Ben Holliday

Monthnote: January 2024

After a few years away I’m going to try to keep up with sharing monthnotes this year.

At work

January was a busy start to the year. It’s my seventh start to a new year in all the different versions of my current role, since my original move to join FutureGov in 2017.

This time of year (Q4 in business terms) always means business planning becomes a focus in readiness for the next financial year. I spent a large amount of my time focused here this month.

The end of January also marked the official end of some work I’ve been helping to lead with a team at Justice Digital. I’ve enjoyed this project and the opportunity to work in this space. It’s been interesting work exploring digital transformation opportunities, as well as designing how to take user centred approaches to starting work with technologies like Generative AI (GenAI) and Large Language Models (LLMs).

As our design teams continue to grow it was great to welcome Sarah Mace to TPXimpact this month as our latest Design Lead. Outside of design it’s also been great to have Matt Jukes (re)joining the wider team, and I enjoyed meeting and speaking with Ann Kempster properly for the first time after she joined earlier this month.

Blogging and speaking

In January I shared my bets on digital transformation for 2024 and a more in depth look at the importance of content design for working with LLMs and GenAI. Both blog posts weren’t quick ones to write. They were the process of capturing and developing some of my thinking over the past few months, while I’ve also been using my latest blog posts as a chance to revisit some of the themes and ideas in Multiplied. I’m using this as an opportunity to explore how some of the ideas in the book are relevant to our work in 2024, with more blog posts underway and to share in the coming months (all findable/tagged as x24).

Linked to these latest blog posts, I’ve continued to develop ideas through my Multiplied talks. In January I spoke at two closed events. Firstly, at the Ministry of Justice User Centred Design meet up. I then did a remote talk for an American government agency for the first time, speaking at a ‘brown bag’ session to a team that have been reading Multiplied. I’ve also been using my ‘bets for 2024’ in all recent talks since first introducing the themes at a keynote for the Legal Aid Agency’s Digital Transformation away day, back in November last year.

Travelling and at home

January has been a real balancing act of time at home and time away for work. I wanted to make sure that I started the year in a way where I’m visible and accessible to our teams. For me, this is the continued importance of balancing in person and remote work.

So far, I’ve spent time most weeks in the TPXimpact London hub (the Hickman). I also did my first visit this year to Manchester (Work.Life). We have a fast growing team in the North and my plan is to work in Manchester at least once a fortnight in 2024. As my most local hub it’s still a place I feel very connected to, going right back to first studying design at Salford and living there.

Back home the challenge has more been a combination of different winter bugs and sickness. As a family of six we’re always susceptible at this time of year. January seemed to hit us all hard at different points with coughs, colds and maybe Covid (but it seems harder to tell these days, even with testing). On top of sickness, which normally means changes of plans with children off school, it was also a month of travel disruption. We had snow and the two storms that hit Cumbria, impacting the train network every time. I’m hoping February is more straightforward!

Travel for work, especially London, has meant a few overnight stays. This is gradually becoming a familiar pattern again and I’m now closer to my 2019 working patterns than at any other point since the pandemic. Most evenings I’ve arrived late or have needed to work, but last week a night in London did mean I could go to my first football game of the season. Tottenham eventually getting a good result against Brentford. Growing up in London, Brentford were a childhood (lower-league) second team of sorts, so it’s still strange seeing them competing against Spurs in the top division. In the end it was a good night out to switch off from a busy few weeks of work.

What I’ve been reading

I finished reading a couple of books in January. On work topics, I read Follow the Money: How much does Britain cost? by Paul Johnson. I shared some thoughts about this on Bluesky earlier. I found the book an interesting read and it makes some important points around complexity in policy and delivery. It goes into detailed analysis of welfare policy, as well as some in depth focus on health and social care. There’s lots of learning here for anyone working in public sector in relation to policy and services.

With the welfare focus, there’s a good deep dive here into Universal Credit. The conclusion is that UC is a success in policy terms, especially when looked at through the lens of how the system worked during the pandemic. This was good to read and is something I agree with. I wrote about similar points, including the success of UC as system change in Multiplied (but with a Digital Transformation lens).

In January I also read Walk Yourself Happy by Julia Bradbury and I’ve been slowly listening to the Audiobook of Dominion by Tom Holland. I’ve had this book for years without reading it, but really enjoyed Tom Holland’s Christmas Day interview on The Rest is Politics Leading podcast.

Walking the Wainwrights

I completed my 68th Wainwright in the Lake District at the start of the month. I had a great day walking to Arthur’s Pike from Pooley Bridge. It was a good day weather wise after a mixed Christmas period. I’d managed to grab one day to myself before returning to work and with our kids all back in school. It was definitely the headspace I needed to reset for the new year. Much more walking planned for this year as soon as the weather starts to improve and the days get longer. I spend my life waiting for weather windows these days.

This is my blog where I’ve been writing for 18 years. You can follow all of my posts by subscribing to this RSS feed. You can also find me on Bluesky, less frequently now on X (formally Twitter), and on LinkedIn.