Weasel words from the DWP on Universal Credit?

English: This poster provides a good visual of...
English: This poster provides a good visual of the standard Agile Software Development methodology. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Britain is once more being an IT pioneer, with the world’s biggest “agile” software development project – for the Universal Credit that will, the law states, replace a myriad of different state benefits in the autumn of 2013.

If you know anything about software development the above sentence ought to make you feel, at the least, a bit nervous because what it is telling you is that the livelihoods of millions of the most vulnerable people are in the hands of a software experiment running to an extremely tight deadline.

Agile methods have been developed to counter some of the traditional failings of software development, which often occur because of a failure to understand the requirements of the client, and centre on the idea of handing the client repeated builds of the product for testing, feedback and refinement.

So when the Department of Work and Pensions say, as they have done today, that

the majority of Universal Credit IT systems had already been built and were being tested.

Then their words could mean next to nothing – the idea with agile is to build as quickly as possible and test as much as possible. But what could be being tested could be close to useless.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe the whole system is all but completed, a multi-billion software project could be about to be delivered on time and on budget using experimental methods and at a scale never before seen. If it happens it will make Britain’s software houses the world’s leaders, in demand from all corners.



  1. One virtue of having a monopoly on power, whether it be your DWP, an employer or Microsoft, is that you can turn all your users into beta testers without their consent.

    Still, your country exceeded expectations with the Olympics; perhaps it will do so again.

  2. “If it happens it will make Britain’s software houses the world’s leaders, in demand from all corners.”

    It will also show that pigs can actually fly.

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