https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2015/02/23/new-technology-creates-new-ways-of-working-in-the-cabinet-office/

New technology creates new ways of working in the Cabinet Office

Headshot of Keiron Boyle
Kieron Boyle

When asked to write a blog on the impact of the new Cabinet Office technology on our work, I was astonished to find that we’d only been using it for 4 months. It seems much longer than that - in a good way!

As part of the Early Adopter cohort, we’ve been at the front end of using the new systems for a little while now. Even in that short time there have already been significant physical changes to how we work, and improvements to the ways in which we work together.

Disclaimer: I’m the sort who likes new technologies (especially those in brushed aluminium). But even accounting for that, I’ve been genuinely surprised by how quickly the new systems have changed our physical working habits.

Changing the way we work

team meeting with new technology
Team meeting using the new tech

For example, people in the team have been working from home much more. The great messaging and video-calling functionality means that this is finally an easy-to-use option. And almost immediately after the rollout, it became standard practice for people in the team to take their laptops to meetings, rather than papers (slightly more problematic when somebody spills a glass of water though). The fast boot up time and up-to-date applications means it’s so much easier to take your work with you wherever you go.

We’re now thinking about how we can change our physical office environment to take advantage of those changes - for example, devoting more space to tables we can sit round together, with people getting their e-mailing done from slightly quieter locations.

Even bigger has been the impact to how we collaborate and communicate with each other. As the leader of a large team, I’ve found it really useful to think about programme management differently. My old approach was to conduct regular, and detailed, performance updates on each of the team’s projects. That’s great for the strategic discussions, but now we can pick up on more of the practical details (on budgets, deadlines, contracts etc.) through using comments and tags on shared documents. This saves on a lot of meeting time.

With some encouragement, we’ve also found ourselves using a team Google+ Community to share ‘in case of interest’ information. We used to send this sort of information in emails to the whole team, which some people loved, and others found a bit burdensome. Our new approach is to try to live by the principle of publishing, rather than sending.

The team have also found real-time collaboration to be a huge time-saver when asked to quickly pull together briefings. Working together in shared documents has turned this from a headache-inducing exercise in version control into a much more engaging team activity. Just today at a team meeting we created a list of our top 100 stakeholders in under three minutes.

Finally the new technology has enabled substantive improvements to our work. Having access to online applications such as Prezi and Canva means that we can communicate with more impact. Tools like Doodle and Eventbrite, as well as being able to search documents with Google, have also made us faster and better organised.

Managing change

Of course, not all of this has come naturally. As with any change, some people have taken to it more readily than others. Training has been useful but I think that this will be an ongoing need, as will people just sharing tips on what they’ve found that works.

However all this has been made so much less challenging by the positive attitude of the technology support team. Not everything has worked smoothly - I’ve had real issues with printers, for example - but one of the best elements for me has been that the technology support staff start conversations with a "we can fix this for you" mentality. Previously I often felt left to my own devices (literally!) when trying to fix problems. This often resulted in myriad workarounds, rather than the solving it quickly that we are now getting used to.

So a very positive 4 month report. The team and I are looking forwards to getting even more use out of the new systems, using this great technology and assisted by some first-class technology support. Plus being careful with those glasses of water...

5 comments

  1. Comment by Matt Copperwaite posted on

    This is great. I guess I can only apologise for the Access 'apps' I created while working there 07/08 that will now have to be replaced.

  2. Comment by Andy Croft posted on

    I would interested to see what the Equalities Impact Assessment and the DSE risk assessment looks like for the described way of working. I suspect that they have either not been done at all or have been skimped over from what is described. It is possible that they have been done and appropriate control measures implemented but have been left out in the interests of keeping the article short but if this is the case, the use of one short sentence would have clarified the issue and could easily have been included. My concern is that some manager might read, decide that it’s a good idea and just run with it without having taken due regard of these two legally required sets of regulations.

  3. Comment by Hannah posted on

    I had never heard of Canva - looks like it has the potential to be a really interesting and useful tool. What sort of things has your team used it for, out of interest?

  4. Comment by Mike Bedford posted on

    Excellent blog Kieron. We are going through a similar period of change with new technology in BIS right now. There has been/are some teething problems but on the whole positive change. I would like to pick your brains further if you're up for a chat.

  5. Comment by Chef posted on