DWP IT engineering is ‘dysfunctional’ and lacks ‘ability to deliver’, claims report

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) IT engineering practices are “dysfunctional” and “lack ability to deliver”, in line with a extremely important inside report.

The doc, seen by Computer Weekly, described a “seeming paralysis in DWP’s evolution into an organisation with a strong engineering capability” and blamed administration for giving inadequate help to the 500-strong engineering group within the division.

The report was produced for the eye of DWP Digital chief know-how officer Juan Villamil. The doc mentioned its goal was to “explore what is needed for the DWP to evolve an exemplary engineering culture” and “improve overall delivery and performance”.

Titled Engineering technique – creating an exemplary engineering tradition inside DWP, the paper mentioned it has been “validated with the [DWP] Engineering Practice community as representative of their experience”, including that “the community has moreover contributed substantially” to the report.

A spokesperson for the division mentioned the DWP doesn’t recognise the doc as being consultant of the engineering group’s expertise. Computer Weekly sources mentioned it was revealed on an inside Slack group for suggestions, and mentioned in inside engineering conferences earlier than publication.

The DWP spokesperson mentioned: “We are proud of our award-winning team who are transforming services for 22 million people. The findings reflect the personal opinion of an ex-contractor and appear to be based on a flawed analysis of a fifth of our workforce.”

Staff welfare

The research cited poor welfare for engineering employees as a significant factor within the issues it describes. The report acknowledged there have been latest enhancements, however added: “We have lots of disengaged and isolated people frustrated with the organisational dysfunction and lack of ability to deliver.”

The doc highlighted difficulties in transferring from a “waterfall”-style operation to a extra agile supply mannequin – a transfer inspired by the Government Digital Service (GDS) for all Whitehall IT groups.

“Governance is fundamentally broken for agile delivery. A lack of rapid, consistent and conclusive decision-making is evident in the delays starting and funding projects and in hiring,” mentioned the report.

“There are numerous stories of governance delaying delivery by months for the sake of miniscule benefit, if any. There are equally other tales of governance over-optimising a solution for a future that failed to materialise.”

The report pointed to “a large amount of middle management roles” in DWP Digital, which result in managers “with no clearly defined authority, that obfuscate decision-making, drive admin-heavy processes and disempower teams from making decisions”.

DWP mentioned that in a latest employees survey of DWP Digital, 92% of respondents agreed that “I believe that leadership is something we should all do, no matter what grade”.

The inside report additionally mentioned that “some of our operating costs are excessive”, including that that is ignored as a result of IT is such a small share of the massive quantities of advantages money dealt with by the DWP.

“This is accepted in the business by a general perception that we are paying out billions of £££s [sic] in welfare payments per year with a comparatively small operating cost. Even if it costs just 1% of that budget to operate the welfare state, it is deemed as good value for money, but compared to what?” mentioned the report.

Legacy property

The doc urged a brand new method is required to sort out the big variety of ageing IT programs utilized by DWP, which it blames for “a legacy of expensive, difficult-to-change systems providing marginal benefits”.

“Our legacy estate is built on an unsustainable technology which comes at great cost – we need to… realise that the operating costs are wildly excessive despite the benefits,” it mentioned.

The report highlighted DWP’s intensive use of the Cobol programming language for example of the issues brought on by this “technical debt”.

It mentioned DWP has “no strategy” to maneuver away from Cobol, and pointed to a reliance on diminishing Cobol abilities by including: “The average age of our Cobol developers is 62, with the oldest clocking in at 76.”

Newer programs constructed on trendy applied sciences are being established on high of the Cobol base, build up issues for the longer term, the report claims.

“We have tried multiple times to get off Cobol, but our flavour and modification of the language and runtime environment is not only limited to the UK, but is explicitly to the DWP,” it mentioned.

“Significant technical debt continues to be constructing because of the lock-in. Consider the architectural fragility and debt being incurred by implementing robotic course of automation as a layer on high of the Cobol property. The ‘dirty’ repair could also be making transactional financial savings for now, however how a lot price is added when change is required sooner or later?”

Despite introducing trendy DevOps working practices, the report mentioned there’s a “glacial pace of delivery” in DWP Digital.

“The focus on annual planning and large upfront design is the cause of a large amount of delay in delivery and in administrative processes,” mentioned the report.

“DWP embraced the DevOps revolution, but perhaps failed to appreciate the extent of the complexity and effort brought into engineering by doing so. A vast amount of upskilling and learning was needed to make this happen, resulting in a slow pace of delivery.”

The report went on to offer recommendations for easy methods to create an “engineering-led culture” that makes use of agile and lean methods to remodel supply and administration practices, in the best way that comparable methods are employed by digital corporations resembling Amazon and Spotify to create higher efficiencies.

It in contrast DWP Digital unfavourably with progress made by the Universal Credit challenge at DWP after IT issues that beset the welfare reform programme in its early days.

“The reset of Universal Credit to be extra engineering centered has led to profitable supply of a posh and tough coverage; this success must be constructed upon and attain past its present scope,” mentioned the doc.

“We need a clear articulation of the values and principles that the engineering practice unites behind,” it added.

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Publish Date: 2018-05-17 11:00:00

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