Weeknotes 26: user research is a team sport

This week I’ve given myself time to think about a couple of areas I’m working on — governance as a service, and KPIs. They’re both big topics, and I need to read and learn more before coming up with proposals. I guess I’m in a little discovery phase on each. Following Richard McLean‘s advice I’ve been conducting some user research with colleagues on governance, to establish what different user needs we have.

On Monday it was Richard, our lead user researcher’s turn to be my participant — useful not only for the insight on governance, but great feedback on how I could improve my questioning techniques. Later on I tried my new improved questions out on Nic and Dennis — getting their views as delivery managers on what they need from governance. I’ve got a couple more sessions planned next week with colleagues from our application support team. I’m planning to write the results up as a separate blog post once I’ve finished

Also on Monday I welcomed Joanne Moore on her first day — she’s started as our new lead service designer (and already written her first #weeknotes)



Began with the dentist (1) but got rapidly better. Stephen, Jackie, Karim and I got together to map out the current process for paper procurement. We mapped out the current user journey, pain points and ate cake whilst we worked. At the end of session we’d identified some key questions to answer, and have got some ideas and hypotheses to test with users.


Early morning swim #3 of 8. Remarkably quieter in the pool this week as the sunshine disappears . . .and a really enjoyable swim. This could become a habit.

I had a useful conversation with Simon, Nic and Matt about the product roadmap for the manage a repair project which reminded me about this blog post I’d spotted last week via twitter

View at Medium.com

Dennis and Soraya gave a brilliant show and tell on the income collection project which we’re working on with Made Tech— really exciting use of gov.notify and seeing our APIs in the cloud. There was engaging discussion about data, content design, and process improvement afterwards from a wide range of people who’d come to the show and tell to learn more about the project.


A day full of meetings on Thursday — all interesting, and I learnt loads, met lots of new people including a visit down to Southwark to learn more about the work that Doniya and Cameron are doing at the Greater London Authority on digital skills and apprenticeships. Also it rained which was good (2).


I worked from home — a break from meetings and a chance to work on draft KPIs. Lydia from Rainmaker Solutions did some remote user research with me on the pipeline prototype which was really interesting. It was great to be a participant – and to spend time really thinking about the prototype and how it’s progressing.

Things I read/watched this week

This from Citizens Advice on content that works hard for the user is excellent.

I watched this video from Mark Schwartz about business value

and last but not least our new lead front end dev Riccardo gave a talk at a dev meet up a couple of weeks ago on the 5 W’s of atomic design:

What I struggled with this week

(1) the dentist. I have a lovely dentist but I still really don’t like going. Other than that though, it’s been a really good week.

(2) I wouldn’t normally say this but in the spirit of every cloud has a silver lining etc, I did get to wear my nice new raincoat.

Weeknotes 25 – managing my time, gaining more knowledge

This was my grandma’s Beach hut, now my aunts. It’s brilliant.


Was a day off — spent at the beach with extended family in the sunshine. Glorious.


I spent Tuesday afternoon out on tenancy visits with Sahena, one of our housing officers. She very kindly let me tag along whilst she visited two of her tenants on one of the estates she manages. I learnt loads from the afternoon — not just about the processes she follows, the paperwork that’s involved but also about the estate we went to, how different services link up, and how users view our services.


At the lido for an early morning swim #2 of 8. I’m hoping I can make this part of my normal routine for the next few weeks.

I met David from the consultation team to learn more about how our ICT survey works and get advice from him on this year’s approach. I’ve spent time this week reading up on previous surveys, talking to colleagues and thinking about the new questions we want to ask this year.

Learning and development was a focus of the afternoon — Matthew Cain, Jasmeen and I had a great conversation about how we might grow and develop our emerging product manager community, I posted a summary of our HackIT learning and development strategy on the HackIT Google+ community along with a new learning tag which we’re going to try using to capture and share our learning across the teams. Later on I met Rory, Luke and Craig from Made Tech to talk about how they approach building capability in their dev apprentices. It was a really useful conversation — and we’ve agreed to get our apprentices together in the autumn to learn from each other.


Richard and the user research team led the weekly ICT standup this week – with a great talk about the work they’re doing and the tools/techniques the team are producing to share with us.

Richard presenting about how we’re testing the language people use and understand

We had a first show and tell for the pipeline project from Rainmaker Solutions, they’re starting to sketch out what the developed design might look like so that it meets the user needs we’ve identified so far. There were loads of great questions from colleagues which was ace and made for an engaging discussion. I’m really looking forward to seeing this project develop over the next few weeks.

Lydia from Rainmaker

The afternoon was filled with conversations with awesome ladies — firstly Sam Villis who writes great weeknotes, thinks amazingly about problem solving and is helping me think about how we might get local authority people more engaged with One Team Gov. Then Rebecca Kemp who is well, brilliant. It was great to catch up with her on our respective new jobs, how we might collaborate, and where we can support each other.

Finally in the evening Philippa Newis, Rebecca Scott and Cheryl for a quiet (1) drink and a catch up.


I started my day early at City Hall talking to a delegation from local government from Shenzhen about HackIT and the work we’re doing at Hackney to build services, so good people want to use them. A really interesting meeting – I learnt more about the Smart City London plan from Stephen Lorimer, and about customer payments from Mike at TFL. Great questions from the delegation and then an opportunity to take photos from the balcony:

The marvellous view from City Hall

Working from home in the afternoon enabled me to pull together a draft set of questions for the 2018 ICT survey, and catch up on outstanding admin tasks.


What I read this week

This from Kit Collingwood was ace, brilliantly written, and I’ve been reflecting on my own habits as a result.

View at Medium.com

My colleague Rahma Mohamed has started writing weeknotes — check them out.

This from Ian Ansell on we are citizens advice was really thoughtful piece about data, why its useful and why we need to be careful when we collect it.

View at Medium.com

Lastly — I look forward to reading Dan Barrett’s weeknotes every week — and the season finale s02e17 were excellent, thoughtful, honest and amusing all at once. Thanks Dan.

What I’m struggling with this week

Diary management. My diary management was awful this week, which meant I missed more than one meeting, was late to others, and had to rearrange some things last minute. There’s no excuse(2) and I’m grateful that colleagues were so forgiving. So — some micro actions I’m going to take that I know will help are:

  • Check what’s happening for the week on the previous Friday, and plan accordingly
  • Get into the habit of checking what’s already happening before and after a meeting invite before accepting said invite (google shows this on the right hand side which is brilliant)
  • Block out travel time between events
  • Make sure I know where I’m going . . .
  • Stop thinking that I can ‘fit it in’ (2)

(1) quite quiet.

(2) if there was an excuse it would be that I’m getting used to the new diary and email at work but I don’t think that’s a very good excuse, so I’m not using it.

(2) this will make Michelle Bayley chuckle wryly . . .