Monthly Archives: February 2014

“Technology at least as good as people have at home”

devicesA quick pointer to an interesting project in central government in the UK.

It’s looking at redefining the technology used by civil servants to get their jobs done.

There are a number of interesting issues around this agenda. The experience people have at home with software – particularly web based applications like Facebook, Amazon and so on – means that the systems they use at work are increasingly clunky and depressing.

As Stefan Czerniawski says in his blog post:

Traditional software is big and complicated, packed with features which most people don’t use most of the time. That has two consequences. The first is that they need training and support to be useful, the second is that it is difficult and expensive to change them. Modern software tends to be lighter, more focused, more flexible and more social. That makes it much easier to match the tool to the job.

It will be good to see what recommendations emerge from this project in the future.

Welcome to WorkSmart!

DesktopWorkSmart is a new blog about how we do our jobs.

It strikes me that there is a lot going on in terms of building fantastic user interfaces and processes for customers and end users of services – and this is great, of course.

But what about the people working behind those services, who are having to use systems which aren’t quite so delightfully designed with the user in mind?

The systems and processes we are all engaged with on a daily basis when we are at work often suck, and make our jobs a lot harder than they need to be.

On top of that, workers in organisations are often denied access to helpful productivity tools and services, which would make them more effective for their employers.

This is mostly down to culture, mindset and attitude. It’s about they way organisations are led, and managed.

WorkSmart will be covering all these issues. I’ll cover personal productivity tricks and tips, and new ways of working. We’ll provide great stories and case studies of where organisations are making life easier and better for their staff through enlightened leadership and management.

Anyone can read the blog of course. But I would be delighted if you would take up our free membership offer, which will mean you get our regular email newsletter, and in future will give you access to members only content.

Also, if you’d like to contribute articles to WorkSmart, just get in touch – I’d love to hear from you.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

A red tape challenge for public servants? Or an internal GDS?

At the DH digital champions summit on Tuesday, during the afternoon open space session, an interesting discussion broke out. One among many, I’m sure!

Anyway, what was being discussed was the sheer unusability of government systems and processes. Only, not the ones that the public uses, but the ones that civil servants use.

I’ve worked in enough local councils, quangos and central government departments to know that the vast majority of IT systems in use are pretty dreadful. Clunky, and rarely fit for purpose, they seem to exist just to make life more difficult for those using them.

Likewise those processes yet to be digitised. How hard is it to bring in a temporary member of staff to get a job done? Sometimes the paperwork is so over the top, it’s quicker to do whatever it is yourself rather than get the extra body in.

It’s absurd and clearly must be a factor in the difficulty in getting stuff done within government.

The Red Tape Challenge is a crowdsourced effort within government to get rid of the burden of bureaucracy on businesses and citizens. It appears to have had some success in identifying areas where things could move a little quicker, smoother, and maybe with fewer dockets.

There’s also been a lot of focus – rightly – on the user experience for citizen and customer facing interactions. The work that GDS is doing in this area shows that it can be done.

I do wonder though whether a similar approach ought to be being taken to internal systems, across government. Maybe a red tape challenge style thing, where public servants can identify the particularly crappy systems and processes that make their lives a misery – and get them fixed.

Or maybe we need a black ops style skunkworks, wielding the knife on some of the more monstrous forms of obstructive paperwork and dreadful databases. Taking a similar user-focused approach to that which GDS – and many other public facing services – are using to such great effect.

There must be at least much opportunity here, to improve efficiency and save money, as there is in making things easier for the citizen?

Update: This here looks interesting – via @pubstrat

Launching the DigitalCllr survey

surveyI’ve been doing work with local councillors for some time now – helping them see how they can use the internet to better engage with citizens, and communicate with them too.

This takes the form of running training workshops usually. There’s probably a better way of doing it, but they are probably a bit tricky to procure.

Anyway, I’m interested in finding out where we are up to with digitally savvy elected local representatives, so I have thrown together a quick survey. The main aim to to find out what councillors are doing on the internet, and try and spread the word to their less keen colleagues about how it’s working.

So, if you are a councillor, or you know one, spread the word about the survey. Here’s the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/digitalcllr – I’ll be blogging about the results, so we can all benefit.

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Rethinking email

emailOr maybe not actually rethinking email, but taking it back to what it was meant to be about…

Working with a colleague the other day in a government organisation, I saw him looking for a document, that he was sent in an email. He was looking for it in his email client (Outlook in this case), in an inbox that contained thousands of emails, and lots of email sub folders, all of which contained hundreds, if not thousands, of more emails.

He tried clicking his way through, sorting and resorting folders in different ways, without success. He tried the search function, also to no avail.

This, I thought, is madness. Many people in many organisations do exactly the same thing. They keep hold of thousands of emails, many kept unread for one reason or another, because they might be needed in future, or because they act as reminders to do something, or because they have file attachments that might be useful.

Here’s the thing though. Your email client was set up to receive emails, and to send them. It’s not a task manager. It’s not a file store.

Of course, it’s not individuals fault that they are misusing their email in this way. After all, if a genuinely better, more usable alternative was available, they would use it. But sadly the productivity and document management tools available to your average worker in a big organisation are rarely very usable.

I’d be really interested to know how big a problem this is for people – as I have a little idea around something that could help.

So, are you drowning in email you don’t feel like you can delete? Let me know below!