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What capability means to us

One of the team during a standup

Capability for us is making sure we have the right skills to deliver a digital service for Parliament. We're focusing on recruitment, retention, career development and our ways of working. I lead on capability in the Digital Development directorate and together with my Director Emma Allen, we’re figuring out what we’re going to deliver and how.

Digital Development directorate

PDS is still coming out of a large restructure. Back in April last year, my department (then called Development) changed from a group of developers and testers making stuff to a massive team. We're now in the Digital Development Directorate, made up of five different teams. We have developers, testers and DevOps spread across three teams: Business Apps, Data and Search and Web Development. We also have a Content Team and a User Research and Design Team. These teams are really new to us as we’ve never had these disciplines before.

There’s a lot of capability we need to build on, not just from a recruitment perspective. How are we going to work, what are our processes and how will we work with others to deliver great products and a great service?

The team

To help break down silos and work collaboratively, I’ve pulled together a cross functional team. They can help me deliver some of these things for the Digital Development directorate. We also want to inspire others to deliver on capability in their teams.

Katie Anderton, a Senior Project Manager in the Portfolio Directorate, is looking into mentoring and coaching for the whole of PDS. She's also hoping that Portfolio will be involved in the Silicon Milkroundabout event which our Directorate are going to in November.

How we’re working together

As most of the team have their day jobs to do as well, we’re running a monthly sprint to do updates, planning and a retrospective. We allocate tasks at this meeting, give updates and update our Trello Board. We’re also meeting in smaller working groups more frequently on specific tasks.

I feed in to the capability work happening in the Heads of Profession group in the Portfolio Directorate. I’m working closely with the Directors of both Digital Development and Portfolio on how we’ll work together on delivering products. I also work with a colleague in the Technology Directorate to help create a DevOps culture. Another thing I do is go to the PDS wide stand up to update everyone on what we’re delivering.

What we’ve done so far

We know we want to work in teams of people from different disciplines. We also want to put users at the centre of everything we create. So far, we’ve achieved quite a bit:

  1. working with external suppliers on rapid prototyping, problem solving and building agile capability
  2. building communities of practice in different teams
  3. making improvements to the way we recruit to our roles
  4. employing junior developers
  5. hosting events for underrepresented demographics that want to learn how to code
  6. lunchtime learning – improving knowledge sharing across our teams
  7. hackathons – promotion of the work we do, the data we have and also a chance to talk to other people, problem solving and so on
  8. we've been spending time with the Government Digital Service (GDS) to understand the capability work they’ve been doing. We met with Abby Peel from the Digital, Data and Technology professions. They're doing a lot of work to help Government departments attract, develop and retain the people and skills they need

Next steps

There’s also lots of other cool stuff we want to do and we’ve identified six strands of work:

  • attraction and recruitment
  • learning and development
  • retention and progression
  • brand and culture
  • workforce planning
  • team bonding

Lessons learned so far

Change takes time. Recruitment takes a while and then when new people arrive, things change again. Sometimes people get dragged down into the old ways and sometimes new people bring ideas and they stick. We need to find a balance.

Bringing in external suppliers to help deliver change helps you realise how much you actually need to do. They definitely helped us to plan this work.

Just because you’ve told people they’re empowered to do things, doesn’t mean they have the confidence to go and do them. They still need direction.

People are very keen to learn and develop themselves. It’s important that we provide the support networks to allow them to achieve their learning goals.

If you want to find out more about the work we are doing on Capability in PDS email Julie or chat to her on Twitter.

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