Highlights from my first year at Citizens Advice

Horsebox

Image of a horsebox being used to give advice during World War II

It’s been over a year since I joined Citizens Advice as Director of Customer Journey. Here are some things the team and I have been up to, of which I’m particularly proud.

How we’re making our services more effective, user centred and easier to use – my recap of what we’ve been working on recently

Running a responsible customer journey team – my blogpost about how we try to use technology in a way that’s true to our values

How could technology help people save money on their bills? – in which I step into policy territory, bringing together our understand of what our users need and what we know about the loyalty penalty

Connecting people with the best advice – Kylie Havelock (head of product) explains how we’re developing our product strategy

How we built a tool to check our style guide– Alec Johnson (senior content designer) on, erm, how we built a tool to check our style guide

How we designed content that puts our advisers first – Alec again, on our detailed Universal Credit content for advisers

Why we’d like to know where you are – Ian Ansell (data scientist) explains why we are asking our users where they are, and how we are collecting that data securely and responsibly

Matt’s weeknotes – I love the weeknotes Matt White (head of delivery) writes on an almost-weekly basis. As long-time readers of this blog know, I can’t keep up with the pace myself

Joining Citizens Advice as Director of Customer Journey

After four and a half happy years of freelancing, I’m joining Citizens Advice as Director of Customer Journey. I’m thrilled.

You can read more about my role and why we’re not just talking about digital in this post by James Plunkett, Executive Director for Advice and Advocacy. In short:

Although digital technologies are a powerful way to change a service, what really matters is the method with which change is done: user research, UX design, agile working, co-design, and solving problems in experimental ways. We now want to apply those methods to a wider set of problems, not all involving digital tech. What this work has in common is a mindset: we’ll always approach questions from a client’s eye view — by starting with, and then working hard to improve, the customer journey.

October update

Autumn 2017 themes for Rebecca Industries are training and doing good.

There is a lot of demand for training, as organisations look to upskill their digital leadership and delivery staff. I think this is a recognition that bringing in expert practitioners isn’t enough to make digital transformation happen in complex organisations. I’ve written and run a digital leadership development workshop for Sopra Steria, in collaboration with Mighty Waters (best company name I’ve heard since Rebecca Industries). Ade Adewunmi and I have started to do our leadership training for heads of service design (and content design and research) on the semi-regular for GDS. We did the session at UX Cambridge too. Behind the scenes, I’m developing a couple of new training propositions with consultancies.

In doing good, I’ve been helping Dr. Sue Black and #Techmums with some project management for a Nominet-funded programme for young mums and an online course. I’m starting to work with #upfront to help women and people from under-represented groups speak at more conferences. And the Esmée Fairburn Foundation has commissioned Sarah Jackson and I to run our digital project management training for charities they fund.

I spoke at Ada’s List conference about being feminist at work. My session covered practical things we can all do to speak up for ourselves and others, and how we can influence the canon of tech. It was a brilliant day and you can read the summary here.

A couple of articles about agile and leadership

I wrote a couple of articles in August. They’re part of my ongoing efforts to demystify digital and leadership work.

I wrote an introduction to agile for people who work in charities (or anyone really), for Charity Comms.

I wrote about leadership skills for digital practitioners in the public sector (or anywhere really), for Think Digital. I’m running a tutorial on this topic at UX Cambridge later this week, with Ade Adewunmi.

How to hire more women into technology roles

I was proud to be one of the original signatories to this article about how to hire more women into technology positions. It’s a crowdsourced blog post from over 50 women working in technology curated by Emer Coleman (Technology Engagement at Co-op Digital) and Charlotte Jee (Editor of Techworld).

The article places gender diversity in the context of other inequalities

Take a look at what your current senior leadership team looks like. Do you have a female CTO or CEO? Is your leadership team all white? What about your Board? Most senior women will want to look beyond just the leadership team. They see diversity in the round and look for organisations that are diverse in class, race, LGBT people, ability/disability as well as gender. So it’s not enough to add a token middle class, straight, white woman to your management team.

I like the recommendations because they are focussed on practical action, for example

… actually demonstrate there is no gender pay gap. There are products developing in the market where you can actually dashboard this for your employees. Consider using a product like https://www.sliips.com/ which takes actual (anonymized) payslips to provide absolute transparency around pay.  Of course this is even more important in the UK now since it’s the law for companies with staff in excess of 250.

You can read the full article on Techworld.

Monthnote November 2014

In November I spent quite a bit of time on Rebecca Industries work, in which I

  • had interesting conversations about potential new projects for 2015
  • did lots and lots of admin
  • wrote more blog posts, which, happily, people read

On the Healthbox Health Social Innovators programme, I helped a couple of the ventures out with how to build digital products, which was really rewarding.

At the anonymous IT company I worked on

  • the business case for them providing digital public services
  • financial modelling, not my natural environment but good to dust off my modest spreadsheet skills
  • external meetings to discuss the proposition with potential clients

I also went to Paris to visit a schoolfriend, where we saw the Niki de Saint Phalle retrospective at the Grand Palais.

Three of Niki de Saint Phalle's 'nana' sculptures
Three of Niki de Saint Phalle’s ‘nana’ sculptures

Monthnote August 2014

August was quite the month. Here I define ‘August’ to include the first few days of September.

In my previous monthnote I wrote about the work of the Public Health England digital team to transition the Health Protection Agency website to GOV.UK. This month it came to fruition. We have switched off the HPA website, though it lives on in the National Archives, and GOV.UK is now the place to find health protection information. Over the rest of September the team will transition the ‘tail’ (lower priority) content. Mahesh and Suzanne have written more about what the transition involved. When the dust has settled, I’ll write about what I learned during this project.

This is an amazing achievement by the team. Liz made some delicious cakes to celebrate.

cupcakes

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of typing in www.hpa.org.uk and getting re-directed to the PHE section of GOV.UK. For a few sweet moments I’m going to forget about the other 135 sites that need transitioning.

Elsewhere, I persuaded a major IT supplier to government to start delivering digital projects for public services, and doing it properly. Or more modestly (and accurately), I did a presentation the senior management bods said ‘yes’ to. I really hope I can be involved in the delivery of this, because the opportunity to have positive impact across central government is huge.

I also did a short project with NHS Blood and Transplant. My role was to support the digital team managers to start an ambitious digital transformation programme for blood and organ donation. Together, we built a roadmap for the next 12 months, including a timeline that works for the agile digital team and the waterfall programme management team, and people and budget requirements. I love planning, so it was fun.