Interview: DWP Digital, UK IT Industry Awards finalist

'Providing support to more than 22 million citizens'

clock • 5 min read
UK IT Industry Awards
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UK IT Industry Awards

Information technology is a vital part of modern businesses today, helping all corporate sectors to achieve goals, generate revenue, and reduce inefficiencies.

The UK IT Industry Awards are the largest and most well-known event in the technology industry calendar. Owned and operated by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and Computing, the awards enjoy a level of professionalism and industry knowledge not seen at other shows.

Last year's winners were announced at a live awards ceremony on 9th November.

One of those finalists was DWP Digital, which reached the shortlist for two categories: Best Public Sector IT Project of the Year and Digital Transformation Project of the Year.

We talked to Jacqui Leggetter, Head of Integration at DWP Digital, to find out what makes her organisation different from others.

Originally from Scotland, Jacqui started working in DWP 20 years ago and has undertaken various digital roles and worked on many transformational projects. As Head of Integration, she focuses on transforming integration services, moving away from supplier delivered, monolithic, integration backbones to in-house, agile teams delivering modern, API and event driven integration. Jacqui's vision is to enable frictionless, self-service, integration products that enable fast, efficient re-use of data and common services; enabling DWP's next phase of transformation that will break down traditional functional based silo's to support more holistic citizen and agent journeys.

Computing: Please provide some background on your company for our readers.

Jacqui Leggetter: DWP Digital is part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the UK's biggest public service department that's responsible for administering the State Pension and a range of working age, disability and ill health benefits. DWP Digital is the digital arm of the organisation that provides technological functionality and computing capability to enable operational staff to effectively administer these benefits.

How is your company different from its peers?

JL: DWP Digital is different from other public sector organisations as it is the largest in-house digital function in the public sector, with over 100,000 employees using our systems. We're known for being advanced in our digital transformation and service, as one of the largest government departments, providing support to over 22 million citizens across various benefit lines.

We have spent the last several years building and engaging in cultural transformation, focusing on creating a flexible and technically robust department that is heavily focused on user perspective. We're pleased to be bringing in talent from across the sector with industry-leading apprenticeship programmes, and our large-scale transformations centred around building tech for good play a role in this, attracting many talented individuals.

We are also engaging in profound cultural transformation, utilising digital hubs and hybrid working policies to create a rich environment for people to work in, whilst encouraging the creation of professional friendships and collaborations.

What one company achievement in the last 12 months are you most proud of?

JL: It's difficult to call out just one achievement, but we're particularly proud of our success in building services based on citizen needs which are founded around the reuse and sharing of data.

One example of this is our cross-government programme on DWP benefit information with the NHS for real-time exemption checks for prescription charges. Within this project, DWP Digital were able to accelerate the work of the engineering team by collaborating with Red Hat to build out a common platform which enabled us to deploy our microservices, creating a new benefit checking service.

Delivery was accelerated, with DWP and NHS teams able to deliver pilots in the North East to allow real-time benefits checks. This gave the NHS real confidence in customers who were claiming entitlement to free prescriptions, reducing risks of fraud and error common in previous claims which were based on self-declaration.

DWP then iterated and improved the service to enhance citizen matching and once it reached high fidelity (98%) it was rolled out to every pharmacy. We're now performing a million checks a month which is saving the NHS £240 million fees per year on administration costs. This has all been enabled through the common platform which meant we could rapidly land the microservices that underpin this particular service. Additionally, the APIs used for citizen matching and benefit checking are reusable, boosting other government services.

What are you working on this year?

JL: The focus for DWP Digital this year is on continuing with the transformation of our services and building against our strategic reference architecture. All of that is predicated on making better use of the data available to provide more holistic services for our citizens.

We've started building out common components which underpin our reference architecture, and in the next 12 months will focus on rolling them out to the whole department. Making these services available to the various government departments - health, working age and pensions - will enable us to transform the journeys of citizens based on holistic needs. This in turn frees teams up to move away from working individual policy siloed needs, whilst reducing the time previously taken up by data duplication.

We are also doing a piece of work with GDS (Government Digital Services) that's lifting this service out across the whole of government and exploring options for joining up some of these citizen journeys cross-government through better use of data.

Why are events like the UK IT Industry Awards important to the IT industry?

JL: These awards are important because they can showcase the innovation happening across the UK, allowing us to share ideas and see what's going on. It also enables recognition for the work teams are doing, which carries a lot of weight for the people employed on these services, particularly as they are often working for the greater good rather than profit. This inspires individuals to keep going and do more for the IT industry.

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