Investment time: Making a better Yoomee

by Andy Mayer
Posted on 01 January 2009
read time: 4 minutes

As a team, we've been talking about the importance of making Yoomee the best is can possibly be and carving out time to do regularly do this called "investment time". This post aims to share some of our thinking on the subject and our plans for 2015.

So what do we mean by innovation?

Innovation generally refers to creating or changing processes, products or ideas to make them more effective. Innovation is often overused and vague as a term; but when we talk about it at Yoomee we mean anything that helps us find ways to improve what we currently do for our clients. When we do 'innovation' we're figuring out how to improve ourselves for the benefits of others.

Why is innovation important to us?

The digital industries we work in, and the world around us, are changing constantly. If we don't embrace change and adapt as a company, then we'll become irrelevant to our clients and lose our competitive edge.

Our clients look to us to lead the way in applying digital technologies to help improve the world. They expect us to use the very best technologies, services and design approaches. They are non-profits organisations and so it's our duty to make sure they get the best value from every penny they spend with us.

To this end, we need to be the very best we can be. That's why we have to make innovation central to everything we do, not just something we do as a luxury, if we get time. It needs to be part of our company DNA that is baked into everything we do.

Who will do the innovation activities?

As innovation is so fundamental to Yoomee's future everyone will get involved. Our goal is to work towards each employee spending at least a day a week working on innovation activities. This is non-billable, non-client work that the company will invest in. We're going to start by experimenting with every Friday being our innovation day (unless the individual in question has already taken time off in the week). This will be a gradual process that needs to planning, but so far we've managed to set aside most Friday afternoons.

What will the activities be?

The remit for each employee is to undertake innovation activities that fall into one of three categories:

  1. Explore new technologies – this involves exploring technologies internally to improve how we build stuff. For example, looking at new frameworks such as Meteor, and new development and design tools.
  2. Explore new approaches – adopting new ways of working such as content strategy, techniques for workshopping, researching, measuring and understanding end users.
  3. Reach out to new networks – connecting with other thought leaders, showing how we work, getting feedback, facilitating conversations and making new friends.

What innovation is not

Here are some thoughts on what we don't want to happen:

  • Innovation is not an individual activity; knowledge and learning should be shared – David will be responsible for coordinating activity, but innovation isn't the responsibility of one person; it's for each employee to lead on and but do together
  • Innovation isn't an excuse to waste time doing frivolous stuff; there should be tangible outputs from which others in the team (or clients) can benefit from
  • Innovation is not a luxury; it's core to everything we do and should be as important in our schedule as billable client work

What will the outputs be?

We don't exactly know what the outputs will be yet, but we can hazard a guess at a few easy wins. Every innovation activity will result in something new from which our clients can benefit:

Improving the way we work will result in new services we can offer to clients, for example:

  • Offering our clients a 3 to 5 day rapid prototyping service
  • Running hack days to help clients explore new digital products
  • Getting better with analytics techniques such as A/B testing and growth hacking

In expanding our networks, I imagine that some of the following will happen:

  • Sharing our code as Open Source on github, and being more active in the charity/open data sectors, both contributing and sharing
  • Running user groups and our own events
  • Writing and sharing blog posts on how we work, current thoughts and knowledge sharing
  • Teaching kids to code, mentoring young offenders etc

New technologies could be:

  • Making our technology simpler and quicker to use internally: setup, update, butt hosting, linting
  • Reducing support and errors: better testing, continuous integration, getting more eyes on things (code review)
  • Rich client apps, not defaulting to web but using different front ends
  • API-based services instead of gems, mobile/offline first, node / meteor
  • Doing cutting edge tech stuff related to the charity and social sector – experiments/labs/side projects

Conclusion

This is the start of an exciting journey. If all goes well, then in 12 months' time we'll look back and see we've upped our game, by using new technologies, offering new services to clients, and expanding our networks. Our individual job descriptions will be different, and our company will have changed for the better.

Posted on 01 January 2009 - By Andy Mayer
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