As it’s now one month since I was welcomed into the Department of Health digital team, this seems a good time to share some thoughts and learnings so far. I was recruited as a Product Manager, a new role within the DH Digital team and the first of several new positions the team is recruiting to.
My previous role at Penguin Books provided valuable experience of project management and product development in both digital and print publishing, and I was now ready to embark on a new career path in which I could develop these skills within an innovative and industry leading environment. Having made a conscious move into the civil service from a profit-focused private sector background, I hoped to find an environment driven to delivering efficiencies and services for both the health care system and the general public, and haven’t been disappointed.
The scope of work our team delivers is broad, and as the digital landscape constantly evolves, so does our team. I’ve been brought into many interesting and exciting pieces of work that the team are responsible for and have been learning how we scope and prioritise these to ensure we deliver digital products, campaigns and services that meet the needs of those who use them. My initial challenge was getting to grips with the intricate structure of the health care system since the reforms last year. I found The King’s Fund’s short animation explaining this really useful and would recommend to anyone embarking on a career in the health care system.
My first task was to produce a report on the Department of Health’s move to the GOV.UK platform, summarising highlights and statistics from the first full year of operation. In addition to being an excellent way of familiarising myself with all of the areas of work we cover (publications, policy comms, campaigns, digital engagement and many more) it also afforded me the opportunity to sharpen my Google Analytics skills. Evidence based user need evaluation is the bread and butter of what we do, so gathering our key analytics data has been an essential training exercise. You can read this report here.
Another strength of the team is project managing in an Agile way. In practice that means producing bits of content and functionality quickly through short bursts of development, which can be tested by the users of that service right away. As a result the project requirements will change frequently according to user feedback, and the digital product will be adapted so we can be confident the end result does exactly what’s needed. I’ve particularly enjoyed learning about this project management methodology from my interactions with the Government Digital Service and am looking forward to putting it into practice on a live project.
I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a wide range of digital events and training, including a Google Atmosphere technology event for Government where local and central departments presented on their experiences of using cloud based technology to work flexibly and dramatically reduce IT costs, which our department is very enthusiastic about. I also went along to a brilliant workshop run by the charity Go On UK whose aim is to support those with little or no digital skills to take their first steps in using the internet. The workshop used real life examples very effectively to highlight the how important it is to make sure our content is clear and accessible, and is expressed using language that encourages digital confidence.
My experience so far has given me valuable insight into our team, the wider department, civil service, and the healthcare system, but most importantly what digital means to different people. I’m starting to explore this in more detail and put my learnings into practice on real projects, with the support of my unfailingly helpful and knowledgeable colleagues.
Finally, anyone in the public sector will have experienced the famous acronym-affliction of civil service. I’m doing my best to resist, but if you spot any symptoms in my future blogs please let me know so I can seek treatment immediately.