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Weeknote 24-27 February 2020

4 min read

On spreading too thin, agile infrastructure, part-time teams and diversity in tech

“In product development, our greatest waste is not unproductive engineers, but work products sitting idle in process queues.”

  • Donald G. Reinertsen, The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development[1]

I have to confess to letting my work-in-progress get out of control so here is a random selection from this week.

I had a good catch up with one of our call centre leads to learn more about how we use call recording. I can feed this into the business justification for upgrading our current system. I was particularly interested in how people moderate their behaviour and language because they know they might be recorded.

I have started to join in the daily stand ups (well, sitting in front of Skype in reality) for one of our infrastructure teams. I like to observe and get a feel for what work the team has and how they handle it before diving in with any suggestions about agile. Very few teams are starting from absolute zero so it is good to recognise and build upon what is already working rather than change things for the sake of it and risk breaking vital services.

I also had a good session with one of our infrastructure product managers to help with their product road map. The first thing we needed to tackle was the nature of the product. Many people assume IT infrastructure products are just about computers and networks (the physical assets) but we also covered the teams, policies and standards and the services provided to others in the council. We might need to put less technical detail on the road map and include more about developing people and adapting the services.

I have kicked off the first sprint of a new custom development team. This is a remote and part time team so we have started out with a slower cadence for our sprints compared with most of the teams here. We are going to start building with familiar technology so that we can get something in front of our users as quickly as possible but we may well switch to the cloud before we are fully live with all of the new features. I’ve used most of the cloud providers but not done much with Miscrosoft Azure so I am busy learning in my own time[2] so that I don’t interrupt the team with too many dumb questions.

I had a good walk through of our service transition and release process from our business services team. One of our fast change team deliveries is about to complete testing so I wanted to make sure we were ready to go-live with the right support in place. There are some forms to complete but it feels like we have got nearly everything ready to go.

I attended the very first “In the Ether” event for UK Government Product People[3]. This is probably a good community for us as it doesn’t involve any travelling and follows a tried and tested format for remote communities. Topics this week included how Product and Delivery managers work together, coordinating deliveries across multiple product teams and how to get started with user research when you don’t have user researchers (a challenge for many Councils).

I’ve got the next external blog post ready to go but will publish it over the weekend[4].

I’m off to Cornwall Geeks again this evening so will share more about that next week.

A word about a good cause

I was sad to hear that Katherine Johnson[5] died this week. She was one of many amazing women of colour who achieved great things in the face of incredible obstacles. Sadly, many of these obstacles still exist and, in general, the UK IT industry is still not as diverse as the overall population[6]. The Council is setting up some support forums for different groups and I am going to find out more about how allies can get involved to help[7]. I’ve not had to face the obstacles that Katherine and others have had to tackle[7:1] so it will be down to me to put in the work, find out how well we reflect the people we serve and how to find and support the people that need help.


  1. Loads more like this at good reads ↩︎

  2. It was very easy to set up and the playpen I use for my side-projects ran out-of-the-box. ↩︎

  3. UK Government Product People in the Ether. ↩︎

  4. The collection is on my blog. ↩︎

  5. BBC report on Katherine Johnson. ↩︎

  6. BCS diversity report. ↩︎

  7. More about privilege and allies in an earlier week note. ↩︎ ↩︎

Originally published on by Richard Barton