It’s been lively at Helpful HQ:
- We put the new site for the excellent Education and Employers Taskforce live on Monday, replacing their ‘think tank’ style corporate site with something which gives the team control over their public face again, so their diverse audiences can understand the dynamic and interesting work they do
- Followed up by the relaunch of the site for Parliament Week - a great fit with WordPress to handle partner and event registrations for this week of events around democracy, coming up in November. It’s lovely looking, works beautifully on mobile and tablet and has been tested with users over two rounds of research by specialists Bunnyfoot. From kickoff to live within about 10 weeks.
Both projects have been run using Basecamp, which has really helped us keep the team involved. We’ve also run both projects using a version of our Discovery-Alpha-Beta-Live project, and a tighter front-end development process using LESS.
Meanwhile, we’ve been joined by new intern Ladi Babayemi, who’s got stuck in sorting out our Chromebooks and setting up WordPress.
Al’s been at CommsCamp finding out what’s hot in the world of digital communications and skills as part of our Digital Action Plan service.
We’ve also been running our longest crisis simulation, working with a large client as part of a week-long operational and communications crisis simulation exercise. We’re tight-lipped (as we always are) about the specifics, but this one featured drones and boats, LinkedIn profiles and public boycotts. It was jolly good fun too, and awesome to see the operational guys at work: nothing beats practising your crisis plan.
Next week’s a big one for us, as Tim Lloyd joins.
And we’re back!
It would be nice to say we’ve made a strategic decision to focus our social media efforts on other channels, but the fact is, we just forgot our Tumblr password. Happens to the best of us.
Since <ages ago> we’ve:
- Relauched the Grantham Institute website, one of our biggest builds to date, which we’re jolly proud of (and learnt some useful lessons on the way)
- Done some work on iPad-based webapps, including a great project for one of the Royal Academy’s exhibitions, Sensing Spaces
- Simulated crises in sectors from telecoms to criminal justice, housing to oil & gas, plus a fun trip to Australia
- Helped our partners Claremont to relaunch their site (we did the WordPress gubbins)
- Launched intranets for BIS and the Northern Ireland Office and continued to iterate our platform, GovIntranet
- Done lots of work on our digital skills training service with a couple of new cohorts of learners
- Helped DCLG on a couple of sites: Local Digital and the Local Audit Regulations consultation
- Been doing some more coaching work, with senior leaders of a couple of organisations getting into digital
- Moved things around server-wise (which helps us sleep better at night)
- Grown the team lots, with Al and Tim and Chris
- Spring cleaned the site of one our longstanding clients, University Aliance
- Been working on our business planning and management processes, including shifting to Zendesk and a new rota system for supporting clients
Let’s pretend two months haven’t passed since the last update. Jolly good.
Luke’s been growing the intranet community around his open-source WordPress-based GovIntranet platform - we’ve got three organisations using or implementing GovIntranet right now, and lots more interest. Even better, there are some folks DIYing with the code we’ve released, so we’ve set up Govintranetters to give them a place to chat and discuss. And even more exciting
We’ve also launched a bunch of new sites: the new website for St George’s Hospital in Wandsworth, a site for the Global Education and Skills Forum, and an internal/open access staff site for Transport for London designed with scalability and mobile use in mind. We’ve helped the Medical Research council with their Annual Review, and the Department of Health to launch their response to the Francis Inquiry into Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, in a faceted way that GOV.UK couldn’t currently support.
Steph and the team have been on the road a lot with Civil Service Learning and GCN, running around 20 courses since the summer on topics from social media basics to digital marketing, social PR to agile project management. We’re facing the twin challenges of scaling up this kind of work to meet demand, and ensuring that we’re helping people develop real skills that become embedded in how they work. More on that coming soon, as we develop a rather exciting idea…
The Social Simulator had a lively few weeks, with back-to-back exercises in London, Singapore, the Caribbean and London (with scenarios from heavy snow to kidnappings).
Oh, and we finally launched the outputs from our hackday in the summer, finessed by Anthony: the new Helpful site, complete with a live feed from our clients’ sites and more stories and description of what it is we actually do.
It’s a bit autumnal and back-to-school at the moment, and we’re feeling it too at HT:
- Luke’s kicking off two new intranet builds for central government departments, with more enquiries - we’re thrilled not only because intranets are his first love, but also because it makes us feel better about the effort invested in open-sourcing and supporting our WordPress intranet theme, which we’re now being commissioned to integrate, improve and share again
- He’s also been user-testing a new NHS site build nearing completion, seeing how our IA solutions fare when scrutinised by real patients and doctors; and finishing off the new site for the Global Education & Skills Forum
- Howard’s been to the south of France simulating an embarrassing situation with a new agency partner and their client - a brief he tells us required several aperitifs and digesitifs to really get under the skin of
- Our new Visual and Interface Design lead Anthony has made a great start, applying his trademark zen calmness to designs for University Alliance, new client the Council of Deans of Health, and - excitingly - our own website, picking up the threads from our hackday in July while helping us build a solid new foundation theme for our WordPress work on top of the newly-released Bootstrap 3
- Steph’s been focussing on our growing social media and digital skills training work via Civil Service Learning, lining up an expanded team of trainers, and interviewing candidates for our new shared apprenticeship with Claremont Communications to help us keep on top of things - and also fiddling with dashboards
- After a pilot, we’ve decided to trade in our mobile IT training and simulation kit, based on iPads with bluetooth keyboards, for Samsung Chromebooks, which we think will have better compatibility and less of a learning curve for users
- We’re also planning some reorganisation of our hosting arrangements, sticking with the fantastic team at Bytemark, but moving over to their more scalable BigV infrastructure and adding a bit more automated configuration management and redundancy to some of our larger projects.
All in all, it feels like we’re growing up a bit, introducing hopefully the right amount of process and tools in order to make sure we deliver consistently good stuff, for a greater range of people. It sounds corny, and a bit boring, but it’s surprisingly enjoyable.
It’s been an exciting few weeks:
- we’ve moved, in with our friends Claremont Communications, to a funky new office in Clerkenwell
- we’ve grown to a team of four! Anthony O’Malley joined us this week, working on our visual design and front-end development - he’s already built us a nifty slider-based costing calculator for simulation projects
- Howard and Steph have been running and planning some interesting crisis simulations, from sexism in the City to energy security in the developing world
- Luke’s been working on the new site for the Global Education and Skills Forum, with some nifty members-only features
- With Simon and Kristian from Claremont, we’ve been busy with social media training, with three trips to Wales this month to run our Intro course, as well as a delivery of our Agile & UX skills session
- We’ve also been kicking off new projects for the Council of Deans of Health, MRC and some exciting new intranets
- For some fun, Steph helped Dave set up his Little Printer to print mentions of the #transported hashtag
Recently, at Helpful & The Social Simulator HQ…
- Steph’s been talking a lot: at the CIPR Share This Too event, about lessons we’ve learned from teams who’ve done well in crisis simulations, as well as at the Law Commission on social media
- … and with Howard at the Media Trust, where we ran a day course on social media crisis communications. They’ve also been working on our white-label offer for partners, and sorting out our CRM
- We launched the new site for socialsimulator.com
- Luke’s been working with international man of mystery who we will just refer to as ‘Colin’ on our NHS website which is starting to look, well, like a website with navigation, links and everything
- We’ve won a nice piece of work for the conference of a global education provider, building on some of the lessons we learned build Wilton Park’s site
- We’ve been simulating disaster at an airport, and preparing a couple of other juicy exercises coming up over the summer
- We’ve also been preparing a relaunch of a consultation website for another NHS organisation, helping LGIU publish its media coverage better, moving old sites into WordPress, doing housekeeping for some of our maintenance clients, and publishing data from the Public Health Responsibility Deal, for DH as well as helping another team there launch their engagement project on the 65th anniversary of the founding of the NHS
Quite a few weeks. Time for some rest on the sun lounger, before we move in with our buddies Claremont in our cool new Clerkenwell HQ and Helpful Teamster #4 joins the crew…
Over the last couple of weeks:
- Howard’s been helping a new agency partner run a simulation exercise
- With Steph, they’ve been simulating a nasty emergency situation at an airport
- Steph’s been doing some cleaning up, fixing, sorting out and updating of clients’ legacy WordPress sites, and also popping out to meet some interesting folk to talk digital engagement
- Luke’s been finishing off microsites for GuildHE, helping publish Citizen Space responses as searchable WordPress content for the Boundary Commission, and developing the new NHS Trust website we’re working on
- The whole team took a day off from client work recently to kick start the revamp of the Helpful Technology website. It was quite a lot of fun, and has given us all the impetus to get it sorted. It’s nearly ready to switch over to, but not quite. Steph’s blogged about why it won’t have his blog in it
- And we’ve been revamping the Social Simulator site too, after realising that (ahem) we’d hidden our contact details deep in the site. Another one that should see the light of day soon…