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Discovering our Discovery: Scoping the Secure Communications Project at DWP

“I have a dream” a man once said. He went on to describe exactly what that dream was. His articulation was so successful that many of those listening heard a call to arms and understood that it was the start of a journey that they all wanted to be part of. He really knew how to take people with him.

My name is Rachel Woods and I’m the Product Owner for the Secure Communications Project. It’s my role to own, champion and protect the scope of the project. I want to describe the scope of our project to you and bring you along for the ride… I just need to work out what it is first and that’s not easy.

Herding ideas

Working in Government is wonderful and collaborative and hard. A lot of the great ideas in Government are not championed by individual dreams but are born from conversations which then develop and morph as more minds enter the picture, and we have a lot of (rather wonderful) minds in DWP.

When I started on the project about 4 weeks ago a lot of people had already formed their own idea of what we were doing. The difficultly was that there was such a diversity of ideas that it was difficult to pinpoint not only what we might want to try to deliver but what our exam question was. There were so many questions we could try to answer.

Getting the right people in the room

Over the last few weeks the whole team has worked together and corralled all the outputs of those wonderful minds, gradually discounting them or putting them into a backlog until we were left with something that looked like it might be our scope. The criteria we used to de-scope was fairly wide but included some obvious things like ‘it’s being looked at elsewhere’. Each time we made a leap forward it was always down to one thing: a visit – getting the right people around our wall and having a really good discussion not only about what we are doing but why. Stakeholders are vital, but working on scope in the discovery phase has really brought home to me how important it is to have engaged stakeholders who are not afraid to challenge. Without challenge we don’t change and we don’t improve.

Show the Thing… even if the ‘thing’ is just your thinking

Today we had our first face to face Show and Tell and we took stakeholders on the journey we had been on, literally walking them through all our working out on our many, many walls to show how we have arrived at our current thinking. We were looking for buy in and reassurance that if we do eventually build something it will be ‘the right thing’ for the right users.

Show the Thing…
Show the Thing…

The result? We now know what the exam question is. Our next challenge is to take our messy workings out and decant them into a clear, concise and engaging explanation to share with those that couldn’t be with us.

If you get the chance its worth revisiting the vision outlined by Martin Luther King Jr and looking at how far it has come. I’m sure if he was Product Owner for his project then he wouldn’t be signing it off as ‘done’ but I think he would be proud of what progress has been made. Me too.

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  1. Comment by Rachel Jobes posted on

    Really interesting post for those interested in digital / agile processes in the Department - a little insight into how it all works!