NFCC Digital and Data Strategy


I am delighted to share the first NFCC Digital and Data Strategy. As one of the NFCC’s strategic commitments, digital and data sits alongside community risk and people to form our ambitious improvement programme. It is right to recognise digital and data in this way as it underpins all areas of fire and rescue service business from front-line response to the targeting of our interventions; from how we manage risk to how we look after our most important asset, our people.

Our strategy is here to guide our work so that we can support fire and rescue services as they develop local solutions that help with day to day activity. Covid-19 represents a huge challenge to fire and rescue services to maintain existing services while helping the health sector respond in ways that we have not done so before. Making sense of the data generated by such experiences helps to inform our learning so that we improve our preparedness for future events.

The need for fire and rescue services to learn is not new. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report provided the NFCC, along with the rest of the fire and rescue sector, a clear indication of what needs to change to ensure that a fire of such a magnitude cannot happen again. There are many digital and data facets underlying the recommendations and these are a considerable driver for change, strongly influencing the NFCC’s Digital and Data Programme.

All fire and rescue services have been inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue (HMICFRS). One of the broad conclusions is that we don’t make the most of our data. I am a strong believer in the power of data to build our evidence, to inform our decisions and to help us reflect on those as we learn from our experience. The Digital and Data Programme puts data up front and central as an enabler for service improvements; I am keen for the NFCC to work closely with fire and rescue services to ensure that we can develop national approaches for the benefit of all.

While our influences come from our immediate fire-related world, we have much to learn from other sectors about how digital and data can transform how we deliver our services. We have formed an expert panel to help guide us in our thinking; our experts come from other emergency services, from universities and from industry. We are privileged to benefit from their experience.

Our aspiration is for the NFCC to be the data hub for fire and rescue services. This will be informed by a data strategy; have effective data governance; have clear data architecture; and facilitate effective data analysis. We will enable fire and rescue services to work in a digitally effective way to support communities and better identify and reduce risk and vulnerability.

This strategy sets out how the NFCC will direct its efforts to support members in the continually evolving world of digital and data. I hope you will read it with interest and join us in helping to deliver the Digital and Data Programme as we begin our work.


Lee Howell

Programme Executive, Digital and Data Programme

June 2020

Our vision

The NFCC will be the data hub for UK fire and rescue services and will work collaboratively to harness digital capabilities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of identifying and reducing community risk and vulnerability.

Our mission

Our mission is to drive high quality, evidence-based standards for data in all areas of our work, empowering the workforce by emphasising digital literacy, maximising the use of data and providing responsive online services for the public.

Where we want to be

  1. Fire and rescue services have a much better picture of underlying vulnerability and risk for individuals and communities.
  2. Fire and rescue services deliver earlier, more precise and targeted proactive approaches through use of digital capabilities.
  3. Risk reduction activities are enhanced through evaluation of their effectiveness.
  4. Operational response and situational awareness will be improved by increased digital risk management capability.
  5. National procurement frameworks are established for digital and data capabilities to save money and provide a coherent and informed user requirement to industry.
  6. Local determination will continue but within a ‘collaborate first’ culture.
  7. Activity and workforce data can be better captured and appropriately shared with key partners and NFCC members for benchmarking and reporting purposes.
  8. Areas of best practice are identified and scaled to be made available to all.
  9. The capability of the UK fire and rescue service is continually assessed and cultivated in step with the changing nature of demand and the operating environment.

Success factors

To enable success the programme will require:

  1. Strategic understanding and buy-in
  2. Clearly defined scope
  3. Effective communications
  4. Cross-sector collaboration, engagement, and knowledge sharing
  5. Appropriate funding
  6. Expert support and advice


It is tempting to think of digital as a thing, but it is more a way of doing things. It isn’t just about the technology in the office, the Internet, social media activity or the hardware and software that form the backbone of the computers in every office. Digital transformation requires us to re-examine how we do things, how we operate, how we behave; working out what can be done better and what can be changed to improve the outcomes that we want to see for the workforce and the wider public.

We have distinguished between digital and data in this programme because we believe that data is a fundamental building block of the evidence required for improvement. Data can be as simple as the count of incidents, but the value of the data comes from the analysis and the insight. Asking questions and being curious to see what the evidence tells us means we can make better policy decisions. Fire and rescue services rely on data to develop views on risk; they create data from their activities, and they need to analyse data to learn and improve.

Our context

The NFCC wants to focus on areas that best reflect the needs of our members and bring greatest benefits in terms of improvement for all. We express this through our strategic commitments.  Three of these commitments form the NFCC’s improvement programme and a fourth commitment focuses on efficiency, finance and collaboration.

Strategic commitments focused on people and community risk are complemented by a third commitment to using digital and data solutions to drive transformation. This will enable services to improve the way they collect, store, use and present data; manage information; and make best use of digital technology. The NFCC established a Digital and Data Programme (DDP) to deliver on this commitment.

The NFCC Strategy provides detail about the broad context in which we operate. For the DDP there are specific drivers for change. Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) inspected all 45 fire and rescue services in England and found that, “The sector is missing opportunities to use data and technology effectively”.

When the DDP was first set up it went through an initial discovery stage looking at what problems needed to be solved:

  1. We don’t know what digital transformation is taking place in each fire and rescue service;
  2. We don’t think we are making the most of all the data that we have; and
  3. We don’t know what a digitally transformed fire and rescue service should look like in the future.

The DDP ran a series of events to help answer the problems, talking to data analysts, ICT staff  and others from fire and rescue services about the problems they experience and as a result this strategy has emerged. Details of this process have been summarised in our discovery report.

An outcomes-based approach

We want to move on from the entirely problem-based approach in our early discovery phase to focus on what outcomes the DDP can achieve. We learned from our conversations with the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI) that, “Defining an outcome gives meaning to a problem or a proposed solution”. We think this is the right approach for the DDP.

A key benefit of focusing on outcomes is that they provide an ‘anchor point’ that is fixed while problems and solutions can change over time. It is natural that there will be trial and error along the way but when outcomes are fixed, that journey is likely to be more productive.

A detailed definition of the programme’s outcomes is set out in the Programme Definition Document.

Our activity framework

The DDP outcomes are specific and unchanging and are set out under six broad change themes that allow us to organise and manage our programme of work:

  1. Enabling data interoperability
  2. Standardising for national consistency
  3. Upskilling our staff
  4. Sustainment and continuous improvement
  5. Developing insights
  6. Providing public services online

We will work to understand and share what digital activity fire and rescue services are doing and how they are doing it to bring about efficiencies in their services and to help bring about opportunities for collaboration and economies of scale.

We will work to support fire and rescue services by negotiating and adding value at a national level to leverage access to digital and data sources for the benefit of all.

We will work with cross-sector digital experts to develop a future vision for the digitally transformed fire and rescue service that builds on what we know now, learning from other more advanced sectors and setting out a path to digital transformation.

Our delivery

All the NFCC improvement programmes use industry standard programme and project management methodologies. In particular, the DDP will use a combination of traditional and agile methodologies that will allow certain projects to be run in phases that start with discovery activity and then move on to alpha and beta phases where appropriate. The detail of this is contained in the Programme Definition Documentation.

The DDP forms one part of a portfolio of work and benefits from the central resource and thinking that comes from the NFCC’s Central Programme Office.

Our resources

To support the delivery of outcomes, outputs and benefits, a programme team has been established within the NFCC Central Programme Office. The team consists of a Programme Manager, Project Managers, Programme Support Officer and a share of central research and communications roles.

The programme is funded through a combination of central NFCC and Home Office funding which will be reviewed on an annual basis.

Our values

We think it is important to articulate our values as a member organisation. Our members expect us to operate in a way that fits with their own personal and organisational values. The NFCC Strategy identifies six values that underpin how the NFCC operates. Inspired by these, we will manage the programme by:

  1. Being evidence based starting with a focus on data to empower decision making now and laying the structure for future products and features;
  2. Collaborating and working in partnership with fire and rescue services and other organisations to deliver change;
  3. Being transparent about what we’re doing, sharing as we go along;
  4. Learning from our own work and from others, not reinventing solutions;
  5. Supporting ideas and efforts to bring about change;
  6. Experimenting by trying out new things, sharing early and often; and
  7. Encouraging small moves over big moves and valuing progress over perfection.

Our governance

Each of the three NFCC programmes delivers on the NFCC’s strategic commitments. In totality they are the improvement portfolio. Each programme has a programme board and a programme executive who is a member of the NFCC Steering Group.

The Digital and Data Programme Executive is Chief Fire Officer Lee Howell and the Programme Manager is Steve Beakhust. Steve is supported by project managers who deliver in accordance with the direction set by the Programme Board. This is outlined in more detail in the Programme Definition Document.

How we manage our risks and opportunities

The NFCC risk and opportunities policy is a separate document and should be read alongside this strategy. Reporting on risk accompanies the quarterly updates to Council to ensure all members are aware of what the risks are and how they are being managed. It provides members with the opportunity to advise and provide input, reinforcing the NFCC as a truly member focused organisation.

How we communicate and engage

Effective communication is critical for the NFCC. The approach that the DDP will take to communications and engagement stems from the NFCC communications strategy and helps us to deliver our business and our strategic commitments.

In common with all the improvement programmes, the DDP will rely on the input and expertise of members of the fire and rescue service, from the wider fire sector, universities and the commercial world. This may be in the form of leadership or membership of project boards; as part of a formal expert panel that will guide the programme leadership, or ad hoc contributions to our work as we go along.

Consistent with the values we outline above, we will be transparent in our communications, using a wide variety of channels to share our work and to make the connections between the DDP and the rest of the improvement programmes.

The detail of how we communicate and engage with others is in a separate communications plan that should be read alongside this document.

How we report back

As part of our commitment to transparency and openness, we will report on our progress on a quarterly basis. Progress reports form a standing item on the agenda for the Council meeting.