The transformation of DWP services has given us the opportunity to think about our community of software engineers.
It’s been a significant and exciting challenge: to create a software engineering function delivering great software solutions for the DWP. And, to be recognised as an employer of choice, so that we attract the best talent available.
Transforming our service
To do this we’ve had to question how we think about our community. Industry leading software delivery applies agile, delivering software changes incrementally. For software engineers this has meant a significant change in mind-set. We’ve moved away from building to specification, to being a core part of how we can solve challenges for users of our services.
Our focus has changed; we’re delivering working software regularly, rather than delivering the ‘sum of’ technical feature or product, we are providing a smaller bundle of changes that represent the most value from a user perspective. Our development is test driven, writing tests before we write code. We’re pair programming - writing code in pairs with other team members. We’re using Test Automation, writing tests that run automatically when we build the software. And, we’re continuously integrating, so that every time we check in new pieces of code, we check that the existing software works as intended.
Scale and skill
These changes in behaviour, thinking and practices are significant! And, have created lots of challenges along the way, not least because of the scale of DWP. Spread all over the country, we currently have 250 software engineers based at eleven sites working on a broad range of projects from Universal Credit to Access to Work.
We’re now developing in-house so we’ve been working hard on increasing our capability, more than sixty skilled recruits have joined us since January and we are regularly looking for new talent – have a look at our Digital jobs site to find out more.
Creating a community
With software engineers and projects distributed across the country, we’ve been working on ways to provide support and bring us together. We want to have the same work approach and provide a stronger sense of community. So, we’ve taken steps to do create an identity by doing more together. We’re having listening sessions at different locations to meet and discuss important issues and we have a monthly call to discuss key topics.
To focus on raising the quality of our software delivery we’ve created a baseline of standards and practices. We’re looking at our learning and development needs and sharing and collaborating on existing tools such as slack. We’re also reviewing how we can use external meet-ups to support and extend our community. And, we’ve started a project review service that supports the delivery of software projects.
Keeping our community updated is really important so we’ve introduced a newsletter and we are building our presence on social media. We’ve started an online area to share information and I’m excited about our first ‘Developer Conference’ that we are organising for January.
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