What If... The DTF fellowship was for 12 months?


Warning: Comic Book Graphic Novel Trope Ahead

As the fellowship begins to wrap up and the focus turns away from development and towards the future I thought it might be fun to do a bit of a What If…? series on our time here at DTF. The first in this series is:

What if… the DTF fellowship was for 12 months?

I’d like to explore where we are at by looking ahead at where we could be going in the next six months if the world were just a little bit different than it is now

Finishing the Form Design

With six months left on the fellowship we were just be beginning the first of many iterations on the usability of our updated online reporting form. We decided that we could start a short two month trial with a couple of willing departments and set up two more accounts for use in the trial

At the completion of the trial we were able to receive some feedback from the users of the system, but we were able to identify a “choke point” in the process through the analytics we set up and we could tell users were having issues with one of the steps even though they just assumed “that’s how it’s meant to work”. We were able to identify an alternative source for the information required in that step and were able to eliminate it entirely from the process saving public servants from having to manually retrieve inconvenient data

Automated reminders and workflow

It was so frustrating to have all the pieces in place but not have time to complete an important feature, although that’s not a problem for us in this world… since we completed all the requisite components during the first half of the fellowship we were able to simply assemble an automated workflow monitoring and reminder system while the form design prototyping was going on. The best thing was that we were able to run two quick one-month trials of the system and iterate on the feedback we got. Now the estimated dates for reporting are more likely to be correct, the responses we get are more likely to be accurate, we are more likely to hit the reporting officer with our first email and all kinds of other stakeholders (such as supervising officer and supplier) are also kept in the loop on the progress of reporting

Considered Deployment

We were able to explore other hosting platforms in the time we had left while the second set of trials were running. We were able to consider a range of different hosing solutions from the “fully automatic no thinking” Heroku style to the more “bare bones build it yourself” hosting offered by AWS and Digital Ocean

It turns out these were both sub-optimal and in the time available we were able to explore a government hosted solution on cloud.gov.au which in retrospect is where we should have set our sights from the beginning. Still, the experience we had deploying to Digital Ocean was useful and made the deployment to cloud.gov.au familiar and much smoother than if we were learning it as we were going

Even after all that we still had a month to spend polishing and better testing the system we’ve put in place

Caught Out

Unfortunately over the longer time frame the cracks in my personal systems started to show and the information overload I was experiencing got the better of me. I stopped checking my CfA and DTF emails even on a weekly basis and started to find out via slack that I was missing out on appointments and communications I was expected to respond to… so it’s not all roses and cherries on this alternative Earth

Hope you enjoyed this first “What if…?” post (despite the sad, sad ending) and will join me in the (possible) future for such episodes as “What if… the DTF fellowship program only lasted a month?”, “What if… CfA had a fellowship on Jupiter?” and “What if… the DTF fellowship was with Tenders Vic?”

Written on January 24, 2017