Ever wondered what it's like to work at one of Greater Manchester's leading tech employers or what specific job roles get up to each day?
Emily Morgan is a Business Analyst at DWP Digital.
We spoke to her to find out more about this role, her experience at DWP Digital and what an average day looks like.
Name: Emily Morgan
Company: DWP Digital
Job Title: Business Analyst
Time in role: 2.5 years
How did you get into your current role?
I started my working life in an administration role for a legal firm, and quickly progressed to become a manager of 18 employees. During this time, I was asked to act as a subject matter expert for the IT department on a project. I found this experience so interesting – the project was all about making improvements to the service and increasing efficiency. As my team were primarily a call handling function, and speed and ease of use were key for the customer experience we could provide, this was something that I really agreed with and felt passionate about. It struck a chord with me.
Later, a business analyst (BA) role came up in the IT department and I decided to go for it – that was where I learnt the ropes. I was working on the biggest project the firm had ever done in IT, which was to replace a case management system. It was incredibly complex involving lots of different departments, all with their own needs and priorities, so it was a great place to develop my expertise in business analysis.
After a few years in the role in a couple of different organisations, I joined DWP Digital and immediately knew I had made the right choice. I spent 2 years working in a team where we delivered a massive piece around the EU Settlement Scheme after Brexit, working closely with the Home Office to do so. In January 2022 I moved onto a brand-new programme, which is focused on getting everybody who is still receiving legacy benefits to claim Universal Credit.
What do you enjoy most about working at DWP Digital?
I’m sure everyone says this, but it’s the people that make work so enjoyable. It wouldn’t be the same without them. I work with an extremely skilled group of individuals, who work super hard and make my role so much easier. Shout out to the team! Having come to DWP Digital from the private sector, it makes a huge difference to have people who are real experts in their roles, for example user researchers, content designers and interaction designers, and it allows us to produce high quality work as a team.
I also like working using agile methodology – those who know agile know that it’s not a prescriptive list of rules, rather principles to work by to enable faster delivery of software. This means that we prioritise individuals and interactions for example, speaking to someone when you can, rather than sending an email. And we prioritise responding to change over following a plan – which can be scary if you’re a product owner trying to deal with stakeholders! But for a BA, you just need to be flexible and open to changing things at sometimes short notice. It keeps me on my toes!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m an early riser, so I start work at 8am (hopefully having squeezed in the gym or a dog walk beforehand). I take a bit of time to focus on my own work which is usually around analysis – at any one time I have a number of different problems to try and resolve. This could be a system incident raised by a user where something isn’t working as expected, or it could be research and investigation into a potential new feature to make something better.
Daily stand-ups with my team happen at 9.15am. We update the team on progress, using a shared board to track delivery of specific items. 9.15-9.45am is a ‘team huddle’ slot, which is open for anyone to use, for example to showcase work they have produced or talking through a tricky problem with others.
There are lots of regular team meetings in my calendar. These include things like show and tell, where people from across the programme share work, or it might be portfolio alignment, where everyone involved in my portfolio of work comes together to ensure the project is on track and give key updates.
At lunch I usually make myself a salad if I’m working from home or try and find a nice independent café if I’m in the office in Manchester. The early afternoon on Monday and Wednesday is earmarked for communities of practice work, so I might take part in BA collaboration, which is an open and informal forum for BAs in my project to talk through their ongoing analysis and solution design with others. Or I might attend or lead a Share & Learn session which is open to all members of the BA community, learning about different prioritisation techniques, or how to build inclusive teams.
A big part of my role is gathering requirements for new features or process improvements. I usually do this in workshops, large-ish team sessions including most of my team, plus the relevant stakeholders for the item. One example I’ve worked on recently is how we gather data from legacy systems to calculate a claimant’s payments correctly. These workshops are designed to tease out the ‘user needs’ – who are the users of the end product, what do they absolutely need in order for it to work, and what are the ‘nice-to-have’ items that could come later down the line?
I line manage a BA apprentice and mentor an associate BA, so I may have 1-1 calls with these people to try and help them progress, answer questions, help with job role applications or business analysis tools and techniques.
One thing I always try to prioritise is user research sessions as a BA, it’s so important for me to hear from users; what are their pain points, what was their journey like, and so on. These take place every other week or so and are run by dedicated user researchers in our teams. We’ve just started some really exciting ones this week. The findings from this will help inform the rest of our work on the programme – how can we make the journey better? Which is ultimately the all-encompassing question for a business analyst.
What is it like starting a new job /working remotely during the pandemic?
I was lucky enough to join DWP Digital a few weeks before the UK went into Covid lockdown, so I managed to squeeze in some time in the Manchester office and was able to meet most of my colleagues face to face. However, it was obviously a huge change to switch almost immediately to remote working.
One of the challenges was onboarding new people to the team during lockdowns. I’m not sure we always got it right. It’s hard to know if someone needs help, or a friendly chat, when you aren’t sitting across from them in an office.
Having said that, overall, I really enjoyed making the change to remote working. It enables me to have a much better work-life balance without having to take an extra 2 hours out of the day to commute, and I can make my own lunches – I like to grow vegetables at home, so it’s awesome to go out and pick my own! We’ve now struck a balance with hybrid working, going into the office to collaborate, and spending some days working from home.
The whole team attend the Manchester hub every Tuesday, so it’s always a fun and focused day which we tend to use for big team sessions like planning for the next delivery, or retrospectives where we talk about how we can improve our ways of working together.
What excites you the most about the work at DWP Digital?
For me the most exciting thing about working for DWP Digital has to be the real-life impact you have on people. It adds a whole new dimension to your work when you can see the value it will bring to people who need help from DWP, or colleagues working in job centres.
As part of my current programme, it has been very energising to try out new things, and new ways of working. We are effectively pioneering a brand-new journey for benefit claimants and have been testing and learning along the way – what support do claimants need? How long did they take to apply? Was there anything that caused errors? What about the complex cases we haven’t thought of – what additional needs do they have? As this is all new, user research has been invaluable to understand more about the claimant and colleague experience of working their way through these processes. It’s also a high-profile piece which has been heavily featured in the media, so it’s exciting to see the way the public responds.
Have you learned anything new since you started?
One of the great things about DWP Digital is the investment they make in their employees, so I can confidently say I’ve learned loads in my time here. I’ve been placed on several BCS-accredited courses for Business Analysis which have taught me universally approved methods of business process modelling and requirements gathering and management.
I’ve taken on some additional responsibilities outside of my job role for my own personal development, so I’ve had the opportunity to write blogs, present at wider forums (such as Digital Live) and take part in speed mentoring. I have particularly enjoyed participating in recruitment and have even been involved in recruiting some Senior Civil Servants with the advice of an occupational psychologist to assess their suitability for the role.
I’m currently taking part in the Senior BA Development Programme, where I’ve been able to attend numerous classes to help me prepare for my next career move, such as leadership, visual thinking, and diversity in teams, and I’ve been paired with an experienced Senior BA as a mentor.
Thank you Lindsay!
To find out about careers at DWP Digital, click here.
DWP Digital are currently looking for an Associate Business Analyst. View the role and apply here.
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