Since PDS was formed two years ago, we’ve done a lot. This is the first time that Parliament’s had a digital service and a strategy for both Houses. So we want to make sure everyone understands what we’re here to do.
Something we realised recently was that we’re not very good at talking about the benefits that we bring to Parliament, despite our ongoing successes and challenges.
We also acknowledge that becoming an agile organisation has meant we focus on doing things quickly. Sometimes we don’t spend the time thinking about how we demonstrate the benefits of our work.
To address this, we’ve looked at how we measure success and what success looks like for us.
Measuring success is hard
How do you measure success? It’s a really difficult thing to measure. Delivering a successful product or piece of work can mean different things to different people.
We decided to do an efficiency review to identify meaningful benefits that we use to show how effective and unified our work is. Doing this showed us how we can improve the benefits and outcomes of our business plan and strategy.
We also weren’t sure if we were measuring the right things. We wanted to find a way to show our colleagues and others how we’re doing as an organisation.
We identified six benefits that should help demonstrate how successful our work is. They are:
- reducing risk
- improving customer satisfaction
- reducing cost
- improving engagement
- generating income
These benefits must also relate to our digital strategy aspirations. This means we can show how our digital strategy is being embedded in our work and the benefits that it’s bringing.
We want to use these benefits at the planning stage of our work rather than at the end. We need to plan and design our work based on these benefits rather than retrospectively fitting our work around them.
By building benefits into the planning stage, we can track how each project or piece of work is doing. It’s only then that we can really start showing the progress made and the benefits our work brings.
Part of this work is building dashboards that show how performance is improving (or not) over time. The dashboards pull together data for us to measure our performance based on the categories above. Having a standardised way of reporting can really help us see our progress.
As well as identifying the benefits to Parliament, we also want to make sure that all the staff in the Digital Service understand their part. After all, our staff are our biggest investment and our greatest asset. It's important that they're able to track the work they do and the objectives they have against these benefits.
For that reason, we've developed training to help our staff identify how their work fits in with the benefits and the digital strategy. This piece of work is being led by our Strategy Lead, Rosie Hatton, as the digital strategy for Parliament is where it all starts and ends.
Rosie's already done a lot of work on measuring benefits. As well as the training, she's having lots of discussions around how we bring benefits management to life. Some of the ways we're planning on doing this are:
- starting small
- building on successes so far and learning from what we've done so far
- being pragmatic
- clearly linking to our digital strategy
- doing this across Parliament and not just PDS
Another way we've been measuring the benefits of our work is changing the way we write business cases. Alan Bedford, one of our business analysts, has been doing this for a new HR and finance system. The business cases must show the benefits of a new system, why they're of value and how achievements will be measured. We've borrowed the user story technique from agile to do this.
Why does it matter?
Organisations that can’t articulate benefits also can’t show their value. By focusing on benefits and being aware of their importance, PDS can show that we’re helping to make Parliament digital-first not just through isolated pieces of work but as an organisation. This is definitely something worth aiming for.
Read more about our digital strategy and its aspirations.