Graham Oliver

Graham Oliver-Beech
Grade:GORS Grade 7
Department:Department for Work and Pensions
Education: BSc Mathematics and Philosophy
PhD Mathematics and Computer Science

Reasons for joining GORS

While writing up my PhD I began looking for jobs outside academia. I still enjoyed my subject but started to feel I wanted a job that was more engaging on a day-to-day basis, one with a bit of drive and that involved more working with other people. Finding OR in government fit my requirements perfectly: it gave me the rapidly changing, exciting environment I'd hoped for, but still required me to think analytically. It was also in the public sector, something that was essential for me to be properly motivated. I had very little knowledge of OR when entering GORS, but soon found out that this is very common - OR itself is a very cross-discipline subject - and that my natural inclination towards structuring problems and understanding complex situations fitted in very well.

Career path and experience

I began my GORS career working in a team analysing employment programmes for people on disability benefits. It involved wrestling with large databases (60m+ records) to produce various statistical analyses and reports, and working in a high profile area: welfare reform. I also worked on projects using VBA to produce tools for front-line advisers. On promotion I decided to try out something a bit different. I had a variety of options - pensions forecasting, economic modelling - but I decided to move to work on child poverty. My work involved managing an external research contract, playing a wider role overseeing evaluations of a variety of other activity across government, and providing ad-hoc analytical support and advice to other colleagues in the unit: advising on survey design; writing guidance to local authorities on the use of data; etc. I was then offered a role closer to the front-line services provided by the Department, and jumped at the opportunity. I worked on performance measurement and analysis, particularly around benefit fraud; this involved engagement with various operational staff as well as developing a rigorous analytical structure to our approach to measure development. My role also expanded to cover wider questions on how operational performance and cost-effectiveness should be monitored.

Current role and responsibilities

Universal Credit is one of the major reform projects of the current Government, replacing a swathe of existing state benefits including Tax Credits. I am responsible for developing key service design volumes, drawing on a wide range of data sources and blending in policy and design assumptions, that ensure the operational service and IT will be resourced appropriately. It is a role with serious responsibility given the billion-pound decisions resting on the figures!

Life in GORS

GORS provides a strong professional network across the Civil Service, and while we're all technically employed by one Department or another there is a strong feeling of community and free movement around Departments (location permitting). The number of operational researchers in government is growing as our value is recognised, and GORS facilitates communication with other operational researchers in other Departments who have often tackled similar problems, or have interesting ideas to share; I've had the opportunity to present work at both local seminars and national conferences. Many people play an active role supporting GORS: in my case I have helped plan and organise events - technical training, local seminars, and informal workshops - and also undertaken various roles within the OR community in my Department.