Steve Messer

The Limbo Continues

Weeknotes S02E11

We’re still in the fallow period, but it has been a boon: loose ends tied, histories written, new ships prepared for departure. Writing reviews of 2018 has been popular this week, and I’ve enjoyed reading pieces by new weeknoters. This weekend I’ll try to find the time to have a little retro of these first two series of my weeknotes, make the most of the continuing limbo.

Three Things That Happened

We did more things than this

One

As the quarter has already ended and this week demanded nothing urgent (for a change), I spent a day continuing to document the last three months. This consisted of going through the Trello board, picking out the cards related to our OKRs, i.e. not business-as-usual cards to support the platform, and writing up a narrative on Confluence telling future colleagues what we did, why, and what we learned.

I didn’t rewrite the details of the cards on Confluence, simply linked to the cards, because that would have taken hours. That troubled me because – as Jonathan pointed out – Trello isn’t a permanent record of anything. Hopefully it will persist in the immediate future but it’s certainly time to look at writing product decision records.

Two

Talking to users is an important aspect of good product work, as is talking to your team. This week I spoke with two users – a local authority and HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) – about some issues they’d had; and Bruce, tech lead on the upcoming search work.

Usually contact with users would be handled over email but it’s not always an ideal communication channel. I’ve used phone calls in my previous role to quickly catch up with users, it’s more immediate, and it tends improve our rapport with users.

What’s more, it’s a great way to open up your pipeline for new work. Emails can be very direct, whereas verbal conversations cover more ground. For example, I was able to find out how HMCTS use one of our publishing tools, the steps they take, why they use that process and the steps they take in other similar workflows – all inside 5 minutes. That meant I was able to address their issue immediately and gather useful context to consider improvements. It’s not always possible or necessary, granted, but quick contact would help lubricate our support processes.

Having a chat with Bruce to field any questions was great too. When he first requested the meeting, I made sure to pull together everything we’d already done and make it available to him. He took a read through and said he felt really good about it, as we’ve had much of the work shaped by Kat from Digital Marketplace who’s upgraded Elasticsearch before. Considering we were rather in the dark three months ago, we’re in a really strong position now.

Three

I also caught up with Leanne, Head of Product for GOV.UK, about the discovery into personalisation we’re doing in the upcoming quarter. I’ll not speak about that on my weeknotes as I’m intending to blog about it regularly. I’d also like us to publish the research and reports openly.

Reflections

What I Learned

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, etc. It works. Although perhaps I’m overestimating the alignment from one meeting.

What I Could Do Better

After pitching my firebreak session, someone raised a challenge and I replied with a stumbled ‘Errr…’. I think I should compose myself more during those moments, I’m afraid I looked shook.

Reading

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