Last week in Manchester we got our Product Design community of practice together for the first time.
The community brings together a number of roles within DWP Digital that have a clear focus on users and user-centred design.
People who have roles within product design, business analysis, user research, content design, product owners, interaction design and business architecture are all part of the community and attended the event.
Communities of practice help us be more collaborative
A community of practice means having the right people working collaboratively in the right roles with access to the right support network. It’s a large, multi-disciplinary team and there’s a lot to be said for strength in numbers!
Working in this way means a more cohesive, effective team, which in turn enables better services and better outcomes for our users - whether they’re people accessing our services or colleagues.
Bringing people together who do similar or connecting roles makes it easier for them to support and learn from each other.
Sharing knowledge and experience is key
Getting the majority of people in the practice together in one room at the event was a fantastic opportunity to foster stronger working relationships, build a greater sense of community and to share experience and skills.
I think one of the main benefits from being in a practice is to share knowledge and support each other. This was one of the main things we tried to achieve on the day. Getting a better shared understanding of each of the professions and how they fit together was really important.
A large part of the day was an unconference, so colleagues from the practice could suggest the topics they wanted to talk about or the learning they wanted to share with others.
We discussed nearly 20 diverse topics during this, including working effectively in agile teams, building team resilience and collaboration between Product Design and Operations.
Virtual tools obviously have their place in a community, but ultimately it’s via this kind of passionate, face-to-face conversation where the work in large organisations really gets done.
It’s a way to celebrate (and normalise) inclusion
Having a diverse team that reflects the people we’re building services for is one of the most important elements of a community of practice.
At the event, it was great to hear our head of practice Lara Sampson emphasising the value of diversity within the Product Design Practice and DWP as a whole. This is because a more diverse team that considers all aspects of society within its design is going to be better at designing for users. It’s the key to building services that really meet our users' needs.
We also heard from Kylie Havelock who talked about the steps they’ve taken to be empathetic, equitable and inclusive when developing communities of practice at the Ministry of Justice.
The community will help us build better services
It’s still early days and we know there will be challenges ahead, but getting everyone in the Practice together was a real milestone in its development.
We’re all working towards the same goal - delivering cost-effective services that users want - and it’s the passion and proactivity of everyone in the community who will contribute to making that happen.