Effective IT systems play a vital role in helping government bodies deliver top quality services while driving down costs. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is the largest UK public service organisation, with over 20 million customers. It has an exemplary record in using technology-based business efficiency gains to release funds for investment in front line services.
A prime example is the value it derived by replacing separate voice and data infrastructures with a converged wide area network (WAN) architecture, under an outsourcing agreement with BT. That undertaking, known as ICONS (Integrated Communications Network Services), created an IP-based platform that according to Kable1 is the largest of its class across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).
The IP-based WAN infrastructure serves 145,000 ports across in excess of 1,000 sites and uses elements of BT’s next generation network platform. This allows different media types to be prioritised so that time critical traffic, such as voice, can be mixed with less time sensitive data such as email and web browsing over a single unified network.
The initial ICONS transitional phase lasted five years. This transformation also enabled customer service improvements, supporting rapid access to appropriate systems, tools, and information anywhere in the UK. The success of the project was recognised when a three-year contract extension was subsequently awarded.
The relationship with BT has already played a major role in modernising the Department’s operations, enabling it to become ever more customer focused and meet its customers’ increasingly complex communication needs. The extension of the BT contract will ensure that the DWP is able to continue the transformation, with a focus on exploiting the technology to further improve customer service.
 Kable is a leading provider of ICT public sector research. Data correct as of June 2010.
An early ICONS deliverable was the implementation of an IP telephony platform. Centrally hosted by BT, this now regularly supports around two million calls a day.
With the IP telephony platform in place, BT set about creating an IP contact centre (IPCC) architecture for the DWP. This brought together 184 call centres with nearly 30,000 agent positions between them into a single virtual IPCC. According to Kable  this makes it the largest IPCC deployment in the world.
Such an IPCC solution means optimised workflows by, for example, multi-skilling agents to handle more than one type of task. Similarly, workload peaks can be managed by distributing call overflows to other contact centres. Skills-based routing means that calls reach the right agent first time, reducing the need for transfers and further improving customer service. At the same time, integration with DWP systems gives agents access to the information they need.
 Data correct as of June 2010.
The ICONS infrastructure has played a vital role in helping the DWP deliver much improved customer service. The infrastructure provided by BT is also helping the DWP to transform the way it works. For example, with the new platform contact centre managers now have a wealth of real time information on call flows and performance that can be used to optimise the use of contact centre agent resources. In the future the IPCC architecture will allow multimedia traffic such as text and email to be handled in contact centres, providing for greater customer choice.
Meanwhile, the ESA solution is revolutionising the way benefits are managed, with all initial claims handled over the telephone. Across the department information is now available at people’s fingertips, improving efficiency and speeding up decision making. As a consequence the DWP is becoming a more flexible and agile organisation, better equipped to meet its customers’ needs.
That success has not gone unnoticed. In early 2011 the DWP was selected as a winner at the seventh annual eGovernment National Awards. From a strong field of seven nominees the DWP Economic Downturn Programme, which was underpinned by the ICONS infrastructure, won the Central eGovernment excellence: Take-up and usage growth category. This recognises the delivery of high and growing take up of e-enabled services through effective delivery and marketing.