James Munson is moving the DVSA towards a product business architecture, including service and product management, with service backlogs driving the change agenda. Key product innovations are now moving away from long-term outsourced products, with limited flexibility and services where IS had little control, to those developed, delivered and continuously improved in-house in an agile way.

Job title
Director of digital services and technology

Company name
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I am a director and a member of the main governance and decision-making boards and committees. This includes executive committee and directing board, and the investment, people and strategy committees. I am also the senior responsible officer (SRO) for several key projects. Therefore I have a high level of influence regarding what, how and when we deliver changes and improvements for our products and services.

My influence at DVSA covers operational technology decisions, decisions made to approve investments and longer-term strategic outcomes.

In my role as our organisation’s digital and technology leader, I collaborate regularly with others in similar roles across the wider civil service and industry. I am responsible for aligning our digital services and technology direction with that of central government, as well as driving the agency’s strategic direction, by developing and owning our digital services and technology strategy.

Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
In 2016, following a reorganisation by the new CEO, in addition to digital services and technology, I was given responsibility for the agency’s portfolio delivery, planning and engagement teams.

With those teams, I have continued to move the organisation towards a product business architecture, including service and product management, with service backlogs driving the change agenda. Service working groups meet to prioritise the backlogs of change, which then come to the investment committee as business cases for approval.

Directorate annual plans are now cross-referenced to the service backlogs, ensuring the business has cross-agency line of sight to the product change agenda. Quarterly prioritisation meetings allow the agency to keep an evolving view of priorities for change across our products.

I led the delivery of several key projects, including a large phase of agile delivery of the national MOT service through 2016, that included the addition of the MOT history service and prototype of MOT reminder service. This project was reviewed in summer 2016 by GDS, which concluded that it was one of the best examples of agile delivery in government today. The service won the Digital Leader 100 Collaboration award in 2016, and was the first national government service running on AWS public cloud launching in 2015.

The project has had a significant positive impact on our performance as a national service provider. The service is now spread across multiple availability zones. We are developing capability to deploy updates without downtime during the working day, which significantly reduces risk as the whole dev/ops team is on hand for issues. Since the 2015 MVP launch we have made over 200 releases. We are also in the process of implementing auto-scaling on production, so that the service scales to meet demand, while saving money during quiet times.

I also led the project to modernise the vehicle operator licensing service, moving from paper-based to digital. We used an agile iterative approach to deliver a user-centred service design. This transition to digital has resulted in quicker action against companies going into administration, receivership and changes of company directors through Companies House matching. It has also enabled access to better data and information for all DVSA enforcement staff nationally, helping improve ways of working across the organisation. Externally to DVSA, this modernisation has resulted in a reduction in time between receipt of a new application and a decision from nine weeks to seven, with associated benefits to industry.

What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?

Product innovation

Our key product innovations are based on moving from long-term outsourced products, with limited flexibility and services where we had little control, to those we develop, deliver and continuously improve in-house in an agile way.

With an ageing technology estate, we are upgrading and replacing large tranches of our IT services, to enable us to carry out the kinds of innovation our customers expect and need.  For example, our previous MOT solution could be accessed only through dedicated garage hardware, provided by the supplier. A key component of the new service we now offer gives our 80,000 users, and almost 23,000 garages, the freedom to access the software from whatever device or computer suits them best.

I’ve worked to guide executive teams to explore different delivery models for some of our key services. The experience of delivering continuous product improvement of the new national MOT service, a new MOT history service and two-factor authentication has increased the appetite within DVSA to innovate our other products.

We are now carrying out discoveries to cover products that support our driving services and our commercial vehicles services.

Business model innovation

In MOT we’ve adopted an agile delivery model, which will be replicated as other services move to alpha stage. We now use multivendor, blended delivery teams which enables us to deliver value without the constraint of fixed-scope delivery.

Across the whole of the agency, I’ve continued the move towards product backlogs, using service management groups, that map out our future-change innovation across the next few years by business area.

Technology innovation

I have continued the journey I started to utilise public cloud services by putting our second service, vehicle operator licensing, live on public cloud. We also completed discovery work on two other key services – commercial vehicle testing, and driving test services, with alpha phases due to start in 2017.

I’ve harnessed the opportunity to deploy corporately owned, personally enabled iPhones, initially to senior managers across the organisation. These are provided with secure DVSA email and calendar delivery, alongside open access to use the remaining functionality on the phone. This has enabled the phasing out of Blackberry phones. I have plans approved to deploy 600 further iPhones to enforcement staff in early 2017 with similar functionality. Later we’ll be adding an in-house developed DVSA app enabling improved enforcement processes through better data access.

How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
Within IT, I have focused on making it a great place to work.

Taking feedback from the 2014 staff survey, I have personally given quarterly presentations to all staff in all main offices covering four locations. I have invited staff to quarterly meetings with me in small groups to listen to their concerns and take action. I send a weekly communication to all IT staff, covering issues, news, updates, people changes. We have rotated IT management meeting location around our sites, inviting teams in to present for 30 minutes on what they do, their people and their current successes and challenges. We also hold an annual away day to bring everyone together for some work, some play and a lot of networking.

This has resulted in improved engagement scores year-on-year. I am continuing this work into 2017 based on 2016 survey results.

As an agency we want to provide all our customers and staff with a positive IT experience, and aim to deliver, enable and simplify. Where appropriate, we are on a journey to move our services away from legacy, waterfall development models to an agile delivery. With the service management groups and the new business partners team that I’ve set up in our directorate, we are now engaged in meaningful discussions to ensure we deliver what is wanted and that we manage expectations from the start of the process.

How have you worked with your CEO and/or board to communicate whatever ‘digital’ and IT means to your organisation/sector and improve digital literacy at the highest levels of the organisation?
Technology and digital is regularly discussed at the executive committee and board, including presentation and discussion of the digital and technology strategy. In 2016 the agency had digital take-up as one of its published key business measures.

I have held one-to-one sessions with the CEO on service management and agile delivery.

I arranged technology days at two of our large vendors, inviting senior managers from across the business, and with several directors attending. These looked at the future of technology and how we could make more use of the technology we have today.

In our recent roll-out of new devices, we have brought in the newest version of Office 365 and will be using Yammer, OneDrive and Skype for Business to continue to improve digital literacy across the organisation.

How have you worked with the technology and IT vendor market to achieve your business goals? How have you been able to influence IT suppliers and successfully manage your partnerships/relationships with large IT companies, SMEs and startups?
DVSA and the wider government are committed to a new way of delivering services to users. This means the way we interact and work with our IT and technology suppliers has had to change considerably in the last few years as we move away from long-term, large-scale contracts towards more flexible, digital, agile and transparent interactions focused on joint delivery.

With this in mind, I created a new vendor management team within the directorate to take control of our vendors.  The capability that we have built up in that team is bringing rigour, governance and improved relationships, ensuring we get better value for money and a higher level of service.

In September 2016 I was on the panel for a supplier standards event run by the Government Digital Service (GDS). This event was organised to announce the publication of the supplier standard for government, which sets out expectations of, and commitments to, the technology companies we work with. This had widespread industry support from both large and smaller companies, and industry bodies including the CBI, and was signed off by GDS and Crown Commercial Services.

Six principles were stipulated for working together to create good value for everyone in future contracts and, where possible, under renegotiated legacy arrangements. These six principles are:

  1. user needs first
  2. data is a public asset
  3. services built on open standards and reusable components
  4. simple, clear and fast transactions
  5. ongoing engagement
  6. transparent contracting.

I recently held a dedicated ‘meet the buyer’ day-long event for suppliers. This invited suppliers to understand the roadmap for DVSA and what we expected to be procuring in the near and medium term.

I was also a customer speaker within the keynote at the 2016 London AWS Summit.

How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
At the directorate away day in 2015 the whole team was taken through a session on understanding and managing unconscious bias. At the 2016 away day, I invited all the staff network groups to present to the IT team. The groups included Women, Embrace, Pride, Time to Care, and Enabled. The feedback has been very positive in the team’s understanding of the challenges and how to be more inclusive.

Our recent digital graduate intake is diverse, and shows that the new methods we are deploying to overcome unconscious bias appear to be having an effect. We have expanded our apprenticeship scheme to further encourage a spread of ages across the directorate. We still struggle to find women to fill senior IT roles, but have recently promoted two females into management roles on development opportunities.

Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
IT is organised by portfolio delivery, portfolio planning and engagement, digital and software delivery, applications and infrastructure, live services, architecture and strategy.

The agency has a large portfolio of change and I have organised this under two teams within IT. One to engage across the business to understand what’s wanted, triage, report out and resource-manage; the second to deliver through project and programme managers using agile and waterfall as required. This team uses the service backlogs to maintain the forward look, and links through to our agency business plan and strategy.

  • Digital and software delivery covers modernised applications, cloud-hosted and using agile delivery.
  • Application and infrastructure support legacy applications, mobile app development and all our major infrastructure upgrades.
  • Live services ensure software is ready for transition and then run applications live. The user helpdesk is here.
  • Information assurance provides the policies, policing and training to ensure our data and IT are secure.
  • Architecture works across the teams and runs the architecture review board and solution design reviews.

The structure works well for the agency, giving contact for end-users and through business partners. Feedback is prioritised on our service backlogs for which IT maintains a common technology services backlog.

What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
We have continued to use AWS to run modernised services. MOT was the first in 2014. Vehicle operator licensing went live in 2017.

We are moving from monolithic outsource contracts to a multisupplier model, with contracts in place for end-user, WAN/Wi-Fi, hosting, live services.

Our main suppliers include Capita, Atos, Microsoft, Kainos, AWS, BJSS, Interoute, Valtech.

What are your key strategic aims for next year?
The agency is issuing its new five-year strategy in early 2017 and our directorate strategy is being refreshed to align with it.

Our key strategic aims for digital services and technology in 2017 are:

  • To support the requirements and deliver the outcomes as prioritised through the service manager owned service backlogs to support the frontline, including deployment of mobiles and mobile apps.
  • To start the transformation of our driving test technology and commercial vehicle testing technology, using an agile iterative methodology.
  • To continuously improve our digital services MOT and vehicle operating licensing.
  • To continue moving off obsolete IT systems and applications, away from outsource contracts to in-house development, support and service with additional provision from short-term multiple suppliers

How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
We are following government guidance regarding Brexit.


When did you start your current role?
Q1 2015

What is your reporting line?

Are you a member of the executive leadership?

Are you a member of the board of directors?

What other emerging roles does your organisation have and what is their relationship to you?
Head of digital services; reports to me.

How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?

How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
Approximately 4,500


What is your annual IT budget, or your spend as a proportion of the organisation’s revenue?
£40m opex, £30m capex.

What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
Approximately 50% is on operational IT and 50% on new or improved service delivery.


Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:

  1. CIO peers
  2. Analyst houses
  3. Consultants
  4. Media
  5. Industry bodies


Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?

Are you expecting an increase in budget specific to security in order to tackle the cyber threat?

Does your organisation have a designated security professional – CISO or otherwise – and what is their relationship to you?
Head of information assurance. Reporting line to me.


Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?

Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?

Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?

How many employees are there in your IT team?
Approximately 200.

Are you increasing your headcount or planning to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?


Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next year?

  • cloud
  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • ERP
  • CRM
  • security
  • enterprise applications
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • networking/communications.

Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?

  • cloud
  • data analytics/business intelligence
  • IoT
  • security
  • AR/VR
  • enterprise applications
  • machine learning/artificial intelligence
  • social
  • devices (mobile)
  • networking/communications.

What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?


Does your organisation do a significant amount of trade with the EU?

Does your department include technology staff from the EU?

Are you or have you been looking to the EU to recruit key skills?