Week #104 at the Digital Service: Notes for 22–26 April 2024

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A youngish white man with short hair standing next to a TV set in a wood-lined meeting room with half dozen people sitting around him and looking at him; the TV is showing the picture of some writing computer code and a headline says ‘Openness’ in German

The first learning cluster cycle is completed. On Friday morning, we had a deep-dive session on selected federal government digital strategy lighthouse projects.

Caro and I once again gave an overview of the Service Standard. I covered the what, the why and the backstory. Caro talked about the hows, by walking through the standard’s application in the Access to Justice project ‘Apply for legal aid’ (Beratungshilfe beantragen).

For most of the lighthouse projects, the introduction comes far too late. But it still matters for 3 reasons:

  • the Service Standard can be used to evaluate how the contracted teams have been working
  • the Service Standard can be used by the project leads going forward when commissioning entirely new or follow-up work
  • the application of the Service Standard in future projects of the next iteration of the digital strategy can be considered

Right after our 30-minute slot, Sonja expanded on practical user-centricity, zooming into the first section of the Service Standard. She gave an overview of user research methods and approaches from discovery to live and talked about how things shift from a qualitative to a more quantitative focus. Sonja provided some practical tips and shared an overview of indicators that let project leads check how user-centred teams work.

The participants left notes on the feedback wall indicating they found the inputs practical and beneficial. Under the heading ‘What I’m taking away for the project’, they put stickies like “Checking usability more often in small groups”, “Increased focus on user perspective”, or “Concept phase is vital”. So, I must assume this was well-invested time. Before the summer break, we will get together a couple more times.

Discussing how to present well

On Thursday, Chrissi, Daphne, Magdalena and I invited for a lunch and learn session with the fabulous title ‘How to rock your presentation’. We provided almost 50 minutes of input, and around 70 people attended.

How to rock your presentation —was the topic of today’s 4-part lunch & learn session, including: 1. How to tell your story 2. How to get started 3. How to design great slides 4. How to deliver your presentation well Brilliant team play with Chrissi, Daphne, and @magdalena.bsky.social

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— Martin Jordan (@martinjordan.com) Apr 25, 2024 at 20:21

In my section, I hypothesised that we all want to present well, convey our message, and leave people informed or inspired behind. I asked the people in the room what they needed to present well.

I argued that 3 Cs matter for any talk: its content, its context, and its consumers. So, I suggested they quickly get answers to the following questions: Where do you present? In front of whom do you present? What’s the setup in which you present?

Talking from experience, I acknowledged that public presentations can make many of us anxious. Hence, we need to mitigate and remove the things that make us anxious. Only the confident version of us is the best presenter of our content, while the anxious version of us is a distracted presenter of our content.

My very practical tips for this were:

  • Check the setup in advance
  • Befriend the tech person
  • Have backup plans

I asked people about their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to presenting and shared mine. As much as it may hurt, I asked them to watch themselves speak. I shared a few more tips, including finding a friendly, nodding person in the room, relying on a forgiving audience, and preparing for an unpredictable screen. I warned people about the audience’s cognitive overload when the text of busy slides doesn’t match with the spoken word, creating some distressing read-hear-gap.

Closing my 15-minute input, I asked everyone to discover their individual needs as presenters, take their time to prepare, and read doingpresentations.com.

My part fitted well with others’ contents, and colleagues left some sweet messages on Slack.

Planning next community activities

Maria and I started planning the forthcoming NExT community gathering. She has been doing most of the work so far, though. It will be our 4th topical event, and we aim to do it in early June. The topic will be accessibility.

In the meantime, we progressed on the following local Öffentliches Gestalten meetup planning for May. While we also wanted to discuss more inclusion and accessibility topics, we have prioritised healthcare. We reached out to some fresh thinkers and doers in innovation labs and digital teams in public hospitals in Berlin.

Beyond that, we also started discussing internal activities for the Global Accessibility Awareness Day in mid-May. We might finish a blog post in time, prepare a pizza-powered accessibility test, and maybe even some handy tools. It all depends on how fast we can move in the remaining 2.5 weeks.

Playing around with the design elements of our International Design in Government brand, I created a variation that fits the Finnish context for the two-day event in October. I shared it with Anni, who immediately liked it.

Pitching an article to a journal

It’s been 12 years since I first co-authored and published an article in ‘Touchpoint’ and 6 years since the last. Seeing the upcoming topic of the September issue – ‘Achieving Interdisciplinarity’ – I felt intrigued to tinker with an abstract.

By Sunday night, I had written a few short paragraphs that seemed interesting enough, at least to me:

Multidisciplinarity as per Service Standard:
How governments worldwide ensure public services are developed well

Governments worldwide have multidisciplinary teams working on vastly improved public services for the digital age. From Australia to Scotland and Canada to Cyprus, these teams follow a largely similar Service Standard. In each version, the Service Standard mandates that public sector organisations have multidisciplinary teams work in user-centred, iterative, and evidence-based ways. Such teams include specialist roles like service designer, user researcher, service owner, software engineer, and often policy expert and operational service staff.

Changing government services requires a broad skill set. Only through these setups are teams equipped with different disciplines, offering diverse perspectives, experiences, and capabilities necessary to fundamentally change how a service is designed and delivered.

Focussing on the Service Standards of Germany and the United Kingdom, this contribution introduces the structure of these standards as a framework, their origins, and the mechanisms to protect them. It explains how the Service Standard is followed and its benefits to teams, organisations and service users. 

Furthermore, the contribution gives an overview of the various support systems created to ensure these multidisciplinary teams work effectively together and change services in the interest of the public and the broadest possible group of users. 

With approximately 500 public services developed following these frameworks in the past ten years, the Service Standard has become a foundational pillar of good citizen-centred governance and exemplary public service transformation. The contribution provides inspiration for senior leaders and individual contributors in the public and private sectors alike. It also offers a starting point for academic researchers interested in understanding contemporary public service design internationally.

I might hear as early as the end of next week if the editorial board is interested. I could write in during the coming public holidays if that’s the case.

What’s next

On Thursday, I will welcome Giang and Joshua to our discipline as new designers and user researchers, respectively. With the people currently in the application pipeline, we are likely to have 30 user-centred design folks by summer, which baffles me a bit.

On the same day, we have scheduled a catch-up call with our UK justice service colleagues. We will talk to Nikola and Carolina, whom I have known for various years now. It’s great to see us doing similar work in different countries and dealing with similar challenges.

I also need to do some things related to our upcoming salary cycle and performance reviews, which is less fun.

When time on May 1st allows, I might put together a first draft for the Helsinki conference page. It will be good to keep things going on that end, considering it’s 5 months until the event.