Creating a strategic roadmapfor a digital-first DWP

Thanks to the work of the Methods’ digital team, we have managed to gain significant momentum towards strategic change within the organisation. The focus areas we identified together are already being tackled and are the foundations for realising substantial savings over the course of the next 3 years and beyond.

Malcolm Lowe, Deputy CTO

The challenge

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is responsible for welfare, pensions and child maintenance policy. As the UK’s biggest public service department, it administers the State Pension, working age benefits such as Jobseeker’s allowance, as well as disability and ill health benefits to over 22 million claimants and customers.

They have one of largest, highest volume and most business critical technology operations in the UK government. They deliver and maintain over one thousand applications with over 50 million lines of code and 10 million data exchanges every day. The department has developed organically and through several departmental mergers and changes. DWP had already started its journey towards transforming its operations to function more efficiently, but it wanted to do more. The department’s senior executives were keen to explore how an end-to-end digital approach could improve the department’s service delivery whilst delivering even more significant savings.

Over five hundred change projects were underway within the department. There were many pockets of good work being carried out within the department – but there was no coherent or consistent view of strategic change. Despite their best efforts, a lot of the DWP teams were working in silos and there was no radical move away from the organisation’s monolithic systems towards the consumption of commoditised technology capabilities available via the internet – which are much cheaper to run and offer more flexibility to adapt to evolving user needs.

DWP partnered with Methods to help cut through the complexity of this legacy organisation. The task at hand was to:

  • Identify where the opportunities for rationalisation were
  • Advise on how these opportunities should be tackled
  • Recommend how these opportunities could be broken down into manageable chunks of work to support DWP’s digital transformation effort

The solution

Methods deployed a small multi-skilled team across the department’s multiple sites (Warrington, Sheffield, Blackpool, Newcastle etc.) to begin a Discovery and understand how DWP was using technology to deliver services to its customers.

By being on the ground and interacting with DWP’s members of staff, the Discovery team rapidly gained an understanding of the organisation including:

  • the variety of services it offers
  • its customers’ needs
  • the business capabilities that are in place and the underlying technologies that support them
Understanding the end-to-end value chain that enables DWP to deliver its services to its customers

Once the Discovery team had built this view, it was able to identify which areas needed to change, why, when and how.

Methods also facilitated a number of multi-disciplinary workshops aimed at bringing together the business with technology leads. This enabled DWP to align plans and create a joint-roadmap to achieve the organisation’s target state for 2020.

The team used a variety of techniques to achieve this – from user research, to enterprise architecture modelling, capability mapping, and Simon Wardley’s Situational Awareness mapping.

An example Wardley Map of a typical Benefit Service highlighting duplications and opportunities for rationalisation

The roadmap was underpinned by an enterprise architecture model that mapped the department’s user needs down to the underlying technologies and their associated costs.

A visual representation of the information captured in the DWP enterprise architecture model

The results

The Discovery process surfaced the art of the possible and the potential savings that could be made if DWP’s various functions (from policy, to operations, finance, technology, and customer insight) actively worked together to transform the department’s service delivery.

For example, standardising case management capabilities across all layers of the organisation was found to be one way of simplifying the department’s operations. This approach would also offer huge potential for realising significant savings.

Despite the large and complex nature of DWP, the digital transformation team at Methods was able to devise a coherent and consistent strategic roadmap for change – a roadmap to a digital-first DWP.

In order to drive this change and obtain senior buy-in, Methods and DWP’s digital leaders created a Digital Technology Strategy articulating the department’s strategic technology direction. This was used to communicate the department’s key objectives and cement the areas DWP will focus on to achieve its vision of moving towards capability-led transformation using cloud-based commodity technologies.