Week #41 at the Digital Service: Notes for 6–10 February 2023 

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A group of younger people are sitting around a large table in a light-flooded modern office with white walls. A woman in the middle is talking to them, gesturing with her hand and looking at a TV, which all the other people are also looking at. In front of her on a table is a laptop computer.

On Wednesday, a group of communications and media design students from the Hogeschool van Amsterdam visited. As part of their 3rd-year studies of user experience and service design, they went on a learning experience journey to Berlin. Before coming to us in the afternoon, they visited the video game museum I still have to see.

Their tutor had reached out a year before but was told the design team at the DigitalService needed time to mature. This time, within 100 minutes, we first gave them an overview of what DigitalService is and does and how we work as designers in a multidisciplinary setup. Then designers Dirk, Nadine, Sabrina and Tine gave an overview of our work on accessing legal information, running digital checks for laws-in-the-making, and designing services faster with component libraries and design system patterns.

After a bit of warm-up time, the students wanted to know how we deal with potentially slow culture and resisting mindsets in government, how to get accessibility prioritised early, what tools we use and what we are looking for in a designer when hiring one. The tutor wanted to give his students an idea of 3 different types of organisations: public sector/non-profit, external consultancy, and an in-house team. So they went on to visit Accenture Song (formerly Fjord) and Zalando in Berlin.

While we could have made some of the content even more student-friendly by doing less telling, and more showing, I would have been glad to get an insight into such work some 20 years ago. Hence, I’d be happy to host student groups again.

The students also saw a glimpse of my colleagues running remote user research sessions. Designers Marlene and Paul iterated a prototype they had tested in late December, and various team members joined them over 2 days of remote user research.

With the year progressing, we are into our first of three OKR quarters for 2023. From now on, we will leave one month between each quarter to evaluate, reset and plan the next quarter.

Getting started with OKRs for the quarter

Again, Christian, Magdalena, and I will have shared cross-discipline objectives for design, engineering, and product. We evaluated and briefly discussed if we wanted to continue this and then agreed. The reasonably new transformation discipline will also participate as much as possbile.

Each of us ‘owns’ 1 objective, but everyone is attached to all 3 and expected to contribute to them. Mine is related to the application of the German government’s Service Standard. Christian looks after an objective around increasing DigitalService’s visibility in the Berlin tech scene. And Magdalena aims to clarify working methods and approaches, including tech stacks, in each of our project teams.

As part of Christian’s employer-branding objective, we started looking into running a local meetup. It worked very well for GDS and the user-centred gov design community in London. We hired various people after they attended our meetup as their first personal touchpoint. So it’s worth exploring it here in Berlin, too. Especially for engineering, there aren’t any suitable meetup groups established that we could contribute to. So trialling a public-facing meeting ourselves is an option. However, knowing that kicking off a meetup is easier than deciding to close it off, we do not want to commit to a series.

One of the key results related to the objective is increasing the number of applicants. For that, we need to open roles, especially in design, and promote the open ones, especially those for transformation management and engineering. So I am preparing new design openings with improved job descriptions.

What’s next

Some training will resume next week. Sabrina and I will run the full-day ‘Introduction to Service Design’ on Monday. Then, on Wednesday, Nadine and I will give our iterated 1-hour ‘Accessibility introduction’.

Otherwise, I’ll be busy getting the new design openings sorted.