Micro March (07)

Made it to Oslo. The whole thing was ridiculously straightforward. Coach from Glasgow to Edinburgh airport. Less than 90 minutes on the plane. Train straight to Oslo Central station. My hotel is literally in the building.

It is cold but not terrifyingly so.

Immediately went to The Dubliner as it was the only pub advertising the Six Nations and the England v Wales game. It is a great pub – if a bit of a maze. 26 quid for three not quite pints of lager was a kick in the unmentionables though! Still England won a great game and the atmosphere was brilliant.

Discovering that there is a Leon in Oslo took care of my sustenance needs. Realising my usual lunch order was more than twice as much was a double kick in those afore mentioned unmentionables. 22 days here is going to sting!

Move in to the AirBnB tomorrow afternoon. I found the building earlier but not actually the entrance. That is tomorrows problem though.

Bristol burr

I was reading this article on the Bristol Post website this morning with interest. The reporter – Tristan Cork – has been tweeting quite a bit recently about the ‘prejudice’ against the Bristolian accent and this article feels like the culmination of that.

As most of you reading this will know I have a broad Bristolian accent. It has never really softened despite most of my working life being spent around nobody who sounded similar. In fact there is a suggestion my determination not to give in to expectations as I became more senior in roles means my accent has gotten stronger over the years!

I can’t remember a time my accent wasn’t remarked on in professional situations – heck even as far back as university my peers and lecturers mentioned it. The ‘jokes’ never sat well with me but also it never really bothered me deeply. When push comes to shove I came from Bristol and they came from….well who cares….it wasn’t Bristol 🙂

When I started public speaking I often started by getting out ahead of the comments by making my ‘I’m a Pirate not a Farmer’ comment. This usually got a laugh and a few Tweets but I don’t really bother with that anymore. I still get a few comments but I’m established enough at this point to take no notice really.

That said I have never agreed to do a podcast as I do dislike the sound of my recorded voice – but I understand this is not uncommon – even from you RP folks!

Has my accent influenced my career negatively? Honestly I have no idea. I’ve done fine. Better in many ways than I could ever have hoped and I was able to do so sounding like myself, living in the neighbourhood I grew up in (albeit with a lot of train travel!), volunteering at the school I went to and generally being a proud, professional Bristolian.

…and lets be honest. I see the world today – the misogyny, the racism, the homophobia, the transphobia – the general hatred of any otherness – and I figure I won pretty big in the lottery of life. I’m a straight white bloke, reasonably well educated, living in Bristol, working in tech, mostly healthy with a supportive family. I mean that is a lot in my favour. I can balance out the fact my accent makes people think I’m stupid.

Although I can’t say I’m impressed it is apparently the least sexy in the UK. Scandalous.

Help with our user research…please!

The Notbinary Alpha team is working with a Government Department to explore how government can best help businesses to navigate the information and support available to them (online). To make sure that we understand businesses’ needs and that we build the right thing for them, we would like to have interviews with a variety of business owners and senior managers.

Taking part will involve a 1-2-1 interview which will last no longer than an hour and can be done either face-to-face or remotely. These interviews will be taking place at a time that suits you between now and Wednesday 18th March.

By taking part, you will help us to build a better service for small businesses. We are offering a £50 Amazon voucher as a thank you for your time.

Who we’re hoping to speak to

Owners or senior managers of businesses that:

  • Have 0 – 50 employees
  • Have been trading for longer than 1 year

Honestly non-digital/tech companies/businesses/shops would be a big win – though obviously a stretch for my network 🙂

If you are interested email me at matt@notbinary.co.uk or comment on this post!

Enterprise empathy

There has been a fair amount of talk about the ills of Microsoft Teams and Office365 on the Twitters these last couple of days and like Vicky said it is starting to smack a bit of digital privilege and honestly is coming across as a bit blinkered.

Look personally I find both Teams and O365 a struggle. I am well and truly in the Slack and Google Docs camp….but it isn’t like either of those are perfect either.

I think the strongest advocates for Google over MS are either under playing the extent of the disruption that move can cause or maybe are a bit too enamoured of disruption in general. There is no doubt that Google Docs/Sheets/Slides are far superior tools for collaboration and sharing but the formatting options on all of them is weak, the ‘suggesting’ option isn’t as useful as track changes and god knows that document and access management in ‘Drive’ is a shambles. Also for anyone who has never used Gmail before its clear benefits to us are totally invisible and again it seems bizarre.

As for Excel vs Sheets? Come on!

The reality is that these Microsoft tools are prevalent and spreading so instead of spitting in the wind I have decided it is time to learn how to get the best out of them. If some of it – as is so often stated – is an installation issue then I want to understand what good looks like and how we can help clients get there. I want to understand what tricks there are to wring every bit of usability out of the tools and what are the red lines where we should just not push and tweak our ways of working instead. How can we leverage these tools to support the cultural change we want to see rather than wasting energy arguing for our tools.

To be honest if the future of work we are advocating can’t cope with some clumsy enterprise clones of popular products we are probably done for anyway.

Unusually for him (sorry mate – just kidding!) Mr Briggs had a sensible and balanced contribution to the ‘debate’ –>

..but even this I think is risky. We already have too many occasions of places where there are ‘haves and have nots’. Teams with more freedom. Individuals using their own devices when others are not permitted. Shadow systems. As for BYOD I’m not really sure I’m convinced that the majority of people want this. It is just another way for their work life to invade their personal.

So I’m not saying we should stop advocating for the ‘better’ tools. I’m always going to push for Slack, Trello, Google Docs etc (though I’m warming to Notion!) but we should be ready, willing and able to make the most of the Microsoft ecosystem (or whatever – well not Lotus!) as well in support of our broader goals.

A rose by any other name..

I’m about to start doing a piece of consulting work for a non public service client – which is rare for me. It is however very much a ‘digital transformation’ focus and it has been…Reassuring? Worrying? I don’t know…just how similar it all is to the work I have been doing for the best part of a decade in and around Government.

I mean to some extent why would it be different – software is eating the world not just the public sector and the ‘cloud’ is a transition for any organisation that existed on the ‘information superhighway’ (remember that) before the ‘cloud’.

Just how similar became clear when I was writing up some ideas/hypotheses I wanted to ‘test’ based on initial conversations…now maybe this is just my own bias – to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail…after all but I think maybe it is just that outside of a relatively small number of internet-era native companies everybody is struggling with the same problems give or take.

I’m not even talking about agile, devops etc. I’m talking a couple of levels above that. How do you do what you can to give those ways of working and modern approaches a chance!

Here are some things I came up with (and have done time and time again one way or another..)

A clear vision for the digital transformation programme supported by appropriate additional materials (a public roadmap, communications artefacts, open KPIs etc) will allow the team to better set expectations and build support from the business/organisation

An agreed prioritisation methodology – and the tools to enforce it (i.e. spend controls) – will allow the digital transformation team to focus attention, people and finances on the most valuable projects, reduce noise and optimise for success

Ensuring that the ‘Business’* is fully committed to the projects they ‘sponsor’ – through the provision of dedicated product owners and subject matter expertise – will deliver better outcomes for the entire organisation and help break silos

This post was at least partially inspired by this great Twitter thread –>


*yea I know – I hate it as well.