DWP in-house IT company doubles in size

Over two-year period BPDTS will have grown staff numbers from 451 to 1,124

Credit: Peakpx

The in-house IT company of the Department for Work and Pensions nigh-on doubled in size during the 2019 financial year as it delivered an extra £10m of tech services.

During the 12 months to 31 March 2019, BPDTS Ltd saw its number of employees increase from 451 to 817, its newly published annual report reveals. During the current financial year, this is set to rise further to a total of 1,124.

In FY19 the company’s operating expenditure stood at £51.8m, compared with £42.4m in the prior year. By far the biggest contributor to this increase was staff costs, which spiked by £10m to a total of £41.4m.

In her foreword, BTDPTS chief executive Loveday Ryder said: “During 2018/19, the demand for our services increased and we responded immediately, implementing a faster and more effective recruitment process so that we scale rapidly. This has been not only a year of growth, but of consolidation, building a company we can all be proud of.”

BPDTS Ltd was incorporated in 2016 and is wholly owned by the DWP – which is, in effect, its only customer. Its creation was prompted by a drive to bring back in house IT services that were previously outsourced.

During FY19, the company set out to improve its performance across four key metrics: capacity; quality; capability; and efficiency. 

Within each of these was four quantifiable objectives.

Percentage of interview candidates in FY19 that were women – ahead of the target of 17%, which is the IT industry average

Operating costs during FY19, a rise of 22.6% compared with the prior year

Forecast number of employees by the end of March 2020 – compared with 817 at the end of FY19 and 451 in 2018

Average cost savings of hiring permanent staff when compared with the comparable expense of using contractors

Average number of days taken by in FY19 to fix problems

In the area of capacity, BPDTS met its target of hiring practice leads for each of its service areas. It also achieved its goal of condensing its entire recruitment process – from publishing an advert to making an offer to a candidate – into a seven-week timeframe. The objective of ensuring at least 17% of interview candidates were women – in line with the industry average – was exceeded, with BPDTS’s rate standing at 21.4%. 

The target of retaining 95% of new hires for at least 12 months was also met.

The company fell a little short of its target of bringing in people at a rate of 80 per month as “initial set up to meet the increase in demand took some time”, the report said. But new hires reached the desired level in both November 2018 and January 2019, it added.

“In 2019/20, we plan to continue to scale up our business to meet the customer requirement,” the report said. “We will look to market best practice, so that we are learning from those around us and reflecting the expectations of candidates as they navigate our recruitment process. Once scaling up is complete, we will focus even more on candidate fit with the culture we are building in BPDTS alongside technical competence and experience.”

It added: “Having become more visible in the market over the last 12 months, we want to continue to develop our attraction strategy, not only to target digital talent across the market, but also understand how we can become the employer of choice for women and those looking for apprenticeship opportunities.”

Capacity gap
In FY19 BPDTS fixed problems in an average of 118 days – exceeding its target of 125, and achieved average customer-satisfaction levels above the baseline of three out of five. It also met its objective of spending 95% of its time on customer-facing work.

However, it was some way short of meeting its goal of reducing to a level of 16% its “capacity gap” – which is defined as “the lag between customer demand and fulfilment”. As of March 2019, the gap stood at 26%.

“It takes time for recruitment processes to respond to changes in demand, causing a slight lag between roles requested and filled,” the report said.

The company’s four objectives in the area of capability were met across the board.

Near-enough all employees went through a personal review and development plan during FY19, while the average number of days spent by staff on learning and development exceeded the target of five. An apprenticeship programme was created, as was a mentoring scheme – with 10% of employees already taking part as of year-end.

BPDTS also performed well in respect of its efficiency goals, with less than 20% of spending dedicated to overheads, and the cost of filling key roles with permanent staff was calculated as being 36% cheaper than if a contractor or temp had been placed in an equivalent position.

Mean working days lost to sickness stood at 5.6 per employee, while staff engagement levels spiked from 41% to 53%, according to the report.

Efficiency savings in the area of IT service management achieved during the year were calculated at 11% – some way below the target of 30% that was set by the DWP. But “the remaining predicted savings have been deferred in agreement with the customer”, the report said.

“BPDTS offers excellent value… at a reduced cost to the department relative to external suppliers, and we continue to benchmark our overhead costs and utilisation rates to ensure we remain competitive”
Chair Jeremy Moore

Shortly after the 2019 fiscal year ended, BPDTS was classified as a non-departmental public body. This has entailed the appointment of five new non-executive directors from outside the civil service whose role is to provide “an independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive directors”.

In August, the DWP kicked off its first “tailored review” of BPDTS. The goal of the exercise is “to ensure we remain fit for purpose, well governed and properly accountable”. A full report detailing the results of this review is expected to be published by March 2020.

In his foreword to the report, BPDTS chair Jeremy Moore said: “BPDTS offers excellent value for money by providing the high-quality service and skills required, at a reduced cost to the department relative to external suppliers, and we continue to benchmark our overhead costs and utilisation rates to ensure we remain competitive.”

He added: “We continue to support the strategic aims of DWP and most importantly help to sustain and improve the systems and processes that provide support to the lives and needs of millions of our fellow citizens. We aim to be the partner of choice for the department.”


Sam Trendall

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