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DWP digital chief emphasises sharable solutions


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) digital team is placing an emphasis on sharable solutions and user problems in its plans.

Its chief digital and information officer Simon McKinnon outlined the approach in a presentation to IT industry association techUK’s Building the Smarter State conference in London yesterday.

He said it amounts to a shift from the previous approach of designing bespoke solutions for the delivery of specific benefits managed by DWP.

DWP Digital is now focusing on meeting the needs of three groups of users: its customers who are claiming benefits; colleagues within the department; and taxpayers who are meeting the bill for its solutions. One of the priorities is to reduce the overall costs by increasing the reusability on what it designs.

“Our strategy going forward is to increasingly look at how we can share data, share events and share services,” McKinnon said.

“That’s very challenging when you’re supporting 150 benefits, so what we’re looking to do is find where we can find reusability. This could be either through existing projects that have a different use elsewhere, or when we have a missing piece of sharable capability we want to find programme teams that will effectively take on responsibility for building it for themselves and everyone else.”

He cited the work on the verification of individuals as part of the programme on universal credit and payments engines, saying these could be used for other purposes.

Three features

This will also involve a holistic approach taking in three main features: data; an understanding of when the user is going through life events that affect their eligibility for benefits; and the ability to manage services collectively rather than through specific teams.

“By sharing more we can change the user experience, help agents do more to support the customer, and help the taxpayer by not building so many replicated systems,” he said.

McKinnon reported that DWP is also investigating the potential of new technologies such as machine learning, advanced analytics and blockchain. When asked about the latter he said that, while nothing is yet certain, there are possibilities in how it could be used for managing payments and the provenance of data shared between Government departments.

He added that the department has hired around 1,000 digital staff over the past year.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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