2017 review: A year of Burbank

To my brilliant team (and forgive me this indulgence),

A year ago you were not one team – you were disparate parts of the wider DWP picture. Parts of what is now Burbank were already together and some of you were working in completely different parts of the department. Some of you weren’t even working in government.

Since then, you’ve come together and blown me and everyone else away. Two new, operationally critical services have been born and have gone live and our data analytics platform has evolved from being a bit flakey into something hundreds of users and operations managers rely on every day. You’re making a difference to DWP’s bottom line. And more importantly you’re making a real difference to it’s users.

But against this backdrop of hard work, I hope the achievement you’re most proud of is the way you’ve formed and evolved as a team. We use the word “capability” a lot, but it really is a fit term for Burbank. From a standing start you have jelled into a “capability” bringing together people, tools and shared experience in a way that any agency would be proud of (and profitable because of!).

As we head into 2018 there are some big challenges ahead. Universal Credit is more important than ever. So is the need to make judicious use of our people and technology to meaningfully transform how government operates. No one strikes these balances as well as you do.

You stand on the front line, in terms of Digital Group, but more importantly in terms of DWP.

Over the next 12 months there will be forks in the road. Whichever directions you (we) choose, what is most important is that we carry forward the best of what we’ve learned and built over the past year: our respect and support of each other; our openness to share; our humility; and the sense of safety that this all brings. As long as I or any of you are working together, stepping up, sticking your neck out or plainly speaking your mind will be valued. Cherish this and uphold it for others.


Transcript – Opening remarks for DWPride 2017

Good afternoon! I’m Dan Tanham and I’m a deputy director at DWP Digital.

Before we get going today, Shelley’s asked me to say a few words. I’d like to use that opportunity to pass on some advice someone once gave me – I promise it’ll make you feel good.

Just take a second to do two things: smile. And look around. Isn’t that nice!

I could almost leave things there. You are all amazing. I’ve no doubt you’re amazing individuals, at work and at home, but I think you’re especially amazing today for taking the time to come here and be part of something bigger and special.

This is civilisation. Coming together to solve hard problems is really what it’s all about. If we’d never worked this out we’d be beating each other around the heads with rocks for the best cave. (In some ways we still are…).

But I think you all already know this. Diversity and inclusion go hand in hand, in fact I’d go further and say you cannot have one without the other. And I don’t – I really don’t – think it’s too much of a step further to say that today, here (in Yorkshire!), we represent the very pinnacle of civilisation.

Some shout outs:

Creating Inclusive Cultures – born in Leeds with the support of Leeds Council and several commercial partners and now succesfully operating in Manchester and Birmingham is making sure businesses have access to the knowledge and tools they need to build inclusive and diverse cultures.

Our very own Shelley Hardman and Rachel Poole have been nominated for the Civil Service’s diversity and inclusion award for this – the Yorkshire and Humber LGBT* network, now the largest regional network we have.

I’d like to wrap up there by saying an enormous thank you from the Civil Service and to recommend that you spend time today applying balm to the soul by doing two things: smiling and looking around you.

Thank you and enjoy today!

The generic snow sports trip

Day 1 — Saturday

Get up at ridiculous o’clock to catch the budget flight to Geneva/Innsbruck/Turin.

Try not to get irrationally annoyed with fellow British skiers for being too loud/quiet/arrogant/ignorant.

Find bus, hopefully having explained with sufficient clarity which resort you’re aiming for. Hope there isn’t a stag do/uni reunion group on the bus with you. Eventually, begrudgingly, join in with their singing.

Check in, drop bags off and set out to find ski rental shop. Queue for skis/boards. Be falsely modest about ability, correct yourself and fork out another 20EUR for the best available kit.

Enjoy some beers/wine/jaegermeister before getting early night ready to “smash the pistes”.

Day 2 — Sunday

Wake up with mild hangover, half dress in thermals and head down to breakfast, for which footwear is apparently considered optional by some.

Waffle down cereal (with strange milk), a pain au chocolat and some baguette with delicious butter.

Join queue for lift passes, cry slightly at cost and Get! On! The! Snow!

Relearn how it all works. Feel smug about how amateur others look. Feel humbled by ESF and the locals.

Sweat, explore and be merry.

Day 3 — Monday

See Sunday, with less queuing, one fewer layer of clothing and slightly more technique.

You’re nailing this.

More drinking.

Day 4 — Tuesday


Ski/board like a drunken housespider.

Question whether ski trips are worth it. Do you even really enjoy skiing? Are you getting too old for this?

Early night.

Day 5 — Wednesday

How have the Olympic team scouts missed you all these years? You’re incredible, or you will be soon. No piste can conquer you, and you must say, you look dashing doing it too.

The pain is gone (must be improved technique) so let’s hit the aprés tonight!

Day 6 — Thursday

Was yesterday a dream?

Sore head, stickier/icier snow than is reasonable given the price of lift passes and — obviously — piss poor weather.

Nearly the end of the week so perfect time to try some jumps at the park.

How are those teenagers so bold?? How are they still alive??

Hit the aprés with the elation of having cleared not one but several of the smaller jumps and know you are lord of all you survey.

Day 7 — Friday

Last proper day.

Up and out earlier than your body would normally allow, but glad to be on it.

Usually sunny with perfect powder.

Everything clicks. This is bliss. Maybe quit your day job and alternate winter/summer seasons?

Day 8 — Saturday

Get up at ridiculous o’clock to catch the flight home.

Try not to get irrationally annoyed with fellow British skiers for being too loud/quiet/arrogant/ignorant.

Briefly feel nostalgic and comforted at being home on touchdown. Prepare for a day of queuing, waiting and coping with public transport.

Resolve to book next year’s trip in summer to get a good deal on lift passes, knowing it’s about as likely as mastering a front flip 360 the XL tabletop jump at the snow park, but still…one day.