This is going to be a short series, as I usually keep series tied to the start of a quarter but quarters didn’t really happen on GOV.UK over the last 6 months. We didn’t have firebreaks, we didn’t take breathers really. There’s more structure to working on GOV.UK Pay, however.

Work stuff

On Tuesday, I met with the other leads to talk about how our roadmap is shaping up for Q2. Last week, the teams scored possible work based on our confidence in delivering it, how long we suspected it would take, and whether we knew it was valuable for users. We came out with two big unknowns that needed discovery, a big push on one particular payment type, a cluster of middle-value work, and four month-long improvements to a domain of the platform. The aim in Tuesday’s meeting was to pick some work to take forward.

At the start of the year, the team had worked on developing a North Star metric and accompanying indicators, but they hadn’t yet had chance to use it to influence roadmapping and planning. After a lengthy conversation over the framework and its purpose, I asked whether we could put numbers against any of the measures, but we hadn’t yet taken readings. That’s understandable, everyone has been really busy, so now is a good time to take those readings and embed the framework in our day-to-day work.

We also chatted about finding out what our users need. That’s worked out really well for me in the past, and I used Intercom’s Where do we suck? Where does it matter? framework to take readings of what users need. And that’s why we work in product: we’re guided by users’ needs, not the project we can do now with this many people for this amount of time. It’s not about using your roadmap like a Tetris board, slotting things in perfectly to suit your resources, it’s about delivering incremental value over time and reaching goals.

We regrouped on Thursday and decided that we’d split into two multidisciplinary teams: one focusing on paying users, the other looking at service teams. They’re plenty of opportunities around our admin tools and the team is in a good flow state, meaning the paying users team can ramp up as we onboard new team members. (I’m assuming I’m going to be looking after the paying users team!)

The meeting on Tuesday felt tense but by Thursday we were laughing and joking as we chatted through the next quarter. That shows we’re gelling as a unit, and proves how hard it is to pick up on vibe when working remote. It’s not damaging us though, which is great!

On Wednesday, David, our lead developer, chatted with me about making operational improvements to the platform.

Side note: David’s actually a bit of a legend and I’m so glad I get to work with him.

It seems like there’s a heap of good practices already, just that some improvement work hasn’t made it through a team’s kanban board. I wonder whether we’re trying to map enterprise processes onto a small product team. Not sure on that one, will need to reach out to some 20-person SaaS businesses, ask how they handle tech debt and operational things. (It feels like this falls between operational management expected of product managers and the availability and capacity management of lead developers.)

Not-work stuff

Possibly like others, I’m really doing very little outside of work! Welsh lessons are progressing and I’m finding it easier to read and speak Welsh words, my mouth is learning the shapes it has to take to make the sounds.

Couch to 5K is fun, I do enjoy getting out and expending a bit of energy. I will need orthotics for my incredibly flat feet, however.

I’m taking the next week off, to read and have time away from my computer. It’s meant to be glorious so we might have a day at the beach, before the tourists come flooding back.

And just as they arrive, we’ll be making our way back to London. We need to head back to the Big Smoke and pack up our flat, cancel our tenancy. Going to live in North Wales from September onwards, save some cash, avoid the pollution.