In 2017 a House of Commons ‘Ideas and Innovation’ campaign asked staff to identify changes that could help to reduce bureaucracy. The responses to the campaign highlighted that there were too many paper forms. The results of the House of Commons Staff Survey also highlighted that manual paper forms were inefficient and bureaucratic.
The digital forms project was created in early 2018 in response to these suggestions. It also meant that we could address a demand for paper forms to be rationalised and digitised from both Houses.
Creating the digital forms project
As with most digital projects, this one is run day-to-day by PDS. PDS project managers (in this case, me), business analysts, and technical specialists manage the day-to-day planning, execution, people management, and delivery of projects, usually on behalf of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The digital forms project team use browser based technology to create digital alternatives to paper forms, and are working with the administration teams of both Houses to increase the efficiency of their processes, and consequently reduce bureaucracy. The project is supported by a project board, made up of senior managers from the administration teams.
Project priorities changed
After working on the project for a few months, I had to change priorities and focus my time on a different project. Reluctantly, we made the decision to pause the work.
On this occasion, a member of the project board offered to make up for the lack of project management availability with someone from their own department, which was the House of Commons innovation and improvement team.
Andy Vallins, head of the team, said:
The digital forms project emerged from a previous campaign, so given my team's interest in this area I was very keen to offer support when I learned of the issues affecting project delivery. Happily, my colleague Michelle also agreed to dedicate some time to this. I'm confident that this collaboration will be a success.
Although it's common for PDS to work with both Houses on projects, it's very unusual for someone from the Commons to collaborate in a day-to-day capacity on a PDS project. After three months of this collaboration, it's proving to be successful.
Michelle Clarke, the project manager in the innovation and improvement team, described how it works:
We have regular stand-ups to update everyone, track progress, and decide what to do next. Our small collaborative team works really well. I get a buzz out of seeing the progress we're starting to make.
Making something digital doesn't always make it better
One of the challenges was that simply digitising forms doesn't always reduce bureaucracy. As a result, the project was able to shift focus to improving business processes in parallel with reducing and digitising forms.
Victor Brezitski, PDS technical specialist, said:
Andy and Michelle have brought a valuable new perspective on how the project should address the challenges we were facing. After adjusting and redefining some of the strategies and processes, we're already feeling the benefits of the new approach.
This work was a good example of how teams can support and help Parliament become digital by default.
Read more posts about Parliament's digital strategy.