Further up, Farther In

Do you ever have a day when despite the mayhem going on all around you feel energised and happy that you’re right where you should be?

I had one of them last Friday, and my recognition that I was having one came through a brief 30 min meeting in the middle of the day, sharing some information about the capabilities we’ve got available to improve the use of social media in engaging with people. It turned into a chat about all the things we are doing, and how the opportunities to do our best for people in Bristol had increased over the past few years. I found myself talking about the things that fire me up and keep me working in Bristol (and local government generally) rather than running off to the private sector for a higher paid but (in my eyes) less meaningful job.

That conversation was bookended by two long meetings about major projects, delivering some really big changes to our services. We made real progress in both, and neither were ‘talking shops’ – they were real exchanges of expertise, where personal contact and looking people in the eyes as we discussed was important to sense understanding, reactions to proposals, and commitment to action. My job can often be wall to wall meetings, and certainly all the ones that are death by status update need to be killed, but ultimately the role of Chief Enterprise Architect is to engage, shape, lead and facilitate the organisations approach to designing the future – all things that need a strong human connection.

I also got a major kick from seeing some massively exciting new products and services that are available to the local government market now. For too long our frontline staff’s willingness to innovate and desire to focus on what really matters for service users has been seriously blocked or diluted by poor systems and technology. But real alternatives are out there now, and I’m sure we will see them in action at more and more councils.

As GDS puts it, it’s time for “technology at least as good as people have at home”…

My day ended catching up with an old colleague who helped us create EA in Bristol. As we talked through all that had happened since 2009, and I showed off our new workplace in 100 Temple Street, it came home to me how much we have delivered, and how far our in-house teams have come over that time. We’ve had lots of help and expertise from suppliers, contract staff and colleagues across the public sector, but our core is a team of permanent Bristol City Council people who have grown together and supported each other to learn fast and deliver what the city and council needs.

Onwards and upwards!

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