Weeknotes S2Ep08

A bit of space

Overarching feeling of the week

A much quieter week, I’ve had some space to think and some opportunities to “be nosy” within work hours rather than outside of them.

Space to do things which are interesting, helpful, useful. Space to learn.

I feel a bit better, and a bit more like myself. I’m not sure my motivation is back completely. But it’s better than it has been recently.


This week I had some time to look back at the Opportunities and Outcomes document that I created back in S01 Ep07, after conversations with Stefan at DWP and Adele and Chad at GDS.

When I checked it, I realised that I set up the sheet on July 31st, so time has flown! But, that gives me 3 months of information to review.

It’s only me using the sheet at the moment despite sharing it with the other BPs, so the majority of the things on there are with me (or I’m pairing with one of the other BPs on it).

I actually got some really good info out of it, including info about the type and amount of work I usually have going on:

  • Generally 25 opportunities of varying sizes on the go at any one time
  • I’ve classified 12 of my current open opportunities as “Digital Service” that is, things which are public facing, cross departmental or significant in cost and scale
  • For Digital Services I’m generally scoping, supporting, assuring. managing continuous engagement. Working between teams and with GDS or our digital team. But not delivering directly.
  • I’ve classed 7 as “Application” in that they are requests for productivity tools for business units in my department only (typically small groups) and predominantly requests to buy off the shelf applications.
  • Work on applications tends to be scoping, business analysis, helping users to understand how their team works and what they actually need, as well as making a call on whether we should actually spend money and how.
  • I’ve closed 19 opportunities (they are finished) and paused 5 (the requirement has gone away) I think this would be higher if there were more Applications projects and less Digital Services. But in reality this is the way the balance is tipped for me and I prefer it that way.

I’ve also got an overview of the value I’ve been able to add in the closed opportunities:

  • Direct cost savings are £19,000 (in one opportunity)
  • I’ve made cost savings by helping teams to use our existing workplace applications in 4 instances (unquantified as these didn’t get to scoping a new application) Idea: I suppose I could estimate this?
  • More indirect cost savings by supporting procurement activity in 4 instances (and *much* more difficult to quantify, but there’s also; helping to ensure good suppliers, good relationships, good work which is important). Any ideas on how you can measure this greatly received!
  • I’ve delivered 1 user research workshop (with Atique) to a stakeholder in Implementation Unit and 5 of his stakeholders at What Works Centres, they’re now going to set up a user research peer group to continue discussions. That’s capability building, folks.

You know what. I’m not sure if that sounds like much to you, but it feels good to me. I’m glad I can actually start measuring real stuff.


That ^Dan [1] at DWP invited me along to an event called Social About Gov at GDS on Tuesday. He had seen me on Twitter and read some of my blogs. That was nice.

In reality I don’t think the event was really for me. It was mostly social media managers and comms people in the room and the starts of them building a community. I’m more concerned about how we use blogging and social media to build networks, collaborate and work in the open, there was no discussion on that.

But I stayed for 3 show and tells:

  • NHS Digital about using LinkedIn for recruitment: Useful.
  • TFL talking about their Twitter and Facebook Messenger bots: Interesting and useful, I have the messenger bot now and have used it every day since.
  • HMRC talking about customer services: Interesting.

I have some thoughts about this. You’ll find them in the Things I’m Thinking About section below.

On Tuesday evening I managed to finally write up Policy School Days 3 & 4 which you can find here:

View at Medium.com

On Wednesday I spent a good half hour talking to Louise about Mentoring. That was a really interesting conversation and I hope she found it useful. We also had a good discussion about a christmas drink…

Tastes like liquid meringue, apparently.

On Wednesday evening I went to the pub with Wendy, Ally and Luke. It was good to catch up properly. And we also watched some drama unfolding on Twitter which was fun.

On Thursday afternoon I observed a Beta assessment for an NHS Digital service at GDS. It was useful to see how this was run and benchmark our assessments against it. I took away a couple of things, not least of all making time at the end for a retro using happy 😃 sad 😔 improvements [insert emoji here]. Actually, can’t believe that hasn’t occurred to me before now.

On Friday it was my birthday, so yeah, aside from feeling old that was good. I got an iPad Pro and an apple pencil, which is AWESOME! I am very lucky.

Obligatory birthday gif.

I also went and saw David at Letchworth Heritage Foundation to finalise the user research/testing I’ve been helping him with (freelance work).

Actually, that work has been so rewarding. I’ve really enjoyed it. It makes a huge difference to implement change at a local level where you can see the impact and results. I plan to write it up in a separate blog.


Joe really helped me this week by trying to pull some information out of JIRA for me about our training so I could get some metrics.

I learned that we really aren’t collecting anything useful and it’s actually impossible even to find out how many people we are training…

It lead to a long discussion about what we should measure and what we need to measure. I had some ideas in my head already but this helped to cement them.

Training has been a bit neglected for a while, and that’s frankly a bit rubbish.

Our trainer Michele has been working alone training 4 departments with a population of several thousand people on how to use GSuit, running around 6 sessions each week, as well as training new starters in machineries of government moves, and doing all the admin, on her own.

And she works part-time #wonderwoman.

After my conversation with Joe I was able to write a set of requirements for measuring success.

I’m hoping he will agree to work with me to define requirements for a training management solution which can help Michele. Conversations with Joe are useful because we think similarly but in different ways.

I’m also hoping this will also surface just how much Michele is doing and help her with her objectives.

Other lessons? Need to work on how I explain to new starters in my team why I’m asking them not to send me Word Docs, but Google Docs. And, to work out whether I can reject Word Docs which are sent to me.

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration people!

Plus, we tell our stakeholders to use Google Docs, when we send them Word Docs it looks like we aren’t eating our own dogfood [2].

Plan for for next week

I’ve split my non-working day in two and have Monday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon to do other things. I’m hoping that actually works and that I actually don’t just end up stressing myself out / working late in the evening.

Monday afternoon I’m seeing a Radio 4 recording of a Sarah Pascoe stand up show (I love her, her book is brilliant, read it) and on Wednesday afternoon I’m heading to spend time with Kit as part of my Being Nosey series.

In the other times I have things to think about, and meetings to go to, but it feels workable. So I need to try and maintain some of the space.

OTG microactions

  1. I noticed that Catherine from my Policy School Team turned up at Breakfast Club after I mentioned it to her during Policy School — that was ace.
  2. RTs etc

Ideas for blogs / Things I’m thinking about

1. Weeknoters consultancy. Still thinking about this since Dan mentioned it in Ep32 of his weeknotes. My downtime project is a small first step towards this in my head. I’m also thinking about writing a blog about “being a person who works in the gaps”. I haven’t been able to find time for this yet.

2. Collaborative blogging. Nour got in touch to offer her help with this. Hello Nour — I hope it is the start of something good!

3. Thoughts from Social About Gov…

Main points are:

  • Social media as failure demand? Is it actually adding value? Is it doing something different? How would you measure that?
  • Social as a comms function and not a digital one. Benefits from combining the disciplines? In some instances Social is a part of a huge customer service solution which should maybe be defined by service design…

That said, I’m not an expert, they are just thoughts I was having.

Read / Watched / Listened to

Its been more of a writing than reading week, so this list is a bit sparse but…

  1. Motherland. Oh god, I love Motherland.

2. Jenny’s brilliant blog about #EqualPayDay:

View at Medium.com

3. Watching user research / user testing videos for Letchworth Heritage Foundation:

4. Richard’s great blog about Governance as a Service:

View at Medium.com

[1] Not a typo, that’s how Dan signs on Twitter.

[2] Did I use that right?

You what, mate?

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