I’ve been working at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for the best part of a year now. If you’re not aware the DWP is the largest UK Government department with around 85,000 full time staff augmented by a lot of contractors like myself.
DWP is responsible for:
- Encouraging people into work and making work pay
- Tackling the causes of poverty and making social justice a reality
- Enabling disabled people to fulfil their potential
- Providing a firm foundation, promoting saving for retirement and ensuring that saving for retirement pays
- Recognising the importance of family in providing the foundation of every child’s life
- Controlling costs Improving services to the public by delivering value for money and reducing fraud and error
The DWP paid more than 22 million customers around £164 billion in benefits and pensions in 2013-14.
After decades of outsourcing it’s Technology development and support the government decided that it should provide it’s own Technology capability. Transforming such a large Technology organisation from, what was primarily, an assurance role to a delivery role Is no mean feat.
Having been a part of this journey for almost a year I thought it might be useful if I shared some of things that have worked well and some of the challenges we haven’t yet overcome.
Today I want to talk about the Technical Design Authority (TDA). I’ve never worked anywhere with a TDA before and I didn’t know what to expect. Established by Greg Stewart CTA / Digital CTO at DWP not long after he joined the DWP the TDA has a dual role.
The TDA hold an advisory meeting where people can introduce new projects or initiatives and discuss them with peers and the Domain Architects. In an organisation as large as the DWP this really helps find people with similar interests and requirements. It reduces the chance of accidental duplication of work and introduces people who are operating in similar spaces. Just finding out who people are who are working in a similar space has been tremedously valuable.
The TDA also hold a governance session where they review project designs. The template they provide for this session is really useful. It forces the architect or developers to consider data types stored, data flows including security boundaries and high-availability and scaling mechanims. That;s not to say every project needs those things but the review ensures that a project that does need them has them.
I can’t list the number of projects I’ve been involved with over the years that would have benefitted from a little forethought about non-functional requirements.
A TDA is a must have for an enterprise DevOps transformation. It makes sure Technology people working on similar projects in different parts of the organisation are aware of and can benefit from each other’s work. It ensures that projects pay adequate attention to the non-functionals as well as the functional requirements and it ensures that where standards are required they are promoted and where experiments are needed they are managed appropriately.