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Product Management Blog

Starting a journey towards better collaboration

Changing the way you work is tough, as is changing Government.

We began back in 2013 with an ambitious aim of changing the way Government works, but I gave little regard to the I worked prior to arrival and what this would mean. Coming from a waterfall background and having a passion for all things ‘agile’ - I found adopting a new you isn’t easy. It’s not just what you do, it’s how you do it.

We have been through various efforts to reshape how we deliver and collaborate with each other over the last year. There have been highs and lows but one thing is clear - without passionate, motivated people the possible becomes impossible.

Responsive.org is a community of people with a mission and a passion to do things differently.

Reading their manifesto is a refreshing experience.

“..most organizations still rely on a way of working designed over 100 years ago for the challenges and opportunities of the industrial age”

I chose to put pen to paper in a personal capacity to begin to move towards their manifesto principles. I feel this has the potential to benefit me and the people around me.

Principles

  • People over profit
  • Empowering over controlling
  • Emergence over planning
  • Networks over hierarchies
  • Adaptivity over efficiency
  • Transparency over privacy

Interested? Read the manifesto over on the responsive.org website. Recommended reading includes The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age (my copy is on the way).

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Putting users at the heart of your digital strategy

I was delighted to be asked by DigitasLBi to talk at “What’s next in digital transformation”.

Given three busy weeks, I thought about what I could share that might be of value for others. So, I focused on our early process to ensure users are front and centre when producing information about public services.

Putting users at the heart of your digital strategy, essentially a look at our early efforts

This also provided me with a perfect opportunity to listen to some other interesting talks. These talks included emerging digital trends (Digitas LBi), organisational transformation and change (Standard Life), innovation in media (STV) and tips on optimising app store games to increase downloads (Channel 4).

The other talks were:

  • John Monks, Head of Digital Business Design, DigitasLBi
  • Mary Harper, Head of Customer and Digital Marketing, Standard Life
  • David Milne, Head of Digital Publishing, STV
  • Colin Macdonald, Commissioning Editor for Games, Channel 4

There is also a summary of all the talks, including my own, available on the Eden Scott blog and I would suggest it is worth a look

Saying hello to Jekyll

Goodbye WordPress. It’s been great working with you! Hello Jekyll. Jekyll is a static site generator, an open-source tool for creating simple yet powerful websites of all shapes and sizes. To quote the project’s readme:

Jekyll is a simple, blog aware, static site generator. It takes a template directory […] and spits out a complete, static website suitable for serving with Apache or your favorite web server. This is also the engine behind GitHub Pages, which you can use to host your project’s page or blog right here from GitHub.

GitHub you say? Sounds good to me.

So, we’re now up and running on GitHub, with Poole as the template of choice for Jekyll.

Migrating from WordPress is a breeze when you make use of some of the useful apps out there for doing exactly that. Interested? There is a great post from leon Paternoster that explains all.

However, if you are less code savvy - there is a great windows app that does it in a flash wpXml2Jekyll - pick it up on GitHub.

Revisiting an old favourite called URLs

When we embarked on our most recent public sector project, there was a big focus on shifting mindsets towards agile practices and away from traditional approaches to product and software development. I blogged briefly about this personal switch to agile back in February.

So, where are we now? We are approaching our first alpha release, we have begun sharing some early thoughts over on inside.mygov.scot we are on twitter and continue to code like crazy.

As part of our hub and spoke model to content contribution within the team, I went back to an old favourite - URLs.

You can read more over on the mygov.scot blog.

The blog is filling out nicely with content from a wide range of people within our teams - including a post on user research by Paul.

I’m also leading on the release of material supporting people in the delivery of digital public services. You can find this under standards and guidelines.

Adapting to agile methods in the public sector

Working in an agile manner, after a history of creating bulky project briefs and requirements to front load work, is a little challenging to say the least. I had a history of attempting to nail long documentation, with the aim of realising as many outcomes and outputs as possible. However, long development times, a lack of flexibility in relation to change and worries about launching too early were always common.

I’m now sketching out ideas on whitewalls, snapping photos of doodles, holding short stand ups and working with product owners who have a real passion for the creations under their guidance. We’re aiming to release frequently and we’re aiming to ensure that anything we do is backed by real, robust user needs - something that Government Digital Service have really been a champion for over the last few years.

It all feels very liberating - in a technical / work kind of way.

If you are interested in finding out more, the web is full of details around various flavours of agile project management methods. Within the division we work through a hybrid approach, utilising DSDM for more robust governance and fuller project documentation, alongside a more Scrum like method for the delivery teams themselves.

Exciting times and more to come.