Weeknotes SE02E25/26/27/28

Image is of a close up of a red Christmas bauble hanging on a Christmas tree. Christmas lights are in the background

Note: As with most of my weeknotes these days, these weeknotes are structured around the 8 Pillars of User Research — I use these to help me keep the scope of my role knowable, to me, and others. I use the Pace Layers Matrix to structure my research operations strategy in my everyday work.

What did you do?

Well, it’s been a while! I had a couple of weeks leave, and the weeknotes dropped off! Rather than overwhelm y’all with a bumper edition, I figured I’d just do a SE02E28. At this late stage of the year, I’m sure we’re all breathing a sigh of relief at that sensible decision!

Environment

This week in creating the right environment for research, we did the work to get regular Clinic Hours into the calendar and published on our home for all things human centred research, PRISM. That will kick off in February 2022. As we scale and more and more teams are doing research (34 as Tracey M Benson mentioned in her weeknotes!), it’s become all but impossible to meet with each team individually each week— in fact, for all but a few, those have merged into group meetings, or fortnightly catch ups with research leads, with just a couple of individual team meetings left.

Ruth Ellison and I did Clinic Hours at our last quarterly planning, and they were such a low stakes way to connect with folks doing or curious about research, we in the ResearchOps team wanted to give these a go on a more regular basis. Making them available via PRISM makes them more available to anyone doing human centred research (so: user research, design research, or behavioural analysis), so we’re keen to see how this goes.

Scope

There were several standouts in terms of sharing insights and how far we’ve come, with the Export Services — Intelligence Team sprint review, the Export Registration & Approvals sprint review, the Taking Farmers to Markets Showcase, and the end of year showcase. The Export Registration & Approvals team have done a stellar job throughout the year creating their own repository and wiki that describes not only their research, but also their ‘ways of working, past learnings and future roadmap, to support knowledge management and onboarding for new team members’. In 2022 we’ll need to migrate all this knowledge into PRISM so it has a permanent home, and we are looking forward to catching up about how best to do that in the new year.

Organisational context

We completed our high level quarter 3 planning for research operations this week, as well as our annual review. It was great to look back over everything we have achieved in the past 9 months. Always with a very grateful eye towards Magda Hribar and Helen, who had the vision to bring in research operations to the department, pitching it to Jordan, who of course, was already a fan. We hope the long list of what we got done, and what we have planned made you all feel it was worth it! Many thanks to Ruth Ellison, whose recent taking on of the Capability team leadership has also helped with giving us the space to do the planning for next year, and reviewing of the year that was.

People

This week we did an induction for one new member of the Taking Farmers to Markets program. We also welcomed two existing DAWE staff into the research guild as they’ve been getting into the doing of user research of late. Welcome to the fold :)

Recruitment and admin

This week, Gabby and I got together with folks from across the Trade Reform group about a pilot we are going to do together in the new year using a stakeholder engagement database designed and built by the department for the department. Having a database we can collaboratively track both research, and engagement in is going to solve a lot of our pain points in research participant recruitment and participant experience management (we hope!). This has largely been driven by Gabby and once again, I’m just so grateful for all that she has done, and continues to do for us all. Thanks Gabby.

Data and knowledge management

This week saw us connecting with folks doing quantitative research across DAWE and the ABS. In addition, we reached out to the department’s Biosecurity Analytics Centre to see if they can answer some broad questions we’ve been asked. Knowledge management is all about meeting people where they are, so we’d also love to connect folks to the BAC via our yet-to-be-built ‘Resources’ section of the PRISM Library — but that’s a 2022 thing.

There are several knowledge management projects going on across the department. This week, we met with one of the architects of the (to-be) CEBRA research library, and the Knowledge Management team that is undertaking a rebuild of the department’s instructional material. We all know that knowledge management is a not just about delivering the information to the webpage, but also supporting in how that knowledge is transferred, how it is discovered, found, and understood. We’ll be working collaboratively to ensure we are supporting each other to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

We also met with the lovely folks in the BIIS research team, and we started on the process of going through their years of research to assess what could go into the PRISM Library for the department to make use of, and what could go into the research data repository, PRISM Groups, for the team to more easily make use of. It’s a big job, and we’d like to extend a huge thank you to Helen, Stephen, and Sally for their time on this.

In the same vein, we met with the folks from the Behavioural Analysis Team, to see what they’d like to contribute to the library. We have the feeling the library is going to grow very quickly in 2022!

Governance

Nothing to report this week

Tools and infrastructure

We’re currently undertaking a review of our whiteboarding/collaboration tools with stakeholders from across the department. ResearchOps is a very meta thing indeed — the way to go about building for our users is, of course to do some user research to understand user needs. For tools for researchers, that’s followed by undertaking a features analysis, analysis of data governance, security, privacy, cyber security, and financial aspects, arriving at a decision, and then designing a governance and administration process before going through a procurement process. For our whiteboarding and collaboration tools, as a department wide thing, this is a big job, and we are really happy to be collaborating with the department’s Ways of Working team, as well as Information Services. In the new year we’ve locked in 3 more of these projects, so that we can settle on all the tools needed to support researchers across the research lifecycle.

What are you thinking about?

While I was on leave, I managed to do quite a bit of reading. Here’s my top three reads of the last month:

  • My dear friend (and brilliant architect of the Services Australia Customer Insights Library) sent me a copy of the Atlas of AI by Kate Crawford. It’s been a really good read so far (not finished yet!).
  • I got back into my copy of the Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir
  • I finished The Octopus and I, by Erin Hortle (some weeks back now, but this is a catch-up post!). It kicked my butt in so many ways, most of them good. If you like Tasmania, the ocean, or like a story about life’s transformations, I highly recommend it. Set in a town I actually lived in about 25 years ago, it was eerily familiar, so an extra special read for me.

Anything else?

It’s been about 9 months of weeknoting, and if you ask me about it irl, you’ll find I get quite passionate about it. I guess it’s the IR/Public Policy nerd in me, but I really do think it is a very special thing to be enabled by your senior leadership to speak publicly about one’s work in the public service. It’s all very mundane, and hardly life changing, but the trick about democracy is that it is made of the mundane stuff. To work in the open and transparently means letting you see our struggles, our hopes and dreams, and how we work together.

So in the interests of this likely being my last weeknote of the year, I want to say a very special thank you to my leadership team, who trust me to just type away each week and release my thoughts into the wild. Openness and transparency are the things often talked about, but seldom acted upon, and it’s such a privilege to be able to walk that path.

And to you, dear reader, if you got this far, on yet another incredibly long post (fault of my late night writing for certain), thanks for coming along too, it’s been a blast. See you in 2022.

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Brigette Metzler

Brigette Metzler

researcher, counter of things, PhD student, public servant…into user research, information architecture, ontology, data. Intensely optimistic.