Mayank Prakash is positioning digital technology, data and security firmly at the heart of DWP’s ambitious transformation plan. In particular, he is shifting IT’s role from that of a reactive service provider to an integral partner within the organisation. Tangible progress includes increasing the level of IT service and support for 85,000 colleagues, with a 39-point increase in IT’s internal net promoter score, and cutting system downtime by 37%.
Chief digital and information officer
Department of Work and Pensions
How are you influencing the products, customer experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
DWP is the UK’s biggest government department. We operate on a huge scale – bigger than most major banks or retailers. We have 85,000 employees working across 900 locations, serving 22 million customers. Every year, we process £170bn in financial payments, make 10,000 changes to our IT systems, work on 50 million lines of code, and handle 200 million calls.
Digital technology is instrumental in driving DWP’s ‘2020 Vision’, which describes how we will fundamentally change how we work with customers, partners and each other over the current parliament. It articulates how real-time analytics and digital technology on flexible cloud infrastructure will provide secure, stable public services which are easy to use for customers, and provide value for money for the taxpayer.
We are progressively refreshing the software and hardware, while keeping focused on the stability and resilience of our operations. Service hours lost have a direct impact on users and on colleagues.
My work is inspired by DWP’s wider purpose of helping millions of people change their lives for the better. We are re-imagining customer experiences by evolving products through a blend of user-centred design-thinking and structured systems-thinking.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the last 12 months and their impact on your organisation’s performance
In the last 12 months:
- We have driven further reductions in operational downtime. Downtime (linked to major incidents on our critical systems) fell by 57% this operating year (September-January compared with April-August), allowing colleagues to spend more time supporting customers.
- We have delivered over 20 agile iterations to help build Europe’s largest digital product, universal credit.
- We have made major strides towards shifting control and accountability from large suppliers to in-house experts: we have recruited 350 specialists, and an exercise is currently under way to recruit colleagues into data science, infrastructure, security, software development, architecture and service design roles.
- We have launched new digital services which improve outcomes for citizens, including ones which help people understand their retirement income, trace old workplace pensions, apply for budgeting loans, and apply for financial support to help disabled people enjoy full access to work.
- We have protected our customers’ data from daily cyber-attacks.
- We have made strong progress with the UK’s largest digital workplace pilot to provide 85,000 colleagues with the ability to work flexibly, collaboratively and efficiently.
- We have increased the level of IT service and support for 85,000 colleagues, with a 39-point increase in our internal net promoter score.
- We have created record levels of engagement among our 3,000 DWP digital colleagues. Our annual people survey saw an unprecedented 9% increase in engagement.
What has been your involvement with innovation at your organisation – in particular, with products, business model and technology – over the last 12 months?
In the DWP digital function, our social purpose is the motivation driving everything we do, and innovation enables us to deliver at pace and on a huge scale. We have an innovation and research team that looks for technological game-changers that will make public services simpler, faster, cheaper and more tailored to customer needs.
We’re innovating to ensure digital technology gives customers greater control over their lives, whether they’re looking for work or claiming their state pension.
- In the last 12 months, more of our services have gone digital. We carry out extensive user research to understand exactly what our customers need, and then build and tailor our digital products accordingly.
- Data science is a key area of innovation, with an increasingly skilled team of experts driving intelligence from data and putting this at the disposal of colleagues across the wider department. Hundreds of operational managers, for example, are being equipped with the tools they need to make real-time decisions, allowing them to improve customer service and claimant outcomes. We’re moving from reactive use of existing data to sophisticated predictive modelling to allow us to anticipate user needs and operational demand.
Business model innovation
- We’ve instigated a new operating model in DWP digital, with a bottom-up culture based on agile methodology and design thinking. We’re organising ourselves to put the product at the heart of delivery and build teams around products. Multidisciplinary teams now come together to create at pace and in a dynamic environment, designing digital services around users’ needs.
- Turning a project status green or completing a task on a plan is important for delivery, but it’s the cumulative positive on people’s lives that we need to achieve.
- We’re researching the potential of next-generation technology such as cognitive computing, machine learning and blockchain technologies. We’re using coding experiments to influence customer support strategy. We also think there’s huge potential in technologies such as virtual reality – we’ve seen exciting evidence suggesting that it can make it easier for people with autism find work.
- Blockchain has the potential to revolutionise the exchange of data between departments and for all financial transactions through simple, high-performing and secure methods.
How have you delivered cultural and behavioural change as a CIO within the IT department and/or more broadly across the organisation?
The way we work is as vital as the services we run. In DWP digital we foster a culture of collaboration and inclusiveness, where teams work together across boundaries, iterate and show progress every week, and are curious and supportive.
We’ve redesigned our organisation in favour of multidisciplinary agile teams iterating frequently and delivering often. No longer do we spend all our efforts tracking milestones on a plan. Instead, we ask ourselves ‘what did we deliver last week?’
We collaborate closely with colleagues from DWP policy and operations, using their knowledge and expertise to design digital services that meet the needs of our users, with shared accountability for outcomes.
We like to encourage colleagues to ask why, as it reshapes how we approach our challenges. I am a strong believer in empowering my teams and I’m keen that we move away from the hierarchical culture traditional in government, and give value instead to ideas and ability more than grade or seniority. I value curiosity and I’m quick to support colleagues when something doesn’t work.
I place great personal importance on professional and behavioural standards, working with my extended senior team to define and embed consistent benchmarks across the organisation. Everyone is encouraged to think differently about their personal objectives, and as a result 3,000 colleagues’ objectives now focus on outcomes (both for internal clients and external customers) rather than tasks or processes. This in itself has created a greater sense of autonomy across the organisation, giving our people more trust and freedom in how they plan and manage their work.
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?
I am a member of DWP’s executive team, and recognise the fact that technology underpins everything else we do in DWP: delivery of efficient, user-friendly, policy-driven public services; HR strategy and civil service reform; and delivery of multibillion-pound financial savings.
I am committed to positioning digital technology, data and security firmly at the heart of DWP’s ambitious transformation plan. In particular, my leadership team is shifting IT’s role from that of a reactive service provider to an integral partner within the department’s business – a partner which is increasingly earning recognition for our core contribution in changing how DWP operates, both internally and externally.
We want colleagues across DWP to think digitally. Over the last year we’ve delivered more than 20,000 hours of digital training to colleagues to improve our digital knowledge and expertise.
We are creating modern digital workplaces to support flexible working across the whole department, and a more agile, collaborative culture. That means securely introducing technology our colleagues have become accustomed to as consumers, including tablets, laptops, smartphones and Wi-Fi, plus enterprise social media and other collaboration tools.
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?
Joined-up digital services require seamless working 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 and startups.
We own iterative outcomes by designing, developing and iterating our digital services, as we build partnerships with a range of innovative partners. That does not mean we are insourcing everything. Instead we have performance-driven partnerships with the leading providers of products and services – just like every large enterprise in the world.
This has enabled us to fully leverage the best of what the digital marketplace offers, and work with small, agile companies which offer a vast array of innovative solutions to help us deliver services faster and better.
How have you tried to develop the diversity of your team?
I am proud to be DWP’s gender champion, because I’m passionate about diversity and equality in the workplace. It’s vital that the UK’s biggest government department reflects the society it services. It’s also crucial in such a competitive marketplace that we access talent wherever it exists.
We work closely with the Next Tech Girls initiative to get more young women interested in careers in digital technology and to redress the gender balance in a male-dominated industry.
I’m a board member for The Tech Partnership, and support campaigns to promote digital opportunities to young people, and specifically campaigns to promote positive female role models in the tech sector.
The DWPride network, race forum and women’s network all offer support to colleagues in minority groups, and our dedication to race equality led to us being recognised in the 2016 Business in the Community Race Equality Awards. To encourage diversity in recruitment, we regularly publish guest blogs on our gov.uk blog from colleagues who can talk candidly about issues including gender, race and mental health.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
Our business platform teams build and maintain technology, data and security services for lines of business: working age, children, pensioners, and people with disabilities. Underpinning these are teams managing cross-cutting design, security, data and analytics, shared platforms, infrastructure operations and user computing support.
What strategic technology deals have you made in the last year and who are your main suppliers and IT partners?
We work with Crown Commercial Service, other government departments and industry bodies such as TechUK to help collaborate, share, discuss and find solutions together. We have strategic partners with most major IT and technology companies, including Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, IBM, BT, Apple and Vodafone.
What are your key strategic aims for next year?
Our strategic aims are to:
- Design, deliver and evolve digital products and services which deliver policy intent and meet user needs.
- Maximise operational performance and eliminate downtime.
- Secure DWP: protecting our people, customers, information and physical assets.
- Build capability to take control of our digital future, move service design closer to users, and deliver better value for the public.
How are you preparing for any impacts Brexit might have on your organisation?
We operate in a political and highly dynamic environment. As civil servants, we’re used to responding to uncertainty. With highly capable colleagues within and beyond DWP managing the impact of Brexit, I’m certain we will rise to the challenge. Regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations, our fundamental purpose – to develop and deliver secure digital products for 22 million citizens and 85,000 colleagues – remains the same.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
I report directly to the permanent secretary of DWP.
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?
My digital executive team consists of a data and analytics director, a chief security officer, an infrastructure and operations services director, as well as product owners and directors for each of the lines of business (working age, retirement, disability and health, and children).
We also have a head of innovation whom I meet with on a regular basis.
How often do you meet with your organisation’s CEO or equivalent?
How many people at your organisation does your function supply services to?
We support 85,000 colleagues within DWP. The department provides vital services to 22 million citizens, including some of the most vulnerable people in society.
What percentage of your budget is operational spend (ie keeping the lights on) and how much new development (ie innovation, R&D, exploratory IT)?
Nearly two-thirds of our budget is on operational spend, with the remainder on innovation.
Rank the following sources of advice/information in order of importance:
- Analyst houses
- CIO peers
- 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?
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?
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?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- enterprise applications
- machine learning/artificial intelligence
- devices (mobile)
- devices (desktop)
Which technologies or areas are you expecting to be investing in over the next one to three years?
- data analytics/business intelligence
- enterprise applications
- machine learning/artificial intelligence
What emerging technologies are you investigating or expect to have a big impact on your sector or organisation?
Our innovation lab is continually testing and prototyping new technologies to assess their potential in improving products and services for colleagues and customers. Some of the exciting areas we’re exploring at the minute include:
- blockchain payment models to further reduce scope for fraud and error
- augmented decision-making to improve choices in a complex policy and operational environment
- deep learning to identify security pattern anomalies
- dynamic routing and ID across multiple channels to improve customer service and reduce costs
- living operations using embedded visualisation to inform real-time decision-making.
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?