Writing these notes on Friday morning as I’ve got a busy evening: my usual product lean coffee with Matt followed by a get-together for product managers working in the public interest. It has been an abnormally video-heavy week with only one hour on Thursday when I wasn’t on a video chat with people. Some very good conversations had this week though!

Work stuff

Mainly a week of working on bigger-picture strategy things. Contracts, opportunities, and building consensus.

The main achievement was using the skills I learned in the designing strategy course to think about how we’d successfully and sustainably build Direct Debit support on GOV.UK Pay. We worked out what would need to be true, for users, in our teams and of our competition, and then highlighted things where we thought our progress might be blocked: by lack of knowledge, not enough funds, few people, not the right skills, etc. Next we formed and sequenced small tests and activities to build up evidence and validate assumptions on value, viability, feasibility and an alternative disruptive strategy. On Friday, I made a start on collecting that evidence and validating/invalidating those assumptions.

We spoke with people from HM Revenue & Customs and Government Banking Service about government’s approach to Open Banking. Someone highlighted that we should ‘find out what the strategies are so that we don’t end up treading on each other’s toes’, which I thought kind of missed the point. Really we should be talking about the goals we’re trying to reach on behalf of government, how we expect to meet those goals, and whether there’s opportunities to collaborate and realise those goals more efficiently. I left with a sense that one party was unnecessarily territorial, so I’m glad we can rely on GOV.UK Pay’s digital strategy, which is proving itself week on week with how fast we’re scaling.

We brought a feature into sprint that will help organisations better meet PCI compliance if they need to switch call centre agents from working in offices to working at home. It’s a small thing I’ve been scoping with a few departments and councils, bringing in our interaction designer and developers to iron out the detail, so I’m excited to see it put into production. You never really lose the buzz of seeing features you helped craft be brought into use.

It was fun to catch up with Tanya too, she’s really inspirational and seems to have a good story for anything you might be going through. In fact, one tidbit of advice she gave me was used that same day. A little bit of propaganda goes a long way!

Last weekend I found my notebook from when I first studied product management at General Assembly. One note said that ‘product management is essentially a business strategy role’, and that really chimed with me. I think that’s the buzz I get out of this role, and I’m really lucky to be able to work directly on our business strategy for GOV.UK Pay. Making the jump from the internationally popular GOV.UK to a platform exercising digital strategy in the government domain was a tough choice, but I’m building up experience that’ll be hugely beneficial should I decide to move into the private sector.

Not-work stuff

Very little thinking or doing done outside of work hours this week, mostly been sitting back and relaxing.

Had fun thinking about how a situation room might be styled these days. WarGames, NORAD-style? Road signs with LED graphs? An articulated bronze statue with an Alexa for a mouth? Somewhere superforecasters can hunker down while the country collapses, anyway.

I did walk from Merstham to Tattenham Corner last weekend though, along parts of the North Downs Way. It was a misty day so I’ll need to go back at some point to capture the views but it’s a decent walk, plenty of uphill and downhill to get the blood pumping. There were lots of coal-tax posts, if that’s your thing. 🤷‍♂️

This weekend I’m going to hike from Hassocks to Lewes, following bits of the South Downs Way and other paths. I’ve done parts of that walk before, heading westwards on the South Downs Way, so it’ll be glorious this weekend with the sun.