The Only Way is Essex…Head of Product

I’ve been working with the Essex County Council Service Transformation team as interim Head of Product since April and as ever with these kinds of roles one of my main objectives is to help them replace me. Built in obsolescence 🙂 

As subscribers to my jobs newsletter (you aren’t? Quickly go and fix that!) will know that search for my successor is underway – we are also looking for User Research and Content Design leaders – so I thought I’d draft a quick blogpost to answer some questions potential applicants might have that you can’t really cover in job descriptions. I’m also available for informal chats – just DM me on Twitter or email me at matt@notbinary.co.uk.

The Head of Product Management actually only manages a single other product person at the moment (an ECC ‘veteran’ with a lot of knowledge of how to get things done in the organisation and a fast growing product skill-set) but additionally manages a team that will include a couple of agile delivery managers, a couple of front-end developers and an interactive designer. This is currently a little fluid but it will likely land on something very close to this.

The goal of this team (under me at least – the next person might have a different plan!) is to bring a focus on shipping to the Service Transformation team. This might be prototypes, MVPs or small production projects. The team embraces a lean/agile approach, proving the worth of an iterative approach driven by user research by delivering. We are very passionate about demonstrating modern, attractive web products can also be accessible. 

The role has a wider responsibility to the organisation as well to be an advocate for these modern agile practices with a big streak of pragmatism. This is no place for dogma – it needs a digital diplomat to build a consensus. 

Somewhat unusually Technology and Data are elsewhere in the organisation so an element of this role will be helping maintain those relationships and support a coordinated approach to delivery.

The opportunity is huge. Like so many places COVID-19 accelerated many conversations about digital ways of working and ECC have ambitious plans. The Service Transformation team is really well placed to ride this wave. The team consists of service designers, content designers, user researchers, business designers and continuous improvement practitioners. Ben Unsworth is joining in September to lead the team and there is strong sponsorship from the Exec Director, CEO and on the political side.

From a logistical point of view the team is all remote at the moment but I do suspect down the line there will be at least some occasional requirements to be in Chelmsford. It is a Microsoft house so Teams is your home.

The culture is supportive with a strong focus on staff well being that I’ve been impressed with. It is local government though – any candidate is going to need to come prepared to navigate a bureaucracy and have some patience at times.

All in all it is a lovely team and a great opportunity. I think it suits a digital generalist who has some experience leading delivery teams and working with senior leadership.

Like I said earlier give me a shout if you want to talk about it off the record. I’m here to help.

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