WMPeople: Helen Davis, Assistant Director of IT and Digital

  • Helen oversees all our technology, including some exciting new developments like the Data Driven Insights project, a first for policing in the UK.
  • The project is cutting edge and has been designed to radically improve the force’s technology.
  • We were recently named overall winners of the Enterprise Data Cloud category in the Cloudera 2020 Data Impact Awards for our excellence in advanced data analytics.

Helen Davis

The day starts with….

A check on my meeting commitments. I also meet my senior leadership team to review any overnight live service issues and discuss what’s planned for the day ahead.

I’m responsible for….

Ensuring that we’re able to use the latest and greatest technology available to us, so technical strategy and planning is a key part of my role.

With 11,500 employees, we manage and maintain over 9,000 devices and over 200 software applications.  We also develop our own mobile apps and build our own robots! This is in addition to continually introducing new technology through a number of exciting projects.

I joined up….

Because I was asked to lead the force’s digital transformation. This was no easy task - and it’s exactly why I relished it. When I joined, to describe our IT environment as legacy would have been generous. IT said ‘no’ a lot of time because it simply wasn’t equipped with the capabilities, resources and the technologies to meet user demand. 

After the transformation I was hooked because, for the first time in my career, I was able to see the tangible impact our work was having on front line policing and therefore the public.  The culture was also incredibly important to me. At WMP diversity is celebrated. I’m judged on my results, not my gender, which is not typical across the technology industry.

The department is…

Beautifully diverse and split across three main areas:  design, build and run.   Design is where a team of technical architects, review and design all new technology solutions for everything we do.  Build is where the development team carry out the technical development of our new systems. This is also where the mobile apps and the robots are designed and built. Run covers all of our live service management, everything from laptops to large complicated computer system. This is the largest part of the IT department.

I got here… because I wanted a career in technology but didn’t want to be ‘more male’. I started my career in HMRC and I can distinctly remember being told on my first day as a graduate trainee, ‘If you want to work in IT, you’ll need to be more male than the men.’ And accordingly I was assigned a male line manager and spent a lot of time making tea and sorting the stationary cupboard. I’ve never been sure if that’s because of my junior position or because I was a woman. Either way, I didn’t want to be ‘more male,’ I wanted to be true to me. I might have been operating in - and still do - a male dominated environment but that didn’t mean I should change who I was. Joining WMP in 2013 as a consultant and seeing how different and inclusive the culture was, I wanted to stay and became a permanent member of staff.

My typical day….

Consists of a variety of meetings that cover both project, live service, supplier, strategy and departmental matters.  I’m constantly thinking about how we can improve the technology we offer, making sure that IT strategies remain current and aligned to force directives. I also have a keen interest and a hands-on role in National Policing initiatives. No two days are the same. You have to be prepared to tear up your ‘to do’ list when you need to.

My most memorable moment…

Was just after we’d rolled out mobile devices. I was walking through Birmingham City Centre on my way home and I saw on-duty police officers using them. That moment really did highlight how what we do in IT and Digital does and can make a real difference to operational policing.

The best part of the job…

Is working in such a diverse organisation in one of the most diverse communities in the UK. It is a great privilege. Being at the forefront of new developments in technology across policing and being able to influence those technology choices is definitely the best part of the job.  I’ve been lucky enough to see how technology can make a difference to policing and how it can improve the service offered to the public and that gives me an enormous sense of pride.

The worst part of the job…

Not always being able to give everyone everything they want, when they want it.  As with most IT functions within most organisations, we can’t always provide what our users want. Sometimes this is due to cost and sometimes it’s simply because it’s not practical. We have to be sure that everything we do is secure and usable across the whole force.

If I didn’t do this job I’d….

Still be working within technology, but without the level of pride and purpose working here gives me.

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