Inside technical architecture at DWP Digital

John Banks leads the architecture team within DWP Digital’s Citizen Information Product Delivery Unit. He works with senior architects across a range of projects. He often gets asked what it’s like being a technical architect at DWP Digital, and what sort of projects he’s involved in.

Big challenges and big opportunities

Technical architecture in government is an interesting and challenging environment, and there are lots of opportunities for technical architects, irrespective of background or specialism.

John says: “It’s hard to imagine any other private or public sector organisation that has an IT estate as diverse and technically complex as DWP.

“Couple that with the digital transformation of services while maintaining the stability of legacy benefit-paying applications, and it becomes an exciting place to work.”

Using technology and innovation to tackle complex problems

Most projects within DWP Digital use an agile approach, with co-located multi-disciplinary teams. These teams often include a technical architect from the start, during the discovery stage.

“We produce ‘just enough’ documentation to define the architecture design,” John says, “initially for a minimum viable product (MVP). This gets iterated as the project moves through alpha, private beta and public beta under the governance of the Digital Design Authority (DDA).

“We have digital blueprints, patterns and standards defined by our domain architects. These are continually evolved, also under the governance of the DDA, and all architects within the community are encouraged to contribute.”

John’s team recently developed a citizen information strategy and defined a conceptual event-driven architecture for how DWP manages citizen information in the future.

“We’re now starting to design MVPs for core components, including a legacy bridge that decouples new digital services from our legacy IT estate and manages data integration between the ‘old world’ and ‘new world’.”

Improving services to help society

DWP Digital’s strategy includes using new data sources from across government, and making better use of existing data. This helps us reduce fraud and error, enable straight through processing within DWP Digital’s services, and ultimately improves user journeys.

John explains: “In November 2017, we improved DWP’s Customer Information System (CIS), and migrated it from supplier data centres to on-site hosting data centres. Since then, we’ve been running a technical improvement programme to enhance application performance monitoring, improve levels of automation for build, test and deploy. And we’ve migrated our development and test environments into the Cloud.

“This huge programme of work has been driven forward by our team of technical architects, who are passionate about continually enhancing the security and reliability of this critical national infrastructure service.”

These are just some of the projects that architects working in the Citizen Information Product Delivery Unit are involved in, and there’s lots more across DWP Digital. Find your digital career now.