Designing for delivery in public services

This post is not about making design fit an organisation.

The public sector often has little choice about what it must deliver – much of the “what” is enshrined in law. It has no choice.

This is a stark quality of building products to meet the needs of citizens. The need for parallel delivery is obvious where new services are being delivered simultaneously (think Welfare Reform Act), also where existing services are being improved.

We have spent time over the last year or so moving towards any one of our teams being able to work on “the next most important feature”. I call these “global priorities”.

However, this is not enough. We must carefully balance how products themselves are described and prioritised to allow some compromise to be made. Where teams are organised around “lines of business”, for example Working Age Benefits, Retirement and Health, this breakdown of products becomes a matter of duty above and beyond the tangible benefits to be had from building a strong affinity between teams and the products they build and run.

What began as a tightly-knit set of empowered people building a service to meet a specific set of needs has grown into the agent for the transformation of a whole government department.

In so doing, we are now finding ways to scale hard things like service design and prioritisation. Succeeding will help us realise the ability for more people to build and evolve brilliant services at an even greater pace. In so doing we really will improve the lives of our users.

They key to this is in understanding how to “scope” products that come together in a user’s journey through a service. Putting too much into this scope will create a bottleneck around those roles in the product team that aren’t easy to scale (product management and UX most notably). Too small and while the product might iterate liberally with all the gusto a small team can throw at it, the overall experience risks becoming disjointed.

If you’re interested in joining the team and putting this into practice – keep your eyes on https://careers.dwp.gov.uk

As we expand, we’re recruiting across most roles in Leeds, Manchester and London, including into the Burbank team in Leeds.