This week I was channeling Jack Kerouac. I managed visits to Defra offices in Worcester, Weybridge, Crewe and Warrington. Caught nine trains, missed two connections, stayed in the most run down (but friendly) Travelodge of my career and witnessed an epic road rage incident.
It was an interesting week though — it started with conversations about an event we are planning for January to bring ‘field operatives’ from the Farming side of Defra together with folks from digital and technology in an ‘open space’ style event to get some conversations going about where digital can really help them. Even after a brief conversation it is clear there are loads of opportunities to improve things. Pretty basic upgrades to hardware and mobile first software design that is actually joined up to backend systems seem like no-brainers (but nothing is that easy!) alongside more innovative opportunities like using drones.
Tuesday I spent a few hours with the ‘Livestock Information’ team thrashing out a roadmap for the next few months activities. The context of the meeting changed pretty early on based on some wider organisational context and to be honest I’m not sure how helpful I ended up being. I felt a little bit like I was throwing up obstacles rather than ideas but sometimes it seems like it is my role to be the voice of the wider Government digital strategy and process. Hopefully this means time will be saved later and the team go into things aware of the wider context but for now it feels a bit negative.
Wednesday I was in Crewe helping the ‘Future Flood Warning’ team prepare for their upcoming GDS Service Assessment. I really enjoyed my time with the team. They have some challenges but were really open and passionate about their work, have a lot of good behaviours as a team and really have been trying to work towards the Service Standard where they can. The challenges shouldn’t be underestimated but all-in-all I was pretty impressed.
This role of ‘GDS whisperer’ is still pretty new to me and while I have lived and breathed the Standard for a couple of years now (and been a proponent of agile & user-centric working a lot longer) it still feels weird to spend so much time interpreting and contextualising something I didn’t actually write for different audiences so often. I quite enjoy it but structured it isn’t!
Thursday I spent the day in the Environment Agency Warrington offices — this is where Colin, one of the other members of the Enabling Digital Transformation team and EA digital veteran, is based as well as a couple of the other digital delivery teams. I had no specific meetings but I wanted to pick Colin’s brain a bit and just get a feel for how other teams are working.
I really liked the way the Warrington office is set up — it has been described to me as like a comprehensive school but the plus side of that is it is easy to set up the ‘classrooms’ as team rooms. The Flood and ‘I Want to Fish’ teams have their own rooms, with walls and doors. This is actually optimal for agile teams (IMHO) and I would have killed for these kinds of spaces in the past.
I also got to pick up my work iPad which means I can stop carrying my own Macbook with me everywhere — particularly as it is starting to fall apart. The mic no longer works, the webcam is intermittent at best and the USB port on the lefthand side is broken. Dropping it at Paddington really didn’t do it any favours!
Next week I’m back to Crewe and have a couple of days in London — also starting to investigate whether there are opportunities for me to get directly involved in one of the next tranche of projects being delivered. I’m itching to get a bit (lot) more hands on.