The Jukesies 2018

So what started as a bit of a joke now appears to be an annual thing that people expect (well a handful of them anyway) and who am I to disappoint my audience.

Blogger(s) of the year

There were a lot of wonderful people blogging a lot this year — Team #weeknotes had another great year, Amanda wrote some amazing stuff during #NaBloPoMo, Cassie Robinson. used her job change as a spur to publish a series of brilliant posts and has continued her momentum at Big Lottery with her weeknotes.

That said though my Blogger of the Year is Will Myddelton. He isn’t the most prolific but everything he writes is an epic that is required reading for anybody with the slightest interest in user research in and around public service.

Blogpost of the year

Here are a couple of posts I wanted to feature →

View at
View at
View at
View at

..but the winner is at

Dan Hon’s post is one I have returned to more than once over the course of the year and as things are clearly not getting any better I believe the call to action is more urgent than ever.

Surprise of the year

The whole Parliament data thing came as a shock for a whole bunch of reasons. Not least the timing and manner in which the decision was communicated. It was a bit of a gut punch to the team of course but also the wider linked/open data community in public service. This was/is a team that is widely admired for their knowledge and approach so I suspect it has made a lot of people nervous.

As ever there will be layers and layers to these things and politics to play out within the institution that few if any of us will ever be privy to but I hope everyone involved lands OK.

The Semantic Web award for tech for techs sake award

I’m going to ‘plead the Fifth’ on this one this year. I have an opinion, Unfortunately I currently have something of a professional conflict of interests!

Talk of the year

I wasn’t at ‘Agile Australia’ but this talk from Martin Fowler (one of the original signatories to the agile manifesto) is easily my favourite talk (in fact it is probably my favourite post full stop as I actually initially read the transcript). It totally encapsulates my approach and attitude towards agile. Especially my ‘agile not Agile™’ angle.

I really cannot recommend it enough.

Event of the year

I was lucky enough to attend a number of great events this year — I got to attend a Delib Practical Democracy day in Wellington, the Ethical Tech Summit in New York, Service Design in Government in Edinburgh and more but it is safe to say that one really stands out.

OneTeamGov Global really was a spectacular achievement — a truly international event that really encouraged a spirit of collaboration and ambition. I’m looking forward to finding a way to attend the next one in Canada!

Tweet(s) of the year

Not a single tweet but the ongoing #adayisnotenough series of tweets from Audree Fletcher spotlighting amazing women working in and around digital has been a triumph that deserves celebrating.

Team(s) of the year

This is a joint ‘award’ because in my head their successes are somewhat intertwined. So this year I would like to shine a light on dxw and the Digital Marketplace team.

The analysis of the ‘armchair audit’ that dxw did on DOS, the consistent drive to encourage improvement and the generally constructive approach to it all really provided a cause for many of us to line up behind and support when previously it had been scattered at best. The really great thing was to see the Digital Marketplace actively engage, open up and really start to change the conversation around procurement. There is still a lot to do but I was really impressed.

Plus dxw opened an office in Leeds which means it is a little easier to add roles in Yorkshire to my jobs newsletter 🙂

Internet of Public Service Jobs — survey results

So 112 people filled in my survey of the subscribers to the jobs newsletter. Of those people 68 entered their email to be in the draw for the books I offered as prizes.

There are 731 people currently subscribed (and probably another 100 who regularly check the Medium posts). Not sure if that is a good response or not but it feels OK.

Most respondents came via the newsletter as you’d expect given the numbers and as I’ve always assumed the vast majority are curious about what roles are out there rather than actively job hunting.

I always assumed there would be a lot of Civil Servants on the list but almost 27% from ‘private’ companies was higher than I expected and only 8% from local government is a bit of a fail on my part I think.

A third of people have applied for jobs they first saw on the list — this is amazing. Much (much) higher than I would have thought — makes me wish I hadn’t removed the follow up question about whether anybody had got a job they first discovered via the newsletter!

This was a slightly jokey question (which some people didn’t get — though why should they!) based on how London-centric the list can seem sometimes despite my best efforts. It is about the break down I’d expect given who I know subscribe and the central gov focus often. Still I need to try and aim for a better spread of roles wherever possible I think.

I thought this would be closer to be honest — it is increasingly difficult to find 10 roles to feature each week where the salaries are available in all of them. I find this pretty annoying — especially from public service organisations (yes BBC — that includes you.)

The most popular roles by a long way were product management, delivery management and service design. Content design was low enough that I think I might stop adding them for a while and data science et al was lower than I expected.

The question I forgot to ask was about seniority of roles people were interested in — next time for that one I guess.

Anyway thanks if you filled the survey in — there certainly seems to be enough interest for me to keep things going next year. Though it will have a slightly new name.

I will take a couple of weeks off over Christmas but heres to another 100 editions!

Internet-era ways of working principles from

I’m on record as saying that the original design principles (latest version here) remain the most important thing (amongst many, many important things) that emerged from the formation of the Government Digital Service. They provided a blueprint for digital service teams across the public sector and beyond and articulated things that many of us already believed but were struggling to communicate more widely.

Many of that original GDS team now make up and they have published a new, updated take on those principles with an important piece of contextual guidance.

..break any of these rules sooner than do anything barbaric. It’s better to be pragmatic and make some progress, than wait for perfect circumstances that will never come, and not make any progress at all.

The new dozen principles are an evolution of those that came before them — and like the USDS version — show signs of lessons learned at the sharp end of trying to transform legacy organisations.

Personally I can see these finding themselves printed up and displayed on many a wall adjacent to agile teams and I’ll certainly be referring to the list in the future (alongside the capabilities outlined in the Accelerate book.)

There is much more context on the blogpost — I recommend having a read but here are the headlines →

1. Design for user needs, not organisational convenience

2. Test your riskiest assumptions with actual users

3. The unit of delivery is the empowered, multidisciplinary team

4. Do the hard work to make things simple

5. Staying secure means building for resilience

6. Recognise the duty of care you have to users, and to the data you hold about them

7. Start small and optimise for iteration. Iterate, increment and repeat

8. Make things open; it makes things better

9. Fund product teams, not projects

10. Display a bias towards small pieces of technology, loosely joined

11. Treat data as infrastructure

12. Digital is not just the online channel

Skimming Harvard’s 2018 State of Digital Transformation report..

Report: 2018 State of Digital Transformation

Harvard Kennedy School has a great programme at the moment looking at digital government around the world led by David Eaves and in June they had a bit of a ‘summit’ — bringing together practitioners from various corners of the globe to share their lessons and experiences. This is a report that was born out of that event and seeks to aggregate and synthesise some of the discussions.

It is kind of an interesting thing — it still doesn’t feel like there is a massive audience for writings on this topic and for those of us niche enough to be interested are not really going to find anything new here — it is smart and sensible but not new. Maybe I just live and breath this stuff a bit too much?

There is a suggested ‘digital maturity model’ — there is very little in it I disagree with and lots of it I would wholeheartedly endorse…but…I actually have never really seen the need for “a shared set of definitions for maturity” that apparently everyone at the summit agreed “would be very helpful”.

Anyway my perspective is likely a bit different — I have never been involved in the national level of this stuff — doing my thing on the edges in the little specialist corners of government.

Still I’m never going to totally dislike any model which includes three of my favourite hobby horses;

Elsewhere in the report I not surprisingly I liked Kathy’s demand for an empowered product management profession in government →

We need roles in government for people who think beyond just building to a list of initial requirements. We need product managers and leaders with a product mindset to make sure we keep iterating on requirements, find gaps in our knowledge, and continually improve.

I liked the sentiment in the section about ‘building better teams for digital government’ and if you are reading this you’ll probably be aware I have opinions in this space but I found it all a bit naive really. Building that ‘talent pipeline’, finding the right way of selling the mission(s), changing perceptions of the challenges within public service, competing not just with the internet giants but all the cool agencies, the financial benefits of contracting, the freedom of freelancing and who knows what else — none of this is trivial in the UK, US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand (the places I have friends are a bit English speaking I realise!) and the habit of robbing ‘Peter to pay Paul’ has now gone international.

The single domain remains the achievement of GDS that I am least interested in weirdly — I admire it and think it is a good thing — but for me the most important parts of GDS were/are spend controls, the service standard/associated assessments and the service manual (and maybe latterly the Academy). In fact in my alt-history of GDS it would have been a Government wide profession similar to the Government Statistical Service with a central core that just provided those carrot/sticks and leadership. Anyway this is a long way to say I wish Emma Gawen had written more about spend controls etc rather than the single domain as she really knows it and why it matters.

All in all it is worth a read if you are one of the dozen or so of us who might find themselves looking at something like this on a rainy Saturday afternoon or if you want something to show to someone just starting out on this digital transformation journey in public service.

In fact thinking on it as I write this I see how I could re-purpose elements of the maturity model to help with some of my consultancy these days so thanks for that folks!

Year of the Dog: Notes from Lesser Ripening

Honestly this tweet pretty much sums up my week:

It is only an interim position so I don’t want to get carried away but it really does feel good to be back in the game. It feels like I’ve been out of it forever. I suffered from a bit of a ‘failure to launch’ at mySociety — crippled by impostor syndrome and hobbled by a lack of mental tools to cope with working remotely. Swansea has been a learning experience but it wasn’t what I expected and again my usual bag of tricks was pretty much useless.

For the next few months I’m at the BBC as an interim ‘Executive’ Product Manager helping the new Datalab team. This is a multi-disciplinary team of engineers, architects and data scientists with a fascinating remit. I’m sure I’ll write more about that over time — and I’ll certainly be pointing to more interesting things other people in the team have written.

The immediate to-do list is like a roll call of things I’ve missed doing:

  • Produce an open roadmap
  • Work on the vision
  • Get the team working and thinking in the open
  • Iterate on the ways of working to get more focused
  • Build out a backlog and an approach to prioritisation
  • ‘Stakeholder’ relations and ‘selling’ that vision
  • Help with hiring

I am as ever thankful to all the amazing things people share openly in my network (and beyond) as I’ve been revisiting all sorts of resources from people like Giles, Jamie, Emily, Ross, Janet and beyond to give my toolkit a bit of a refresh before diving in.

Anyway an opportunity to work with a talented team where it is clear you can contribute at least a little something to their growth has to be a great week eh?

The BBC was on my organisation ‘bucket list’ as well. It is very much as I expected — there is loads of interesting stuff happening, it has its own bureaucracy not a million miles from the civil service but also a bunch of eccentricities all of its own (which clearly I have not scratched the surface of yet..).

Wednesday I ‘popped’ to Swansea to check in with the team there. While I was in the US the issues we had with one of the projects got closed down and we made a few changes to how things are operating day to day but I’m still taking a certain amount of responsibility for the relationship in my status as ‘civil service whisperer’. It was a beautiful day and it was great to catch up with people and have a really good chat with Adam our Delivery lead on site. He is a top chap who I like and rate a lot and he has had some real tough family stuff to deal with recently while working miles from home and his strength is inspiring.

I also had my probationary appraisal and 1–2–1 with James our CEO — sat outside the bar of the Swansea Grand Hotel 🙂 It was a great chat — shockingly I passed my probation! We had a good chat about future plans and an attempt to bring just enough structure and process to the company. This is one of those (many) things I have opinions on.

Then I went to Cardiff to see Beyonce and Jay Z with Laura. This was really an amazing evening — even if I did have to be on the train back to London at 06:00 the next day. Ouch.

Thursday night was also brilliant as I got to meet-up with you wonderful weeknoters! That this group exists remains something I find hard to process — let alone how amazing everyone one is. Thanks to Dan for making it happen and to everyone who came along for being so brilliant.

Other things happened. Interviews. Hangout with Terry. Panicked phone calls that ended up being interesting opportunities. Meetings with film makers.

Thanks to everybody who made this week so special. Next Friday I am off to New Zealand for a very short trip to give a couple of talks and be hoping to sell some people on the idea of joining the weeknotes tribe!