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I recently had the privilege of speaking with 40 leaders – at a Digital Leaders salon event – about using innovation to drive transformation of digital services. As digital services evolve at pace, there’s never been a more exciting time to work in government. Our progress is fuelled by collaboration with innovators and visionaries from across sectors, which is why this was a great opportunity to share and discuss DWP Digital’s vision with leaders from a range of organisations.
In DWP Digital, innovation is the motivation behind the three things driving everything we do; improving outcomes for society; making DWP more efficient and effective and enhancing the customer experience. Since I joined DWP in November 2014, I have been inspired by the scale at which we operate and the pace of creativity and imagination which drives delivery of those aims.
What motivates me most is our social purpose – few organisations globally provide digital leaders with the opportunity to apply our skills and experience to objectives as important as helping disadvantaged people into work, building a secure retirement for millions, helping people with a disability play a full part in society and supporting children and parents in separated families.
Our customers rightly expect the same 24/7 secure, easy-to-use digital services that they experience with banks, retailers and other large organisations. So we’re innovating to ensure Digital technology gives them greater control of their lives, whether they’re looking for work or claiming their State Pension.
We’ve seen some big cultural shifts in DWP in recent years, and one of the biggest is the pre-eminence of design thinking. Design is where creativity and innovation meet user needs. It shapes ideas into practical and attractive propositions for those who use our services. Design thinking is our default starting point, because better user experience trumps functionality every day.
Today we are driving hard for visualised analytics to be the norm not the exception, for different decision makers from policy makers to service designers, estates planners and fraud investigators. We are investing in the skills and infrastructures that will enable more and more solutions with machine learning analytics embedded within them to anticipate the citizen needs and help tailor the level of support provided by our employees and digital services.
In an organisation as big as ours, which delivers services on which tens of millions of citizens rely, to innovate is an obligation, not a choice. An essential part of modern government involves achieving cost savings that new technologies and designs can bring, anticipate the expectations of our citizens, and be a better partner in the internet ecosystem. This means a cultural change from command and control to carefully managed trial and error. Innovation is best achieved when we can draw on a mix of in-house disruptors and creative people and organisations from across sectors.
We’re researching the potential of next generation technology such as cognitive computing, machine learning and block-chain technologies. We’re using coding experiments to influence customer support strategy. We also think there’s huge potential in technologies such as virtual reality – for example, we’ve seen exciting evidence suggesting that it can make it easier for people with autism find work.
We’re using data and analytics to support innovation, although the Real Time Information (Pay As You Earn tax reporting) solution with HMRC is well known, other examples exist of cross-government efficiencies. For example, working with the Department of Energy and Climate Change and energy suppliers, DWP was able to identify over 1.2 million benefit recipients that were eligible for a £140 discount per customer off their electricity bill. This amounts to £168.5 million fully funded by the energy suppliers to DWP claimants automatically.
Joined-up digital services require working seamlessly with forward-thinking commercial partners. In DWP, we’re fundamentally changing our relationship with the marketplace, moving away from monolithic contracts with a small number of big suppliers towards a micro-services model which draws on innovative solutions from a much broader range of partners – including SMEs. We understand that small, agile companies offer a vast array of innovative solutions that could help DWP deliver services faster and better. We consider our commercial suppliers as partners. Working with Crown Commercial Services, other government departments as well as Digital Leaders, TechUK and other organisations to help increase to collaborate, share, discuss and find solutions together. Innovation at DWP is not just about technology, but about people and we welcome and encourage ideas from organisations of diverse shapes and sizes.
Look out for more opportunities to talk us at similar events via the Digital Leader’s website and/or follow us on twitter @DWPDigital.