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Weeknote: Synthesising ideas, updating roadmaps and Institutional memory

tobiogunsina Product management, weeknotes Leave a Comment

Hi! I hope you have been well. I seem to be settling into a 2-week cadence with my weeknote but I hope to optimise my process well enough to write them weekly again. It’s been bright and warm over the last 2 weeks, which is exciting!

Here are the highlights of the last 2 weeks. 

5 things that happened

One – Synthesising ideas to keep GOV.UK accessible

In my last weeknote, I talked about generating ideas to act on insights from our research into why some parts of GOV.UK were not accessible enough. 

I’ve been discussing them with the team a bit more and doing a bit of synthesis to pull them into something cohesive. 

I’ve identified which ones we can add to our roadmap, which ones to recommend to the management team and what our next step should be. 

We now have a strategy document and we are presenting this to the senior management team next week so I’m also working on turning the document into a presentation that’ll work better for that audience. 

I’ve been thinking about how we might measure the success of these ideas and see if they are actually working. Ultimately the overall measure of success for this work is reduced new and/or recurring accessibility problems in our content and services but we also need to consider how to measure the success of each idea. 

For each idea, I’ve been trying to come up with proxy metrics, which are stand ins for the main metric, they are not the real thing we want to measure but will indicate progress and correlate to the main metric

Two – Updating Roadmaps

The work on ideas to keep GOV.UK accessible leads nicely to reviewing and updating our accessibility roadmap to make sure some of those ideas that our within our control as a team and other priority themes that have emerged over the last few months are represented. 

I’ve also been reviewing the old roadmap for publishing workflow, the team that was working on a new publishing tool called Content Publisher before that work was paused to focus on supporting Brexit and Coronavirus. I’ve updated to represent what’s feasible for when a new team is ready to pick up that work again and how the work on structured information might fit in. 

There’s a lot of roadmap conversations happening over the next few weeks on GOV.UK so it’s all perfect timing. 

Three – Documenting approach to audit GOV.UK regularly

For a platform like GOV.UK, which is quite big and changes quite often, we should do detailed audits yearly. Building on the work our accessibility specialists did, I documented our approach to detailed accessibility audits covering how often we should do them, how we’ve determined representative pages, options for doing them, the process we went through for fixing the issues found, where automated audits might fit in and some recommendations. 

The aim is that if all the people working in this space are not around in a few years, we know this is a process GOV.Uk needs to do yearly. We’ll cover this in our conversation with the management team. 

Four – Conversations about accessibility training

One of the areas we want to improve on in order to keep GOV.UK accessible is Capability (Providing training). 

We need compulsory training for everyone that covers the importance of accessibility, regulations, practical engagement with accessibility personas, how to spot accessibility issues, where to find resources/tools and how to use them. Some disciplines will need more specific accessibility training for their roles. 

We’ve been talking to the GDS accessibility team about this and how they can help. My main takeaway is that there’s a range of training that has been done in the past. There are a few things missing but the core issue is 

  • discoverability (knowing that they exist and how to request them)
  • delivery frequency/scale (they’ve been done by a trainer each time and infrequently)  
  • capacity (the team has 2 people that can do the training). 

We need to take the outcome back to our management team to work out how to make the training happen. 

Five – Sharing thoughts on structured information

We shared our thinking so far on structured information with some members of the senior management team. We covered definitions so we have shared understanding, our thinking on what GOV.UK wants, current/anticipated challenges we’ve learnt about, our key lessons so far, some emerging themes when it comes to approaches and next steps. 

It went very well. After talking about structured information as a program for some time, I think people were really glad to see some definition and thinking on it that broadly showed the actual challenges and use cases we care about. 

Our next step is to brainstorm more approaches with others across the program, review them and determine which ones are likely most valuable/feasible for the different challenges.  

I find this work interesting and challenging because it’s a bit broader that my comfort zone of taking one problem space and figuring out the most valuable thing to do, it’s a bit like we’ve been dabbling in this space as a program for a while, now let’s take a strategic view, explore what we really need, what’s already possible and make recommendations on a way forward. 

Other things I’ve been thinking, talking and reading about

  • Institutional memory is quite bad in big organisations. I’m amazed at the things I discover that generally gets forgotten about after the people who worked on them leave. This makes me sad because it slows us down thinking about the same things again instead of building on what’s already done. 
  • Scott Colfer is currently the head of product for Ministry of Justice and he has a newsletter he writes about good product management, we had a conversation about creating alignment during discovery for an episode of his newsletter and generally talked about the importance of creating shared understanding really early. 
  • I read “Show your work” by Austin Kleon. It highlights the importance of talking about your processes because that’s how people who care about similar things might find you. 
  • I’ve been reading a bit on strategy and I’ve enjoyed “What is product strategy” by Rose Yao, Intro to Product strategy by Gibson Biddle and “what is good product strategy” by Melissa Perri. Scott Colfer also has wrote about it in one of his newsletters. 
  • I listened to Jonathan Hassell talk about building accessible products on the product experience podcast. He said and I quote “the best accessibility in the country is GOV.UK”.  I really enjoyed the discussion about inclusion.
  • The team has been grappling with Open document formats, spreadsheet accessibility, contributing accordions back to the design systems, redesigning some legacy pages, shipping an update to the cookie banner that introduces a reject all additional cookies button. I’ve been having a lot of conversations to keep those moving too
  • My PM circle met this weekend and we had lots of great conversations about managing stakeholders, getting buy-in and ideas for sharing more about product management

What I’m looking forward to next week

I’m looking forward to lots of conversations to get buy-in for the roadmaps and the strategy to keep GOV.UK accessible