CU winners pic BandW.jpg

Judges awarded the innovative Comms Unplugged event both a winners spot and a highly commended tag at the UnAwards18. That’s some achievement for two people delivering it in their spare time. As always there is plenty of learning to share…

by Sally Northeast

In my second year of attending the UnAwards I’m not sure I’ve earned the right to call myself a ‘regular’ yet (hat tip to those five people who’ve been to all five events – I salute you!)

But I’ll admit I’m hooked.

This isn’t just any awards ceremony. I went to one earlier this year for my day job – my team was short-listed and I travelled to Manchester with my comms manager where we were assailed by an extremely glitzy, slick and expensive affair. It was enjoyable enough, but I’m not sure it had much heart.

The UnAwards have heart in spades. They also have friendship, they have ‘cool’ (the Everyman cinema is a genius place to hold an event) and they have talent and hard work.

So here are the five things I either learned, or was reminded of, at this year’s fabulous UnAwards.

  1. Keep trying: In 2017 Georgia Turner, Darren Caveney and I were fresh from our very first Comms Unplugged event and thought we’d chuck in an award submission for something we were genuinely proud of. We were ‘highly commended’ in the Best Small Team category which was a lovely moment. Following our bigger 2018 event, which gave us lots more evidence to back up our concept, we felt we had an even better chance of a win so entered six categories. To our absolute delight we won Best Small Team and were highly commended for Best Creative Comms, as well as being shortlisted for Best Collaboration. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

  2. Be proud: Whether or not you’re shortlisted, whether or not you win, entering the UnAwards is a chance to reflect on work you’re proud of. How often do we comms folk chuck out campaign after campaign, never really stopping to look back and think: “Wow, that was a great piece of work!” We’re busy moving onto the next thing (or being pushed towards it). I’m terrible for doing this so writing our award submission was a great discipline. When I sit and read it back now I think a) how the hell did we pull this off?! and b) what a brilliant thing. Enjoy your success – you deserve it.

  3. Learn every day: Keep learning is one of the five steps to wellbeing which we quote a lot in the unplugged world. And it’s true that there’s something to be learned from every new experience (and even from old ones!). There were 420 entries for the UnAwards and there will be something to learn from each and every one. Darren is gearing up to organise an UnAwards Winners Masterclass in the new year where the winners will share their tips for success – I look forward to being there as much to hear from others as to share the Comms Unplugged story.

  4. Dare to be different: I’ve said the UnAwards is not like other awards ceremonies. Equally Comms Unplugged, our winning entry, is not like other events. In both cases I think the organisers set out with a clear vision about the ethos of what they were trying to create. Darren always says he worries no-one will enter or attend the UnAwards. We thought the same about Comms Unplugged in the first year. Because it’s different to other conferences it took a while for people to get on board. But when you have a few ‘first followers’ you’re on your way. If you build it, they will come – even if it takes a while.

  5. Make friends: Comms Unplugged and the UnAwards have more in common than the ‘un’ bit. Here’s where we come back to heart. There’s a lot of positivity at the UnAwards and genuine pleasure at the success of others. It’s great to see good people being recognised and everyone is behind their comms colleagues from many different organisations. Comms Unplugged shares that positive vibe and has helped to create what I know will be long friendships among some of the unpluggers. You need to have a special bond if you’re going to share a compact Airbnb apartment with seven other ladies – and that’s what we did in Brum last week for the UnAwards. It was great fun and my trip to Brum was 48 hours I know I won’t forget in a hurry.

Finally, a massive thank you to Darren Caveney for giving us all the opportunity to share and celebrate our successes together with colleagues from across the UK and from a huge range of organisations. If you didn’t enter this year, start thinking now how you’ll measure that campaign you’ve just started so you can share your success at next year’s UnAwards. I’ll see you there!

Come to Comms Uplugged 2019 – it will take place on 5-7 September in beautiful Dorset. You can find out more here. And connect on Twitter at @CommsUnplugged

Sally Northeast is an organiser of Comms Unplugged and deputy director, communications and participation, at Dorset Healthcare

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

What we have learnt from hunting for electoral boundary data

Posted by



You may remember that in August this year, mySociety and Open Knowledge International launched a survey, looking for the sources of digital files that hold electoral boundaries… for every country in the world. Well, we are still looking!

There is a good reason for this hunt: the files are integral for people who want to make online tools to help citizens contact their local politicians, who need to be able to match users to the right representative. From mySociety’s site TheyWorkForYou to Surfers against Sewage’s Plastic Free Parliament campaign, to Call your Rep in the US, all these tools required boundary data before they could be built.

We know that finding this data openly licensed is still a real challenge for many countries, which is of course why we launched the survey. We encourage people to continue to submit links to the survey, and we would love if people experienced in electoral boundary data, could help by reviewing submissions: if you are able to offer a few hours of help, please email democracy@mysociety.org

The EveryBoundary survey FAQs tell you everything you need to know about what to look for when boundary hunting. But we also wanted to share some top tips that we have learnt through our own experiences.

 

Do

  • Start the search by looking at authoritative sources first: electoral commissions, national mapping agencies, national statistics bodies, government data portals.
  • Look for data formats (.shp, .geojson, kml etc), and not just a PDF.
  • Ask around if you can’t find the data: if a map is published digitally, then the data behind it exists somewhere!

Don’t

  • Confuse administrative boundaries with electoral boundaries — they can be the same, but they often aren’t (even when they share a name).
  • Assume boundaries stay the same — check for redistricting, and make sure your data is current.

 

If you get stuck

  • Electoral boundaries are normally defined in legislation; sometimes this takes the form of lists of the administrative subdivisions which make up the electoral districts. If you can get the boundaries for the subdivisions you can build up the electoral districts with this information.
  • Make FOI requests to get hold of the data.
  • If needed, escalate the matter. We have heard of groups writing to their representatives, explaining the need for the data. And don’t forget: building tools that strengthen democracy is a worthwhile cause.  

 

mySociety is asking people to share electoral boundary data as part of efforts to make information on every politician in the world freely available to all, and support the creation of a Democratic Commons.  Electoral boundary files are an essential part of the data infrastructure of a Democratic Commons. A directory of electoral boundary sources is a potential benefit to many people and organisations  — so let’s keep up the search!

 

Photo by Chase Clark on Unsplash

Original source – mySociety

Hello, I am Israt and I am the newest designer to join dxw digital!

Before joining dxw, I was working as a front-end visual designer, in a multi-disciplinary team for a media company working on in-house and commercial agile brands for Automotive, Technology, Current Affairs and Lifestyle.

Prior to my previous employment, I acquired a First class BA HONS degree in design and multimedia from the University of Worcester. My experiences have helped me train and improve my technical knowledge and proficiency in a wide range of creative areas. I thrive on creating effective and innovative solutions. My interest in design has enabled me to push my creative boundaries and has led me to become an all-round designer.

More about me

Outside of work, I volunteer for a variety of local organisations. I love giving back to the community and bring the essence humbleness into my life. I’m also part of a small organisation put together with my friends, called Granny Trolleys. We collect clothing donations and goods, purchase good from donations, to give to the locals in need.

Being brilliantly different is part of my DNA, I love strange and wonderful things! I am a serious foodie and have a major sweet tooth, hence why I like to keep active (to make space for all of the yummy goodness) also embarrassingly addicted to chips, I dream about chips a lot and I love chilli sauce on pretty much everything I eat!

I love a good movie binge (SCI-FI, horror, sap for romance, comedy)- favourites are Marvel movies; socialising and always taking classes to expand my knowledge, for example I have currently started learning the Arabic language.

Aspirations

In my time at dxw digital, I am looking forward to understanding how the company works with public sector organisations and taking on fresh challenges to help build great public services across government. I hope to learn, push my creative boundaries and help shape dxw digital services to continue growing beautifully.

The post Introducing Israt appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

S02 EP03 – week ending 9 December 2018

The week started with a business coaching session focussing in on strategic direction and lots of talk about funnels. These calls are always great – they help me work out where my focus should be, what’s I need to do more work on in myself, and what I need to stop procrastinating over and JFDI.

This led to shaping my work over the course of the week and some great conversations with people as I test concepts. Alongside I also had a great catch up with James Machin (Grawl!x) and made some exciting plans for his music in 2019, as well as some short term actions for the rest of this year. Big thanks to Dani, Jay and Dubrek for ongoing support and letting me use the cafe as a drop-in office.

At Reckless Yes we’ve been reflecting back on the year – and what a year it has been for us. Six releases in total (four albums, one EP and a novel) and our artists have been streamed nearly 60,000 times (this number goes up every time we dod a post about it so expecting increasingly high numbers!) as well as selling a ton of physical, playing some sweet gigs, and finding themselves on a number of Albums of the Year lists. We love that people seem to love what we’re doing and we’re deep in planning for a big 2019.

I ended the week with a fantastic Friday – beginning my day at this year’s Comms2Point0 UnAwards. This recognises the brilliant work being done by public sector communicators across the UK and has the added bonus of a Christmas film in the ace Everyman Cinema in Birmingham.

Returning this year it was lovely to catch up with friends and colleagues, and be so welcomed into a community I’ve been away from while working elsewhere. It was emotional and impressive to see such commitment and creativity taking place across the sector. And it was thrilling to see Die Hard on the big screen – to my mind the second best Christmas film.

via GIPHY

A huge well done for Darren Caveney and crew for organising (and to Ben Capper for a great playlist) and an even bigger round of applause for those nominated and who won. I loved getting up and standing alongside my fellow Lifetime Achievement winner Phil Jewitt to read out the nominees in the category this year and to welcome Jayne Surman to our number – a huge well done to her for the work which got her recognised by her peers and made her the winner in an impressive and strong list of nominees.

I was a bit sad to race away without having more time to catch up with people but Doncaster called and a chance to catch up with musical pals. As well as getting to see Chris Helme, Mark Morriss and Nigel Clark play great sets it was lovely to hang out after not seeing them for a while. What’s really lovely is to feel so supported and encouraged by them – and fortunately lots of others too – as I start working more in the music industry. And it’s always great to talk music and come away with a playlist of stuff I want to delve into as a result of our chats – Nick Cave has had a good old play this weekend.

What’s next?

There’s a lot of Christmas stuff to pack into this week alongside a lot more business set up – mainly around event planning, content creation, and concept proofing something new. There’s also a birthday for my youngest son, and a need for me to commit harder to my wellbeing goals too.

And there’s the small matter of LIINES playing their biggest stage yet when they open for Slow Readers Club at the O2 Manchester Apollo on Friday 14 December. Before then – and following on from the Sleaford Mods tour support news (some dates selling out so get in fast) – there’s some other big announcements from them due.

Day to day I’ll be continuing with The Self Love Summit / Mel Wells Advent Challenge over on Instagram as part of my commitment to 24 days of joy this advent. Follow me over there – I also post loads of music, loads of pictures from around my way, and the occasional indulgent selfie.

As I’m working on a couple of end of year bits for publications too I’m also adding more tracks to this playlist – it already features 50 tracks I’ve loved this year and I’m not even close to done. Give it a follow if you’re looking to get into some new stuff – plenty of indiepop, dreampop, punk, post-punk, electropop, and a bit of experimental and math rocky type tracks too.

Original source – Sarah Lay

die hard is a christmas movie.jpg

As the magic dust settles on the UnAwards18 I’ve been reflecting on what I think was the best UnAwards yet.

by Darren Caveney

There are too many highlights to savour and people to thank in just one post but I wanted to share some reflections as I sit here at home supping on a nice fresh coffee post-event.

As I mentioned at the ceremony, I don’t get nervous speaking at events or hosting events. It’s not a boast, I just don’t. But because the UnAwards is so personal and because I want everyone there to have a fabulous day – win, lose or draw – I have in previous years been a tiny bit tense on the day.

This year I did not. I just thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. It was relaxed with a room full of superb people.

If you were there, I hope you enjoyed it too.

So many highlights

There were many highlights for me amongst the winners. Think about a council like Northamptonshire, so often in the news these past twelve months because of the situation they find themselves in. Imagine how difficult it must have been for their comms team at times. To come through that and win an UnAward shows immense skill and character.

Think about the daily pressures front line NHS comms teams are faced with. To see so many shortlisted and some go on to win warrants huge credit.

And think about university comms teams under so much pressure to satisfy multiple stakeholders and now also help turn a profit too. Hats off to them for their shortlistings and wins.

Seeing teams like Warwickshire County Council win big at the UnAwards18 after years of trying shouts perseverance and that is to be applauded.

Three organisations picked up two UnAwards – Tower Hamlets Council, Loughborough University and Bradford Council, including Albert Freeman as best comms officer this year. One UnAward win is great, two is a little bit special.

Then there are teams like South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service winners for the second year on the trot. That isn’t a coincidence. It’s a great team full of ideas delivering consistently. Well doe to Alex Mills and the team.

A word about the private sector and a well done to Rebecca Roberts, owner of Thread and Fable, a woman who has left in-house behind and set up her own businesses which is now picking up awards.

And a shout-out for Sally Northeast and Georgia Turner – the people behind Comms Unplugged – who literally deliver something amazing in their spare time and on top of their regular and busy day jobs. That’s passion, creativity and desire all rolled up into one and I was very happy to see their hard work rewarded.

I was impressed with so many of the shortlisted entries. If you made the shortlist for best social media account and best social media campaign you are delivering truly exceptional work.

If you made the shortlist for best low cost comms work then congratulations. That’s where real creativity shines through. Bravo to you.

As it’s Christmas, when we do things in twelves, here are my top 12 key reflections…

1. It’s Christmas

The UnAwards now officially marks the start of Christmas for our comms community. As Paul Masterman put it “The UnAwards is the comms equivalent of the switching on of the Oxford Street lights”

2. Ever presents

There were five people in the room who have been to all five UnAwards. Wow. And six if you include me. I should give you all an UnAward for good attendance 😊

3. Local Government fights back

Local Government where the biggest winners this year picking up eight of the 18 awards. NHS, Police and Higher Education picked up two apiece.

4. We must learn from the winners

I will endeavour to find the sponsorship to put on another UnAwards Winners Masterclass in the new year where I’ll ask the winners to come and share the lessons of their winning work (please shout me if you’re up for supporting this) As always, it will be free to attend, true to the ethos of the UnAwards.

5. Truly UK-wide

Attendees came from far and wide across the UK – from Scotland, from Wales, from Yorkshire, the North East and North West England, from South West and South East England, and from the Midlands and Brum itself.

6. Making people feel good

Winners, smiled, laughed and cried. That’s a special thing to be able to enable.

7. Let there be music. Cool music…

If you want to listen to Ben Capper’s awesome #UnAwards18 playlist go here

8. Lifetime achievement

Huge congratulations to Dionne Mayhew, Rachael Shaw, Antony Tiernan and Jayne Surman for being nominated in the Lifetime Achievement award. That is a special accolade and one you should be really proud of – good people with huge skills. In the entire history of the UnAwards only 18 people have been nominated, and only five people hold the title. So it really is a unique band of communicators.

Well done to Jayne Surman who just pipped the other three.

9. Get your diaries out

A diary date for you – the #UnAwards19 will take place on Friday 6 December when we can do it all again and I can spend three month’s worrying about film choices.

10. The importance of giving

This year I wanted to have an official UnAwards charity and chose one close to home. Thank you to everyone who donated on the day to St Basils, who do amazing work for homeless young people in Birmingham. I shall give an update on what we collected on the day asap but if you would like to donate online you can do so here.

11. Die Hard IS a Christmas film

Strangely for such a film anorak as myself I’d never actually watched the whole film before. And never on the big screen. I thought it was brilliant and it’s my new favourite Christmas film. (I know, I am exceedingly late to that party)

12. Gratitude

I’m so grateful to get to run and host the UnAwards but even better than that is the chance to spend the day with a room of amazing people, some who I have come to value as friends. Thank you for making this the best UnAwards yet.

Some final, special mentions…

Luke Williams, Ben Caper, Adrian Stirrup and Nigel Bishop thank you for all of your help. You are a pleasure to work with and a talented bunch.

To the attendees, thank you for giving up a Friday in December. As Adrian Stirrup put it “what’s not to like about spending the day laughing with friends, recognising excellence, and watching Die Hard”

To everyone who submitted the record-breaking 420 entries thank you for allaying my annual fear that on one will enter because you’re all so busy.

The UnAwards remains a not for profit event and I am so grateful to the official partner Granicus, and the official sponsors Orlo, CAN, NUJ PRCC, the Local Government Association,  Alive With Ideas and Perago-Wales – without your kind support the UnAwards would not be possible.

A shout-out to Dave Worsell of Granicus, a supporter of the UnAwards from year one, but who couldn’t be there this year.

A shout to my buddy Phil Jewitt. You know why.

And finally an extra special mention to the lovely Caroline Roodhouse and Alan Oram of Alive With Ideas who sadly could not attend. You were very much missed.

Til next year…

p.s. if you were there and have any feedback on the day please shout me. And if you’re interested in being involved a sponsor for the UnAwards19 please shout – I’m on darrencaveney@gmail.com

Darren Caveney is organiser of the UnAwards, creator of comms2point0 and owner of creative communicators ltd

image from Joanne Ford

Original source – comms2point0 free online resource for creative comms people – comms2point0

‘Internet of Public Service jobs’ is a weekly list of vacancies related to product management, user experience, data and design in…you guessed it…the ‘internet of public service’ curated by @jukesie every Sunday.

Sign up for the weekly email at tinyletter.com/jukesie

[01] Digital Product Manager
Sustrans
Bristol
£30,750
Closing date: 03/01/2019

[02] Head of User Experience
Government Shared Services
London
£48,965 — £60,635
Closing date: 20/01/2019

[03] Digital Products & Service Manager
London Borough Of Waltham Forest*
London
£48,495 — £51,453
Closing date: 18/01/2019

[04] Chief Digital Information Officer
Department for Work and Pensions
London, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle or Blackpool
£180,000
Closing date: 14/01/2019

[05] User Researcher
Heritage Lottery Fund
Any HLF location
£32,350 –£42,950
Closing date: 03/01/2019

[06] Head of Customers and Communication
Powys County Council
Llandrindod Wells
£75,767 — £82,453
Closing date: 06/01/2019

[07] Head of ICT and Digital
Wirral Council
Wirral
Salary not stated
Closing date: 07/01/2019

[08] Head of Digital and Service Delivery
Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE)
London
£60,000 — £65,000
Closing date: 07/01/2019

[09] Digital Analytics and Insight Manager
Leeds University
Leeds
£33,199 to £39,609
Closing date: 19/12/2018

[10] Data Architect
Government Digital Service
London
£75,000
Closing date: 16/12/2018

*London Borough Of Waltham Forest have a LOT of interesting jobs available at the moment — more than I could feature this week.

If you filled in my survey recently— thanks. You can read a bit about it here → https://medium.com/@jukesie/internet-of-public-service-jobs-survey-results-b05562132b9f


Internet of Public Service Jobs: 09/12/2018 was originally published in Product for the People on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – Product for the People

IMG_1031.JPG
Messy desk with sticky notes, scissors, coffee cup and laptops

1. Something changed

On 5 July 2018, the National Health Service turned 70. I was exactly 13 months into my own time with the service.

According to my calendar, on that day I: met Lisa from GDS, attended the NHS website fortnightly show and tell, chaired the design governance board, took my cat to the vet, and heard a playback of user research on clinicians’ attitudes to the website.

The morning after the 70th anniversary day, I tweeted 3 truths as I saw them about innovation in the NHS. They’re in tension, but not contradictory…

The service as a whole needs more money. Innovation must be led by the people who deliver the service, the ones who know where real opportunities lie. They need some slack in the system to learn new skills and try new approaches.

The opportunities afforded by new technologies are massive and awesome. NHS people need to get smarter at spotting what’s genuinely transformational. Otherwise we’ll just squander any extra money on fads and snake oil.

The system is still rife with failure waste, much of it caused by poorly designed IT. The fixes for this are well known, systematic, and start with better understanding of human behaviours, not with force-fitting unproven new technologies.

The NHS belongs to the people. Those of us on the inside have a duty to be honest and truthful in carrying out our jobs. (That’s in the NHS Constitution.)

We also depend on critical friends outside NHS organisations. For our friends to contribute, we must set high standards of openness, assume criticisms are well-intentioned, and amplify the voices of people who don’t have privileged insider status.

At that point, we were in full on “strategy is delivery” mode, heading towards the Health and Care Innovation Expo, a massive annual conference-cum-trade-show of all things health and care. When teams are continuously delivering value to users, synthetic milestones like this ought not to matter much, but in our world they do, and even more so this year, on which more later.

There were pre-launch nerves, but we made it to the Expo in the first week of September with a visibly different, mobile-first, more accessible and usable NHS website — and a new name to top it off. No more “NHS Choices”. There’s still much more about the website that we can improve, but that was an important turning point for everyone on the team.

In another building half a mile across Leeds, the equally talented team on the NHS app were working independently to their own private beta timelines. Dean, our lead designer, became the shuttle diplomat making sure that app and website would look and feel part of the same family.

Also in time for Expo, we released a beta version of a new NHS digital service manual, including design principles created in collaboration with some of our partners and other NHS organisations. The design principles are in beta too, and we welcome your feedback.

Expo 2018 was a 2-day event in Manchester. I didn’t make it in person to the first day, but did catch some of the highlights streamed by our communications team colleagues.

I popped across the Pennines on day 2, mainly to support Rochelle and Tero, who were working with Simon and Kassandra from Public Health England on a session about user-centred design – which all four of them ran brilliantly.

At 3:30pm, the exhibition stands emptied out as everyone crammed into the auditorium for the main event, the Secretary of State’s keynote speech. For a flavour, try this sample quote:

“Mandated standards are just the start. Too often people with too little technical understanding are buying IT from suppliers who want to capture the buyer so they can’t ever go elsewhere. Suppliers’ interests are too often not aligned with the NHS’s interests, and the contracts badly managed. This supplier capture is common in IT, but it is not inevitable. So we are seriously going to increase the in-house capacity to understand the technology, to procure the right things, to manage them better, to split up big contracts into smaller pieces, to ensure an agile, iterative approach focussed on the question: what is the user need?”

Cue sharp intakes of breath from some in the room, and silent air punches from others.

Two days later I was back in Manchester, this time in a t-shirt not a suit, for UK Healthcamp. It was my first Healthcamp. What a lovely group of people to spend a Saturday with any time. In the light of Matt Hancock’s speech, and with his tech advisor Hadley in the room, it felt as if this band of health tech radicals’ moment might have arrived.

I learned loads at Healthcamp, put faces to names I’d long followed from afar, and posed a question of my own to a windowless basement room full of thoughtful healthcampers: “What do people need to be able to trust a digital health service?” It’s a question I’d been thinking about a lot, because the fifth of our design principles is “Design for trust”.

So this 6-month note breaks almost exactly into two distinct halves: before and after 6 September.

In the weeks that followed, while the NHS website team enjoyed a well-deserved boost in confidence and credibility, I was privileged to contribute in a few tiny ways to a set of vision and planning documents that make the new direction clear.

On October 17, the Department of Health and Social Care published the vision for digital, data and technology in health and care, alongside NHS Digital’s draft standards framework. The latter also sets out our intent around service design standards for health and care.

This work doesn’t always happen in the open, which is shame. We should constantly be asking “who is not in the room, but should be?” Nevertheless I’ve been hugely impressed by the commitment to user-centricity among the people tasked with making those plans, and by their openness to challenge and new ideas. As Ben Goldacre put it:

There’s a trolley, trundling through Whitehall and the NHS, with ‘Make NHS IT Better’ written on the side. If you throw your thoughts into that trolley, right now, they will join all the other ideas, problems and plans.

What purpose do these documents serve? Policy papers won’t fix the problem, people and delivery, will. But I feel — really feel — that the last 3 months have made us all bolder. It has been lovely to see the emergence of a new coalition of people from across health and care rallying round the principles in the vision paper.

Among the people reacting, I see some archetypes. These are not a comprehensive taxonomy. I have been all of them myself at different times in my career.

  • Some people have long worked for a focus on user needs, privacy and security, interoperability and openness, and for inclusion. They’ve done this in the face of legacy technology and commercial arrangements, complex organisational and delivery structures, and a risk-averse culture that failed to register any of those things as the real risks. I hope they’re not now too worn down to seize this opportunity.
  • Some have focused on particular topics, such as clinical informatics, patient and public involvement, data geekery, privacy activism, agile procurement, or user-centred design. Often they’ve been stymied by the “dark matter” that arises from the other problems not visible inside their own paradigms. This vision demands a new, shared understanding between the different practices. None of us has all the answers.
  • Then there are the shy reformers, secretly inspired by the progress of user-centred, agile methods elsewhere in the public sector. They’ve been tamping down their enthusiasm, reining in their ambition, in order to make progress in legacy organisations. After reading the tech vision, they shouldn’t have to.

I’m mindful that others are still reserving judgement.

  • Some will look at the architectural principles in the vision and find a dozen reasons why their particular corner of the digital world is special. Telling them they’re wrong or stupid won’t help. We must show them respect, evidence, and examples, not just words.
  • And many have been burned before. After years of mismatched understanding between users and suppliers of healthcare technology, why should they believe that this time is different? The burden is on us to prove it is.

Service design, as a people-centred, holistic, co-creating discipline, could have a big part to play in bringing these tribes together around a shared purpose of better care and improved health outcomes for everyone in England.

2. Freedom to act

In my 12-month report, I mentioned the influence of David Marquet’s ‘Turn the Ship Around’. His over-riding imperative is to give control to the people who know best: to “move the authority to where the information is”. In order to succeed at this, he says, there are two pre-conditions: clarity and competence:

… as control is divested, both technical competence and organisational clarity need to be strengthened.

So if, on 6 September, or maybe on 17 October, the NHS reached a moment of digital clarity, how are we building the competence to make it real in the profession group I look after, design?

Whenever I need a reality check, I remind myself that our entry level design assistant role is on the same NHS pay band as an A&E paramedic; our lead designers are on a level with consultant psychologists. To make sure there’s a good reason for that, we’ve been though the NHS Agenda for Change job evaluation scheme, which assesses the knowledge, responsibility, skills and effort needed to do each job.

Technical skills and familiarity with design methods are part of the picture. But we’ve also had to explain what designers do according to a controlled set of generic responsibilities. I found that a more useful exercise than I expected. Here are some highlights against the Agenda for Change responsibilities:

  • Design is Research & Development – we discover needs. We make alphas and betas. Design is surely the silent third letter between R&D!
  • Design is Policy and Service Improvement – we take responsibility for the design of a new service, or substantial improvement to an existing one. We can show how different hypotheses for policy change are linked (or not) to user needs
  • Design is Quality – we champion key “non-functionals”, such as usability, accessibility, and desirability
  • Design is Equality, Diversity and Rights – we’re advocates for the principles of inclusive design
  • Design is Communication and Relationships – not only making clear and engaging visual artefacts, but also getting to know the people we need to work with to help make designs a reality
  • Design is Planning and Organisation – the most junior designer must be able to manage their own workload, and as they get more senior they take on greater strategic responsibilities, and organise others to deliver their designs
  • Design is Analysis and Judgement – knowing what techniques to use, and when, even with conflicting sources of information. The more senior the designer, the more this judgement comes to the fore.

There’s another factor that affects the NHS pay banding, called Freedom to Act. Our job descriptions set out the level of empowerment that each level of designer is expected to have in order for the organisation to get best value from their skills, knowledge and experience.

For example:

  • Design assistant (band 6) is directly responsible for the design outcome of their work
  • Associate designer (band 7) plans their own work within the remit of their assignment within the product team
  • Designer (band 8a) knows when to apply the relevant policies and guidelines and when to deviate from them
  • Senior designer (band 8b) acts as the final arbiter for design decisions within their product teams
  • Lead designer (8c) works autonomously, often in areas of novel practice, seeking advice from peers and industry experts outside the organisation.

Designers in a large organisation can easily be disempowered. Sometimes their managers or teammates don’t give them their freedom to act. Sometimes, it turns out that they’ve had the freedom but didn’t realise it, or were afraid to use it. Either way, we have a problem, and we’re wasting public money. In the coming months, I’m planning to spend more time talking with designers and their managers about freedom to act.

The senior designers have taken on the task of organising our quarterly team events – the last one in London, and the next one in Leeds. While we spend most of our time embedded in the different directorates and teams, it’s important to get together as a community of designers across the whole organisation.

Giving control doesn’t mean giving up on governance. The service manual, with components and patterns alongside it, is there to speed up delivery. We found we needed some lightweight governance to make decisions, when they’re needed, about overall design quality, interconnected design work from different teams, and what goes into the manual. So we’ve set up a design governance board, bringing together the right people on an ad hoc basis to review work that could be of value to more than one team.

It’s one of a number of ways, alongside the weekly design huddles, that we maintain cross-team visibility of what others are doing. Having these forums helps me trust teams to get on with their work, and rely on them to bring things in for peer review or expert guidance when they need it.

Standards and design governance help us to design things right. Service design takes the lead when it comes to making sure we design the right things. We’re still finding our way with service design, but we now have practitioners embedded in 4 different directorates or sub-directorates across the NHS Digital organisation chart. Service designers add the greatest value when they have licence to work broadly across a portfolio, such as Urgent an Emergency Care. I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to create this space for all the service designers we have brought into the organisation.

One of the highlights of the past few months has been welcoming a new cohort of Digital Service Delivery graduates on a 2-year programme in which they’ll get to try out working in user research, design, content design, product and delivery management. For next year, we’re recruiting a first ever cohort of user-centred design graduates, who will focus on user research, design and content specifically. Our CEO, Sarah, has been a champion for apprenticeships and graduate trainees, and thanks to Amanda, our head of profession, we now have the strength in depth to be able to look after a larger number of trainees.

I’ve tried to make time to keep an eye on the future too. Thanks to Cassie for inviting me to Nesta’s event on “collective intelligence” in September. I found it a timely counterpoint to the tech determinist narratives around “artificial intelligence”. This in turn shaped the talk I gave at Interact 2018. (Here’s the video and my write-up of that.) I think the other speakers and I were mostly in violent agreement. For the Interact talk, I also drew on the principles in the initial code of conduct for data-driven health and care technology. A new version of that is due to be published soon.

I was also honoured to be invited to talk at Health Product People at the Department of Health and Social Care, especially so because I was on the same bill as Hadley, Ian and Kassandra, all of whom were brilliant. I loosely titled my talk “Stop disempowering people.”

3. What’s next

I still wake up every day with a sense of wonder that I get to be head of design at NHS Digital. It’s a massive privilege. I’m also in awe of my talented colleagues, who could no doubt command gigs in many more glamorous brands and sectors, but choose to work on stuff that matters. I hope never to take any of them for granted.

Meanwhile things are changing in the organisation. We have some new leaders. The matrix management structure, of which I was never a massive fan, is being dismantled. A simpler, clearer, and hopefully faster, directorate structure is taking its place. Along with other senior managers in NHS Digital, I’ve had to reapply for my job. (Good news: I passed!)

At times during this transition I have felt an odd mix of responsibility without power and power without responsibility.

  • Responsibility without power, because I still feel responsible for the team I was hired to lead, but in the new structure, I have lost some of the levers I previously had to help them.
  • Power without responsibility, because, thanks to the tech vision, insights on user-centred design and digital are more in demand than ever across the wider health and care sector, but the programme and line management structures of my own organisation are still on a journey to reflecting that.

Amanda, the head of profession who hired me, is now leaving to take up a digital director role in the charity sector. I will always be grateful to have had Amanda as my manager here. Uniquely, she empowered everyone who worked for her, making the space for me and the other deputy heads of profession to grow in confidence and expand our teams. I’ve been given the opportunity to cover as interim head of profession, looking after product managers, delivery managers, user researchers and content people as well as designers.  This I will do with a sticky note on the inside cover of my notebook that reads: “What Would Amanda Do?”

I always said this was a multi-year commitment, and as I head into the second half of year two, this job is not done yet, not by a long chalk. In the next 6 months, alongside working on the most pressing and worthwhile transformation portfolio in the world right now, I hope to:

  • Challenge more on design quality and performance across all our products and services
  • Kick off some work on user experience strategy across the wider health and care system. User experience is the best lens for understanding Why Doctors Hate Their Computers
  • Further raise the profile of design and the other digital profession roles in the NHS, including a keynote at Service Design in Government 2019
  • Look after my own long-term professional development, by applying for the Nye Bevan Programme of the NHS Leadership Academy.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Original source – Matt Edgar writes here

Primary and secondary legislation

The work of Parliament includes scrutinising, amending, passing or indeed rejecting bills. The government presents public bills in Parliament and they pass through various stages in each House, some of which allow Members to amend the text of the bill, some of which allow Members to divide on the whole of the bill. At the end of this process, there may be some to and fro between the Houses as assorted amendments are discussed and agreed on. If the bill completes its journey and is approved by Parliament, it can receive Royal Assent and become an Act.

Acts are primary legislation. An Act may delegate the power to do a certain thing to the Minister responsible for a policy area. These powers are exercised by means of secondary, or delegated, legislation – much of which being in the form of statutory instruments (SIs) – and come with strings attached. Many of these strings set out a duty to Parliament; to lay papers, to follow a certain procedure, to allow a number of days of a particular sort for Parliament to accept or reject the secondary legislation. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 includes a number of these delegated powers and associated duties. Parts of the Brexit implementation require the passage of secondary legislation through Parliament.

Secondary legislation is subject to a different degree of parliamentary scrutiny than primary legislation, the delegated powers and their associated duties having already been scrutinised in the passage of the enabling Act. Scrutiny is intended to ensure that secondary legislation is required and that the exercise of the delegated powers remains within the bounds set out in the relevant Act.

Modelling procedure: exploratory work

In February we were asked to build a ‘statutory instrument tracker‘. This was largely occasioned by the anticipated increase in secondary legislation as a consequence of Brexit, to give Parliament and the wider public greater visibility of the secondary legislation laid before Parliament, what happens to it and what is likely to happen next. Given the deadlines, this was quite a hard job.

Parliamentary procedures around secondary legislation are complicated, in some respects more complicated than those around primary legislation. They could also be better understood both within and outside Parliament. They touch on most offices across both Houses. Papers are laid, committees scrutinise, motions are tabled, amendments to motions are tabled, debates are held, divisions are taken. It felt like we’d need to model everything to build anything.

Offices within Parliament are loosely coupled and have handover points which often involve documents rather than data. These documents find their way to various bits of Parliament’s website but, like much else, they’re often not connected in a way that allows you to navigate from one aspect of the procedure to another. In order to track the progress of a statutory instrument through Parliament you’d need to look at about six different bits of the website, assuming you know what documents exist and where to find them.

None of our concerns were eased by our first meeting. Sitting down with clerks who’ve worked on this stuff for years with a blank whiteboard and a stream of new facts to ingest was head-melting. There didn’t seem to be an obvious starting point.

The artefacts that kept surfacing were flowcharts: more and more flowcharts. All useful and all correct from a certain perspective but none comprehensive. There was no one flowchart to rule them all. Instead assorted people from assorted offices had drawn their own to reflect the bits of the procedure that touched on their worlds.

A couple of meetings in we started to get somewhere. If we couldn’t model everything, we could model enough to capture the procedure and use this as the backbone, hanging links from there to unmodelled things or documents. It would give us enough of a start on tracking SIs laid before Parliament, business items scheduled around those SIs and any possible or likely next steps. We then began to model procedure.

Modelling procedure: boxes and arrows

The procedure model isn’t really a model of parliamentary procedure. It contains little of the language or knowledge of the domain. Possibly the only words in there that a clerk would recognise are House and procedure.

It’s a fairly abstract, general purpose, process flow model. This thing having happened, this other thing is caused to happen, allowed to happen or precluded from happening. In a parliamentary context there’s a large caveat around caused and precluded, but we’ll get back to that.

It started life as something Silver and I had worked on back in our BBC lives. There was a project to domain model the World Cup and some conversations around possible permutations of match results in group games. This team having beaten that team and this other team having drawn with that other team and this goal difference being that, these teams will go through to the next bit and play more football. I knew nothing about football then and know less now, but this is part of the background. Anyway…

Back in Parliament, we started to draw up flowcharts, originally as decision tree type diagrams. There was one meeting where we emerged with a single diagram full of arrows and diamonds and we thought we’d nailed all of SIs. We still think we’ve nailed all of SIs, but deep down we know we’re probably wrong.

More flowcharts got drawn. Whole weeks got lost in filling whiteboards with boxes and arrows. New edge cases emerged. Although the ‘edge case’ words are also heavily caveated in the parliamentary world. We stepped away from decision tree type diagrams and started to apply types to the arrows between boxes. Causes, allows, precludes. More boxes were added. More arrows were drawn. More questions were asked. What happens when an SI is withdrawn being our most regretted question. Two new boxes and an eye-burning number of new precludes arrows.

Modelling procedure: routes, packages and indexing

It is, as they say, a model of two halves. The right hand side describes the procedure, the left hand side describes how the procedure applies over a specific SI or other papers laid before or presented to Parliament.

The procedure part is a wrapper for routes. Routes link a step to a following step. Procedures may have more than one route and different procedures have routes in common. The steps are the building blocks of procedures. At least in my head, they’re like stepping stones. The routes taken to cross the river will vary, some steps will rarely be trod, but all steps are possible. On the subject of stretched metaphors, we also talk about maps as differing from sat-navs. The procedure is the map, the suggested journey plan is a set of routes, the steps are the decision points. Turn left at the post office. Or don’t.

Steps take place in a House or, as with joint committees, in both Houses. Sometimes steps take place in neither House, because some of the steps we model are outside parliamentary procedure. For example: a minister ‘making’ an SI. We include such steps because they’re both important to tracking SIs and often dependent on what happens in Parliament. Procedures may be bound to one House or both. In domain modelling sessions, clerks tend to speak about House of Commons procedure or House of Lords procedure, but many of the procedures we’ve dealt with so far involve a joint committee. Occasionally the procedural flow through one House will be dependent on something happening in the other. The procedures we have modelled so far have steps in both houses.

The term ‘work package’ has caused some degree of consternation because it’s not a phrase anyone inside or outside Parliament currently uses. It represents a container for a set of work in the form of business items that Parliament does toward some end. Although the concept we’re calling ‘work package’ is widely recognised, as often seems to happen in the world of domain modelling, a concept being recognised does not mean that domain experts have ever had a need to label it. Until someone suggests something better, it’s what we have. Work packages are focussed on something, which for our purposes now is either an SI or a proposed negative SI. The thing they’re focussed on is subject to a particular procedure.

Much of the day to day work of tracking SIs is done by people in the Indexing and Data Management Section of the House of Commons Library. They burrow into the assorted and scattered reports produced by different offices in Parliament, looking for reports of business items associated with SIs. They then create a business item record linking to the report and ‘actualising’ the relevant step or steps in a procedure. The actualising predicate being the glue or boundary object between the worlds of abstract procedure and Parliament doing work.

Building on the procedure model

On top of the procedure model we have a series of flowcharts, one for each procedure. Whereas the underlying model is abstract and largely domain agnostic, the flowcharts are packed to bursting with domain language and domain knowledge. They’re compiled on whiteboards with reference to the brains of House of Lords Jane and House of Commons Jack.

Each blob is a step, each line is a route. The routes are coloured to represent their type: causes, allows or precludes. Unfortunately the colouring is less than intuitive, because I drew them and I’m colour-blind.

Some of the thinking work went into the underlying model, but most of the domain modelling session work went into the flowcharts. We’re fairly sure we could show a clerk the procedure model and get a shrug. But we think the flowcharts would make more sense to most of them, which seems to be the case so far.

Proposed negative statutory instruments

Part way into the project we had to deal with a new type of paper and a new procedure. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act sets out that any instrument enabled by that Act which the government intends to lay under the made negative procedure must first be laid as a proposed negative statutory instrument subject to its own procedure. A committee in each House considers each PNSI and may recommend that the instrument be laid as a draft affirmative SI.

There’s not much to say here, excepting perhaps a note of self-congratulation. Getting the model right and knowing how to capture the procedure as a flowchart prevented this from becoming overly complex. We think and definitely hope it will make capturing many more procedures a little more straightforward.

Causation, allowance and preclusion

The original model gave us the ability to say that something having happened caused another thing to happen or allowed another thing to happen or precluded yet another thing from happening, at least according to procedure. Actual procedure may be more complicated. The causes, allows and precludes may be conditional on a number of factors. In the draft affirmative procedure, an SI being laid before the House of Commons allows it to go to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments for consideration, but only if it’s also been laid in the House of Lords. Saying a thing is allowed isn’t enough: we need to be able to say what other things are required for a thing to happen.

We introduced requires routes to point from a thing to all the things that were required to happen before that thing could happen. Which tightened up the model, but seemingly not enough: sometimes this AND this must happen and sometimes this OR this must happen and sometimes this AND this OR this but NOT this must have happened.

Now we’re starting to add logic gates to procedure. They allow us to combine the flow of true or false, happened or hasn’t happened from steps, through routes to other steps. All of which makes the model much more descriptive of how procedure actually works.

Having added logic gates there was a feeling that we might be able to replace route types. The requires routes were only ever a lightweight and not particularly pleasing way of expressing logic, so they were easy to strip out. Precludes could be replaced by a NOT gate so long as we fudged the question of whether not allows is the same as disallows. Splitting out causes and allows was trickier but Chris came up with the idea of adding a decision type step to imply that some kind of offstage decision was needed before the following business step could be actualised, which seems a fair summary of steps being allowed but not caused.

Modelling and reality

If you’ve seen us do a talk on any of this you’ll have seen we often invoke Cynefin definitions of complicated, complex and chaotic when describing Parliament, particularly when describing procedure.

Some of what can be described as procedure is set out in Standing Orders. That the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments must have reached a decision before the government can table an approval motion in the House of Lords, for example: this is what passes for complicated in Parliament.

Some parts of procedure are informed by precedent: things that have happened in the past provide an envelope of likely things to happen in the future. Many of Parliament’s methods of operation are not instructions: they’re a collection of narratives recorded in Erskine May and the memories of clerks. They don’t constrain Parliament because nothing does, but they do inform what might happen and often what’s likely to happen. This is what passes for complex in Parliament.

Parliament remains sovereign and free from any ruleset imposed from the outside or followed by previous Parliaments. If Parliament alters or introduces procedure, it does so without constraint, which has the potential to pass for chaotic anywhere.

Procedure in Parliament is not a set of rules to be followed. It is not fixed. It evolves and emerges from precedent and the workings of parliamentary sovereignty. Evolution tends to trump revolution in the long run.

What we describe as procedure in our models and flowcharts cannot be presented as certainty. Our modelling of causation is true, or true enough to be useful, within the bounded context of describing a procedure – but not true by necessity in the bounded context of reality. Procedures are not road maps: they don’t determine where Parliament can go. They’re a set of likely paths derived from what Parliament has decided and where it has been in the past. Less like roads and more like cowpaths, or desire lines, or whatever we call them these days.

We have to bear all this in mind when attempting to teach machines about procedure and try to keep systems flexible enough to not break when Parliament flexes.

An obvious thing is to time bound everything: give procedures and routes and steps start dates and end dates, so that we might say things like "this route was valid but is no longer taken", allowing the model to change in response to changes within Parliament.

We have also learned never, ever to constrain data input to procedural possibilities. Each day a team of librarians are combing through parliamentary reports to check for updates to SI business. When they find something, they add a new business item and actualise a procedural step or steps. When doing the last part they’re faced with a list of all possible steps in the appropriate procedure. It would make their lives much easier if they only had to deal with steps that the procedure model indicated were now caused or allowed and not precluded, but procedure does not dictate what can happen so any model of procedure can’t either. Because our model says this having happened this next thing must happen is a useful description of procedure but not of reality. There’s always the chance that Parliament will decide that thing won’t happen in this case. Or that we’ve got our procedure data wrong.

What can the machines help us do?

Teaching procedure to machines does feel somewhat thankless and the benefits might not be immediately clear, but we think it’s worth it.

Many flowcharts of SI procedure exist, each useful in their own right but none are complete. The flowcharts we’ve produced through the domain modelling sessions are the most complete and descriptive that Parliament has, although we would say that. Given the procedure model and the data we can take advantage of the machinery to examine both from new and different points of view.

There’s a set of visualisations we’ve made from the model and the procedure instance data here. And here. And here. And here. And here. These are useful in their own right, letting interested people inside and outside Parliament see how all this works.

As long as you know where to look, Parliament is reasonably good at reporting on things that have happened and that are scheduled to happen. It’s not as good on saying what will and may happen next according to procedure, with the usual caveat on ‘will’ and ‘according to’. With the procedure model sitting behind SI tracker, we can show a list of things that have happened, a list of things that have been scheduled to happen, a list of things that ‘must’ or are ‘allowed’ to happen next, excluding the ‘precluded’ things. We refer to the things that may or must happen next as the ‘future possibility space’. Although, given Parliament is not constrained by procedure, "future possibility space within the bounded context of describing procedure" may be more appropriate. We’re starting to visualise future possibility spaces for individual SIs in our development environment. Hopefully these will make it to the website.

Even cowpaths have cowpaths. Procedures define what’s possible to the extent to which it is ever possible to define this in Parliament. They provide a network of paths. With enough instance data for enough SIs in the system we can start to map both the well trodden and lesser trodden paths. What this tells us and whether it might be helpful in any future attempts to simplify procedure is presently conjecture, but at least we can see something now.

Caveats and goals

The model we have seems flexible enough, so far. The model of Parliament’s domain should remain collaborative and knowable. We know we’ve missed things and got some things wrong because that’s true of everything. We’re expecting to iterate and update and tweak and all the other words.

Having a procedure model supporting the SI tracker brings benefits we wouldn’t have seen if we’d just built a link hub similar to our bill tracker service, because we can use the model to explain the procedure and focus it into the future to show what’s likely to happen next. We can also query across any slice to aggregate information in ways we had not anticipated, or had to anticipate, when designing the model. It’s not a piece of software or thinking that would necessarily have been commissioned by the business, but it’s what happens when you dive into the domain and start to model the bits beneath the surface.

We already publish lists of instruments which have passed through a particular procedural step, which is a not a use case recorded at the start of the project or one we envisaged. This has been one argument for domain modelling in the first place: the models are only ever maps, but if they’re good enough to be useful they can be useful in ways the map designers never considered. No amount of requirements gathering or user research will ever compensate for omitting the work on modelling, because user needs are emergent from use and emergent from materials.

Given what we’ve learnt so far, we’d like to keep kicking the tyres and testing the model against different procedures. We’ve already started to look at the parliamentary procedure for treaties. If you’re in Parliament and have a procedure you’d like to see drawn out and taught to machines, do get in touch.

Original source – Smethurst

Product management can be a vague profession, unclear to those of us doing it and misunderstood by our colleagues.

So I wrote the Product Management Handbook for Government to help.

So what is it?

Are you finding it hard to figure out what you should actually be doing as a product manager in government? Or how to get a promotion? Or more simply: how do you actually create that roadmap that everyone’s asking you for?

Are you someone working with product managers  and want to understand what a product manager actually does with their time?

Maybe you’re just curious about product management and want to learn more?

If you’re one of these people then the handbook is designed to help.

I’d like to invite you to use, test and improve the white label Product Management Handbook for government teams (but probably useful for Local Authorities too, and possibly for charities and non-profits):

  • If you just want to stop reading right now and try it out – please do!
  • If you want to share feedback then you can speak with me via GitHub Issues, email me, or leave comments on this post
  • If you want to find out more about what this is and why it exists – read on.

Why create a product management handbook?

Product management has existed as a profession for decades. There’s a large number of books, blog posts, and courses that contain most of what we need to do our jobs – but they’re often written from a commercial perspective so there’s sometimes a need to tweak them to fit public services.

We also have product management skills and skill-levels published on GOV.UK – these are great for setting consistent expectations of product management across government and I use them to drive recruitment and performance management.

However there’s always room for improvement. We – Heads of Product in government and GDS – wrote these role descriptions more than two years ago and have learned a lot during that time. Product management has moved on since 2016, particularly the emergent identity for ‘product leadership’. These role descriptions don’t link to existing books, blog posts, and courses – which can lead to us missing out on useful helps, and assuming that we need to create it for ourselves from scratch.

So I decided to write a handbook for product managers at MOJ – taking existing books, blog posts, and courses and tweaking them to work in public services. Following months of drafting, testing, and iteration I published version one internally in July 2018.

Why share the handbook outside of the MOJ?

The majority of the handbook builds on the insights and openness of others – highlighting it, summarising it, contextualising it for government – so it’s important to repay the favour by making my handbook similarly open.

Peers from several other government departments asked if they could see and test the handbook. It was initially shared via Google Doc but many people couldn’t access it – so I decided to test the assumption that publishing the handbook online would make it more accessible to those who’d like to try it out.

This meant I had to review the content of the handbook, generalising it to to make sure it would work for organisations other than MOJ. I was concerned that generalising the content would reduce its value – in reality, this forced me to get to the intent behind the guidance instead of relying on implicit cultural shorthand – I think this makes the content more valuable, not less.

Was it worth it?

Almost 600 unique devices have accessed the handbook online in the 2 months since it was published, viewing pages over 3,000 times – all via a few Tweets and word of mouth.

Those aren’t massive numbers – but they show that the handbook has value outside a single department. More importantly than the metrics: product managers have got in touch to say they’ve used the handbook to help with a challenge their facing; and people interested in the profession have got in touch to say that it’s helped them to learn more about it.

Making things open makes things better – a principle that should be applied to the way we work in government, as well as the software code we create. How many things have you figured out in your own teams that other people would like to learn from?

This handbook is intended to open a conversation, rather than act as the final word. If you want to share feedback then you can speak with me via GitHub Issues, email me, or leave comments on this post.

Interested in joining us? Check out our latest vacancies at Digital & Technology careers

Are you a product person already working in government digital? Come along to the Product People event on 5th Feb 2019 in Birmingham – guest speakers, peer support and networking!

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology

Product management can be a vague profession, unclear to those of us doing it and misunderstood by our colleagues.

So I wrote the Product Management Handbook for Government to help.

So what is it?

Are you finding it hard to figure out what you should actually be doing as a product manager in government? Or how to get a promotion? Or more simply: how do you actually create that roadmap that everyone’s asking you for?

Are you someone working with product managers  and want to understand what a product manager actually does with their time?

Maybe you’re just curious about product management and want to learn more?

If you’re one of these people then the handbook is designed to help.

I’d like to invite you to use, test and improve the white label Product Management Handbook for government teams (but probably useful for Local Authorities too, and possibly for charities and non-profits):

  • If you just want to stop reading right now and try it out – please do!
  • If you want to share feedback then you can speak with me via GitHub Issues, email me, or leave comments on this post
  • If you want to find out more about what this is and why it exists – read on.

Why create a product management handbook?

Product management has existed as a profession for decades. There’s a large number of books, blog posts, and courses that contain most of what we need to do our jobs – but they’re often written from a commercial perspective so there’s sometimes a need to tweak them to fit public services.

We also have product management skills and skill-levels published on GOV.UK – these are great for setting consistent expectations of product management across government and I use them to drive recruitment and performance management.

However there’s always room for improvement. We – Heads of Product in government and GDS – wrote these role descriptions more than two years ago and have learned a lot during that time. Product management has moved on since 2016, particularly the emergent identity for ‘product leadership’. These role descriptions don’t link to existing books, blog posts, and courses – which can lead to us missing out on useful helps, and assuming that we need to create it for ourselves from scratch.

So I decided to write a handbook for product managers at MOJ – taking existing books, blog posts, and courses and tweaking them to work in public services. Following months of drafting, testing, and iteration I published version one internally in July 2018.

Why share the handbook outside of the MOJ?

The majority of the handbook builds on the insights and openness of others – highlighting it, summarising it, contextualising it for government – so it’s important to repay the favour by making my handbook similarly open.

Peers from several other government departments asked if they could see and test the handbook. It was initially shared via Google Doc but many people couldn’t access it – so I decided to test the assumption that publishing the handbook online would make it more accessible to those who’d like to try it out.

This meant I had to review the content of the handbook, generalising it to to make sure it would work for organisations other than MOJ. I was concerned that generalising the content would reduce its value – in reality, this forced me to get to the intent behind the guidance instead of relying on implicit cultural shorthand – I think this makes the content more valuable, not less.

Was it worth it?

Almost 600 unique devices have accessed the handbook online in the 2 months since it was published, viewing pages over 3,000 times – all via a few Tweets and word of mouth.

Those aren’t massive numbers – but they show that the handbook has value outside a single department. More importantly than the metrics: product managers have got in touch to say they’ve used the handbook to help with a challenge their facing; and people interested in the profession have got in touch to say that it’s helped them to learn more about it.

Making things open makes things better – a principle that should be applied to the way we work in government, as well as the software code we create. How many things have you figured out in your own teams that other people would like to learn from?

This handbook is intended to open a conversation, rather than act as the final word. If you want to share feedback then you can speak with me via GitHub Issues, email me, or leave comments on this post.

Interested in joining us? Check out our latest vacancies at Digital & Technology careers

Are you a product person already working in government digital? Come along to the Product People event on 5th Feb 2019 in Birmingham – guest speakers, peer support and networking!

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology