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The Customer

The Environment Agency (EA) is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the United Kingdom government’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) with responsibilities relating to the protection and enhancement of the environment in England.

The Environment Agency’s ambition for the environment is to help people and wildlife adapt to climate change while reducing its impacts. They strive to improve the quality of our water, land, and air by tackling pollution and to create a better place for people and wildlife.

EA is also responsible for the management of permits and regulatory approvals for individuals and businesses. EA has undertaken a digitalisation initiative aimed at modernising and consolidating its technological infrastructure to streamline its operations and enhance efficiency. Although this programme is still in progress, it has already delivered a broad spectrum of advantages.

The Challenges 

EA faced many challenges with over 100 different applications in use, including more than 20 within the permitting service alone, creating a complex environment that hindered efficiency. Addressing the requirements of a new application would take up to twelve months, with subsequent modifications often pushed to the back burner.

This disconnect between business needs and application delivery was not unique to EA. To bridge this gap and facilitate business-led innovation, EA chose Hitachi Solutions as their strategic delivery partner and leveraged Microsoft Cloud for no-code and low-code application development.

Tim Skaptason, Lead Architect for the Regulatory Services Programme at EA, emphasised the importance of consolidating their technology stack. He noted, “The general adoption of Power Platform within DEFRA aligns seamlessly with our approach. We can construct configuration-driven applications, enhance efficiency, and facilitate quicker responses to regulatory changes.”

The initial focus of modernisation efforts within EA was on permitting activities, a vital function involving individuals and organisations across various licensing areas. One of the largest challenges EA faced was the outdated nature of their systems, with some dating back up to 30 years. These systems struggled to control and collect data, interface with applicants, and communicate progress internally. With the adoption of new technology, EA can now operate dynamically and efficiently, aligning with evolving business requirements.


Hitachi Solutions brings substantial digital expertise to the table, complementing our robust business experience. Their insights have been instrumental in identifying opportunities for enhancement and accelerating our initiatives.

Gillian Pratt
Deputy Director Future Regulation at Environment Agency

 The Solution

Hitachi Solutions has a pivotal role as the strategic delivery partner for the programme, leveraging extensive experience in customer projects to expedite value. The revamped approach adopts a user-centred and data-centric strategy built upon Microsoft Cloud technologies, seamlessly integrating with the other EA and DEFRA systems.

Data collected on the platform can seamlessly flow through Power Apps or directly into Microsoft Dynamics, facilitating accessibility through Microsoft Dataverse, Azure Synapse Analytics, and other integrated Azure data and analytics tools.You can present this data through Power Apps or Power BI reports and dashboards for EA users, leveraging the added benefit of automated workflows through Power Automate and other Azure resources.

Enhanced efficiency: With the adoption of digital solutions since December 2022 and full operational implementation by May 2023, EA has experienced remarkable improvements in the speed of processing workloads. This has resulted in a 10-15% resource savings across the board, with some teams directly dealing with applications seeing time savings as high as 80 percent. This newfound efficiency allows staff to focus on more proactive and rewarding tasks, thereby improving the overall work environment.

Improved user satisfaction: A significant milestone in this transformation is the unanimous approval from permitted organisations. A survey revealed that 100% of respondents recognised the benefits of the new system, citing improved data quality and overall system functionality. This level of satisfaction underscores the positive impact of the digital transformation on both internal and external stakeholders.

Time savings: The EA estimates that the improvements made have the potential to save time for organisations interacting with them, equating to around 11,000 days annually. These time savings translate into substantial benefits for the industry as a whole.

Cost savings and IT streamlining: By replacing five or six applications already and aiming to replace a total of 40 systems, each with an average cost of £150k, the EA is achieving significant cost savings. This digital transformation allows the organisation to do more with less, bringing data together and streamlining IT infrastructure, resulting in long-term financial benefits.

Data quality enhancement: EA has taken proactive steps to improve data quality, utilising APIs for cross-referencing new data with external sources and employing data and analytics platforms to assess and address historical data quality and gaps. This ensures accurate, reliable, and high-quality data, setting the stage for the integration of future data sources, such as environmental monitoring sensor data, which can aid in compliance efforts.

In summary, EA’s digital transformation is not only improving internal operations but also delivering substantial benefits to industry stakeholders, enhancing user satisfaction, streamlining IT resources, and fortifying data quality, positioning the organisation for success in an ever-evolving landscape.

The Future

Having successfully consolidated and streamlined data access, EA can now embark on a journey of innovation fuelled by this enriched data ecosystem and powered by AI. In Humberside, a climate change team is already exploring this resource to model potential scenarios using a digital twin of the environment, transcending traditional silos of water, waste, and fisheries. Chris Cope highlights the transformative potential of this approach, enabling a more comprehensive and holistic perspective on the environment and adopting a ‘whole catchment’ approach.

EA will use data and AI to become more proactive by intelligently targeting resources, predicting risk and preventing breaches and environmental damage. This pioneering effort is not limited to a single domain, as similar initiatives are being rolled out in other areas of the business.

This opens opportunities for optimising workflows using Power Automate, promoting seamless collaboration between teams and providing a comprehensive understanding across the organisation. The success of these initiatives not only transforms the way EA operates but also ensures a future-proof architecture, with the primary concern now focused on the migration of historical datasets. EA is well-positioned to lead the way in environmental innovation and stewardship.


Responsible AI

As EA expands the deployment of advanced technologies and further integrates them into its services, the agency is proactively preparing for the responsible integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into its operations.

“We recognise that some of the organisations we regulate are already harnessing the power of AI. To maintain our regulatory leadership, we must not only keep pace but also strive to stay one step ahead,” emphasises Gillian Pratt. “While we are currently in the early stages, with Microsoft’s support, we are confident in our ability to achieve this.”

Chris Cope shares this enthusiasm for the future potential of AI, particularly highlighting the utilisation of Azure OpenAI to extract insights from data. He acknowledges the importance of responsible data usage while highlighting the transformative potential of AI, describing it as a “game changer.” EA is actively building its AI capabilities, poised for a complete transformation in how it leverages data.

In conclusion, Gillian Pratt envisions a future where EA can assemble a comprehensive and contextualised view, enabling a deeper understanding of the factors driving decisions that may not always align with environmental goals. By harnessing AI, the agency aims to proactively support the environment, its associated benefits, and the well-being of its citizens.