IMS Discovery - Week 3

We've drafted requirements for delivery support and have taken advice from MHCLG on getting our project started.

As week three draws to a close we’ve completed our draft requirements for a Digital Outcome and we’re preparing to publish them. We won’t be taking the time to carry out early market engagement as the guidance from the Digital Marketplace suggests we ought to, but that’s simply because there isn’t much time available for this project. That might come back to bite us, but we’ll just have to see how we get on. With a deadline of January 31st 2020 looming it seems to be the most sensible move at this point.

While we’ve been drafting and redrafting those this week, we’ve also spent some time reviewing the learning I took when I visited the Local Digital Fund Workshop in London on the 11th. I paid particular attention during the fishbowl discussions when previous discovery projects were highlighting what had worked well and not so well during their work:

  • Mobilising the project team is hard! The day job doesn’t just stop. Get to people early. Speak to them. Prepare them. The project is coming, they need to be ready. They may need to move other work. This can takes weeks! Consider your enablers - your IT team, your FM team, your HR team, your web providers, your infrastructure team - anyone who, if not ready, could cause a problem. Speak to them. Prepare them. We’ve made a start on this one already.
  • Prepare the rest of your organisation. Blog. Send emails. Run awareness sessions. Use the phrase “a condition of the fund…” lots of times. The project will struggle if you need someone unexpectedly and they aren’t aware of the project, it’s value and it’s tight timeline. If your organisation has a staff newsletter, get in it! Set up your communication channels now so they’re ready. If your using YouTube for Sprint Reviews, do you have an account? Does your organisation have a channel? Are you allowed to use that channel? Do you need to set up a new blog? Can you use your organisations Twitter account?
  • All of the above is about communication! It’s key! Engage your communications team early and start getting messages out now! In all communications, be clear about what it is the project will be doing, who it might need to involve, and what it hopes to achieve.
  • If communications trigger any new interest from stakeholders, grab them with both hands and find a way to utilise them if at all possible. The more information that can be gleaned in a Discovery project, the better.
  • Engage your Contracts / Commissioning / Procurement teams. Chances are, given this project is funded, you’ll be spending money. Make sure there are arrangements in place for that to be done quickly, effectively and within all procurement rules and guidelines. Last thing you need is to be dealing with a procurement issue in the middle of the project.
  • Secure a project space - get onto your FM team and secure a room for the duration of the project. You are going to need it, if only to have a quiet space to conduct user research interviews. If it doesn’t have conferencing facilities, see if you can get hold of a speaker phone at least.
  • Make sure you can access tools like Trello, YouTube, Google Docs - some IT teams will block them. Not all of your partner organisations will use Microsoft Word and sometimes you’ll have to share in a more open collaborative way. Have a word - make sure you have a way to together.
  • Factor in public holidays! This project will run over Christmas/New Year week - don’t expect to have that time available. Sounds obvious, but it’s a week less than you think you have before you’ve even started.
  • Are there any significant management structure changes happening in the organisation that could change the key stakeholders in your plan. What about in your partner organisations - does anyone know? Can you prepare for any of that now in advance so you’re not caught out and can react if it does happen? Contact your partners - have that conversation.
  • Be honest with your stakeholders, especially the people you’re carrying out user research with that you appreciate their effort and that (hopefully not) it might come to nothing. Don’t give them unrealistic expectations that their work will individually save £1m for example. Be open.

We’ll be acting on all of these advice points next week! In the meantime we’ve already begun blogging regularly (weekly) both internally within our organisation and externally. This should help with a lot of the above and help keep the narrative going with partners as we progress. We’ve also organised access to publish our Show & Tells to the Barnsley Council YouTube channel when they’re available.