Amanda is a product manager for Jobseekers Allowance, a critical DWP Digital service which handles around 282,000 applications each year. She takes us through a day in her life.
Setting the direction through collaboration
I’m responsible for setting the vision and strategy for the service. My role involves collaborating with colleagues across the Department for Work and Pensions and bringing insight to our decision-making for the service. I identify the most valuable service improvements for our customers and set the priorities for the scrum team.
Because of the size of the service, it’s essential that the application journey is easy to use, secure, and only collects the information we need to accurately calculate a customer’s benefit entitlement.
There are several ways we identify opportunities to improve the service:
- Feedback from colleagues in operations who may identify manual back-office processes, which if automated could reduce the application processing time for customers.
- Customer surveys, user research, and analytics data. Our data helps us identify areas of the application which can be simplified and streamlined.
- Engineers may identify improvements to the tech stack required to keep the service secure and running efficiently.
- Changes to questions in the application form may come from policy changes.
My role as product manager is to understand the root cause of each problem, assess their value, and set the priorities for the team through the Jobseekers Allowance roadmap and backlog.
A hybrid approach to agile
I work from the office two days a week, with the rest of the time at home. I find this is a great balance between collaboration time with colleagues and quiet, focused time for my tasks.
The day starts with a team stand-up at 9:30am, where each team member provides an update on the tickets they’re working on this sprint and flags any blockers.
At 10am I attend a user research session as a note taker. We’re currently researching improvements to the service’s communications, and we’ve worked with a wide range of stakeholders, including charities across the UK, to build some prototypes of how the new journey could look.
The user researcher shares the prototype options with customers to capture their feedback, then we go through the feedback and identify key insights.
At 11:30am, a colleague in operations contacts me to flag a significant inefficiency in the service, which is increasing some customers’ application time. I get some members of my team to together to urgently address it, and I feed back our actions to my operations colleague.
Reflecting and improving
After lunch we have the team retrospective, where we spend time reviewing what went well, what could be improved from the last sprint and any actions we would like to take forward.
At 2pm, I attend our sprint planning session. As the product manager, it’s my responsibility to set the sprint goals and priorities for the next sprint. The whole team attends sprint planning and agrees new tickets for the next sprint.
At 4pm, I begin work on writing the show and tell deck for the following week. Every fortnight we present the work we’ve delivered each sprint to our stakeholders, we demo any new changes and discuss the priorities for the next sprint.
A challenging and rewarding career
I genuinely love my role as a product manager. It’s challenging, but ultimately extremely rewarding to be part of a team which makes a real difference to people’s lives.
The culture in DWP Digital is user-centred, and we make sure everything we do helps people. It’s also very collaborative, and we’re encouraged to identify innovative ways to solve customers’ problems. This means the work is always varied and interesting – and there’s always a new challenge on the horizon.
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