A digital journey

A tweet from Simon Wardley made me chuckle this week:

It stung a bit too – after all, I started out being someone promoting social media in government, and now here I am banging on about IT and transformation.

Of course, a bit of imposter syndrome is probably a good thing now and then – it never pays to be too confident, after all.

However, there is a bit of logic to my transition from hapless social media consultant to hapless digital transformation consultant, I think.

What I preached about social media was about getting on with things, making it easier and more convenient for residents and service users to access information, or make their views known. It was in a bit of a niche, around communications and engagement, but still.

However, as time went on, it became clear that this could only take you so far – you have to turn engagement into something actionable for a difference to be made. At this point I found myself in discussions with web teams and others around making websites more useful in delivering services (it was around this time that GDS started work on the single domain project).

Again, though, time passed and things didn’t move as quickly as I and others might have hoped. This was because, it turns out, that delivering great services online doesn’t just rely on a great website. It needs (at least) two other things: decent technology on the back end, and services fully designed to meet user need.

So it was at this point that, despite having started out in the social media days trying to work around IT, I realised it was necessary to fix IT in order to get even the simple things done properly. So here I am – modernising IT teams and helping organisations transform digitally.

Could I have started out at this point, ten years ago? Probably not. I needed to be hapless at social media so I could be hapless at websites so I could be hapless at IT and transformation.

Now I just need to work on being less hapless.

Some personal hopes for 2015

2014-12-12

I don’t want to call them resolutions – doing so means failure if they don’t come off. However, there are a few things that I hope will happen in the next twelve months.

1. Focus more on writing (or, creating and communicating)

When it comes down to it, the thing I most love doing is writing. Not proposals, or reports, or meeting notes – but creative stuff, on this blog and my newsletter.

Actually, maybe it’s a bit more than just writing – it’s communicating ideas generally. Attention seeker that I am, I do love speaking at events, and I see that as being a similar activity.

You could also roll in stuff like my podcast, which I really enjoy doing and need to put back onto a more regular footing. It ought to be possible to get at least one a month done.

On the blog I have managed to have a good run over the holiday period, having the time to think about what to post and to actually write it up has been super valuable. I’d love to be able to carry on publishing a reasonably substantial piece every day, or perhaps at least three times a week.

I’d also like to figure out a why of publishing shorter bits, maybe quick posts that point to an interesting website or app, or a news story perhaps. Also, the bookmarking I do of interesting stuff elsewhere on the web could be made more of I think, but am not sure right now what that might look like.

Finally, the newsletter needs rebooting. I managed to get quite a few issues out last year but would really like to be able to stick to a weekly publishing schedule in 2015. Of all the things I write, the newsletter is probably the most rewarding, especially in terms of the feedback I have been getting.

2. Get a proper job

Yup, I think it’s time. It’s four years since I left my last permanent post, at Learning Pool, and the last proper public sector role I had was at the information authority back in 2008.

Freelancing is fantastic in many ways, and it does suit me to a certain extent. However, it’s also exhausting. Even when you have what feels like a long term contract, you can’t let the networking or business development side of thing drop for a moment, because in six month’s time, you’ll be needing something new to do and need to be on people’s radar.

I also want to be able to actually deliver something that has my name all over it. As a consultant, you’re only ever supporting others to achieve things. Having a real single focus is something that appeals to me right now – particularly if it is going to be something that has a real positive impact on people’s lives.

Finally, I think the time is right for my family for me to have something more stable and a little more consistent in terms of working hours and levels of stress. I’d like to be able to experience something approaching a normal life, even for just a short while, and I owe it to Catherine, Ben and Ruth to try my hardest to make that happen.

So what does this mythical job look like? Well, something fairly strategic, where I can bring my experience of working across a number of organisations to bear. It’s no coincidence that I have recently been blogging about the ‘shared CDO‘ idea and that sort of role is definitely one I would love to have a crack at.

3. Do some real L&D

Just before Christmas, I started doing a course on CodeAcademy – the basic one on Python programming. It was really helpful in terms of doing some learning for learning’s sake – after all, I’m not going to be getting any work as a developer any time soon.

I’d really like to be able to do some proper learning this year if I can. I’ve been looking through the Open University course catalogue – but to be honest I’m not sure if the more formal courses are really for me, and of course there’s the cost.

So maybe the thing to do is to stick with the informal stuff, do some courses on the various MOOC platforms that are out there and other training sites like Lynda, and basically build my own curriculum.

4. Make something happen around digital capability – particularly in local government

In the context of work, I’m passionate about two things mainly – the internet and learning and development. My work in 2014 at the Department of Health helped me to combine these things, and if I took a regret away from my time at Learning Pool it was that I didn’t do anything significant to boost digital skills in the workplace via their amazing community.

So, during 2015 I’d like to be able to work on something that can contribute to the digital capability agenda, particularly in local government where it’s probably most needed right now.

I have some ideas on where to start, and no doubt I will be sharing them in all their half baked glory here on the blog soon.

Link roundup

(Am starting to post interesting links to the blog again, via Google Reader. Presentation leaves a little to be desired, but am working on it…)

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