The Ministry of Social Development has established the Simplification programme to improve the services, with easy-to-use, more transparent processes and better access to digital self-service channels, says its CIO David Habershon.
The programme has completed around 20 projects, he says..
“These projects have been designed to ensure they’re easy for our clients to navigate and are smarter at the back through our systems and processes alleviating staff time.”
“Through an agile methodology we’re implementing enhancements that have been piloted and co-designed by our clients for our clients.
“The flagship achievement for Simplification has been the introduction of MyMSD. MyMSD is the only door to all Work and Income online services, it can be accessed from smartphone, tablet or computer,” he explains.
“MSD supports more than 1.2 million individuals annually, many who are very vulnerable, and processes over 10 million transactions per year.
“For some clients, travelling to an MSD office could cost around 6 per cent of their weekly income. Then they were made to wait while staff typed and retyped information into systems, eventually telling them to come back with more information.”
He says from last December in MyMSD there has been:
nearly nine million logins
over 400,000 clients now signed-up
3.4 million letters viewed
650,000 wages declared
285,000 appointments made or changed
80,500 change of contact details
38,982 one-off cost applications.
Each of these transactions represents a visit to a service centre, or a phone call to MSD that now does not need to happen.
“To deliver MyMSD, we started with multi-disciplinary teams using good, agile human-centred design. Having all the skills (security, risk, design, data, business implementation, UI designer, developer, tester, change management) together in a design space, working in an agile manner gave the digital product teams a lot of advantages,” he says.
“Previously, releases were major events, planned months ahead.
Under DevOPs, we have moved to four-weekly technical release trains, says Habershon.
“This shift is a significant achievement, but also achieved significant value. It allowed the IT teams to drive delivery coordination to a common cadence, enabling faster and better testing and delivery.”
Creating capacity has been a theme within the IT group for two years, he says.
“Now we are ramping that up with the introduction of an improvement programme focussed on automating application deployment.
“Automation means repeatability and consistency leading to significant reductions in troubleshooting and re-work, therefore delivering higher quality software environments. Introducing database virtualisation has also increased speed of delivery and reduced storage demands.
“We have introduced DevOps as an innovative way for the IT group to continue to support the core operational systems at a time of rapid change and transformation in the way they deliver services. For us DevOps takes away the risk of software releases previously based on long development cycles (big bang releases).”
In the first seven months of the transformation programme, the team reduced the delivery cycle from many months to a four-week release cadence.
Release cycles start with combined planning of both business and IT representatives to discuss, agree and commit to the work based on available capacity.
“Through scaled agile, we’ve shifted our thinking, our ways of working, and our expectations to a holistic, customer-centric model.”
This allows his team to collaborate, challenge, and innovate in a nimble and successful way.
Our Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) supports the concept of a shared commitment to slowly increase quality delivered work in a reliable manner, says Habershon.
“Using SAFe, we deliver quality work in a timely manner through involving the whole team in a big room planning exercise every 12 weeks.”
He adds: “Including everybody within the planning results in more accurate and dependable estimates and more consistent delivery. This increases our reputation and our shared commitment with all parties, which ensures increased engagement.”
Habershon sits on a number of governance boards as a member and specialist advisor.
He says this involvement ensures that the ministry understands the ICT vision which will “back the business to win”.
This also keeps the IT strategies aligned with the ministry’s overall strategic direction and business priorities.
As an advisor, he helps promote IT as a source of technological innovation that lowers costs, creates value and makes it easy for staff and clients to do business, and “will make innovation a tangible reality”.
As part of the IT organisation’s commitment to Agile and Devops, he and his team hold quarterly programme increment planning sessions.
Attendees involve not just the IT teams delivering the work, but also representatives from other business units. “By planning our work in this way and releasing to our customers/clients monthly (rather than waiting for large projects to finish in months/more than a year), they receive value much earlier.
“Networking at these events helps identify dependencies, constraints, risks and resource requirements from both the IT and business side,” he says.
Habershon leads a team of 400, so he holds quarterly floor meetings, town hall style, that are not just restricted to IT staff. We invite staff from other areas of the organisation so to keep them abreast on ICT programmes.
“We recently held a staff feedback session, inviting all staff to let us know how things are going across a range of subjects, from strategy to technology, architecture to communications, we have committed to working on the pain-points throughout the year. We will be following the agile methodology for this piece of work too,” he says.
“We have held hackathons to help create capacity, these have been attended by both IT staff and staff from the business to help cross pollinate ideas and for us to all have a better understanding of our working environments,” he says.
The ministry has also started its first digital graduate programme, participated in by people from non-traditional IT degrees.
“We want to broaden our talent pool,” he says.