Go with the flow

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I’ve been working on a project lately with a small team and a similarly select group of Scottish Enterprise account managers to create a slicker way of bringing businesses into their portfolio.

It’s a bit of a pathfinder project, to figure out how we might use Microsoft Power Platform technologies to deliver new services at scale and at speed.

So we settled on this one aspect of our High Growth account managers’ service to start with: getting new clients onto their portfolio.

The solution we’ve developed involves Power Pages (client-facing) and Power Apps (backend) developments, both reading from and writing to the same database, and all of this data is ultimately available in our CRM system.

All of which is fine. But, as a Service Designer, I instinctively want to be open and transparent about the data we gather. And the Digital Service Standard kinda demands that we are.

I struggled with this for a while. I wrestled in the swamps of the Dataverse against PowerBI, and the best I could come up with was this:

Power BI dashboard with a mix of graphs and tables - click to open full size.
Figure 1: screenshot of a Power Bi dashboard taken on 4 April 2024

(Actual people’s actual names have been scrubbed out in this screenshot because they’re actual people. But all the data is real, and right now.)

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Migrating our first site to the Scottish Enterprise Design System

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In the run-up to January 2023 we migrated our first site  – SDI.co.uk – to our new Design System.

Screenshot of the new SDI home page.
SDI website

Just under 3 years of research, design, build and, finally, the migration of content from the old site to the new site. This is a huge milestone in the development and success of our future websites for Scottish Enterprise.

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Running an asynchronous retrospective

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The good, the bad, and the ugly

I seem to have been running a lot of retrospectives lately. And yes, I just used an Oxford comma. Get over it.

A simple, childlike image of a sailing boat on a choppy sea. The boat is held by an anchor hooked on rocks beneath the waves. There are wind puffs behind it and rocks in front of it. To the right of the images an island with a palm tree, with the sun overhead.
In the sailboat retrospective format, the boat represents the project or work we are doing; the wind is what is pushing us forward, the anchor what is holding us back. The rocks are dangers/risks we face, and the island is the goal or destination. I created this template in Miro.

In case you don’t know what that means, a retrospective (or a ‘retro’ for short) is a meeting-come-workshop where you look back on work you’ve done, as a team, and try to identify ways you could be better in future.

In agile methodologies, you can hold retros pretty regularly. With Scrum, you’d hold one at the end of every sprint – typically every 2 weeks – so you can get feedback quickly and adjust course immediately.

Think guiding a canoe through rapids; if you can’t change course quickly, you are going to hit a rock (a fairly common metaphor for retros uses a sailboat, as above) pretty soon, and pretty fatally.

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Taking time to reflect

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It started with a leadership course 14 years ago. It ended with a leadership course 1 year ago.

Somewhere in between I have spent almost 14 years working with the most talented, passionate people, and now my last day at Scottish Enterprise (SE) approaches.

It’s been the best of times, seeing what small teams of committed people can bring to work and to their relationships. It’s also been the most frustrating of times too. I can’t help but marvel at how I spent 3 years trying to move us over to digital signatures, but to no avail. Then Covid hit and boom, it happened. When the risk is high, politics is low.

But my time in SE isn’t just the last two very challenging years. It’s much wider than that and I’ve been reflecting on some of the things that cut through everything I’ve done. There are many but I’m going with just three things.

Reflection is critical to self development.
 This image shows Angus my border collie taking time to look at his own reflection in a lake.
Time to reflect
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The Scottish Enterprise recruitment experience – from recruiting manager to applicant

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The SE recruitment experience

Applying for a job seems simple enough, right? Set out your own expectations on a job and employer, find something that meets your expectation and apply! However, in the 6 months I have spent with the service design team at Scottish Enterprise (pretty new right!) I have learned that very few things are as simple as we say or think.

Following several queries and concerns relating to our Current vacancies page on Scottish-enterprise.com, the team kicked off a project to research, understand and act on the needs of our customers (potential applicants) and colleagues (those involved in recruitment).

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10 things that staff consistently tell us

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  • When we do user research with businesses about our Services, we also talk to our staff that are delivering them.
  • Just like customers, we often hear the same things from staff, over and over again, regardless of which design, platform or web page we’re testing.
  • These issues are not aimed upwards at management, but represent the lived reality of everyone in the organisation, and are there for all of us to fix
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The places and people we remember

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What do we take from those we have worked for, and with? What do we take from each role we do into the next?

I’ve blogged before about my career journey. The best of times has been when I’ve worked for someone who has understood me as a whole person and believed in me. Here’s some thoughts about my journey over 35 years

An image of my tricolour border collie called Angus lying in some bluebells
My whole me now includes Angus. Here he is in the bluebells
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The exporting experience: one year on

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At the end of March this year, my colleague Katie wrote a post about some work she had been involved with to improve the exporting user journey on scottish-enterprise.com.

She included some analytics data that seemed to indicate some significant improvements. But she only had 3 months’ worth of data, which makes it hard to draw any firm conclusions.

So we thought now, with a year’s worth of data, would be a good time to look back on what’s changed, what worked, and any opportunities for further improvement.

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Skills Development Scotland (SDS) sharing session – Design systems

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Earlier on in the year, myself, and Derek Hawthorne from SDS connected on LinkedIn about a mutual interest in an article about making the web a greener place. Through further conversation we discovered that we are both working on Design Systems.  

SDS are at the very early stage of creating a Design system while we are further on in our journey.  Derek reached out to see if we could share what we are doing, so we set up a sharing session. 

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How to be a designer, teacher and parent at the same time

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A woman wearing a black dress with a white collar and burgundy tights sitting on a green and blue tartan carpet. She is leaning against a wall and has a laptop on her lap. She is also wearing a headset.
Me working in the hallway while my husband works in the office and my kids run around the living room

The title of this post is misleading. It implies that I’m going to provide you with tips on doing all these things well simultaneously. I’m not. It isn’t possible. What I am going to do is share how I have been balancing my job as a service designer with homeschooling my 5-year-old and chasing after my 2-year-old during this most recent lockdown.

Like many parents, I’ve been faced with an almost impossible task – do your job while also giving your children an education. If your working day is seven hours, and a school day is six hours, and a parenting day is around 12 hours, that’s 25 hours of work to fit within 24 hours. And that doesn’t include eating, sleeping, cooking, housework and this ‘self-care’ stuff that everyone is so big on these days.

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Getting an economic development agency to act like a service provider

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screenshot of the header of the Scottish Enterprise website with the statement mentioned in the text below

What does Scottish Enterprise do?

According to our website, “Scottish Enterprise is Scotland’s national economic development agency. We’re committed to growing the Scottish economy for the benefit of all, helping create more quality jobs and a brighter future for every region.”

And how do we do that?

By providing services.

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A user manual for Lindsay

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This post is about me and my preferences in my working life. 

This is the first blog I have ever written, so it’s kind of scary. 

It’s been three and a half years since I moved career into ‘digital’. It’s kind of odd looking back at a career that spans research and development, process development, business development and now service design. Some things about who I am, and what I enjoy, hold true whatever organisation or with whichever team I have worked with.  

How I got to here is outlined in my tube map:

Tube map showing Lindsay's journey to working in digital
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A story is the promise of a conversation

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Illustration of how much we know about a user story over time.

In agile development the whole point of a story is … well, it’s a story.

It illustrates an instance. It illuminates an essence.

It tells a story.

There is a user. An actual person, who needs to get stuff done. A hero.

They probably need to get other stuff done too. This, whatever that is, is just one thing on their neverending to-do list.

Their reasons could be very simple or very complex.

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You can do things, or you can get things done

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Imagine you work for an organisation where, on average, people have six things on the go at any given time.

Let's assume that, again on average, each of those things takes a week of your effort to get done.

Given that – and it doesn't feel too outrageous – we should be able to deliver a thing a week, shouldn't we?

But that doesn't seem to happen in real life. Why not?

Well, essentially, we have two choices: we can do things, or we can get things done.

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A new life in the unknown

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One year ago I made the move from the Scottish Businesses Marketing team and started my new life stepping into the unknown, as a Product Owner in the Export Service Design team.  Now, I have one foot in the SDI Trade Service team and the other in Service Design.

Officially, the Product Owner (PO) is “responsible for maximising the value of the product and the work of the development team”.  This is a new role for the organisation as Product Owner is essentially a role coined from the agile way to manage a project, usually software development, called Scrum.

I’d always though of myself as a bit of a geek with a passion for web and digital, so I was excited to be able to use my export marketing experience and customer insight to tackle this new challenge and really get up close and personal with our end users.

One year on, I thought I’d share and list the 10 lessons that have stuck with me.

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We are all one big team, right?

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How often are you told "we are all one big team"?

What does it mean to you?

I suggest that you stop reading for a couple of minutes and digest this statement.

Sentiment or Structure

I think it is a very positive sentiment but quite dangerous when taken as a statement of fact regarding actual teams.

Please read to the bottom before exploding 🙂

The sentiment is very positive and suggests that we are all working towards a common goal. And who would argue with that?

We will all:

  • stop working in silos
  • stop pulling in different directions
  • stop hoarding information as a source of power or protection
  • stop doing things that don't further our common goals

These are all great, but does it not make you wonder why we are doing all these things in the first place?

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Towards agile UX

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So I recently studied for, and sat, the exam for, the CPUX-F qualification*.

It stands for Certified Professional for Usability and User Experience (that's the UX bit), if you really want to know.

It was interesting, though not novel; most of it was just formalising knowlege I and my colleagues have already acquired, willy-nilly, over the years.

Here's what the process look like.

The human-centred design process
The human-centred design process

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