Steve Messer

The Shock to the System

Weeknotes S03E04

This episode will be short, as I’m feeling ill and run down, and I want to go back to bed. Returning to work after a week away teaching product management was a shock to the system. The pace at work is so fast, so full-on, and it was a heavy week of context switching. Time for a rest and short weeknotes as a result, but it was a blinding week – very productive.

Five Things That Happened

We did more things than this

One

Interviewed the excellent Simon Everest about personalisation. He’s a real gem. Also had an interview with Jen Allum on the same topic, and she’s cracking too. Plus I got to meet Emily Ackroyd properly for the first time, and she was just as enlightening on the subject. Suffice it to say that this piece of work is coming together well.

Two

I had coffee on Tuesday morning with fellow weeknoter, Coco. It was great fun and nice to see her again after the weeknotes meet-up in Bristol. We chatted about agile delivery stuff and her new role as a delivery manager, then dived into chatter about weeknotes. I brought up the highlighting thing that people do and she validated some assumptions as to how people use it.

That was fun. More of that, please. Who else fancies morning coffee chats?

Three

We made a big decision and my team-mates on Search Resilience & Performance started building GOV.UK’s first fully cloud native backend service. It will mean

  • we don’t need to upgrade Elasticsearch any more
  • we can instead spend that time on feature work, making GOV.UK a more unique experience
  • we save about £100,000 over the next couple of years
  • we can switch to another hosting supplier whenever’s clever because we’re using open source

More updates on that as my awesome team proceeds. They’ve done a phenomenal amount in the last 4–5 weeks.

Four

Went and met Frances at the BBC to chat about personalisation on iPlayer. Wow, that was a useful talk. Also got to nerd out on product stuff: North Star metrics for products and how those tie into the organisation’s mission and One Metric That Matters. I’m going to have to return to talk to her about that, I’ve always thought we could do with something similar for GDS. But who knows.

Five

Spoke to Mari in the Finnish government about how they do personalisation. They were surprised that we were asking, because they follow what GDS does in so many areas. So it’s starting to feel like there’s some opportunity bubbling up but it’s not wholly concrete yet. It’s also going to need some incredible strategic navigation and, hands up, I’m not amazing at that (yet). So I’m meeting up with Tom Loosemore, co-founder of GDS, on Monday to steal some of his wisdom.

Reflections

What I Learned

That despite a few weeks doing what felt like nothing, we’re finally making the right progress. It’s OK to generative research and it’s best that you don’t rush it.

What I Could Do Better

Not working too hard when I’m feeling ill but, to be honest, I’m doing that now!

Reading

There’s a fuller list of things I looked at last week on my newsletter archive, the latest episode was about there being no such thing as government, Big Tech/Brother, and data guardians.

These weeknotes took me twenty-five minutes to write on a Saturday morning. It usually takes me much longer, but I’m feeling ill and haven’t gone into much detail or reflection. I often write these on a Saturday morning though.