A fish out of water — from digital agency to NHS
A week ago I left my position with the lovely people at Torchbox.
A tricky decision as I was still learning and growing in my position (Senior Delivery Manager and Trustee Director, on the Employee Ownership board).
The challenge that awaits is a dizzying one. I’m making the move from private to public sector — from agency to NHS. Meet Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Groups’s new Digital Transformation Manager.
During my preparation for interviews I reflected on what ‘digital transformation’ means, as more often than not I groan at big words over simple terms. I think it just means positive, digitally enabled change, often in a complex environment, or (waffley version):
Using digital technologies to create new, or improve user experience, organisational process and culture
It isn’t only about digital, or solely orientated around technical solutions:
Revisiting everything we do, whether internal or external, online or in person — and asking the challenging questions, ‘can we change our processes to enable better decision making, create efficiencies, improve people’s’ experience and make things more personalised?’
I have a range of experience from my time in digital agencies — from operational roles to leading delivery of transformative projects in Higher Ed, Charity and Public sectors. But, I can’t lie, I’ve been curious about longer-term involvement and change from within a complicated organisation. Particularly one in which I can advocate for user centred design and putting people at the heart of the solutions we design and build. I’ll miss a lot about agency life, but maybe more reflections on this when there’s something to compare it with.
Working for the NHS has long been an aspiration. I’m sure most people, when asked, will be able to tell you about their own personal story and relationship with our health service. Mine? I was fortunate enough to have had access to mental health treatment at a specialist unit in Farnham, whilst I was at university. A lot mightn’t have worked out the same for me if I hadn’t received that support at the right time.
From a professional perspective, digital in the NHS is a huge problem space — and one in which there’s such significant scope for change and positive impact. In the CCG, I’ll be helping coordinate and deliver a programme of work that helps better join up services and systems for citizens, through partnerships with local organisations — from local councils, to the hospitals, and other health and care providers.
In my brief break between jobs, I reflected on some lessons from recent work
- Yes, Agile! A no brainer, favourable way of working — it allows us to be flexible, adaptable and transparent — even when you’re limited to adopting it in a small pocket of a large, waterfall programme of work.
- The value of testing assumptions early: whether through user testing or technical proof-of-concepts — demonstrating viability through lower time investment helps build buy-in and ultimately makes sure we’re heading in the right direction
- The importance of being outcome focussed, over output focussed. Agile is great but the process isn’t the purpose. The most successful work happens when we understand how success will be measured and we limit work that doesn’t impact the goal, the whole ‘art of work not done’ thing.
I started in the new position on Monday, it’s safe to say a big adjustment lies ahead. Drop me a line in the comments if you have any reflections on similar personal transitions or career changes and what you’ve found helpful.
I’ve joined some formative networks of like-minded people in NHS digital positions, Trust in UCD and OneTeamHealth are new groups meeting regularly, if they’re of interest — join the conversation. (Thanks Sophie Dennis for job-change chats and nudging me in the direction of these good people).
I’ll post again soon to reflect on the big move after the first couple of weeks, stay tuned.