Wednesday, 27 June 2012


I'm at the Guardian Activate summit in London today, where the themes are

Agility, Open vs Closed, Big Data and Entrepreneurship. Lots of speakers, most sessions are short, so will try and blog as much as I can, so what follows will probably be in note form. Lovely venue, on the Regent Canal, in the Guardian HQ.

Opening session is chaired by the editor of BBC Interactive, and is on the Challenge of Agility in Business. First speaker is the executive director of Government Digital Service.
Agile and government slightly incongruous! William Basiljet, invented the London sewerage system, realised that infrastructure had to be beautiful. He created beautiful, ornate, follies around pumping stations. People needed to appreciate and value it. Now we need to do the same thing with digital infrastructure!
UK has long tradition of delivering excellent public services, but this hasn't always translated to digital. Government IT has been criticised. Most of supply chain in IT supplied by systems integrators, large suppliers, causes problems in agility and adapting to new things. Also an issue with capability, there are key skills gaps. Difficult to create innovative services in this environment.
So, now a transformation programme from cabinet office to change this.
First major project is Using agile, iterative processes on open technology platforms with world class in house development team. Focused entirely on user need.
Services need to be simpler, clearer and faster for users. If we get this right, then savings will follow.
Simpler - Simple project, bank holiday web site! Same information, but in a way users tell them they want it.
Faster, remove number of clicks.
Also doing less. Lovely examples of stuff removed from government web site such as suggesting you put a pullover on for your BBQ!
Think about what your user needs.
Focus on quick do. Tasks that your users do over and over again, eg passport applications.
Acknowledge that people start with search. No-one comes through an elegant front door to web site anymore, nearly all use google. So, provision for search.
Small teams, focused people, highly skilled, developers, designers and managers. If you put these small, highly skilled, mixed teams together they can do almost everything.

Digital by default, think natively what a digital service looks like, don't just convert paper processes
Put uses first
Learn from the journey
Build a network of trust
Move barriers aside - use google docs, macs, whatever you need to do the job
Help technology leaders flourish
Don't do everything yourself.

Next- Senior iOS product manager from SKYPE, used to be at Guardian, helped develop iPad app. Agile Product Design.
Skype's challenge, is to be the global communications provider that billions of people use every day. They already have 250 million connected users per month. 50% of all calls include video. Has been very disruptive. Now responsible for 25% of all international calls. 40 million concurrent users.

Culture is to put product engineering first, truly global, solve for a dynamic world. Agile and fast. Have to move quickly in a way that makes sense for you. Must have tighter processes. Everyone must know what they're doing.

Want to be everywhere. Must have quality - reliability and fidelity important if you want people to return. No room for slip. Have to be cross platform. Have to accept that platforms will increase. You have to follow your audience. Not just mac, PC, but all mobile platforms, clients like Facebook.

Agile approach. Apparently the project managers spend a lot of their time grooming their backlog (!). Have to be engineering ready. Use other techniques such as scrums and sprints. Sure this meant something to the developers in the audience.

Challenges. Key performance metrics such as battery life, crash rate, av quality etc. UI changes are really tough. Good story about eBay changing the colour, users didn't like it, so changed it back.,then changed it a tiny bit a day for several weeks till they got to where they wanted to be and users didn't notice.
Important to concentrate on great code.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

Natalie said...

Thanks for live blogging from this event. Sounds very interesting. Very encouraging to read about the cabinet office encouraging an agile approach with open technology platforms and in house development teams focussed entirely on user need. Would be good to see this approach adopted more in higher education too.