Looking back: CDPS year in review 2021-22 


  1. Executive summary: users first in Wales
    1. Outcomes of our work in 2021-22
      1. Mapping the Welsh digital landscape
      2. Digital inclusion
      3. Skills for the future
      4. Opportunities for knowledge-sharing
    2. Diverse discoveries: our impact upon services
    3. Working in the open
  2. Deputy minister’s forward
  3. Chair’s introduction
  4. Our delivery objectives
    1. Objective: Help people in Wales to use modern digital services
    2. Objective: Prepare leaders for digital transformation
    3. Objective: Stimulate innovation
    4. Objective: Build skills for digital engagement
  5. Our delivery activities
    1. Activity: Advance digital transformation
    2. Activity: Work in the open
    3. Activity: Develop digital leadership
    4. Activity: Provide leadership training
    5. Activity: Build communities
    6. Activity: Develop service standards
    7. Activity: Develop a modern technology architecture
    8. Activity: Map digital inclusion
    9. Activity: Support Welsh SMEs
  6. The way forward for CDPS

1. Executive summary: users first in Wales

In its first full year of operation, the Centre for Digital Public Services has prepared the ground for services in Wales that put the needs of the user first and foremost. We’re helping to deliver digital public services that are simpler, faster and easier to use. They’re services that let citizens get what they need from the Welsh Government, councils and charities as efficiently as possible and then get on with their lives.

We’ve prepared the ground for better public services by:

This review looks back over CDPS’s activities during the financial year 2021-22. It shows how those activities, and their outcomes, map to our founding objectives. CDPS wants to build a lasting source of digital expertise in Wales – with that in mind, the review also shows how our activity aligns with the 7 well-being goals and 5 ways of working in the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

We are, too, practising what we preach. The review is written in plain English, using short sentences and language most readers will understand. Diagrams and charts have enough colour contrast for visually impaired people to make them out. Graphics all have an alternative text explanation – ‘alt text’ – which screen-reader apps can read aloud.

Finally, we’re publishing the review as HTML web pages on the CDPS website, rather than in the outdated (and poorly accessible) PDF format. We’re also using multimedia content – video interviews with public sector colleagues CDPS has worked with, as well as from people working at CDPS explaining their work.

This executive summary highlights the main outcomes from CDPS’s activity in 2021-22. It summarises our impact upon specific services – what we’ve helped to build. And it shows how we’ve worked in the open throughout our first year, reporting progress and challenges transparently.

1.1 Outcomes of CDPS’s work in 2021-22

1.1.1 Outcome: mapping the Welsh digital landscape

To work effectively within the Welsh public sector, CDPS needed a map of the territory. We’ve started to create one – the first overview of the state of digital public services in Wales – which we’ve called the Digital Landscape Review (DLR). The DLR team have spoken to 100s of people working in the public sector, from leaders to frontline staff. Those interviewees come from more than 30 organisations including the Welsh Government, as well as local government and government-sponsored groups.

From that very broad consultation, the DLR team proposed 16 digital opportunities for CDPS to support delivery of better public services. From those opportunities, our board has proposed a shortlist for CDPS to work on, with partners, in 2022-23 and beyond.

1.1.2 Outcome: digital inclusion

No matter how technically advanced a digital service is, it fails if it doesn’t serve everyone that it could. One important finding from the DLR is how unequal digital access in Wales is. Too many people are missing out on the benefits of the digital world, including digital public services. They’re missing out because of their geography (if technical infrastructure is lacking), poor digital skills (due to their generation or education level, for example) or accessibility barriers (such as a vision or reading difficulty).

To address this kind of inequality, one part of the DLR has developed into a separate project – a Digital Inclusion Directory. The directory includes activities run by Digital Communities Wales and other Welsh organisations to include people in the digital world. It compares Wales’s approach to digital inclusion with the approach of the other UK nations and top-performing EU countries.

1.1.3 Outcome: skills for the future 

Civil servants, public servants and third sector staff in Wales need the digital skills to design and deliver user-centred services. Those services must make the public sector more efficient while better meeting the needs of the people who use them. Passing on such skills to people working in the public sector has been a crucial outcome for CDPS in 2021-22. We’ve achieved it through wide-ranging training and in other ways such as coaching, workshops and online seminars.

Our training in user-centred design (UCD) and Agile skills began in 2021-22 with ‘immediate needs’ courses. That training covered what our research showed to be the most pressing knowledge gaps among public servants. The courses, run by leaders from the UCD professions, have trained more than 600 people, at all levels, from 80 public sector organisations in Wales.

1.1.4 Outcome: opportunities for knowledge-sharing 

We’ve not just passed on skills in formal training. Feedback suggests one-on-one coaching within a multidisciplinary team can also be highly valuable. Using coaching, the primary-healthcare team, for example, helped a delivery manager to move from conventional ‘waterfall’ to Agile service development. Lunch-and-learn or drop-in sessions on user-centred subjects, such as those run by Natural Resources Wales and Sport Wales teams, have also been common.

Finally, CDPS’s webinars and communities of practice have been excellent ways to share knowledge. At webinars such as ‘Promoting the Welsh language’ and ‘Keep it simple: practising content design’, experts demonstrate techniques and processes. Meanwhile, our 2 communities of practice, Communicating Digital and Building Bilingual Services, are generating awareness and opportunities for peer support.

1.2 Diverse discoveries: our impact upon services

Agile working – progressing in small stages, constantly testing – is fundamental to CDPS. In our first year of operation, individual CDPS partnerships have mainly been in the first and second Agile phases: discovery and alpha. Working in partnership with other public sector organisations, we’ve done intensive research with users of public services from health to environmental protection and community sport. That research has resulted in a bank of knowledge about users that we can use to help build digital services based upon people’s real, demonstrable needs.

CDPS’s primary healthcare discovery, done with Digital Services for Patients and Public (DSPP), has involved many hours of interviews with GPs, practice staff and Welsh residents. Recently completed, it has given a very detailed picture of provider and patient experiences. Using the discovery results, CDPS has shared evidenced statements about user-centred primary care services for DSPP to consider acting upon.

The first service CDPS worked on, Access to adult social care, was a partnership with 3 local authorities to improve communication with social care users. Research showed that social care recipients needed more personalised information, including how long they would have to wait for help. The CDPS team on the service worked with councils to bring user text messaging in line with modern tailored communications from, for example, banks and hospitals. Neath Port Talbot Council has now been able to take the ‘Track my request’ service inhouse.

The hazardous waste discovery has been a chance to build a user-centred digital service, on Agile principles, with Natural Resources Wales (NRW). The combined discovery team researched the needs of hazardous waste treatment users by speaking to NRW experts and the waste treatment industry. The team are now testing prototypes of an end-to-end service intended to make treatment more efficient and to help more people follow the law.

CDPS’s public sector hubs discovery, done for the Welsh Government, addressed a big need from the pandemic. The need was to find an alternative workplace – a ‘hub’ – for people who could no longer work from the office but who also found it difficult to work from home. CDPS did research into the reasons for this need with diverse workers including Welsh speakers, disabled people and people with mental health needs. That research backs up the recommendations CDPS has now made to the Welsh Government about choosing an online hub-booking provider.

The Sport Wales discovery came from the need to make community sporting grants more accessible. Research showed that the Sport Wales grant application process was too complex and used formal language that put people off. (One user said: “That ain’t for me. I don’t have a degree.”) During the alpha stage of Agile development, the team tested prototypes of a new service. These service models use simple language that more users understand and pare back content to give only the information applicants need at each stage. A more inclusive service will open sports funding up to everyone who’s eligible, while reducing administrative costs for Sport Wales.

CDPS is also working with the Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA) on a land and property data proof of concept. The combined CDPS-WRA team have been investigating how a data platform could support fairer, geographically varied land taxes (and possibly grow to be a data source for the wider Welsh public sector). The WRA wants to become a fully digital organisation, and this taxation prototype is a big steppingstone to that aim.

CDPS has, finally, been able to support other organisations facing urgent circumstances in 2021-22. Our digital experts helped to reduce the impact on children’s learning of a school web-filtering incident involving the Welsh Public Sector Broadband Aggregation network. A discovery is now looking at how a future web-filtering service could meet the needs of schools and learners.

1.3 Working in the open

Like Agile development and user-centred thinking, working in the open is in the DNA of CDPS. One reason for working in the open is clear – to make sure that we share what we learn from developing digital services as broadly as possible. But there’s another strong reason to work transparently: it signals a change from the closed, bureaucratic image of public – particularly government – services that unfortunately still exists.

By contrast, CDPS believes the public sector should lead in developing simple, easy to use services built for what the founder of the content design practice Sarah Winters has called “squishy humans” – all of us. Our full programme of live show and tells (recorded and hosted on YouTube), newsletters, weeknotes, webinars, social media and blog posts is devoted to showing our working as openly as possible.

The body of this review shows in detail how CDPS’s activities in 2021-22 have met our founding objectives – to meet a digital skills shortage and other crucial needs. For each activity, the review sets out the goal, who CDPS worked with, what we did and what we’re doing next.

But first let’s hear from our deputy minister, Lee Waters, and our chairperson, Jessica Leigh Jones.

– Harriet Green and Myra Hunt

Joint chief executive officers

Centre for Digital Public Services

2. Deputy minister’s foreword

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters, looks back on CDPS’s achievements and challenges since launch and its principle of designing services around people

3. Chair’s introduction

CDPS’s chairwoman, Jessica Leigh Jones, on her role providing strategic direction to the centre and what excites her about the next 12 months

Next: Our delivery objectives