Companies House readies itself for digital transformation
Companies House, the UK’s registrar of companies, has announced its intention to move towards digital transformation in its strategic plan.
The government office said that the challenges it faces “have changed significantly” since its previous strategic plan three years ago, and that its current goals are a response to a “new environment”.
The strategy document says: “Our data is used to support millions of business decisions and gives us the potential to play a leading role in the fight against economic crime. The transparency of our data contributes to the UK being regarded as a world-leading place to do business.”
Companies House established digital services over 20 years ago, with interim improvements. But the agency admits the legacy systems are not futureproof.
“Our internal systems and digital infrastructure are still those we put in place many years ago,” it says. “We will therefore be investing substantially in updating not just the services that are visible to our customers, but also the internal systems and infrastructure that support them.”
It goes on: “In recent years concern has grown that the UK’s corporate framework is open to misuse, and that this can lead to a lack of confidence in some of the data we hold. At the same time, continual advances in technology change expectations of what we can and should deliver.”
As with many organisations, the catalyst for change has been Covid-19, which introduced “unanticipated and unprecedented” challenges.
“Our ability to respond swiftly has provided proof of the value of work already underway, from our ability to change services and provide data on companies across government to our ability to ensure the majority of our people could work from home and their embracing that way of working. We will not lose the successes and accelerated progress we have made and will incorporate these into our ways of working as we move forward to the next normal.”
Companies House hopes that its new direction will “inspire trust and confidence” as well as delivering efficiency.
”We will seek to maximise digital filing as a vital route to delivering across a range of goals, such as improving the usefulness of data and facilitating reductions in the carbon footprint of reporting and compliance.”
Companies House aims to become a fully digital organisation, which is likely to benefit business directors, as well as the agency’s own ends.
“Digital services also give us the ability to build in help so that the user is more likely to succeed first time. Where there is a need for additional support we are exploring options such as webchat and chatbots which can help to lead users to the right actions and then help them to complete what they need to do. All our potential uses of new technology will be underpinned by social research, behavioural change and nudge techniques to ensure our approach is effective. We also recognise that there are instances where human interaction is needed. Where this is the case, we have teams of people trained to deal with a wide range of customer issues and handle them sensitively.”
Dark Wolf: accelerating security for USAF
As a small company whose biggest customers are the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, Dark Wolf Solutions (Dark Wolf) is a triple-threat, specializing in Cybersecurity, Software and DevOps, and Management Solutions. Dark Wolf secures and tests cloud platforms, develops and deploys applications, and offers consultancy services performing system engineering, system integration, and mission support.
The break for Dark Wolf came when the Department of Defense decided to explore software factories. Rick Tossavainen, Dark Wolf’s CEO, thinks it was an inspired path for the DoD to take. “It was a really great decision,” he says, “Let’s pull our people together as part of this digital transformation and recreate what Silicon Valley startup firms typically have. Let’s get into commercial facilities where we have open windows and big whiteboards and just promote ideation and collaboration. And it creates this collaborative environment where people start creating things much more rapidly than before.”
It has been, Tossavainen says, “amazing to watch” and has energized the Federal Contracting Sector with an influx of new talent and improved working environments that foster creativity and innovative ways of approaching traditional problems.
“We originally started working with the US Air Force about three years ago. The problem was at the time you could develop all the software you wanted but you couldn’t get it into production – you had to go through the traditional assessment and authorization process. I talked to Lauren Knausenberger and she told me about Kessel Run and what eventually came out of this was the DoD’s first continuous ATO [Authority To Operate].”
The secret to Dark Wolf’s success – and its partnerships with USAF and Space Force – lies in a client-first attitude. “We’re not looking to maximise revenue,” Tossavainen explains. “We tell all of our employees, if you’re ever faced with an issue and you don’t know how to resolve it, and one solution is better for the customer and the second is better for Dark Wolf, you always do number one. We’ve just got to take care of our customers, and I look for other partners that want to do that. And let’s work together so that we can bring them the best answer we can.”
Rapid releases and constant evolution of software are common themes among USAF’s partners. Like many firms operating in the commercial and public sector spaces, Dark Wolf leads with a DevSecOps approach.
“Failure is tolerated,” says Tossavainen. “If it’s not going the right way in three months, let’s adjust. Let’s rapidly change course. And you can tell really quickly if something’s going to be successful or not, because they’re doing deployments multiple times a day – to the customer.”