I LOVE innovation because of all those fantastic things that can really improve our lives. As a traveller, my smartphone brings me internet, email, calendar, photos and best of all face to face contact with my nearest and dearest. These digital advances make it possible for me to stay close to those I love, get where I’m supposed to be on time and listen to the latest tunes. Ok, so maybe not real life changers like medical breakthroughs but these advances are designed to make life better. I’m not suggesting all digital is good, but when it’s done well it can be amazing!
What is Digital?
Like many of those interested in digital, I found it difficult to find the definition. Life is easier if things are defined, we don’t need to think, we simply reach a common understanding. There’s no formal definition but I think that there are some common characteristics of a digital service which I have found to be a helpful guide:
- Designed for users
- Better service produced for citizens
- Incrementally built, tested and continuously improved
- Development teams learn as they go, by doing.
In DWP it’s far from clear-cut. There are lots of differences in digital delivery compared with all the other delivery methodologies such as PRINCE - they all have a place and there are pros and cons with each.
My secret learning so far - and I'm not sure if it’s right - is that it’s the people and their attitude that’s making the biggest difference!
So how do we deliver a Digital Project?
What goes on behind the scenes then? I'm trying to explode the myths behind digital development. One analogy that I'm going to share with you is ‘you do not need to know how to programme a phone to use one!’ and that’s exactly the point!
For me it’s about designing the best you can for your users. You may have heard the terms agile or scrum to describe the ways of working? What are they?
Put simply, work is broken down into manageable chunks, followed by prioritising a list of what to do first. Then you have a ‘sprint’. The sprints usually last a couple of weeks with the intention to deliver the task list, also known as a ‘backlog’. Progress is checked daily and any blockers preventing you from progressing are identified and removed. If you cannot remove the blockers move on and flag them to someone who can fix it.
- There’s more than one definition of ‘Digital’
- We put users needs at the heart of our design
- We build it incrementally, try it out, learn then do it all again!
- Making it happen is about the right people, well led and empowered to deliver at pace.
I’m now in the room at DWP’s new Transformation Hub in Leeds. I’m super proud to be part of a multifunctional team of user researchers, product owner, business analysts and developers.
This discovery is about Secure Communications so government can communicate digitally, with claimants and others. There are huge benefits for all if we land this well! But we can’t boil the ocean so we have picked a small area to focus on. For this discovery that’s Personal Independence Payment for those that are terminally ill. Our users are claimants, doctors, Macmillan and other support functions. I don’t think I’ve been more emotionally connected between the Department’s business and our customer.
We will be blogging about our experiences as we move through discovery over the coming weeks so please watch this space.