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Weeknote 16 - 20 March 2020

5 min read

On a face-to-face tech event (remember those?), closing projects in an agile way and fixing ink jet printers…or not! Like you, I am still reeling from the pace of events at the moment. This is only a personal weeknote so please don’t expect a thoroughly argued essay on current affairs. Although some of the content of the weeknote are going to seem trivial I am going to keep going as I am finding it useful to reflect and plan - a kind of personal sprint retrospective and planning session - even if no one else reads it[1].

I had a great time at the Cornwall TechJam at the weekend. It will be last one for a while but I am going to talk to the organisers about a virtual alternative. TECgirls Cornwall has been postponed until August and I’ve been invited to show off my home-built LED display there - mainly because the kids seemed to like the prototype tetris game I have got working on it.

Work this week included:

  • The Customer Experience team (a business-focused partner to the IS Customer Experience Platform team) continued to iterate their backlog of business opportunities. They are getting things in shape to go into the technology delivery pipeline. There were some difficult questions about whether the team should just focus on getting things ready for a technical solution or look at any potential customer experience improvements. There were also some discussions about the balance between efficiencies (never far from mind in local government) and customer experience.
  • The custom development team I am helping finished their first sprint. The four weeks have gone by in a flash. The team showed off a “paper prototype” of the system and identified some things to change for the next sprint. For obvious reasons, we might not get the customer engagement that we would ideally like so we may change tack. The team could make progress on some of the technical foundations so we can develop and release faster later. This might include being an early adopter of the public cloud platform we are implementing.
  • Many of our delivery managers are being pulled into business continuity and risk mitigation work, for obvious reasons, so I need to occasionally put down the coach hat and get stuck in too. We recently made some changes to our backup infrastructure so I will pick up some of the outstanding items so that other people in the team can focus on other things.
  • We changed our operating model to be agile-focused last year and are still working through all of the implications. This week, we looked at project closure and agreed with our portfolio management team to try out a new and much simpler approach. One element is to move most things out of the closure process and into delivery, and in some cases forward to the start of delivery. A good example is lessons learned which most of our teams start in Sprint 1. Another element is to drop the checklists and forms in favour of a short conversation covering finance (balance should be zero or you aren’t finished), knowledge (any opportunities not already covered within the sprints) and service (is anything from live operation showing us that we aren’t actually finished). If the work is all done then project closure is trivial. If the work isn’t done we shouldn’t be trying to close the project. We’ll share and test the approach on a few more projects and iterate from there.

A word story about a good cause

Our inkjet printer at home stopped working - well the three primary colours were fine but no black ink would come out. After replacing the ink cartridge I tried the menu options for clearing the print head but it didn’t work. Next port of call was YouTube for some very messy print head cleaning tricks but, still, the black ink refused to get to the paper. These kinds of printer are much cheaper to replace than repair but, trying to do the right thing, I got in touch with a local home tech firm to see if they could help. The disappointing response was that I would need to buy a new printer. As the printers were so cheap, neither my local firm, nor anyone they new in the area would service the printer.

I didn’t give up. Some more internet searching revealed instructions to dismantle the printer so I could give the print head a proper clean. After enormous amounts more black, treacle-like mess the printer was re-assembled and fully functioning, apart from a complete lack of black printing. Next came an eBay search for a genuine spare print head from a local source and, when the new part arrived, another quest into the screws, cables and slime inside the printer. And so, finally …

…, the new printer arrives at the weekend :( although the ratings say it is more frugal with ink than most :) . I still think it was worth the effort and expense to try to save the old printer and I hope there are more services available to keep the new one going when its time comes. Or perhaps we will be ready to do without printing entirely. Now that’s a thought.


  1. If you are one of the 20-ish who do read it would be great to have some feedback and I will look at the the analytics now that I am starting to put these on the internet. ↩︎

Originally published on by Richard Barton