Weeknotes 66–68: Earning and Learning
As well as client work, we’ve managed to fit a good amount of learning into the last few weeks, and sharing that on our blog…
We began a new phase on one of our key projects. Where the last phase was about refactoring and testing to prepare for future higher usage levels, the new work is developing new functionality. It’s a nice change and great to be doing work that is more visible to the client. Even though the last phase was incredibly important, it’s (ironically) hard for people to see the benefit of scalability when it works.
Looking for a way to talk about what we do other than projects
One challenge for us is the word ‘project’. We work on digital services that are long term, living things that should continually evolve. The word project makes people think of a fixed start and end, and the work all being ‘done’, which isn’t good for the service or its users who expect a constant improvement. Therefore we’re looking for how to talk about things we’re working on without the word project.
We’re studying some of Allan Kelly’s writing in this area for a start, but are also keen to here from service and product managers, other agencies and so on — how do you talk about what you work on without saying project?
Finding future work
We submitted for a couple of opportunities on the government’s Digital Outcomes and Services (DOS) framework over the last few weeks. There seems to have been a good increase in the number of projects being listed there, but there’s still a bit of a quality problem. (one which our friends at dxw are running an audit to quantify)
We were shortlisted for a project that is a great fit for us — an interesting challenge and a valuable service, for an organisation that is new to delivering digital services. It’s similar in many ways to some other work we’ve done. We presented to them, it went well, but we didn’t get it. We’re gathering feedback and will do a retrospective once we have that — seeking to learn and improve our approach. The rest we’re waiting to hear back on.
In general though we’re finding our best clients find us direct and then still want to use G-Cloud to appoint us, while the DOS framework seems to be pretty random and time-consuming, a procurement lottery. On sharing notes with some other agency founders I found that we’re not alone in finding this. We’re looking at ways we might help with buyer training/information to help start projects off more successfully in procurement. And we’re considering not responding to DOS ‘opportunities’ unless we already have a connection with the client organisation.
Showcasing our work
For the last year we’ve been heads-down working, and haven’t had much chance to shout about what we’re doing.
In some cases the projects are sensitive for the client, so we can’t speak about them openly, but in others it’s just because of a lack of time. We’ve now planned in some time to address this, so you’ll start to see a bit more about our work in the coming weeks.
- Lewis, our UX lead, wrote up a case study about a user research project we undertook for the Crown Prosecution Service to help them identify ways their website could better serve victims of crime and witnesses.
- Joe, our tech lead, wrote the first in a series of articles about load-testing important public sector services.
Running the business
We’ve been trialling an expenses card system called Pleo that enables us to give every member of the team a company credit card. They also have an app on their phone to collect images of the receipts. It’s made handling our expenses so much easier and so we decided to adopt it fully and continue onto the paid service.
After a period earlier in the year where we had a few late payments, and were firm with our clients, we’re now getting paid early!
We’re now working on our financial year-end, including claiming for the Research and Development credit scheme from the government for some of the innovative work we’ve done.
In addition, we’re looking at what would be involved to align with, and possibly apply for, the Fair Tax mark.
Out and about
I attended an Institute of Directors drinks event, having joined again after a break of about ten years. My aim was just to get a feel for what it’s like now and I’m pleased to report it seems a bit less old and stuffy! After that I went to the IoD Digital Strategy conference where the Digital Minister was (supposed) to speak about Tech After Brexit; the Information Commissioner spoke about GDPR; and there was a workshop on a director-level view on implementing GDPR. There were of course the usual frustrating sponsor sessions with sales pitches masquerading as authoritative ‘thought-leadership’, but overall the GDPR sessions made it a worthwhile day.
I also attended the Agile Delivery conference in London, and so far have written up two of the sessions: How Hiscox adopted Agile working with a £0.5bn bet on the cloud; and Winning the backing of stakeholders for Agile delivery at Companies House. I’ll write up two more sessions next week. It was a good conference, non-salesy, with speakers willing to share their experiences in frank and helpful ways.
Lewis went to the Mind The Product conference for senior product managers and others involved in delivering complex online services.
And I went to the UK Health Camp — an unconference for those interested in how digital services can help improve health and the delivery of healthcare.
I also went to a dinner for founders of ten of the UK’s too Open Source digital agencies. It was great to catch up, talk business and share tips.
That’s all for this edition of our Weeknotes. You’ll see it’s been less of a gap this time — and my mission is to get the next one out in (yes!) a week.
As always, I’m keen to hear your thoughts, experiences and feedback via twitter. I’m @steveparks there or you can email me [email protected]