My week started by chatting to Randy Silver and Simon Wilson about how Greenwich council might adopt GOV.UK Pay. I’ve been following them both for a few years so it was great to get a chance to talk, and I’m a little envious of the team they’ve got set up, it sounds like a cast of all-stars. The chat was one of many where people talk of the need for Direct Debit, which set a theme for the week.

You see, there’s some rules around how Direct Debit payments are made to government bank accounts and these rules mean we can’t use a certain method for taking payments, according to our current understanding. The method we’d like to use is beneficial for service teams, it automates away a lot of the manual hassle of setting up and managing Direct Debit mandates. This is a problem at the service team level that can be solved by a common software component, saving the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds in duplicated costs.

So much of the week was spent preparing slides for a meeting with Government Banking Service to talk over this strategic blocker. All things considered, the meeting went well as we reached our intended outcome – being able to explore the problems for service teams together.

Though I’ve met with departments resistant to change before, it’s the first time I’d been in a meeting on the frontlines of change-making: trying to get across that we’re not just looking to add a whizzy digital thing into an online journey, we’re actually trying to change the way people work and make things more efficient. That was hard, and I’d like to speak to my mentors about what to do in those situations. It’s not something you’re taught in state school.

Having said that, winning the hearts and the minds might be a rabbit hole here.

The rest of the week was spent on Strong Customer Authentication, shuffling the team along with journey-mapping and having input on research briefs, as well as responding to comments on my RFC for cookie-less analytics. We need some quantitative data to help us set baselines and observe changes in conversion rates, and having three cookies banners pop up in one service would be a shite experience. We don’t need Google Analytics when privacy-friendly ways of collecting that data exist.

I also caught up with Steve Parks to chat about free-range working. We’re running experiments to find our hybrid-working approach at GOV.UK Pay, one that will be well established and works for everyone as soon as the pandemic ends and we’re able to be back in the office. The last two weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about socialising and human connection when we can’t be together. Steve’s team were holding collective tea breaks, an idea I’d had with a colleague last week – so, having validated the idea, I went ahead and set one up.

Now, whenever I want a cup of tea or coffee, I join the #govuk-pay-teabreak channel on Slack and start an audio chat. I notify people that I’m making a cuppa and they start to join. We spend 10 minutes chatting about whatever we like, then go back to the day job. There are many moments for spontaneous socialising, but lifting it from text chat to voice chat feels like we’re a little closer. (And the beauty of the spontaneity, unlike an arranged fika, is that you never know who’s going to turn up for a chat.)

Next I want to map our team’s work–life environment, so that we can better support the team members that need it.