How to pivot your career to digital team lead

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show we are joined by Lucy Hardy from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation to talk about how she transitioned her career into becoming a digital team lead.

This week’s show is sponsored by The Digital Project Manager School and Headscape.


Paul Boag: This week on the Boagworld Show we're joined by Lucy Hardy from the Ellen MacArthur foundation to talk about how she's transitioned her career into being a digital team lead. This week's show is sponsored by Headscape and The Digital Project Manager School.

Hello and welcome to the Boagworld Show, the podcast about all aspects of digital design, development, and strategy. My name is Paul Boag, joining me on this weeks show is Marcus Lillington obviously. Hello Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Hello Paul, you've gone very proper on me.

Paul Boag: Well I have though but-

Marcus Lillington: Very 1950's.

Paul Boag: Well I'm putting on my Radio 4 voice, that you have to, and more importantly-

Marcus Lillington: More importantly.

Paul Boag: More importantly Lucy, Lucy Hardy from the Ellen MacArthie Foundation. Hello Lucy.

Lucy Hardy: Hello. Its Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Paul Boag: Oh yeah, it is isn't it, MacArthie I said, yeah. That's the wrong, totally the wrong MacArthur.

Marcus Lillington: Getting the name wrong, that's something … it had to happen one day didn't it Paul?

Paul Boag: Well it happens blummin' every time. It's just normally the name that I get wrong is normally the name of the guest, rather than the name of the organization. So I was concentrating on the name of the guest rather than the organization. I should know this as I have been working with you for now what? Three or four months is it?

Lucy Hardy: Yes, yes, it's a good test of how much you've been listening.

Marcus Lillington: Choke, not at all. Yes, get the name of the company wrong, how do you feel now Paul?

Paul Boag: Yeah, although that's not the best crosstalk 00:01:53

Marcus Lillington: Time to move on?

Paul Boag: Sorry, tangent straight away. So we had a son of a friend staying with us over the last couple of days because he's at university, and his parents live out in India, so obviously he can't home to India every time. So he came to stay with us, and he'd been staying with his auntie and uncle in Bournemouth and I had it in my head that he was staying with my Indian friends sister, right? So I went and picked them up, I walked into the room, right, and there is a Caucasian white lady standing there and an Indian guy who looks just like my friend, right? And I turn to her and say "So, about being Simon's sister." And she's just nothing like him whatsoever, in any stretch of the imagination, but I had it stuck in my head so I made a complete arse of myself. Talking of making complete arses.

Marcus Lillington: crosstalk 00:02:58.

Paul Boag: So there you go. So yes, Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Tell us about it Lucy, what do they do?

Lucy Hardy: What do we do? So, we have a mission to accelerate the transition to a circular economy, which I'll try and explain what that means. Essentially, we're a charity with this big global mission, and the circular economy … well actually the best way to probably describe what a circular economy is, is to describe what it's not. So we currently live in a linear economy, so we extract finite resources out of the ground, we make products with them, and ultimately we throw them away. This is at economic cost, so a huge amount of lost value, and obviously environmental degradation. The circular economy is an entirely different system, where we design it from the beginning to be regenerative by design. That basically means it runs off three sorts of broad principles. We design out waste and pollution from the start, we generate natural systems, and we keep products in use as long as possible. That's kind of the quick version.

Paul Boag: Can I have an example? Marcus?

Lucy Hardy: Yes.

Paul Boag: Sorry, Marcus. The only reason that I'm having Lucy as a guest on the show is so she can explain this so that I now understand it, because I couldn't ask her it. As a potential supplier, I'm just expected to know, but if I get her on the podcast then … Sorry example, give an example.

Lucy Hardy: It's true, it's the first time you've asked so it's good.

Paul Boag: I'd read it on the website, in my defense.

Lucy Hardy: So, an example from the technical cycle is you can take the idea … well you can take a washing machine as an example. In the linear economy obviously they maybe … a cheap to medium value washing machine maybe will last a couple of years before you end up throwing it away and it ends up in landfill predominately. In a circular system, it would be designed from the beginning to be completely disassemable, and can be reused, so every component would be made to be reused again. That means that there's a huge amount of value contained within that washing machine. So, actually the benefit is for the manufacturer, or the brand, who has that washing machine to actually retain ownership of it, because they want those parts back to make the next washing machine. So they might not sell you the washing machine, they might lease the washing machine to the customer and that solves the problem obviously ultimately of it being thrown away.

The customer on the other hand should get a much better deal, so it might not be a straight rental agreement, it might be paying for your clean clothes rather than for the washing machine. So you're paying for the value that you're getting rather than the way that you're getting it. So you might pay per wash, that could include the electricity to run the machine, it could include the detergent, the full package. Yeah, it completely reinvents the relationship with the customer at the same time.

Paul Boag: That's brilliant and it's brilliant for a couple of reasons. Two things that really excite me about that. One is that the way you describe it isn't about, you know, you don't take that, "Oh we need to save the planet." Approach. You talk about the economics of it, and how it's better for companies, and it's better for consumers right? That's like the equivalent that immediately springs to mind is where I come across user experience designers who talk about the benefit to the user, and nobody really cares about the benefit of the user. That's the holier than thou bit, "Oh we shouldn't use dark patterns because they're unethical." No, that's not good enough, you need to talk about the benefit to the organization. So that was one thing that really excited me about it.

The other thing that excited me about it is that you were talking there about this idea about paying per wash, right? I've got a printer now, which is the HP Tango printer, and yes I did pay a fee to buy it outright, but then essentially I subscribe to ink. But I'm not subscribing to the ink, not getting ink delivered once a month or whatever, I'm subscribing per print I make. And they always make sure ink arrives when I'm getting low on it, and they recycle the cartridges that I produce as well. That's exactly the kind of thing you're talking about isn't it? And it's brilliant.

Lucy Hardy: Exactly yeah, so we work with also Philips and they have been installing what they call their pay per lux scheme, which is where they will provide lighting to offices around the world and just charge them … they pay the electricity bill. So they're actually incentivized to use the best product, they want them to last as long as possible, and to make the best energy savings, because actually they're footing the bill. It completely changes the dynamic which is really interesting.

Paul Boag: Yeah, and yes I know Marcus what you're about to say. You're about to comment on Andrew in the chatroom that has asked why I'm dressed like-

Marcus Lillington: He was a guest a few weeks ago.

Paul Boag: Yeah he was a guest, an arse is what he is, who says that I'm dressed like a snooker player today, which I think is very rude of him.

No, so that's really … I'm really into this, I'm really into this whole idea of re-imagining business models, turning them on their heads and approaching them completely differently. Like for example, I'm really into smart devices, and the internet of things, and all of that kind of stuff, and the opportunities that opens up to just reimagine how products work in a completely different way, that when those products are connected, you know … The trouble is if people think of the web, oh it's a great marketing channel, but it can be so much more than just a marketing channel, it could completely redesign and reimagine how we go about products, so yeah.

Lucy Hardy: Exactly, yeah, so I mean actually we talk about as an organization the role of digital in the transition to a circular economy as being a massive enabler. I don't think this would have happened, you know, a lot of the ideas behind it have been around for a long time, but now is the moment of time to do it, because actually it couldn't have happened before digital. Things like being able to track products as they move across global supply chains, I mean digital is the enabler for that. That's really how businesses can start engaging with it.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: I've got one question.

Paul Boag: Go on.

Marcus Lillington: Which is, generally, or maybe not generally speaking, but to make this happen, is there a certain amount of kind of good will required from business? You know, do we need to be doing the right thing? Because, basically, is it going to cost more? I suppose is what I'm trying to say.

Lucy Hardy: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: In the first instance, but yeah that's my question.

Lucy Hardy: It's a motivator, it's definitely a motivator, but it's not the core argument. A bit like Paul's just said, from the outset we looked at this as an economic opportunity, and I think that's had a huge … been a huge helping factor in the momentum behind the idea, because it's not a cost, it is also an opportunity. It's a win-win. Obviously there are down sides, it won't always be a win-win, but generally speaking it's in businesses interests, like we speak their language around it, and I think that has helped us to bring everyone along with us.

Marcus Lillington: Cool. I had a friend that has spent years developing safety exit lights, using LED's, back when LED's weren't really a thing, and they last something like, 10, 15 times longer than the ones that are normally installed, but they did cost 3 times more. So last 10 times longer, cost 3 times more, but they were never speced because they cost 3 times more. That's kind of where that thought came from. So I think is there an education piece in this as well? I think there must be to a certain extent but-

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, and the key is, like in my example, is that you don't put that cost onto the customer. The businesses bear that cost, so you incentivize them to invest in the best quality manufacturing, and the best quality materials, because they actually are the ones that are fronting the bill.

Paul Boag: It's about planning for the long term isn't is? It's about taking a long term business perspective rather than the short term. Again, if we go back to the idea of dark patterns, and introducing these manipulative user experience elements, but dark patterns work. You know, they work, they work in the short term, they will cause a jump in your conversion rate over the short term, but you've got to think about the long term cost to the business. The same is true with your LED lights, yeah they cost more in the short term but over the long term they're better. And I think-

Marcus Lillington: crosstalk 00:11:54 the problem was with just the way building is done around the world, especially large builds, it's just based on box ticking. There wasn't enough thought went into the process, which is a shame, a real shame.

Paul Boag: So, I have been working, as I said, with Lucy for the last three months or so because Lucy runs the digital team. I was about to say small digital team, but it's actually quite big considering the size of the charity and the number of employees. You kind of head up that team, is that the way that it should be described Lucy?

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, I think that's about right.

Marcus Lillington: crosstalk 00:12:37.

Paul Boag: You have this, I have to be a bit careful because you have this triumvirate don't you? Of the three of you that kind of conspire together to bring everybody else in the organization online. It's very mafia like Marcus if I'm honest.

Marcus Lillington: Scary.

Lucy Hardy: Yes, so I work very closely with our digital program lead, and our technical lead, and the three of us really take a lot of decisions together which I think has just been really helpful in having a completely sort of aligned perspective, and having really clear champions for what we're trying to do has been super helpful.

Paul Boag: So I've got one question before we jump onto the first sponsor that I do want to quickly talk about, which is, how long have you been involved in digital?

Lucy Hardy: About four years.

Paul Boag: Four years?

Lucy Hardy: Yeah.

Paul Boag: She is running a digital team, for about four years, and didn't really have digital experience before that and when I … and bearing in mind you've been off on maternity leave fairly recently as well that cut across that, and I have to say it is the best run, they didn't accept me when I said this to begin with, I think they were a bit in shock, but it's the best run digital team I have ever been involved in mentoring. They've just they're completely nailing it as an in-house team, and they're doing such good things which is really annoying because I have to up my game in order to be able to … Oh Andrew, I just really offended Andrew in the chatroom. Yeah, very different circumstances Andrew, you've got a lot of constraints on you.

I mean it is worth saying, it is worth saying, that you've also got a very supportive organization that are very up for change and doing things differently, which kind of helps doesn't it? Let's be honest.

Lucy Hardy: Of course, yeah, is a huge factor and think we have a lot of appetite for making bold decisions, it's sort of in our DNA, it's in our kind of fabric in taking on such a huge global mission, I think it kind of permeates into the culture, so that's really helpful.

Paul Boag: Yeah, so Andrew, it's fine. You're special in your own certain way.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah Andrew, there'll just be more work, he's just sucking up.

Paul Boag: Oh arse, arse to you. Yeah, whoever's my current client is my favorite client, I'm very particular with that.

So, but the reason I wanted to get Lucy on show is because I haven't had time to really delve in with her that transition of going from a completely non digital background, to transitioning into digital, and then getting to such an incredible place in quite an aggressive timescale, so I want to talk about that a little bit.

But before we talk about that, let's talk about The Digital Project Manager, talking about transitioning and learning new skills. I want to say a huge thanks for these guys who've been supporting the whole season. They're not, it's not a big organization, The Digital Project Management School, and so this was a big investment for them to support us for across the whole season. So please take the time to check them out, if for no other reason than to say thank you for supporting the show. You can check them out at Just a quick reminder about what they do, so they've got an interactive learning experience. Not just a course, a learning experience mind you. It's got video lessons, weekly panel discussions, assignments. Now is that really a selling point? We give you homework.

Marcus Lillington: Homework.

Paul Boag: Group discussions, coaching sessions, so really it's for anyone trying to land or have just landed their first management role within the digital space. People looking to boost their skills and confidence in managing complex digital projects, even to be honest seasoned project managers who want to refine their approach and keep up with latest best practice. So, it's some proper decent training but presented in a kind of very informal enjoyable way. They've helped organizations such as Sony Music, Microsoft, Siemens, Dow Jones, loads of different organizations. So check them out at


Marcus Lillington: Before we get going Paul, and I don't normally do this, but … and because it's an audio podcast but I've got to show you a picture. No, no, this is cool, check this out. This is what a chimney sweep got out of our chimney this morning. See if I can get it on there, can you see it? No you can't see it-

Paul Boag: That's disgusting. Look at that.

Marcus Lillington: Oh my God.

Paul Boag: When was the last time you did your chimney?

Marcus Lillington: Well it's a gas fire, so it basically had to be completely blocked before we knew it.

Paul Boag: Oh right.

Lucy Hardy: Blimey.

Marcus Lillington: But it's like … Sorry, carry on, as you were.

Paul Boag: What was that to do with anything Marcus?

Marcus Lillington: It was to do with while you were doing the hugely exciting sponsor slot, I was looking at my phone.

Paul Boag: Ben, I apologize. Ben is the guy that runs The Digital Project Manager School. Marcus is no way affiliated with this show, he just turns up every week. Yeah, as they're saying in the chatroom you need to focus.

Marcus Lillington: crosstalk 00:18:20 I don't know, I'm in a naughty mood today and I don't know why. Why? Why is it?

Paul Boag: Oh dear. So, Lucy, tell us your background before you got into the digital world, what was it that you were doing?

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, so-

Paul Boag: Were you at the same charity for a start?

Lucy Hardy: I was yes, so I actually joined the Foundation as one of their very first communications team employees.

Paul Boag: Ooh.

Lucy Hardy: Ooh, and before that I'd been living in London, and doing pretty much coms and marketing stuff, and also a stint in film and TV working on film sets. But it wasn't really for me, bit of a mixed bag. But yeah, I sort of came it through the communications team way originally, and about two years into doing that with the Foundation, we had an agency who we were really struggling with. And then, funny to think back on it now, but due to sort of Foundation style I suppose we thought, "Oh maybe we could do this better ourselves." Which is hugely naïve, but actually it's worked out all right, I think.

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: The time to do it is now.

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, and there were a few of us who sort of set out on this quest to start a digital team, and none of us had actually been paid to digital before ever. So we had a developer who was self taught, and had spent the last 18 months teaching himself. Hugely intelligent guy, sort of really big brain in theoretical physics but had never built a website for anybody. There's me who was a project manager, and one of our graphic designers decided that she'd like to give it a go at doing web design now. And that was really our first team, and that's how we started.

Paul Boag: That is so … I mean, that just it rings every alarm bell in my head possible. It makes my skin crawl, it's like the worst idea ever. Setting up your own internal digital team, absolutely fine, but you get in people that know what they're doing. I mean this is just insanity. How the hell did this manage to work?

Marcus Lillington: It reminds me of the start of Headscape.

Paul Boag: Hang on a minute.

Marcus Lillington: I'm joking.

Paul Boag: You and Chris might not have known how to build websites, but I did. I was the only … there were three of us, and one of us knew how to do any work. Ridiculous set up. Anyway, I mean as Andrew's just said in the chatroom, that's how all of us started really, at some point we've all had to learn it. But there's very different, I guess, just being dropped in the deep end, you know, in an organization. And of course, you know, in my situation that's exact … was my experience as well. I was working as a multimedia designer. I didn't know what the internet was, I got given the internet to do. But back then, that wasn't that complicated, do you know what I mean? All you had to do is learn HTML, you didn't even have to learn CSS or JavaScript, let alone react, and node, and all of these other things that are flying around today. So what an amazing learning curve you guys have had.

Lucy Hardy: Yeah it was very steep and actually the first project that we were doing was not just any old website, we were creating the website for an interactive learning festival.

Paul Boag: Which is a huge thing isn't it?

Marcus Lillington: An interactive crosstalk 00:21:51.

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, it's got more interactive as kind of times gone on, but yeah that was our first project, and it wasn't sort of any kind of static website, not that they are anymore anyway, but it was a challenging first project. We learned a lot of lessons on it.

Paul Boag: So how did you go … did you … was there any method to your madness? You know, did you have a, "Right, okay, we're going to set aside a day a week for learning." Or, "We're gonna …" I don't know, how did you approach it?

Lucy Hardy: You know, actually we didn't set aside like a specific time for learning but I think we were humble enough to realize we didn't know what we were doing. So, sort of actually going out there and finding out what looks good like was the first priority, and that's really how we started. So we went and actually met some digital teams, and saw the different ways that different teams were structured in different companies. We connected with some people in our network for advice. We started looking online at who was doing this really well, I know it's a really common example but the Government digital service, that service manual provided a lot of inspiration to us in the early days. So we kind of … we were constantly looking for what we could be emulating, and it provided a standard to work towards right from the beginning, which was, yeah, which was so important.

I think also we are a learning organization, so we make a lot of time, or there's a lot of time protected internally for learning the things that you need to learn. So we didn't at the time need to make specific blocks of times, it was kind of accepted that as an individual, or as a team, you would do that as part of your role and take the time that you need. There wasn't any, there's not any kind of justification of that, it's just very much supported.

Paul Boag: The other thing that you seem very well supported over is resources. So you started off as the three of you, but you grew pretty quickly I would have thought from there. So how did you decide how to grow? So many web teams that I encounter kind of just grow organically, oh we've got too much development work we'll hire a developer, but you seem to have been a little bit more strategic about it than that?

Lucy Hardy: I think we've had maybe our biggest growth spurt more recently, so we're now a team of about 13, and we've got 4 more hires coming on in the next 6 months or so. So it's getting bigger all the time, and I think now obviously we've been forced to really look at it and have a bit more of a strategy around how we resource. Initially it was just sort of … we hire a lot of designers and developers to get the work done, and didn't have enough of the support roles. So we still don't enough of the kind of project managers, product managers, UX folks, content folks, you know, there's a lot of those kind of supporting roles that we just … weren't put in place early on.

So we very quickly got overwhelmed and we very quickly got into a mindset of building more than we needed to, and so even now we're working to kind of undo that debt, and undo that legacy, and our kind of growth plans now are much more focused around how do we resource for the future in a way that is sustainable, that builds in more of these complimentary roles that really actually provide an enabler to all of our work, not just kind of adding more developers which I think is, even with stakeholders internally, still a bit of a misconception that you can just add a developer and then that's the project. You know, sorted.

Paul Boag: It will happen faster.

Lucy Hardy: Yes, yeah, so we're trying to break out that mindset.

Paul Boag: Just have more people.

Lucy Hardy: So now you know, inspired a bit by our mentoring Paul, we're looking at the hub and spoke model, which we sort of … obviously it's a model for kind of a having a centralized digital team, but then in our case product managers embedded with each of our focus areas. So, we have quite a broad area that we work in as a charity, we work with business learning communications, something called systemic initiatives, which are like huge system level change projects. We are going to place a product manager in each of those teams going forward, and they will be immersed in those teams, so I think that's going to be a massive step forward for us over the next year to two years, and how we actually embed digital much more across the organization, and that's kind of our working model at the moment.

Paul Boag: It is worth saying at that point that if that sounds interesting to you, and you like the idea of working as a product manager, then drop me an email and I will forward it on to Lucy, because there's four roles you're currently looking for isn't it? As I remember.

Lucy Hardy: Yes, and they're not all product managers, there will be more product managers, but we've got a number of roles coming up.

Paul Boag: So what were the other ones? You're after a UX designer as well, if I remember, or UX lead?

Lucy Hardy: Yes, possibly yes, and a front end developer. We're looking for a user centric data analyst, I think is someone who-

Paul Boag: Yeah, that was the term we made up wasn't it?

Lucy Hardy: We did, in conversation, yeah.

Marcus Lillington: Researcher/analyst basically.

Lucy Hardy: Someone that can support us on our user research needs, but has a bit of a weighting towards the quantitative methods and support us also with our broader data efforts. Again, there's certain skills that we are trying to distribute much more widely across the organization, such as being able to run research, use data, do content design, these are things that we need to establish in a sort of decentralized way.

Paul Boag: So you went from-

Marcus Lillington: I see what you mean Paul, sorry, I see you what mean. It's like, well yeah, okay, great, done.

Paul Boag: I know, I know right?

Marcus Lillington: crosstalk 00:27:46.

Paul Boag: Yeah, there's almost … perhaps there is an advantage, this is why I really wanted Lucy on the show, because there almost seems to be an advantage of being a blank slate, right? Starting from nothing-

Marcus Lillington: No baggage.

Paul Boag: Yeah, no baggage, you know you could design things as you want, and you know you're not even stuck with out of date thinking in terms of how you structure teams. I mean you're talking about getting user researchers on, most organizations are still trying to get a project manager. You know, they're very different environment to be working in.

By the way guys, I meant to say to those of you that are in the chatroom, if you've got any questions you can click in the ask a question button and we'll try and add them into the show, because I think it's a really interesting situation that you're in. I mean, of course, the problem is that digital doesn't stand still and is constantly changing and adapting. So, and you are … and also because of the nature of the charity everybody is very fast moving, very dynamic, very, "Yeah let's do this, and let's do that, and let's do the other." So there's a constant pressure on you guys to deliver, as there is in most digital teams. How does that leave time for you to stay on top of things? How do you find the time to keep learning these days?

Lucy Hardy: Yeah it's a good question. I really think it comes back to the fact that it … and maybe this is a bit of an unsatisfactory answer for others, but it is embedded in our organization. I would say we have a learning mindset, we are a learning organization. So in that sense it's not something that we've had to consciously build in, it's sort of been there from the beginning. But on a personal note, I do have to create time for it, I always try and have time in my week that is for focus time, and quite often that stuff has to fall into that, those blocks of time, otherwise it's so easy to just be onto the next task, and the next task. So that's kind of one of the ways.

Also, we set up a lot of peer learning opportunities in the organization. So I'm learning from my team mates all of the time, there's kind of no barriers to who can kind of set up and run something. So it could be one of our lunchtime learning sessions, but actually it happens even on a much more one to one basis, or team level basis. So someone might just … we've got a technical lead running JavaScript training for anybody that wants it. I'm running a UX design training for our designers. You know, we've got multiple things happening that sort of bubble up organically, and everybody has the ability to create that as they see fit.

Paul Boag: Yeah, and that is a cultural thing. To allow you time and space to do that kind of thing. So Andrews just asked an interesting question in the chatroom going back to the subject of recruiting staff. How do you go about future proofing the roles that you're recruiting for? So in other words, I'm guessing what he's getting at is that it would very easy just to kind of go off on a tangent, you know you've recruited a load of developers in the past, now you recruit a load of product managers, and actually then down the road you need something else. Do you look far … how far ahead do you look and what do you do about that kind of thing?

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, great question. I think we always just try and have in mind that our resourcing does match the stuff that we know that we have to deliver obviously, but we're also always looking a little bit ahead. It's difficult to look too far ahead in digital, but as an organization we are hugely ambitious. We have like 20, 25, visions and they're massively ambitious for our charitable objectives. We can't obviously pin our digital work explicitly against that, but we have to meet the organization in their ambition. So we have to also be flexible in that kind of hub and spoke model, and I feel fairly comfortable with that at the moment, because as I've sort of said we're filling in the roles that in an ideal world would have been there sooner. So I feel quite comfortable that they're not going to end up, you know, not being needed. Actually, the product managers we'll do slowly and over time as they're needed, and we might … we're not going to hire all these people at once, we need to kind of experiment with it and see how it's going.

We have really interesting … we've just been doing a big look at our priorities as an organization for digital, and we have these huge program of activity which is really strategic for us on this system levels change piece, but digital isn't doing very much for them at the moment. That's because the conversation isn't there yet with them about how digital can support what they're doing. I'm starting those conversations internally, and connecting that to a potential future product manager who can drive that thinking in their team, I think is where we're going with it.

Paul Boag: I think it's also, with the product owners that we've been talking about putting in place, there has been a longer term plan in that, that we were talking about how that is a step towards digital becoming ubiquitous across the organization. By embedding digital specialists in different parts of the organization you start to introduce digital skills and expertise at every level. So, you are being pretty strategic I think in your approach to those kind of crosstalk 00:33:34.

Lucy Hardy: Yes, you're absolutely right, and actually that is the big picture of this. This is ultimately a digital transformation objective as well.

Paul Boag: I know, I actually wrote-

Marcus Lillington: I've got to play devils advocate for a minute.

Paul Boag: Sorry Marcus just a second, I wrote a post a while ago that I wanted to mention, I'll put it in the show notes where I talk about some research from Stamford that I've been going through will Ellen MacArthur Foundation where it's shows how you move down that road to digital transformation. So if you're interested in that, that will be in the show notes. Marcus, sorry.

Marcus Lillington: All I was going say was, this is absolutely right and you do have to try and plan, and you do have to be as strategic as possible, but my experience of kind of trying to find the right people to fit into a team, it's just a case of, we need somebody, we really need somebody, we need somebody, get that person in. And then that kind of works out, and then the next thing comes along and okay and we really need to get this person in. So I think there's a certain amount of kind of suck it and see with these things, you don't know do you? You're taking a punt that we keep falling short in a particular area, we therefore need somebody else, but then the work might change a year later and then they're not required, but you're never going to know that. So, you can only plan so much.

Lucy Hardy: Exactly, you've got to be flexible.

Paul Boag: Kat 00:34:52 is making a really good … or bringing up a very important issue which I think has been key to your success, which is, she's asking how senior is the buy in within the organization. Now Kat works at a university, which is obviously an enormous organization with many levels of hierarchy. So her level of contact with the vice-chancellor would be fairly low, you have a much more connected relationship, maybe tell us a little about that.

Lucy Hardy: Yes, so I meet with the CEO every month. I have a standing digital meeting where we can talk about what we're up to, what the priorities are at the moment, and who can help lend support to any issues that we're having. So these conversations are happening, yeah right at the top of the organization, but we're quite a flat organization in how we work anyway, so that's helpful. We've also put in place a digital triage which is a way of prioritizing our work and we were given a slot at the regular leadership team meeting to run triage every time that they have a leadership meeting, and that's a great way to escalate the conversations about how we should be spending our time, and what our true priorities look like. I mean that's the area that creates maybe most conflict or debate internally and you know traditionally you feel in the digital team you often get these priorities come to you at the last minute, or you become very much a bit of an end of pipe team, and it's really starting to shift that dynamic which is so helpful and actually can really do with that I think with that level of leadership.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I mean that seriously impressed me that I've never … you know I introduced this idea of digital triage into the organization, but these guys have really run with it in a way that I don't think I've quite encountered before in the sense that you've very much broadened it out. I saw it, I've always looked at it as a tool for prioritizing digital projects but you've almost turned it into a, well this is a tool for prioritizing anything. And the fact that it's been embraced at that senior management level is a really impressment testament to them I think really.

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, and it's really helpful for us too, because you can do so much prioritization from where you are in digital, but ultimately the decisions often begin right at the beginning when we're going out say, for a funding bid for a particular project. You know quite often what we're going to deliver is somehow specified into that bid. So unless we're thinking about priorities in triage right then we're not really doing it as well as we could, and we've still got a way to go before we get there but it is looking very positive.

Paul Boag: So the fact that we've talked a little bit maybe about how your lack of long term digital career actually has been advantageous in some ways, you know, that you've come in with this blank slate. Have you felt it to be disadvantage ever?

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, of course.

Paul Boag: In what ways.

Lucy Hardy: I mean you don't know what you don't know, do you?

Paul Boag: Right.

Marcus Lillington: Definitely.

Lucy Hardy: There has been moments of realization and sort of ah-ha moments that you think, I wish I'd known that sooner, and an example, you know, and this is even really recent Paul, we had a discussion about we were building an in-house digital asset manager, and you really prompted us to say, do you really need to be building it yourselves? You know, this is a common problem. That was one of those sort of for me, oh yeah, maybe we don't. It's historical, or legacy decisions, that have been made that you're just sort of carrying through with and it's actually it was a great reminder to me that you need to go back and revisit those. Or you find yourself trying to reinvent the wheel, or it's really easy to do, but actually in the grand scheme of things we couldn't of got to where we are now if we hadn't have been a little bit naïve, a little brave, and had a blank slate to start with. We just didn't have … we had no constraints in our thinking.

Paul Boag: Yeah, which is wonderful.

Marcus Lillington: It's great. Do you suffer from imposter syndrome at all?

Lucy Hardy: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: I still do, 20 years later.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I know.

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, I mean, you know, personally speaking it's nerve wracking for me to come on to a podcast like this and talk about being a digital leader, you know, that's quite new to me and I sort of think, "Wow, what's my history?" But it's actually that's what so nice to have this opportunity is to actually talk about what we've done, and we try and take that into our culture as a digital team when we recruit as well, we don't look for what qualifications people have, we look for what they've done, we look at what they can bring in terms of their kind of spirit.

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: Wow, good stuff.

Paul Boag: And that was another reason for me wanting you on the show is because I think as digital professionals we can be a bit snobby, and we can go, "Oh a marketing person, a coms person, taking over the lead of a digital team, that's going to end in disaster isn't it?" You know?

Marcus Lillington: 1950's Radio 4 man's come back.

Paul Boag: Yeah he's back.

Marcus Lillington: Yay.

Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly. But it doesn't … it's not necessarily like that, it depends on the people and the circumstances, and having the right culture within the organization. I mean what this has really driven home for me is how important organizational culture is to success in this kind of stuff. Because if you try … if the same people tried to do the same job in a different organization it would not have worked, but equally if the same organization had tried to do the same thing but with different people it probably wouldn't have worked. It takes that kind of perfect storm in order to pull together properly.

I tell you the other example of, I hope you don't mind me saying this because it's vaguely embarrassing for you.

Marcus Lillington: Should have checked crosstalk 00:41:06.

Paul Boag: You should have got me to sign an NDA-

Lucy Hardy: You're going to air my laundry?

Paul Boag: … this is your mistake. But, you know, I was having this meeting with them and I was honestly, this first meeting I had, I was gobsmacked. Wow, these guys are so together, they're so great, they know everything. They know about Agile, they know about this, they know about that, they've got all the right working methodology, they've got this sorted. Crap, what am I going to add to this conversation? How can I help these guys? And then I just made a comment about digital, sorry, design systems and pattern libraries, right? And you hadn't encountered that term. It just slipped between the gaps, you know? And that happens, I mean that happens to the best of us even if we've been around for years. You know, I still regularly … the term service design, you know, just came out of the blue one day for me, and I'd never heard it. And I discovered it's a whole industry that I was totally unaware of. So it does happen, you're right, you don't know what you don't know do you?

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, totally, and it's something … that's a great example because that is something that is going to save us a huge amount of time and I really wish we'd discovered sooner. But you know, you can't worry about it you've kind of just got to crack on, and actually we're pushing that through now as a priority for our team, and yeah, that's all that you can do.

Paul Boag: And of course the great thing is that you had … I've got a be a bit careful because otherwise it starts sounding arrogant on my point, but you had the mechanisms in place-

Marcus Lillington: Doesn't normally stop you Paul.

Paul Boag: Shut up Marcus. You had the mechanisms in place to find out what you don't know by bringing other people involved … you know, involving other people in it. But even if you go back to the very beginning of when you started this off the fact that you began the whole process not by just jumping in but seeing what other people were doing and how they were approaching it. And that doesn't apply just on a macro level like, you know, creating a whole team, even with something like a design system, you can go out there and go, "How are they solving design systems? How are these people doing it? How are those doing it?" And you can learn accordingly.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, brilliant.

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, absolutely, but I think there's a sort of maybe a caveat with that as well of not being too dogmatic. You know, it's easy to find the best examples and try and replicate them in your organization, but as you say culture again is so important in how you actually bring that in and I think it's always a big learning for me as we go through this journey about how you adapt things to work for your particular situation, and that's the hard bit of it, is actually implementing it in the right way that brings everyone along with you in your journey.

Paul Boag: Yeah, and digital triage was a great example of that, you had to quite heavily modify what I introduced to you guys in order for it to suit your organization and your circumstances. That's good to see, I think that's the way it should be with stuff like that. Nothing should be set in stone, you know, whether you're talking about how to run a design sprint or how to do digital triage, or top task analysis, or any other buzz word that you happen to throw into the mix. You've got to customize it for your circumstances.

Lucy Hardy: I mean I'm always reminded at how much digital is actually about people, and it's really easy from the outside looking in, to think digital is all about the technology, and it's so much about the people, and that's such a huge priority in actually making it work. I constantly remind myself, and I constantly make myself double down on my efforts to engage others in it.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I mean that's you know, you mentioned earlier the Government digital service, which have done incredible things in the way that they've revolutionized government and the way that they've introduced better ways of working and the cost savings that they've made and all the rest of it, they win awards and all the rest of it. But when I was up there chatting with them, they're one regret is that they, in the early days, they bulldozed too many people. They bounced people along rather than brought them with them, and that now they're living with some of the legacy of that where from the outside world everybody thinks they're wonderful and jolly, but within government they're not particularly liked in some situations. So yeah, you're totally right, you've got to bring people with you.

Lucy Hardy: That's really interesting, yeah. I wonder what they sort of come up against now, I wonder how that is playing out for them.

Paul Boag: Well from what I can gather it's certain parts of the organization wanting to pull back control to them, rather than it being centralized, which isn't entirely bad because that kind of has to happen at some point anyway, but it's not being done in a kind of natural evolution way, so much as a, "We want control back." Understandable reaction, totally understand all sides of it and in some ways I would argue perhaps to a degree in an organization like the government, there was probably no way around it. While in an organization like yours where it's much more open to change, that culturally it's much flatter, then it is probably not as necessary to be that kind of tough guy, you know?

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington: I'm wondering if your background Lucy in coms actually helped you kind of communicate what you were trying to do internally, rather than being the big tough guy, you were actually selling it internally, I don't know.

Lucy Hardy: Yeah, I'm sure that's all sort of fed in, and I was working a bit in marketing psychology, I haven't been-

Paul Boag: Ah there we go.

Lucy Hardy: … actively sort of using those sort of techniques, but I think I've always had an awareness of the importance of how people respond to it. So I think it's there, it's also embedded also in digital anyway isn't it? The whole user process is-

Paul Boag: Yeah but you say that, but we don't often do it. The number of times I come across user experience professionals that just moan about other stakeholders, and other people in their organization, without taking any time to understand their pain points, what they're trying to achieve, all of those kind of things, and that really bugs me. If you're going to call yourself a user experience person you need to apply the same principles you're learning in user experience to your own stakeholders.

Lucy Hardy: Yes totally, you've got a toolkit, it's all there.

Paul Boag: Exactly. Okay let's wrap up, but I want to wrap up with one last piece of advice, or one last question, which is what advice would you give to somebody who was in your situation four years ago where they've suddenly been given the responsibility for digital but they wouldn't call themselves a digital professional. What would you say to them?

Lucy Hardy: I think it's to have a learning mindset, I mean things move on so, so, quickly that actually having a learning mindset is probably the key to being able to keep up with the rate of change, and learn what you need to learn along the way and not be intimidated by the lack of experience, but be open to what you can learn. Also find a network that can support you, you don't have to be well connected, you really don't. It could be anyone, mentors can be anybody really. I think you need to be really open minded about what a mentor looks like, and go out and speak to these people because they are there, they might even just be a friend of a friend. But it's been the most helpful source of support in our journey so far.

Paul Boag: No, that's incorrect, you need an expensive inaudible 00:48:52 mentor. Only-

Marcus Lillington: That looks like a snooker player.

Paul Boag: Who looks like a snooker player.

Lucy Hardy: Who also inaudible 00:48:59 their place.

Paul Boag: You are of course entirely right.

Lucy Hardy: We couldn't have afforded you at the beginning Paul.

Paul Boag: Oh dear, I'm really not that expensive. So, you are entirely right. That's why I love meet ups, that's why I love going to conferences, making the time for all those kinds of things. It's absolutely so crucial. A lot of these things are free, they cost nothing but time. I mean take for example Lucy we met up didn't recently at a UserZoom conference that was being put on for free by the UserZoom people because they wanted to win a load more clients, but it wasn't a sales-y conference and it was actually really good content there, where you learnt lots about how different organizations approach things. And then you have … you know, you talk with people in the breaks and all of that. So yeah, totally agree.

Okay, right, second sponsor time, so-

Marcus Lillington: Well this is the good bit.

Paul Boag: Yeah, Marcus is particularly excited. After zoning out on the last sponsor slot suddenly he gets interested and the reason is we had a couple of sponsor slots left over at the end of the season, so I thought we would use them to talk about some of the stuff that I do, but also some of the stuff Headscape does, and it's Headscape's turn this week. So, Marcus is rubbish at promoting Headscape so I'm going to do it, because every time he does it he goes waffle-y, and he … I mean how he makes a living as a salesman is quite beyond me. Anyway-

Marcus Lillington: I'm endearing Paul, that's all it is.

Paul Boag: … and I've written as well, Marcus is rubbish at promoting at Headscape so I'm going to do it, he doesn't know I'm going to do it because he never reads the show notes, so that's written in the show notes, and I bet he didn't know we were going to do it. Did you Marcus?

Marcus Lillington: Yes I did. You told me.

Paul Boag: Oh I told you, yeah, at the beginning of the show.

Marcus Lillington: Paul hasn't got any more memory. I didn't read the notes, Paul can't remember what he told me. There you go.

Paul Boag: Yeah, so what are we going to do … We've reached that age Marcus. Let's talk about Headscape, so what do they do first of all. They do research and discovery stuff. They do a lot of strategy type work as well, and then obviously they do design and development. So they really do that kind of end to end experience when it comes to designing a website, but then their strategy stuff isn't necessarily just a website in isolation, in they might be looking at other areas as well, like social media, or they might be … you do quite a lot of analytics analysis because Chris is really good at that.

Marcus Lillington: Content these days as well Paul.

Paul Boag: Yeah, content kind of stuff. Do a lot of stakeholder interviews, and usability testing. All of that kind of stuff that you'd expect. Right, who do they do it for? They work in a whole load of different sectors but their biggest sectors are the charity sector, Lucy just make note of that. Heritage sector-

Lucy Hardy: crosstalk 00:51:58.

Marcus Lillington: She's got her own team she doesn't need us.

Paul Boag: Yeah, she doesn't need the likes of you. T

The heritage sector, higher education, and law. What a weird mix Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: It is a weird mix, but we have just literally just finished, we're probably going to have a kind of catch up review call with a client tomorrow for the end of our first higher education/law client. Basically a law school.

Paul Boag: Oh right, yeah that makes sense.

Marcus Lillington: So there you go.

Paul Boag: Well you've done a charity/law/heritage if you think about, because the Environmental Defense Fund would have kind of fallen into all three of those, maybe.

Marcus Lillington: I suppose, yeah. But yeah, charity and higher education. Higher education we started in 2003 and we worked with over 50 higher education organizations now.

Paul Boag: Is it that many?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. That's our biggest sector, and charity I guess has kind of come off the back of that because I think people who work in HE will often go and work in charities, and we get work from people kind of just saying, "I've gone here now, can you come and help me out?" That kind of thing. But the law thing was just weird, I won't tell the story now, save it for another day.

Paul Boag: No, because all the sectors, charity, heritage and higher education, they're all nice people aren't they? Law not so much.

Marcus Lillington: The law school people have been great.

Paul Boag: I can say that because I've no law clients.

Marcus Lillington: Lawyers are interesting people, that's certainly worth saying. I mean they're super bright, they're kind of super driven. So sometimes you can get some lovely ones, and sometimes you can get some people I'm feeling a little bit nervous in this interview, you know, kind of moving around like that. But no, great fun, and they've also got lots of money, so … let me finish that, so you can therefore do a proper project, you're not cutting corners …

Paul Boag: Stop talking Marcus.

Marcus Lillington: Stop talking Marcus.

Paul Boag: You've dug a whole.

Marcus Lillington: Carry on.

Paul Boag: So, I have to say, I am a non executive director of their company, so I may be slightly biased, but these are the four reasons why I would hire Headscape. One-

Marcus Lillington: I've got one extra at the end as well. Carry on.

Paul Boag: One, and I don't want to say this first one because it pains me deeply, they are actually a pleasure to work, they're a really nice bunch of people and I like them a lot. Second, they've got some exceptionally good designers and coders. The quality of work that they produce is outstanding. The other thing I like about them is they're both pragmatic and business orientated so, you know, they're not going to make you do 20 hours of usability testing just because you're supposed to do that.

Marcus Lillington: That's part of the process, yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah, exactly, it goes back to what we were saying early doesn't it?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, be flexible.

Paul Boag: And they're very details orientated because Chris Scott, who's the other founder of the company, alongside me and Marcus, is seriously OCD. He has deep psychological issues that actually works out very well if you're a client. So that's why I would hire them. Go on Marcus what do you want to add to it?

Marcus Lillington: I think it was Dan, our tech lead, I was talking to the other day, and I think it was Dan that said, "Do you know what our strap line should be?" And this was after we'd been talking about many, many current client projects we say, and how they're being dealt with by their other suppliers. Basically our strap line should be, "We don't lie to you."

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: So that's a reason to hire us.

Paul Boag: Yeah, I like that. That's a good one, Dan made a good point. Andrew in the chatroom who … I think Headscape have worked with Andrew, have you worked with Andrew or is that just me?

Marcus Lillington: We haven't worked with Andrew but obviously I know him well from IWMW.

Paul Boag: So, he says we're good at supporting the community as well, which basically is-

Marcus Lillington: We buy the drinks.

Paul Boag: You buy the drinks, yeah, buy the drinks at conferences that's what he's getting at there. Okay, so Marcus wrap us up, what joke have we got? I'm sorry Lucy, as I explained to you before the show starts we've got this stupid tradition where Marcus has to tell a Dad joke.

Lucy Hardy: I'm looking forward to it.

Paul Boag: Oh lower your expectations quite dramatically.

Marcus Lillington: No, that's me done for. Is Lyle 00:56:21 in the room today? I don't think he is, but Lyle put a joke on to the Boagworld Slack channel earlier which I quite liked. Sad to hear the news today that the inventor of the speedboat has died. The funeral will be held tomorrow, followed shortly by the wake.

Paul Boag: Oh no.

Marcus Lillington: Boom. Come on, that's not bad.

Lucy Hardy: Good inaudible 00:56:41.

Paul Boag: Drop the mic.

So that is it for this show, Lucy thank you so much for coming on, it was very much appreciated.

Lucy Hardy: Thank you very much for having me.

Paul Boag: I hope it wasn't too painful.

Lucy Hardy: It was all right.

Marcus Lillington: It was all right, you were going to say pleasure then, but actually no that's far too strong.

Paul Boag: All right, that's as good as we could get.

Next week, who knows, because it's all messed up now. We had last weeks show inaudible 00:57:09, we've moved things around, it's all just confused. I don't know, I don't know what's going to happen any more. I've lost control of my podcast, but we'll see. So until then, thank you for watching, or listening, if you were listening and goodbye.

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