‘Ground-breaking’, ‘innovative’, ‘visionary’. They are not words traditionally used to describe a government department’s IT strategy, but in the case of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) our aspiration is to be the best at what we do.
When I joined the DWP in November 2014, it was in the midst of delivering some of the biggest changes to the welfare state in 60 years. Digital technology was, and remains, central to this transformation.
For those less familiar with our work, DWP delivers a wide range of State support from pensions to Jobseeker’s Allowance and services for disabled people. What we do directly affects around 22 million people – that’s one in every three UK people living in the UK.
Our digital technology and data and security specialists are engaged in simplifying the benefits system, always keeping customer needs at the heart of everything we do. Design-driven and user-focussed, we prefer open source technologies to build flexible platforms. For example, we’ve recently launched over a dozen digital services, including the Universal Credit and digital pensions’ services. We delivered 7,229 iterations and changes into production last year. We also reduced downtime for our key operational services by 42% for the year. All this was done while saving £139 million for the taxpayer.
We must build on these achievements to sustain our high levels of performance. We’re moving away from a model of long-term, outsourced IT contracts, to one where we develop and deliver new digital services and a flexible cloud infrastructure. In DWP, multi-disciplinary teams come together to create at pace, in a dynamic environment where ideas and ability are more important than grade or hierarchy.
We’re proud to have a strong team behind us to make this happen. Our innovation and research team seeks out new ways to make public services simpler, faster and cheaper. This approach ensures we design services based on how people act in the real world, with real-time analytics used to continually improve performance and user experience.
We are only as good as the talent in our teams. People who know their craft are joining our teams. Working in public service offers the chance to create and apply the latest technologies on a grand scale. We’re changing the very infrastructure of government, while making a real difference to millions of people’s lives.
At DWP, we’re motivated every day by the challenges we face. Few organisations – if any – are applying next-generation technology to such nationally-important issues on such a scale. From design thinking, to building secure infrastructure, to creating intelligence from data accessible through open APIs, we’re accelerating the journey towards our digital future. With innovation and creativity at the core of our culture, we are re-imagining our future.
Mayank Prakash is Director General – Digital Technology at the Department for Work and Pensions