comprehensive Border Crossing training programme is due to be rolled-out from early 2018 forwards. As with the system’s design, training material is being trialled with end users to ensure it gives our people what they need. We have received strong assurances that this training will not be compromised by front-line pressures. And are confident that the Border Crossing Team understand the risk that failing to train users adequately creates, as they have understood other risks. I have genuine confidence that this project is in good hands and will deliver positive benefits in our working lives. And those are not words I ever expected to use in description of a Home Office IT project!

It only remains for me to thank you all for your membership and support for our Union during 2017 – believe me, it is always appreciated and has rarely been more essential. On behalf of the NEC and all at the ISU, I wish you all a Happy Christmas and all you would wish for yourselves in 2018.

Mark Gribbin

ISU National Chair