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What is Digital Transformation? The view from DWP

In his recent blog, Andrew Dennehy-Neil talked about what digital means for us at DWP as we change the way we work to build digital services with user needs at their heart.

DWP is a large and diverse organisation (of around 96,000 people in March 2014). With a similarly diverse range of experience in using and creating digital services, there was naturally some uncertainty with the creation of our new Transformation group last year. "What do we mean by Digital Transformation?" became a frequently-asked question.

Getting to grips with digital and social media at the As One DWP conference
Getting to grips with digital and social media at the As One DWP conference

Digital Transformation in government

Government Digital Service (GDS) is leading the digital transformation of government, and was established to make sure the government offers digital services so good that people want to use them instead of using traditional paper forms or calling us on the phone. This means building and maintaining the single GOV.UK website to bring government services together in one place, changing the way government buys IT services, and transforming 25 important digital services across government, including three from DWP.

For a big transactional department such as DWP, it was less clear to our people what this meant for our long-established processes and technology which support the delivery of critical pensions, working age, disability and ill health benefits to over 22 million claimants and customers. This was of particular concern given the face-to-face nature of the transactions that take place in our 760 JobCentres, and the needs of our most vulnerable customers.

The view from industry

Digital Transformation has become a buzzword but there isn't a single definition. As an example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a useful general definition as "the use of new digital technologies (social media, mobile, analytics or embedded devices) to enable major business improvements (such as enhancing customer experience, streamlining operations or creating new business models)."

If anything, there is a consensus that every organisation's digital transformation journey will be different. Our conversations with digital leaders from around government backed this up.

So we needed a clear statement about what Digital Transformation means for DWP.

We started by being clear that "digital" is just one enabler for transforming DWP's business.

What does Business Transformation mean for us?

Our ambition is to lead a step change in the way that the whole of DWP operates, delivering the policy intent and the service citizens expect from government, in an efficient way, testing and learning as we go.

There's already been substantial transformation over the years at DWP. Just as the move from paper forms to phone calls enabled automation and process improvements, digital gives us the opportunity to lead another fundamental change in the way DWP operates.

What about the Digital bit?

At DWP we think of 'digital' as three equally important concepts:

  1. Digital is one of the ways DWP, as GOV.UK, provides services to citizens. We'll be digital by default, and we recognise that some of our vulnerable customers won't always be able to deal with us online, so we'll help them with this - that's Assisted Digital.
  2. Digital refers to the automated and efficient way we want DWP's business to operate, moving away from paper-based clerical processes and enabling our people to focus on what's important to our customers.
  3. Digital is the working culture, tools, and performance measures we use to develop our services.
Digital Academy students
Students at our Digital Academy, a key new way of building digital skills and working culture across DWP.

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