Great thread. And another reminder that businesses really aren't intrinsically better than govts at digital.
Only difference is govts (sometimes) have public inquiries. https://t.co/0hXPj8svsk
— Andrew Greenway (@ad_greenway) April 25, 2019
I’d like to thank Hertz and Accenture from the bottom of my heart. This oh so public airing of their digital dirty linen totally reinforces the point many of us have been making for years. The private sector is NOT intrinsically better at these things than the public sector. Occasions like this and the TSB meltdown should never be celebrated but should surely be greeted by a wry smile by those of us who have been hearing about the incompetence of public service digital for years from some corners — and particularly why there was never any need to bring things in-house because all the expertise was with the big suppliers.
I say this — obviously — as a supplier these days. That doesn’t change my opinion at all. Wrestling control away from those big suppliers and bringing skills and knowledge back in house across the public sector was/is an amazing thing. This does NOT mean they have to do everything themselves but there is a beauty in an intelligent, aware customer.
Other people will write far better analysis of the legalities and repercussions of the Hertz vs Accenture case but I just wanted to have a quick (for me) comment on one thing. The idea of outsourcing ‘product ownership’. This is clearly sub-optimal at its core. It is totally putting the inmates in charge but I wonder if it is partly a side effect of the ’tyranny of agile’ or more precisely the ‘tyranny of Scrum™’.
This bit rang true with me: https://t.co/EG9D9VR6aC
Partner with suppliers for many things but never outsource product ownership of non-commodity components if your business depends on them
— Matt Edgar (@mattedgar) April 25, 2019
but also don't make the mistake of thinking that building product ownership capability is a case of changing someone's job title and telling them they're empowered now
— Haywards PicallEllie (@Ellayanor) April 25, 2019
The role of ‘Product Owner™’ has become a thing with responsibilities and tasks and expectations. All of which are useful and consistent to the smooth working of a good Scrum™ team. In organisations that were not birthed in the internet-era those people are not just sitting around waiting for the call-up to the Show — however there are almost always people with the right instincts, a good understanding of their audience/users/customers and what makes their business tick. They just couldn’t tell a backlog from a backside or a user story from a story book. Increasingly I wonder whether they really need to.
It is their insights, ability to actually be the voice of the user, knowledge of the politics of the business and ability to make decisions that matter. Honestly that is what I am looking for. Someone empowered for sure — but you need the person empowered to genuinely know enough to understand the context of the decisions and the trade-offs they are making. Otherwise you just end up with a proxy product owner — no matter how skilled they are at the mechanics of product management. You can’t just parachute someone in and expect them to have that local knowledge sufficiently to make a real impact (it can happen — absolutely — but in these ‘transformation’ type projects it is really, really hard.). It takes time and exposure to the heartbeat of the business to really do this well. You can’t teach that experience…or outsource it.
You can however outsource the mechanics of it all. Maybe this is where the nomenclature gets us into a tangle and maybe GDS/DDaT stumbled onto something with the Service Owner/Product Manager split.
Maybe it is a partnership — a Subject Matter Expert/Owner with a Product ‘professional’ supporting and coaching them — but not the ‘owner’ or decision maker. An adjutant role for lean/agile practices alongside the Agile Delivery Manager (maybe this is back to my idea of hybrids or multi-hyphenates.)
In the case of Hertz I am 100% sure they had people with the expertise to ‘own’ this thing — who would perhaps have benefited from an independent support role providing them the support in the mechanics of working with a digital delivery team and perhaps doing an element of translation but no more.
I mean they had $32million — I am sure they could afford one more person!
You can hire and build a hell of a tech team with $32 million.
— Jeremy Bowers (@jeremybowers) April 24, 2019
Oh and you have to admire the cojones of the Accenture person who when faced with a hugely unhappy client and with no working site to show them doubled down and asked for another $10million to finish it.
I get wheeled in on occasion to offer advice or help with activities that seem to touch on some element of the broad topic of product management. I recently did a bit of a brain dump for a potential client on some of the techniques I have used to get things started – to make sure the foundations are solid enough to launch something ambitious.
Insights from Professor Alan Brown
Alan Brown is Professor in Digital Economy at the University of Exeter’s Business School. Alan’s research is focused on agile approaches to business transformation, and the relationship between technology innovation and business innovation in today’s rapidly-evolving digital economy. He is a long standing adviser to the Notbinary board and clients.
Come so far - got so far to go
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report into Digital Government is an interesting read. I agree with a lot of it. More does need to be done to really get a handle on legacy technologies across the Government estate.