Department for Work and Pensions reveals how tech revamp has helped it slim down
One of the biggest spenders on technology in the UK, the government's Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has detailed some of the IT strategies it has used to save £1.5bn.
The DWP - which has an IT budget second only to that of the Department of Health - is spending £1.19bn on IT in the 2009/10 financial year, and has been focusing on driving down its IT spend since late 2005, when it began a technology transformation programme with suppliers BT and HP.
Efficiencies made possible by its tech revamp have helped save the DWP £1.5bn over the past five years according to DWP COO Dean James.
The savings have been achieved against a backdrop of global recession, which has fuelled demand for the support services that the DWP offers (it pays out more than £124bn in benefits each year) to the unemployed through agencies such as Jobcentre Plus.
Much of the savings are coming from standardising both the enterprise and operating system software used by DWP staff, and the hardware and networks that underpin them.
An example is the department's recent consolidation of its many different networks into a single VoIP network to carry all of the department's voice and data traffic.
The network connects the customer call centres used by the DWP and the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission and allows calls to be automatically routed to the least busy centre, or the centre with staff who have the right expertise to help the caller.
James said: "With the 50 per cent increase in calls you have to understand how important it is to have this platform in place.
"The department has delivered efficiency against the economic downturn and not taken its eye off the ball, both in terms of existing customer service and sustained effort for customer service in future," James said, speaking at the GovNet Government IT 2010 event in London last week...
On the software side the DWP is implementing a standardised desktop across more than 120,000 seats and has introduced standardised enterprise apps and services in areas such as HR and finance - provided through the DWP Shared Service Centre - that are reused across the department.
The DWP and its agencies pay suppliers every time they access a service rather than paying them a flat rate, a change that has saved the DWP money as it now only pays for the services it uses.
James said: "It is based on a standard services framework, reorganising the IT to as close as we could to industry standard services."
As well as reducing support costs and ending costly bespoke system development costs, this consistent approach to providing IT services across the entire department makes it easier to benchmark its performance against industry standards.
The simplification of its IT estate has allowed the DWP to reduce the number of datacentres it used from four to two.
The department is also consolidating its IT workforce with the aim of creating a single IT department, consisting of a couple of thousand staff, that will serve all of the department's various agencies, rather than each agency having its own internal department.
The DWP's success in reducing costs by sharing IT services is being emulated across central government, with the DWP's Shared Service Centre also offering back office services to the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Cabinet Office.
Work on reshaping IT services continues at the DWP, with the department currently tendering for contracts that include datacentre and hosting services, voice and data networks, application maintenance and support and integration services.
Claims for jobseekers allowance, pension and disability benefits can be initiated online via the DWP's e-service website and James said the department would strive to deliver more services online in future.
"We are looking at a high degree of acceleration in the way we deliver services in government built around delivery over the internet," he said.
The DWP is also in the process of designing a software app for jobseekers for the Apple iPhone and Google Android smartphones.