The IJYI Way

IJYI & Suffolk County Council Podcast- Behind the scenes on an Inception Workshop

December 09, 2020 IJYI Season 2 Episode 3
The IJYI Way
IJYI & Suffolk County Council Podcast- Behind the scenes on an Inception Workshop
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The IJYI Way
IJYI & Suffolk County Council Podcast- Behind the scenes on an Inception Workshop
Dec 09, 2020 Season 2 Episode 3
IJYI

In this episode of The IJYI Way, we're joined by Gareth Morris, Senior Technical Lead at Suffolk County Council.

Gareth chats to Andrew and Chris about his experience of working with IJYI on a two-day Inception Workshop to kick-start a project to replace their existing Analysis of Additional Needs Tool (AANT) in April 2020.

The trio discuss the experience of carrying out a two-day workshop remotely due to restrictions on in-person meetings, how the workshop enabled the Council to build a clear roadmap for their project and what kept them up at night during the process!

Find out more about Inception Workshops and the project with Suffolk County Council.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of The IJYI Way, we're joined by Gareth Morris, Senior Technical Lead at Suffolk County Council.

Gareth chats to Andrew and Chris about his experience of working with IJYI on a two-day Inception Workshop to kick-start a project to replace their existing Analysis of Additional Needs Tool (AANT) in April 2020.

The trio discuss the experience of carrying out a two-day workshop remotely due to restrictions on in-person meetings, how the workshop enabled the Council to build a clear roadmap for their project and what kept them up at night during the process!

Find out more about Inception Workshops and the project with Suffolk County Council.

Speaker 1:

Welcome back to the right podcast . Virtual

Speaker 2:

Studio hovering in the ether, me , uh, in one sleepy little village in Suffolk with terrible bandwidth and in the powerhouse of EG studios. It's my co-host Chris PON . Hi, Chris.

Speaker 1:

Andrey so

Speaker 2:

I'm , I just want you to know I'm really jealous of your amazing bandwidth there in central Ipswich .

Speaker 3:

Yeah. We've got a decent connection to the opposites here. So it's a , it's pretty smooth. Maybe, maybe a bit too much detail on the video sometimes. How fast is it? Uh, I think we've got a hundred Meg up and down a hundred mega, sorry, sorry . 200 up and down 200 up and down is making it now. And it's it . It's a leased line. So it's um, yeah , we need it. We need it for, for the work . Well, we used to need it for what we're doing in the office. It's just me now. So I'm, you know, I've got , uh , an incredible amount of bandwidth with what I'm doing, just sitting here now. Wow.

Speaker 2:

Wow . Uh , I just, I bet Netflix knows it's you, when you come on stream at lunchtime, it's like that guy, Netflix think he's bingeing on 20 shows at once. I , I see , I have , um, a broadband supplied by a major , uh, British broadband supplier. I'll leave it there. I'll leave it there, but you can get to, it is can't you there's uh , and uh , they said I'm supposed to get fiber to the cabinet. I'm supposed to get 17 mags . If I'm, if I get eight, I'm lucky. If the guy next door decides he's going to have look at Netflix at lunchtime, my bandwidth drops to about six. So, you know , I'm be honest with you. I'm just, you know, really jealous. Yeah .

Speaker 3:

But I don't think you ever get what they say you should get, but I'm probably gonna get like 180 or something. I get about 60 at home. I think 60 , which is pretty good. Yeah . 60, which is good. They said I should get about 75, but I get about 60.

Speaker 2:

You got about, you're just rubbing my nose in it now . Okay, fine. Well, we've got a show this week about a really interesting topic, which I'm sure people have . Most people will have heard of sprints and agile. Well , we're talking about inception workshops this week, which is, you know, a bit of a spin on that whole methodology . And it's a really interesting thing cause you've been doing some inception workshops with Suffolk County council. How many with , uh, the , the team there, tell us more about how you got into offering inception workshops in the first place.

Speaker 3:

Um, so inception workshops, they , they help set the scene for a project. Um, and , and what we've found is, you know, if you, if you jump straight into a project and start development, you haven't really understood where the risks are, who the people are, you're dealing with, what projects even for , and you know, why it's different to anything else that's out there. So the inception workshop was designed to make sure that we get all of the stakeholders in a room , um, generally for about two days. And we go through everything. We start with why we're there, what it is we're building, what is, what the problem is we're looking at solving and who we're solving it for. Um, we then move on to, you know, some of the key features, so why it's different and you know, what, what the benefits are of using the software for the end user. Um, and then we start to flesh out some of the features, some of the high-level stuff that would be building. Um, we look at the risks associated with that project. So anything from , um, you know, it department might, might put a stop to something or the legal department or marketing department might, might not like what we're doing. Um, and we look at ways of sort of attacking those risks and making sure that, you know, we can identify them as early as possible and, and overcome them as, as quickly as we can so that the project can deliver smoothly. So there's all of that sort of stuff. Um, you know, even to the point where we put a rough estimate on how long it's going to take to build how much it's going to cost to build, and that really gives companies a , a basis to go forward. So, you know, we, we write all this up into a big glossy report and it gives them something to go to an investment committee or a board with to say, look, this is the project that we're building. You know, we'd like some money to , to actually build this. And we'd like some sign off to, to go ahead with the project. So it just makes, make sure that we identify these big, big rocks as early as possible. And we can start working on them to make sure that the project delivers smoothly.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So just, just for old people like myself who, you know, may have done their , uh , software engineering, post-grad in, you know , uh , my natural was in, in multimedia , uh , platform design stuff , uh, back in the 1990s. Uh, and now we're in a, a waterfall developers, old folks home, how is it different? How is an inception workshop different from, it just sounds like requirements gathering, but, you know, with , uh , cooler clothes like snowboarding ,

Speaker 3:

Um, it's, it's not going quite as deep as you traditionally would with waterfalls . So, you know , the way that we tend to deliver and , and, and by the way, when we do these inception workshops, we deliver a report . It doesn't mean that EG actually have to go ahead and do the delivery. It could be someone completely different, but the way that we tend to deliver is , is with a scrum methodology. So we deliver in two week sprints and we deliver something every two weeks. Um, so we're, we're constantly delivering value. Um, and, and , and really what we're trying to do is get those big things out of the way at the beginning. We're not going deep into feature design, so we're not, we're not working out exactly what texts is going to go on the screen or which bits of data that we can , uh , going to gather where we're , we're really just sort of doing that high level stuff. Um, and that means that when we go forward into a scrum delivery cycle, that recycles that we've got enough information to go forward . Um, and , and, you know , as start to take

Speaker 4:

Shape during that, during that process, people change their minds. You know , as people start to see something building in front of their eyes, you know , they have other ideas and things that were important before and not as important as, as they once were, or, you know , they identify new features. And so it's important just to get the high level risks out of the way at the beginning.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So our special guest this week joining us in the virtual studio is Gareth Morris, who is the senior technical lead at Suffolk County council . Gareth, welcome to the EG way. Good morning. Now, Gareth, I've got to say for those people who are listening, who don't immediately think of a local authority as being a trailblazer in the tech sense , uh , actually Suffolk, you are, you know, obviously you're a local authority in an area that is outside of London, the biggest , uh, sort of tech scene in the UK and has got billions of investment flowing into it. And your pretty technically savvy local authority , uh , County council . Tell us how did agile , uh, arrive at , uh, the County council offices there in Ipswich?

Speaker 4:

Yeah, certainly. Um, so I think Suffolk County council's first introduction to our child , um, can be tracked back to the joint venture partnership we've had in place with , uh, BT , uh, that ran from 2004 to 2014. Um, so council services such as ITT finance, HR, public access. We moved into a new company called customer service direct , uh, BT provided the executive leadership and invested a significant amount of money in the modernized modernization of , um, of those core council services. Um, so in ICT we had experienced speaky program managers and solutions architects embedded within the service and probably around about 2008, 2009 with BT being very keen, agile practitioners. Um, they used agile to deliver several , several software deployment projects , um, inside of ICT. Um, and I think it was this initial exposure , um, that influenced ITP to recommend there'd be a requirement to use agile for any software development projects where possible. Um, I think what we liked about it is that agile gave us the codification of user requirements and a form that made sense to business users. Um, it gave project managers a clear breakdown of the work and flow of delivery, and ultimately it delivered value really quickly. Um, cause that was a stark contrast to the previous waterfall based projects, but typically it ended up in a solution that not really deliver value to the consumers. Um, and I think around this time as well, central government also started to notice the benefits of agile and we tend to follow their lead in terms of public service standards. Um, in fact, today in their service standard handbook on gov.uk , they mandate the use of agile project methodology.

Speaker 2:

So it's a really interesting thing, isn't it? Because I suppose waterfall was really never fit for purpose because the , uh, uh, the role of a council touches across so many different touch points and different kinds of service delivery that you could never really capture all the requirements of a local authority because you've got everything going on there from, you know, trash collections through to , uh, uh , benefits and, you know, assisted living , uh, units you're right the way through to housing. Um, and , uh, you know, school, school meals, school buses, transport, I mean, it's such a vast and complex , uh, array . How do you approach that? I mean, as a senior technical lead, do you find that your projects could be in radically different parts of the County and , and with very different user groups , uh , every time, or do you have a specialization you tend to focus in?

Speaker 4:

So , um, it's , it's the form of really, so , um, I've had projects across the different council, directorates and departments. Um, we , we don't tend to specialize , um, in terms of senior technical lead we'll, you know, we'll , we'll, we'll take whatever comes into the team , uh, essentially. So yeah, it is, it is a huge challenge on a thing. Um, when we were trying to deliver projects [inaudible] , um, you know, I don't know if you've seen that comic strip , um, it's called the tree swing approach to project management where you've got this comic strip depicting the , how each team on a project interpret the requirements differently, but to a disastrous effect , uh, then that, then that was that, that was the very, very common experience that we, that we kind of had. Um, pre-op agile was , um, I think now with, as embracing the agile approach, it makes it a lot easier to bring together all those stakeholders, especially if I , if I've got a project that sits across five different directorates, like social care CYP, et cetera. Cause if you can do with a big technology projects, it can sit across those , um , to bring all those together , um, you know, under, under the agile banner, it really, really makes a huge difference. Your latest project you used , uh , one of our inception workshops for your new analysis of additional needs to , as part of Suffolk psychology and therapeutic services department of the council. Tell us a bit more about the goal of that project. Yeah. So , um, so Claire and imaging, who are the educational psychologist at Suffolk County council , um, really have a vision and passion to use technology in the delivery of their service, which is educational psychology assessments and interventions , um, supporting those children with additional needs. Um, so, so really Suffolk County council does not have an in house development team. So kind of the first task that we had to do was to source partner to help bring that vision to life. Um, and we'd already engaged , um , EG on some previous work on, based on that good experience, it was natural to reach out to you guys to explore that opportunity. Um, so I think the , the kind of the inception workshop approach really appealed to the sec project team as it made sure that the, you know , functional and non-functional requirements with disgust and scoped in the same workshop. And I think we really nailed the, what, why and how for the entire project, by having all the key stakeholders take part at the same time, go through the various exercises , um, such as like the elevator pitch product box, the not list . I'm probably my favorite, what keeps us up at night. Um, at the end of the process , um , we had a document clear requirements, a solutions design indicative costings , and a projected timeline of delivery, which within two days was kind of very impressive. Um, I think our previous engagements with other organizations following the more traditional scope project scope and method, this would have taken several weeks and there wouldn't have been enough focus on probably the non-functional side of it, which is sometimes seen as an afterthought, you know , um , with the third party that they're interested in in getting that business from, from the users who are only going to be interested in the functional side of things, rather than the ICT non functional side of things. And that inevitably leads to a poor product either for ICT to run in support and invariably , um, and cause technical debt in its , in its , in its lifetime. So it's that inception workshop really made sure that everybody was in the same room and contributing. Is there a lot of complexity involved with developing agile solutions in areas that touch on healthcare and education? Um , everyone , we said everyone, dreads, GDPR compliance, even on simple projects, but a public service dealing with children must face some unique challenges around that. I think when you're delivering a project, they on privacy security climates can be seen to be getting in the way of delivering the functional requirement. Okay . Um , however life philosophy is they're not additional requirements. They should be embraced and woven into your daily work. They should be treated as business as usual, not something to be dreaded or an afterthought. So think sort of privacy by design in everything that you do. Um, and , uh , we're , we're quite, we're quite lucky is that we've had a lot of, a lot of exposure and Suffolk County council to GDPR compliance and just data governance and data information security generally , um, because we are a public authority , um, and it's always taken that privacy design , um , approach to sensitive datasets , um, you know, ICT information governance worked closely to achieve this. What was, what was really good though about the inception workshop with Alan and Chris? Um, is it the privacy and design approach was respected and understood? They didn't question , um, my requirements for the application , um, in terms of , um, around, you know, some things around the identity that we wanted to do in single sign on, in two factor authentication, which can be quite complex engineering , um, uh, tasks to actually carry out , um, you know, they were , they were completely open to that. Um, whereas on previous engagements you kind of raise those kinds of things and , and it's seen as a , as a problem or a blocker. So that was really refreshing, but , you know, I didn't have to, there was no, there was no question about descoping any of this, any of the security or GDPR compliance requirements at all. Okay. We're going to take a quick break and hand over to Laura Hood, who is a marketing manager and actually the producer of these podcasts . And she's going to talk about inception workshops and the broader value.

Speaker 5:

Hi, I'm Laura herd and I am marketing manager here at TG . So we tend to find that the thing customers really like about the inception workshop is that it's a chance to bring together everyone who has a role or stake in the project , uh , projects often initiated from a business need rather than an it need does in the case with Suffolk County council and the inception workshop gives those line of business people, the chance to really express what they want to achieve from the project. And it's a much more engaging than the traditional requirements gathering process. The inception workshop takes participants through a clearly defined set of stages, which finishes up with a clear roadmap for the project.

Speaker 4:

The inception workshop has several sort of stages in it that enable you to really test the concept and turn it into a plan moving forward. So it's real proof of concept stuff. I'm , I'm interested. You said your favorite bit was the, what keeps us up at night. Now that's an exercise that comes at the end a bit where you think about, okay, what is the worst case scenario that could happen and how would we address that? So what was, what was yours? What did you like that bit so much? Um, I think because a lot of time our project risks aren't really addressed. They're kind of just put in a spreadsheet somewhere in a folder and kind of forgotten about, so I was really pleased that like, okay, let's get everything out, get everything out onto the table, no matter what it is, what it , what keeps you up at night and that's an excellent way to phrase it. So , um, you know, for me personally, it was like, Oh, a data breach. If there's, if there's a hack, can a data breach. So it was really good to sort of articulate that. And , and I think that , um, it , it made for a much more , um, um, more powerful , um , solutions delivery in the end as well, because, you know , um, sort of Chris and Allen who were part of the workshop on the edgy side, I think, you know, they, they really, they really got to see what he does essentially. Okay. Gareth. Now we're going to take another quick break now to , uh , listen to a piece from Robin Bergby, who's the senior business analyst at EEG , and she's a really big fan of the power of the inception workshop to get all the right people together in the same room. At the same time,

Speaker 5:

Inception workshops are really useful for me as a da . I get to see how all the different stakeholders of the project work together. I get to see how their priorities fit together. And if there are any conflicts in those priorities, we get to sort them out while we're all in the same room. Um , and that's the sort of thing that you can easily get from a document. Um , the other thing is, is that once projects do kickoff , we've had all of these background discussions of what's in scope and what's out of scope. So all the difficult decisions have already been made. And it means that by the time we get to start the project, we just get going and we hit the ground running. We can write up exactly what needs to be developed at that point, because all the decisions have been made and everybody has a clear understanding of what that looks like , uh , before inception workshops, people would think they have the same idea of what's going to be delivered, but actually it's not quite the same. Um, in this case, if we've had an inception workshop, all of that would have been ironed out already. Everybody should be on the same page by the end of the inception workshop. And I should have a good understanding of the background context of where everything's going to fit. So if I get any questions from the depths or while we're writing the backlog, I have a better understanding of what's most likely going to be the best route forward based on what I know from having been involved in the inception workshop. Um, I think the other thing is, is that from a user's perspective or from , from the people who are bringing the project in, they also have a better understanding of what's possible. Um, that's, what's possible within the time and the budget of the project. Um, all the turkeys are in the room. So any unknowns that they'd had will often get answered within the project and it kind of makes it a lot more real for them. There's a lot , lot of times that people leave the inception much up in that . And that includes us. We leave the inception workshop, really excited to start this new project. And as I say, that's for the users as well, often they'd have had this big idea hanging around them and they wanted to develop, but not necessarily knowing how to progress forward with it. Um, by doing the inception lecture , they get a much better idea of exactly how it's going to be delivered. What are the next steps to be able to do that? And it just makes it that much more feasible and that much more real to them that it's actually going to happen.

Speaker 2:

I mean, it's interesting Gareth Robin talks there about getting the power of getting all the right people in the room. So what about that for you? Did you find that , you know, this actually threw up anything unexpected or, or did you know Roquet exactly who needs to be a part of this project from day one?

Speaker 4:

Um, yeah, I think it made us really , really think about all the stakeholders that needed to be part of the project to make it a success. Um, it definitely decided , um , helped us to decide who needed to be part of the projects . No, it was like teams for this within Suffolk County council. Um, so, so yeah, it was a good exercise to say, right, who are all the stakeholders? And I think some, some did come out the woodwork, so to speak, Oh, yes, yes. We need to include that person because of X, Y, Z. So , um, what was, what was actually really good is that , um, the workshop introduced a new concept of product owner that, you know, w w which was, you know, kind of foreign to Suffolk County council. Um, so that was really cool because that provided us with a challenge to work out who is best suited for that role. Um, and I think Claire and imaging , maybe without knowing it, slot it into that category , um , really, really well. Um, so yeah, I think that , um, yeah, it definitely definitely made us think more about who needs to be involved in this, and, you know, we're still working on that now. We're still bringing those stakeholders to the table now, and that can be quite a challenge. Tell us a bit more about developing a roadmap in the , the inception workshop. How did that work? That providers with that provided us with some additional discussion points , um , around, okay, what could we perhaps de-scope speed up delivery or improve costs? Um, and this was very useful to have that all out at the beginning because you don't want to have those conversations coming out when you're actually delivering something. So it's , it's good to get all that cited upfront. Um, and I think what was really, really, really great for Claire is that it codafide her vision. Basically, she had this, this plan, this roadmap , um, cause she'd already had interest from other local authorities keen to use this platform. She now has , you know, a good estimate of when the platform would be ready as well. So , um, yeah, that was very beneficial. How was the workshop? Um, people listening might imagine something that's intensive or very technical. Was it accessible and was it fun? Okay, so set the context for this COVID-19 I just hit the UK, you know, the prime minister had just given the stay at home direction. Um, so I had some trepidation about the idea of two day inception workshop for your teams. And I must've met before I thought, will this be, will this work or will this be effective? I mean, luckily I was proved very wrong. Um, the entire process was , was great. Um, even though it was intensive, it wasn't tiring. You weren't kind of like looking at your watch to say, right . Okay. When w when, you know , roll on five o'clock. Um, so yeah, it was very, very well paced and orchestrated the technical side was high level and never tracked it from the focus of we wanted what we wanted this product product to deliver in terms of value. Um, the exercises we went through, encouraged creativity. And for me personally, it was great to actually listen to the aspirations of Clara and immersion and their passion and dedication really inspired me. Um, I think sometimes , um, sort of user requirements gathering, et cetera. Um, you know, ICT can sometimes not be involved in that and they they're just given a document after the fact. So it made a huge difference to actually listen to them about what they wanted. Um, so I, you know, was very well balanced between discussions around the technology, the business process requirements and the customer experience design. Um, it was fun as well. I mean, I I'd never met or worked with Alamo Chris before, and they were so easy to work with and accommodating,

Speaker 2:

I mean, you say that now, but you don't have to podcast with him until it's , that's when the, when the camera's off, you know, what he's so fussy about his canopies and his glass of champagne in the, in the ready room. It's, it's

Speaker 4:

One of the things that I was really impressed with , um, with Chris. So Chris was doing the mission design , um, is that he was really open to any thoughts or suggestions I had around the, around the design experience. I mean, being a senior technical lead I'm , I'm used to doing the design, whereas now it was taken a back seat and just input in requirements into that design. And he was so open and , and, you know , accommodating with any, any suggestions that I

Speaker 3:

Had, you know, my previous experience with other companies are you provided a design and that's it like Olympic little, little scope to influence it, that wasn't the case of the inception workshop. Um, so yeah, it was fun. I , I I'd recommend anybody to take part in this. If we have future work with a G L you know , there'll be an inception workshop to kick, to kick things off. Um, so yeah, really positive experience.

Speaker 2:

It's great. Thank you very much for joining us today. It's been a very positive , uh , podcasting experience for us as well. Gareth Morris, senior technical lead at Suffolk County council .

Speaker 3:

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Speaker 2:

From Suffolk County council, their senior it lead doesn't , uh , it's not easy to find someone to take a break from the busy schedule to appear on the podcast . So, especially from the council who , as you can imagine, it absolutely flat out with all the coronavirus work they're doing. So thanks there. And Chris, that's it. That's all the time we've got this week.

Speaker 3:

Geez . Andrew has been really good fun again.

Speaker 2:

So what's your plan for the week ? We've come through quite a bit of a lockdown now, how you've been doing, how are you getting on with those business books?

Speaker 3:

Um, I've , I've got through one of them, not, not a huge amount of reading that I've been able to do over the last week or so, but , um, we have a strategy meeting tomorrow and all day strategy meeting. So some of that has been valuable.

Speaker 2:

What would you recommend for anyone who's, you know , looking for something to read , uh, you know , what, what would the CEO of a funky agile development company recommend that they take a look

Speaker 3:

Weirdly? The one I've really enjoyed recently. Um , and that's only because I've really got into my running has been a book called shoe dog by Phil Knight. Two is the creative night. You know , that was a really good read and yeah , she quite surprising points throughout that book about the history of, of how the company grew. So, yeah, really interesting one.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So you heard it hit read that, and also you dropped in the running there. Now you can find Chris on Strava. You can find me on Strava as well. I mean, I wouldn't bother, I'm not even close.

Speaker 3:

I've been doing well, Andrew, you know, I've seen your speed increasing over the last few weeks. So that's been good.

Speaker 2:

Four little lights now, little running lights. Uh , and I now, cause I live obviously out in the sticks with terrible broadband. One of the advantages about that, especially in lockdown is, you know, my hour outside, I can be completely uninterrupted me and the dog and just running around the country lane. But of course it's getting dark now. So , um, I've, I've had to get a running lights. So now the thing is, my children said, Oh, you look like a fat iron man. And I thought, thanks lads . I was just chuffed. They said, iron man, the next year, you're going to be running. Um, we were doing, are we doing the 20,000 , uh , K then we're doing the 20,000 K

Speaker 3:

Next year. Is that right? 23rd ? Well, we tried to do it this year, but I think, I think that we tried to do 20, 20 this year. Um, and that , that sort of came to a bit of a stop during, during lockdown. Um,

Speaker 2:

But yeah, so next year, if you're interested, do get in touch with us hit at the EG way. If you would like to run the 20, 21 Strava challenge, we're going to be going out. We're going to be running 2021 kilometers next year. That's our plan on Strava. Find us on EG . And don't forget to come and listen to the podcast . There's loads left in the series. If you haven't heard any of the previous ones, we're covering up everything, all things, agile, lots of guests, lots of fun stuff. Those people joining us from all over the tech community across these of England. So do come back and join us in the meantime, find us on LinkedIn. That's linkedin.com/company/eeg limited [inaudible] limited, or just do a search actually for EG because everything we do is a good example, EEG . In the meantime, it's goodbye from us here at the Dua podcast. It's goodbye from me. I'm Andrew Walker and also from my cohost Chris bond ,

Speaker 6:

[inaudible] .