myWeek (s4e17)

Open(tech) your mind


It is Sunday morning as I write this — one of the few West Wing episodes I don’t like much from the early years is on mute on the TV and to be honest I have been staring at a blank document in Ulysses for a while. For the first time this ‘season’ I’m struggling a bit with writing this one. It wasn’t a bad week or anything — in fact it was probably a bright green on the old RAG status of life — but I’m knackered. It came on in a wave at the end of the week and knocked me for six and then I went to OpenTech yesterday (which was brilliant) but that drained the last of my resources. I’m wiped.

It was a bit of a grab bag of tasks again this week without much coherence which might have contributed to my tiredness. I didn’t really get a run at anything for more than an hour or two.

Some of the things I did this week were;

  • more user support for FixMyStreet — it felt slower this week but that might also be because I changed my approach. I came in 45 minutes earlier to answer emails and also scheduled a bit of time at the end of the day to answer anything that came in during the work day.
  • account/project management for ‘work for hire’ clients — there were a few things this week. A couple of client calls that required follow up, some juggling of scheduling to cover off some work while the usual lead is away, investigating some issues before deciding whether it is new work or maintenance. None of which was difficult but it is time consuming and probably requires a slightly less cluttered mind to do well!
  • account management/support for some FixMyStreet clients — some in person lightweight training and support. Just helping the team get up to speed with the features of the product and getting a feel for their work flows and whether there are any tweaks we can make to improve things for them.
  • writing user guides — well in the end it was working out how I was going to write user guides. The product isn’t really so complex as to require a load of explanation and trying to write it as a narrative just seemed to over complicate things and I am always loathe to just churn out another PDF no-one will ever read. In the end I decided to try a web based ‘guide’ mainly consisting on a bunch of animated GIFs and some bullet points. Supplemented with an A5 handout for peoples desks with a couple of popular gotchas. Need to accelerate past the planning stage now.
  • writing proposals for potential new work — I wrote one (probably too long and too formal) proposal for a large potential piece of work on Monday. I hadn’t been involved in the initial work it had spun out from and while I was well briefed it took a little longer than I hoped to properly tune into the best way to present our approach to their needs. Was pretty pleased with it in the end. Also just helped out a little (mainly as a sounding board) for a pitch for an international funder and started a proposal for an opportunity from a Council before reading the clarification document they released and thinking better of it.
  • product marketing — starting to think this incarnation of my product management career is leaning more towards some kind of hybrid support/marketing role. Which actually I am pretty OK with. I remember a lot of posts about ‘customer service is the new marketing’ a few years ago which I always liked. Anyway I am also doing a lot of thinking, planning and writing about the best way to present FMS Pro etc from now on. Martin is working on a new marketing page for us (based on My’s words) and I have been setting up a blog and starting the research for the newsletter as well as planning a case study (or two).

    We are also working on a demo site — based on a ‘fictional’ city so that potential customers can try things out and see the /admin offerings. I am probably more excited about this than is reasonable but I think it is going to be a big win.

    I feel a bit dirty saying it but I am also reading ‘Hacking Growth’. I am learning a lot from it — not least that you shouldn’t judge a movement by the title — or a handful of ethically iffy examples you come across. I’ll do a book report when I’m done. 

    Oh and I wrote a team update — the external one is a bit bland as I ended up cutting a lot from the internal one this time (just because it had a lot of client names etc that I’m not sure I should be sharing — I might give them all codenames!).

  • financial forecasting — well this was a new one. I’ve never had to really do this kind of thing before — you don’t really forecast income in the public sector (at least not in my bits!). I basically created a bunch of scenarios based on a bunch of (informed) assumptions and tried to run that forward in time without being too pessimistic or optimistic. I ended up with a headache but with a spreadsheet I found pretty useful and was quite proud of myself for five minutes or so!
  • public speaking — I gave a ‘lunch and learn’ talk over the road at Sift Digital after an invite from Mike Dunn. It was basically the talk Jonathan and I gave at WIA:Manchester a couple of months ago except with me stumbling over Jonathan’s slides! It went down OK I think. They are a nice bunch. Yesterday I gave a new talk at OpenTech. This one is about blogging and openness. It is a topic close to my heart but probably the first time I’ve really tried to articulate it. I think it has the makings of a good talk — it seemed to go down OK with the audience but to be honest I think it was out of step with the theme/tone of the day at OpenTech. Was a bit of an outlier (which begs the question if not there where!?!)
  • went to OpenTech — which brings us nicely on to attending OpenTech yesterday. This is one of my very favourite events. Alongside GovCamp it is essentially my tribal gathering 🙂

    It was lovely to see everyone and there were some great talks (in a change of tactic I actually tried to get to more sessions than usual.) Other people will surely blog about the sessions in detail but I learned loads about private browsing from Hadley, was inspired by the new Doteveryone mission (and slide design) from Rachel, reassured by the approach Rose was recommending around user research, impressed by the verbal gymnastics from James as he ripped apart the Remain response to Leave tactics around the notorious bus, proud to work with someone like Tony, amazed at the ambition of Ed and finished the day excited by the opportunities thanks to Jeni. A day well spent.

Phew. So, give or take, that was week seventeen. I’m going to treat myself to a few episodes of the new Master of None series on Netflix now before starting to write up yesterdays talk. No rest for the blogger.