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Daveslist Volume 3 Issue 6 🏃♀️
The need for speed
It’s really curious what content gets engagement sometimes. Yesterday, on LinkedIn, I casually posted the following:
Just typed this as an ambition for local gov digital teams: "We work quickly to deliver results that make things better than before."
It's the 'quickly' bit that'll be difficult.
13 reactions and 16 comments later, it has not exactly gone viral. But for a throwaway remark, it’s clearly hit a nerve with folk.
So why do I think it’s so important to inject pace into digital work, especially in local public services?
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Largely it’s because it’s different. Technology projects that go on forever and don’t start producing benefits for ages are hardly rare things. It’s what is expected a lot of the time.
Increasingly I am finding myself characterising digital work as being that which produces work quickly. Very much in the agile sense - make something that makes things betters, and get it out there. Convince your colleague’s that it is ok. Go back, learn, improve, build the next bit. Quick! Quick!
I was chatting to social care colleagues the other day and two examples of difficulties were raised. One was about council staff getting reliable network access when in partner organisations’ (mostly health) buildings. The other was about getting health colleagues access to social care data safely.
Both of these issues could be answered by long term projects, one to network up all these buildings, the other integrating disparate systems. In fact I suspect exactly these projects are already underway, across the country. And I suspect they’ve been going on for over a decade, one way or another, without any sign of being finished any time soon.
Could these be ‘digital’ projects? I don’t see why not - but they would have to be approached very differently. For the first, I’d want to follow some of the affected council workers around to understand their needs a bit better. I’d want to experiment with different ways of helping them get the network access they need. It might be that in different contexts, different solutions might be needed. It could be that networking up all these buildings is the wrong thing to do. Hopefully it would mean we would have at least some people having better access some of the time. And that could be built upon, scaled up, and out.
For the second, I’d want to understand the purpose of sharing the data, the outcome that needs to be achieved. I’d want to know what the smallest amount of shared data that would make a positive difference would be. Then, what’s the quickest, safest way to share that? Maybe it’s a spreadsheet in a secure, shared Sharepoint folder! Not very sophisticated, but it’s a start. Did doing that help? How could we make it better? What other data might help us create even more value?
These sound like real agile, user-centred basics to the initiated. But not everyone is lucky enough to be aware of this stuff. They hear about big, difficult problems and in their experience, that tends to mean big, difficult solutions.
It’s part of the job of digital to show there’s another way, which involves (to paraphrase myself) working quickly to deliver results that make things better than before.
This issue’s links
"Maybe the real design tool was all the conversation we had along the way" Am consistently impressed with dxw's blogging. Always authentic, always helpful. Very rarely sales-y.
A quick reminder of this work FutureGov (sob) did with Essex back in the day. Am revisiting it myself at the moment, and I think it’s a lot more useful than I realised it was at the time: https://patterns.wearefuturegov.com/
There's lots of very good stuff in here from Coté: "Waiting for the close of open - how long can the 2000s spirit of open source and open APIs last?" https://cote.io/2023/07/21/waiting-for-the.html
"How Signal Walks the Line Between Anarchism and Pragmatism" https://www.wired.com/story/signal-politics-software-criticism/
"Delivery Needs a Strategy" https://jdosreme.medium.com/delivery-needs-a-strategy-94ef09954f36 I’ll be honest - I like strategy. I like being able to point people to a document that explains why we are doing what we are doing. A lot of strategies are bad strategies, but that doesn’t mean strategies are bad… (also why oh why do people still publish on Medium?)
“Elon Musk: Twitter rebrands as X and kills off blue bird logo” Elon Musk has already had a company called X. It merged with PayPay in 2000, and then within months the PayPal people got sick of what a terrible guy he was to work with, and sidelined him. I dare say rebranding Twitter is the first step in what Musk hopes will be his great 'I told you I was right' project. He's re-opening a 23 year old wound. He’s a moron.
"Inside 4chan’s Top-Secret Moderation Machine". Dunno about you, but I cannot let an article about 4chan go by without reading it.
That’s it for this issue. Don’t forget to hit reply if you have any feedback, or forward this on to anyone you think may enjoy it.
Until next time,