Helping DWP improve efficiency and standards

21 June 2022

Opencast and DWP Digital have been collaborating on a project to deliver greater consistency and standards in improving DWP systems. The work from the ‘green zone’ project is set to bring benefits beyond the project itself. Rob Lawson reports.

Opencast has been working with DWP Digital, the technology arm of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) on a range of digital projects since 2020.
Photograph of keys on a keyboard
We want to to avoid wasting time and effort recreating the wheel for every digital service

Green zone enabling

As in all areas of government, DWP Digital is providing more and more services to the public – and that is only going to increase.

Since last year, an Opencast team has been working on DWP Digital’s ‘green zone enabling’ project to help ensure more consistency and standards in system builds.

The project, as it suggests, is about creating better tooling for software teams to build digital services more efficiently and with consistently good quality. The aim has been to develop reusable application services that can be used across different teams, so the focus has been on software that is:

  • Re-useable
  • Scalable
  • Self-service
  • Efficient
  • Automation up-front.

These are the areas DWP Digital considers when building software within the application reference architecture.

Common components

Rather than building individual full stack applications or products, DWP Digital wants to build them from common components or frameworks, such as:
  • CICD pipeline
  • Test framework
  • User interface framework
  • Java/NodeJS for services.

DWP Digital aims to make development easier and quicker by having common themes and enabling teams to configure set-ups rather than the team having to build everything from scratch every time.

These tools and building blocks need to be easy to consume for software developers as they are the target users for these tools and services. This will ensure a consistent development tooling pipeline that is configurable and help to drive the DWP’s common reference architecture forward.

Consistent template solution

The initial plan was to ensure the tools can be delivered quickly and efficiently by building out the pipeline. This will enable quick delivery and allow them to be tested, get user buy in and iterate them swiftly.

The Opencast team did a full review of the different solutions in place across DWP Digital. We focused on an off-the-shelf solution to reduce complexity and technical boundaries for application teams with reduced DevOps support.

The work has seen a reduction in inconsistencies and, crucially, we’ve helped to develop new quality-assured templates that can be optimised for different application types. Teams can now migrate on to these templates to improve application build workflow across the green zone within DWP Digital.

The work has culminated in a batch migration to integrate multiple PDUs into one Gitlab project, providing a consistent and high-quality template solution for 24 application service teams, including no less than 112 applications, underpinning services that are consumed by millions of DWP public users.

Throughout the project Opencast worked collaboratively to share knowledge through one-to-one training and shared documentation, as well as participating in engineering steering groups across DWP Digital.

Dynamo conference focus

Commenting on the collaboration, Opencast’s head of software development David ‘Sarg’ Sarginson said: “In our world of ever-evolving technology and the public’s increasing expectation on government departments to provide excellent digital services, we have to make doing that quicker and easier to continue to meet those demands.

“The green zone enabling team is at the forefront of building the next generation of tools and frameworks to ensure our clients and consultants are focused on solving the hard problems and not wasting their time and effort recreating the wheel for every digital service.”

We share our learning with the wider tech world – and along with our DWP Digital colleagues we are presenting a breakout panel session at this year’s Dynamo North East digital conference.

The session, Helping DWP improve efficiency and standards, is on Wednesday 22 June at Northumbria University. Hosted by Susan Bell, Director, EBFN Consulting, the session features:

Adrian Green – head of engineering, DWP
David Sarginson - head of software development, Opencast
Tim Knight – lead developer, Opencast.

The 60-minute session shines a spotlight on the project and how it has helped build efficiency and benefit citizens moving forward.

It also shares lessons from the project and reflect on the success of the Opencast/DWP Digital partnership. It highlights the metrics used throughout the project – including speed improvement, reusability and maintenance, and explores how Opencast has shared knowledge gained through the project through steering groups and training sessions.

More information about Dynamo 22 here.

Read the Opencast case study on this project.