Monthly round-up: August 2016

Hello September! Your days are beginning to shorten, but there’s still a lot going on. In recent years this time has usually been a full-on mix of preparing conference talks and attending different events, but after a very busy conference season at the start of this year I wanted to focus my efforts elsewhere this time around.

The result has been a mix of getting project work ticked off, plus some time for a lot of new business chats and working on things in the background. Working with an F1 team means flexing around people’s race schedules and our project also fell into the mandatory Shutdown period, which I used to catch up on quite a few areas. Here’s what I’ve been up to this month:

Manor Racing

(Apologies that the below is somewhat vague – what we’re doing is rather sensitive and I unfortunately can’t talk about many of the specifics)

After returning from Portugal I picked my Manor Racing project back up. This is work where we’re trying to match the team’s ethos of Go For The Gap by seeing what we can do to use digital technologies to identify opportunities for the team.

The majority of my initial research had been done at that point, and I spent some time compiling findings and playing these back to the C-suite team. Once we’d established what we were looking at and where we’d subsequently like to focus our efforts next, we moved into looking at solutions – researching product capabilities, meeting a potential supplier, and doing some internal validation.

Part of the plan had always been to spend some time creating a prototype, although we didn’t know what form that would take, or what it would be used to communicate right at the start. From our mid-way discussion, we made a decision to focus on two specific interaction models, and to create something that could be shown to people within the business to help demonstrate some concepts by showing them something tangible. I therefore made a call to build something quick rather than using static representations (which was always preferable – I’m a terrible visual designer!).

I really enjoyed this part of the project, as it was great to get stuck into some code for a couple of days. The end result used a framework and ended up being far more designed than it should have been, but to be honest I absolutely love the Manor Racing branding and imagery, and it was hard not to get a bit carried away! See header image – a bit more than your usual greyscale prototype. I’ve previously spoken about my love of the raceday posters, and even the Manor Instagram account has a very distinct colour feel to it, so I think I was subconsciously being drawn into this.

We have just wrapped up the final bits of the project, and I have to say, I was genuinely sad to leave the factory this week. The team there is brilliant, and I’ve been thoroughly impressed and actually quite inspired by what they’re doing and the attitudes that they have. It’s also been nice to peek into what is often a very male dominated sport only to find a team who are very aware of the need for diversity, and where the factory had a good mix of people to work with. Fingers crossed for the end of the season yielding some great results!

Shutdown activities

During the Shutdown period and other odd-days off I’ve been having some very interesting meetings. First was time spent workshopping some challenges with a rather well-known national charity that I have a particular interest in for family reasons, and I also met up with an old colleague to discuss something that came rather out of left-field. More about these in September’s update!

I was also asked to contribute some thoughts to an upcoming issue of net magazine, which I understand will be printed in issue 286, on sale on the 6th October. And finally I’ve been making a start on sorting out my websites. It’s become apparent that I need better separation between the company site and a more personal space, so I’ve been in content writing mode.

Write Track

Over the last couple of years I’ve been doing what I can to help out a startup called Write Track. Originally this was a writing community site, but they’ve been beginning to design and build a new product which is currently being iterated through a testing cycle before it’s properly released.

The Write Track team of Bec and Chris have had some brilliant news lately – one of their original users, Wyl Menmuir, wrote his novel whilst using the site to track his progress and receive support from the community. He went on to gain a publishing deal, and was recently announced as being on the long list for the Man Booker prize (probably the biggest literary fiction prize). Write Track have subsequently been receiving some great coverage in places such as the Guardian, the Memo and the Man Booker site itself, as well as speaking to Wyl on their blog. All of this press has given the team a big boost personally, but they’ve also had even more interest around testing the new product than expected. It’s been a great bit of exposure for them, and has been lovely to see.

Off the back of this, they started to think about the data that they were holding from the old site. With Wyl’s permission we dug into the database to see what we could find, and I ran a few queries for them to pull out the data into spreadsheets that they could work with, amazing myself slightly with how much SQL I can remember from my back-end dev days! They’re now looking to do something with this, so hopefully I’ll have a nice end result to share in the future.

If you’re someone who’s interested in data visualisation and may be able to help the team to do more in this area, or want to find out more about the new writing product, then feel free to tweet at them or I can pass on a message.

Into September

The next couple of months are currently causing all sorts of scheduling headaches as I juggle several moving targets, not at all helped by the fact that I’m heading off to Japan for quite a while. I’ve been a couple of times before but not for 6 years now, and am looking forward to both the old and the new. If you have any favourite tips that you’d like to pass on, or if you’d like to add to my headaches by having a chat about future projects please do get in touch!

Read more from the blog

Back in time:
Monthly round-up: July 2016

Forward in time:
Monthly round-up: September and October 2016

Posted by Sally Lait

Sally is the lead consultant and founder of Records Sound the Same, helping people with digital transformation. She's also a speaker, coder, gamer, author, and jasmine tea fiend.