Travelling the DVLA digital motoring journey
28 March 2017
Cardiff Business School’s Executive Education Breakfast Briefing series recently showcased the digital journey travelled by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to a near paperless operation.
Sarah Lethbridge, Director of Executive Education, opened proceedings welcoming the assembled audience, made up of academic, policy and business stakeholders, before introducing John Hewson, Service Manager at the DVLA.
The DVLA has undertaken significant system and service improvements in the last 15 to 20 years. These developments were always centred on transforming the customer experience and taking advantage of technological and digital advances.
John was responsible for directing and marshalling the DVLAs cultural and practical transformation from a paper heavy, face to face, and time-consuming tax and registration process to an almost entirely online system.
The transformation to a digital service took place in two stages. The earliest phase started in 1998, when an online service for registering new vehicles was introduced meaning that users did not need to attend a local office. Today 97% of new cars are registered in this way.
The second phase was the most high profile digital change for the DVLA. This involved the introduction of a new online car tax system, which went live in 2004. More than 40 million tax transactions are now handled digitally every year.
Following introduction of the service there was a lot of ‘offline’ work involved in communicating that the new service was available. This was partly achieved by direct marketing allied to the car tax reminders. However, take up began to slow and eventually plateaued. Customer surveys and focus groups highlighted that once users had transacted online they were unlikely to go back to the paper method so getting them to use it for the first time was vital. Publicity and incentivisation became important components in the drive to increase awareness. The most significant initiative to generate awareness was a relationship with Seat where customers who used the online service were automatically entered into a prize draw to win a free car. The DVLA gave away a car a month for three years.
Online taxation increased and overtook the manual process leading to the abolition of the tax disc in 2014.
Speaking after the event, John said: “Those early digital services were delivered using waterfall methodology and using our single large IT supplier building mainly on legacy technology. They’d cost us a lot and we weren’t able to deliver more digital service without a new approach. With the push from Government Digital Services combined with our in-housing of IT we discovered we could deliver a lot more digital service at a more affordable price and shorter timescales.”
The new approach enabled the DVLA to deliver a whole host of additional services and developments to its digital offering including: transferral of personalised number plates online; introduction of a fleet vehicle management system; process to pay penalties online; ability to notify of a medical conditional online; and facility to view your driving license and history online.
The digital journey travelled by the DVLA wasn’t without its challenges and John gave an overview of some of the major hurdles. Chief amongst these were building advocacy and prompting buy-in to the changes; questions around security and data protection versus ability to transact online; lack of flexibility in core legacy systems; and lack of agility in governance structures. Many of these elements remain and form the basis of the DVLAs future plans to enhance its digital offering and remove more paper from its service interactions. Other plans include consolidation of its channels, transformation of legacy systems and increasing service integration, while ensuring that the agency is able to proactively and efficiently respond to new technological advancements such as autonomous and connected vehicles.
Watch a recording of the session via Panopto.
The next Cardiff Business School Executive Education Breakfast Briefing - Brexit and Beyond... - will take place on Monday 8 May 2017. This event, sponsored by Bruton Knowles, is being delivered by key partners of the Business School - OSTC FX, a specialised foreign exchange service established to deal with the uncertainty surrounding volatile currency markets, and Market Squared, a team of finance professionals dedicated to producing online educational trading applications. Find our more and register now.