A story is the promise of a conversation

Reading Time: 2 minutes
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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Surface Pro 4 – Tablet Review

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have a circa 3 year old Surface Pro 4 to review. It is 64 bit with 8GB memory and a Core i5-6300cpu @2.4GHz.

So here goes…

Summary

  • It is thin, fairly fast, and better than any other Windows 10 laptop I have ever tried. 
  • The touchscreen feels like a gimmick at first, until you start to miss it, on laptops that don’t have it. 
    I actually tried to “Pinch to Zoom” a magazine photo. (MacBook trackpads also drive this behaviour)
  • Windows 10 works well on it, and the screen is rather good, but it reflects everything
    I never got to try the Surface Pen, as that did not get delivered with it. 
  • It is easy to switch between Desktop and Tablet mode, but it is a really annoying tablet. 
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Preparing for Brexit

Reading Time: < 1 minuteI’ve been a small part of a team working on a new digital service to help Scottish businesses prepare for Brexit.

PrepareforBrexit.scot is an effort from all the agencies and organisations in Scotland’s public sector to help equip our businesses with the tools they’ll need to anticipate and deal with any shocks caused by the UK leaving the EU.

Mostly, my focus has been on analytics, helping colleagues newly drafted into that area to get on top of their game.

The site launched on 1 November. The data should become richer over time.

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You can do things, or you can get things done

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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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“Getting Connected” with our Customers

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On Wednesday 9th November, our Export Service Design team packed up our post-its, pens and whiteboards and pitched up for the day at the Get Connected 2016 event at the Radisson Blue Hotel, Glasgow.

282 delegates registered for the free event. In between attending one-to-one sessions with advisers or one of the 9 seminars that took place throughout the day, the footfall to our Export Service Design stand was non-stop and a great opportunity for the team to launch the new ExportSavvy eLearning tool and showcase our latest service developments with new and existing Scottish exporters.

Launching ExportSavvy eLearning

It’s our job as an Export Service Design team to talk to and listen to our customers. Feedback told us that our customers wanted more flexibility to suit different learning styles. Now, more than ever, individuals and companies are turning to eLearning courses and online training events to achieve their personal and professional goals (just look at the explosion and uptake of so-called “MOOC”s – Massive Open Online Courses).

Our customers told us that access to training and development tools is invaluable to their export success. But in this fast-paced business world, time is always precious and we recognised not every business can afford the time away from their core business to attend classroom training and seminars.

What is ExportSavvy?

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Fidelity increases as uncertainty decreases

Graph showing how the fidelity of your product increases as uncertainty decreases, but asymmetrically

Reading Time: 3 minutes

No, this is not a couples counselling site.

I and others on my team have had a lot of discussion recently about what we are doing, why we're doing it, what we can test and why we are testing it.

In an agile team, this is healthy. As long as the discussion remains respectful, talking is great, because we need to reach a consensus, agree a course of action, and commit to it. As a team.

We may not all be 100% convinced that what we're doing is the right thing to do. But we all agree to do our best to achieve it, even if (sometimes) our motivation is to demonstrate that it was the wrong thing.

But you can only demonstrate that by doing the wrong thing right (if you see what I mean).

I saw this on Twitter this evening.

Then I did this recalulation.

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A new life in the unknown

Reading Time: 6 minutes

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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Love the problem and not the solution

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I have all sorts of training and qualifications that help me to design and build awesome solutions. It excites me. I love my job. Which means that I have to sit on the impulse to jump straight to solutions and remember to concentrate on the problem every single day.

The moment you start to design a solution, you are heading down a road that is harder to get off  every day that passes. It is human nature. You invest time, effort and your personal awesomeness in a solution and before long you love it. It can be emotionally painful to ditch it even if it is obviously not the right solution.  (I promise not to start talking about any of my ex’s). Even if you don’t like the solution, it is still hard to throw away the time and money invested in it. It is all too easy to roll out a solution that does not really solve the problem any more. 

The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a tourist icon, but that is just a benefit. The problem it was built to solve was to get across the Golden Gate strait, thus saving the hours it would take to drive round the bay.

If an earthquake knocks the bridge down, the new one might be very different. The solution is variable but the problem is the same.

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Service Design – How we work

Reading Time: 2 minutesEverybody has a methodology for how teams should work. Some of them are great but most of them are complicated. Here is how Service Design works at Scottish Enterprise.

I am showing three diagrams but the middle one is the one I love best.

Let’s begin:

1. Super simple

We are not a software house. What we do is design and deliver services. We try to be a bit lean & agile and that involves iterating constantly. This means that a traditional discovery, alpha, beta, Live flow is a bit too waterfally for us (I may have just invented a word there).

What we really do in  Service Design is:

  • Find value
  • Develop value
  • Deliver value

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We need feedback

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Yes, we do.

But what do you mean?

We need to understand why those users don't engage further with our content. We need to get in front of them and ask why they think the way they do. Why aren't they engaging with our content?

A feedback loop
A feedback loop

If those users are 6,000 miles away, that's going to be pretty expensive feedback. Sure, it will be valuable, qualitative feedback. 

But it won't be the most valuable feedback we can get.

Because what people say and what they actually do are two completely different things.

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What digital transformation really means

Taking a digital photograph

Reading Time: 3 minutes

First, the bad news: it doesn't mean everyone gets an iPad.

Digital transformation isn't about technology, it's about the change the technology enables.

Think about the railways in the 19th century. You didn't have to be Robert Louis Stevenson to understand that being able to get from Edinburgh to London in day, rather than a week, was a game changer. 

You don't have to be able to design the train, or even ride it, to benefit from it.

Let me give you a picture.

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