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I used to dislike my job

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Agile, Service design

I have bags of experience doing programme and project management on big IT programmes. But it has sometimes been difficult to deliver these as the internal processes can add delay and increase costs.

However... My experience of moving to a digital approach is that things can be delivered far more quickly with improved quality and reduced cost.

I led a small team responsible for fixing a long standing problem to deliver a demand to resource tool at a busy airport.

Making use of a digital approach to the following made a real difference:

Understanding the problem as a User

Through spending a lot of time with users we created a simple description of the problem and discussed how we were going to solve it. This gave us a clear user story written by users in their language, helping the team to understand the problem and solution. We also weren't left with a 20+ page document with lots of technical terminology.

Going straight to delivery

We moved quickly and within a week were into delivery. We didn’t try to have all the answers from the start and quickly built a prototype that we kept reiterating with the users. The first version wasn't that good which was fine, but then working in short sprints of a week, the following version was better. The users started to take us seriously as we were delivering quickly so they started to get more engaged.

Review and improve each week

Working in short sprints of a week allowed us to draw in the business/users at each step, get their feedback and then make improvements. Continuous feedback is essential as this is their solution, and reviewing in quick ‘show and tells’ doesn’t take much time. Business users may initially be sceptical after years of giving resources to requirement gathering exercises that don’t make it to delivery, you can show that this approach is different.

Going forward

Moving to Registered Traveller gave us people with more expertise in using the digital approach. We started carrying out work in an agile way as we became a Government Digital Service (GDS) exemplar. At first the team were a bit overwhelmed as there was a lot of expertise and opinions and we had to do just about everything from scratch under a spotlight. We also wondered what value working with GDS would bring as we thought we already knew lots about our users and had done some user research. Of course we were wrong and we have learnt a huge amount about designing and delivering a great service. We continue to improve as we put user needs at the centre of everything that we do.

Some top tips from this journey are:

You always have things to learn!

At the start I was confident that I knew our users needs. I was wrong and there’s a video of an American laughing out loud and mocking our Monty Python style language on our website during user research. It was quite brutal and played to a packed show and tell. So once you have recovered from having your ego squashed you can start to learn and enjoy the experience.

Prototype and prepare to fall over

Making it up as you go along is ok and getting it wrong is fine - better now than later on. Don’t pretend you have all the answers, and you are allowed to change your mind.

The team, the team, the team

Nothing is more important to your ability to deliver. We had some very difficult planning sessions at the beginning; retrospectives could be hard, but as a team we got stronger as a result and this just reflected the commitment and shared focus of the team. Later on, this hard work at the beginning gave us strong foundations to build on and a lot of things fell into place later on as a result.

So now I do enjoy my job more. I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to deliver, and to be told by users you have transformed their experience for the better, delivering to operational staff new systems that meet their needs and expectations, and by having a strong platform to keep building better services upon.

Let’s share

Do you have a different approach or thoughts on what we’re doing? We’re open to further improvements in how we approach digital transformation and would love to get your thoughts, inputs and experience in the Comments section below or via twitter

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