New Job - new challenges

On 1st May, I began my new role as Area Manager - Digital. I still work for the council, which means I have to be careful about what I blog about, but I do want to share some of the things I am doing and learning in this new role. The first month has almost gone and it has flown by. My old job was extremely fast moving and it was easy for a week to fly past without me noticing. Well this is a different kind of busy and I much prefer it. When I was managing two busy adult learning centres, I had hundreds of different things that would all land on my desk, claiming to be urgent on a given day. For the last month, I've had one main task (with a few little extras) to concentrate on. It has been really great to be able to focus on one thing for a sustained period of time and not have other things pulling me away from it.

Project Initiation Document

So what have I spent the last three weeks doing? My new job has several IT projects attached to it. The first one is a hardware and infrastructure replacement and the first step is to produce a PID - Project Initiation Document. I have to confess, I've never done one before and had to do a bit of research to find out what a PID is. My skills lie more on the content creation side and e-learning. However, I really wanted to get this right and learn something - expand my skills.

I'm not going to talk about the content of this PID or how I wrote it but more of a reflection on what I've learnt through doing it.

1. Plan to plan to plan

Before I even started, I thought about what the plan was. What information would I need? Why are we doing this? What do we want to achieve? I thought I'd got all the bits in place in my head, ready to commit to paper (okay, a Word doc). I was fortunate to have a colleague, who was happy to help me gather information across our four centres about existing kit that would be replaced as part of the project. The trouble was, we got part way through gathering information and then realised we wanted more and different information. With hindsight, I wish I'd set up all my documents, floor plans, requirements lists, etc. before starting the information gathering. It used to be a standing joke, many years ago, when I attended a Methodist church, that we would have a meeting to arrange a meeting to discuss another meeting. Well, I now think there could be something in that! I should have had a plan to create my plan to write my plan.

2. Get lots of advice

I've been getting quotes in for a lot of different elements of the project. When I first started asking for quotes, I thought I was sure of what I wanted. Gradually, the spec changed. So now, I'm going out for second and third sets of quotes. I had discussed our requirements before I started but with hindsight, I should have sought lots of different advice and then pulled it all together. This is where it's handy to have a network of contacts with expertise in various areas.

3. Use senior management

There have been a couple of times in the last month, when I've come up against a barrier and found it difficult to move on because somebody hasn't met a deadline or wasn't coming up with what I needed. I come from a background where taking something higher up the chain is seen as 'grassing someone up' and it doesn't go down well. However, sometimes it's the only way to get the job done. I have been very grateful that my line manager has unblocked a couple of blockages along the way. There are times when the hierarchical structure feels very alien to me but in this case, it has been helpful.

4. Use those online tools

Last post, I talked about Trello and in the past, I've talked about Padlet. They have been my constant companions, as I have written my PID. Trello has been useful for putting the project plan into a clear, visual format and tracking where I'm going and what I've done. Padlet has been great for collating ideas and categorising them into different projects and then prioritising them. Obviously, I can't share these, as all work stuff is confidential but if you are involved in any project, I would strongly recommend Trello and/or Padlet.

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