Roger Swannell

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Weekly Update #132

What happened this week…

  • Sold our first defibrillator.
  • Answered 47 defibrillator customer enquiries and learned lots about customers.
  • Launched a survey on the furniture landing page on the Online Shop to understand customer needs.
  • Featured Celia Birtwell items in more media.
  • Planned events bespoke clothing on the Online Shop.
  • Confirmed the range of Fascinators going online.
  • Set up blood pressure monitors in Magento.
  • Upgraded hosting for the Online Shop and resumed security scanning.
  • Went to the National Wedding Show.
  • Discussed marketing support with Retail Marketing and Digital Marketing.
  • Updated the Ecommerce Time Tracker.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Adding fascinators to Magento.
  • Adding more blood pressure monitors to Magento
  • Attending Sprint in a day training course.
  • Writing requirements for front end improvements to the Online Shop.
  • Answering defib customer enquiries.
  • Going to the L2B Delivery Working Group.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • Since going live the Defibrillator pages have had 447 unique page views.

In the not too distant future…

  • Planning the next work for Selling Defibrillators.

Five things I’d like from Notion

I’ve only recently started using notion but it is quickly replacing Evernote for note taking, Airtable for holding data, and maybe even Trello for roadmap/task management.

Here are five things I’d like to see in Notion.


Automation can improve productivity so much, but I don’t know any system that has got it right yet. Butlerbot for Trello comes close and is what keeps Trello slightly out in front of it’s competitors for me. It would be great to be able to automate tasks in Notion, especially if it’s used as a workspace for a team rather than just an individual (which is how I use it).

Shared tags

Tags are a good way to link pieces of content that are about the same topic but in different places together. I can create tags in one table but they aren’t available for any other table or document. It would be great for tags to be shared across a workspace to enable me to connect and pull all the different documents, table entries, etc., together.


Notifications (and being able to control them) are another must for productivity. Being notified that a task is due or that a comment has been added to a document would be really useful. And the same event change that triggers a notification could be used in the automation.

Public workspace

Individual pages can be made public and so shared (although the url isn’t very human so maybe pretty URLs is the sixth thing for my list, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to share an entire workspace. Where I’m going with this is using Notion as a website. It would also require a means of navigating around the different pages but why would I write a blog post in Notion and copy it to a website platform when I could just publish it on Notion?

Weekly update #131

What happened this week…

  • Launched selling defibrillators.
  • Improved product descriptions on the Online Shop.
  • Trained the Ebay Hub Team in using Freshdesk.
  • Started discovery work on selling furniture online.
  • Placed an order for Blood Pressure Monitors with a supplier.
  • Discussed testing between Magento and AX.
  • Received coloured designs for potential new wedding pin badges.
  • Revised the contract for a Blood Pressure Monitor supplier.
  • Arranged for CPR Training Kits to be sent to defibrillator supplier.
  • Began working on extra functionality for the Central Ordering site.
  • Completed dev work on Magento to use Short Descriptions on product pages.
  • Discussed selling bespoke events clothing.
  • Met with the NDN Product Marketing Manager.
  • Finished adding products to the Central Ordering.
  • Updated the Ecommerce Time Tracker.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Improving defibrillator pages on the Online Shop.
  • Investigating furniture delivery companies.
  • Creating FAQ’s for defibrillators on Freshdesk.
  • Designing Bundle and Grouped product pages.
  • Continuing to improve product descriptions on the Online Shop.
  • Discussing IT resources to set up the subdomain for the Central Ordering site.
  • Adding Blood Pressure Monitor product listings to the Online Shop.
  • Discussing changes to the defibrillators contact form with the Digital Team.
  • Setting up Fascinators on the Online Shop.
  • Sending the contract to our second blood pressure monitor supplier.
  • Discussing marketing for selling furniture online.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • 5.47% of our search terms since the beginning of the year were for ‘Celia Birtwell’, 1.33% were for ‘Defibrillators’, and 0.71% were for ‘Blood Pressure Monitors’.

In the not too distant future…

  • mLaunching Blood Pressure Monitors on the Online Shop.

Tea and cake with the Girl Guides

I went to a tea and cake party held by the local Girl Guides to fundraise for their activities and for two of them to go to India.

The cakes were very tasty, and all the girls did a wonderful job of greeting their guests, making them cups of tea and serving cakes. But I couldn’t help wonder what this says about how those girls are brought up to think of the role of women. The girls were all aged between 11 and 16, old enough to think for themselves if empowered to do so, and yet most waited for instructions from the group leader. They were all in subservient roles, there as waitresses, servers, tea makers. It concerned me. 

If I was working with that group the tea and cake evening would have been a chance to learn how to be entrepreneurial, how to run a business, set goals, understand cost, revenue and profit, how to market to the right customers, how to upsell them future support for the group, how to work in small self-organising teams, how to prioritise workload, etc., etc.

If girls aren’t learning these skills and more importantly how it feels to be empowered to be responsible and in control, and all of this is the result of how other adult women see those girls then it’s no wonder that they struggle when they grow up and go out into patriarchal and male dominated workplaces and systems of society. Equality has to happen on all levels, at all ages, and in every single opportunity. 

Some thoughts on a reflective digital practice

Reflective practice is used in other fields such as social work and nursing, and I think there are lots of benefits to being more reflective in our digital work.

What is reflective practice

Reflective practice is an active, dynamic action-based and ethical set of skills, placed in real time and dealing with real, complex and difficult situations.

Moon, J. (1999), Reflection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and Practice, Kogan Page, London.

Reflective practice is, in its simplest form, thinking about or reflecting on what you do. It’s about giving yourself the opportunities to learn from experience. You spend time thinking about what you did, and what happened, and decide from that what you would do differently next time. It’s a habit, a skill, to be developed. It’s sometimes a difficult thing to do when under pressure to produce more outputs, but it has many benefits.

Some of the benefits of reflective practice

Reflective practice is a skill that when practiced well allows you to join the higher level thinking and theory with the lower level day-to-day activities and experiences. It creates a mindset that asks questions, seeks different points of view, considers how things connect and affect each other and brings to light issues and problems.

Benefits include

  • Helping you to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, interests and areas they’d like to develop
  • Helping you feel more confident and in control of their learning and development
  • Helping teams feel more cohesion as they learn together

How to become more reflective

In People Skills, Neil Thompson, suggests that there are six steps to becoming more reflective:

  • Read – around the topics you are learning about or want to learn about and develop
  • Ask – others about the way they do things and why
  • Watch – what is going on around you
  • Feel – pay attention to your emotions, what prompts them, and how you deal with negative ones
  • Talk – share your views and experiences with others in your organisation
  • Think – learn to value time spent thinking about your work

Some ideas for a more reflective practice


Retrospectives are a part of Scrum and Agile thinking. They are an opportunity to think back about how a particular piece of work went. They can be formal meetings or quick conversations.

It works because:

  • More formal versions of retrospectives such as meetings and reports communicate to the team that reflective practice is valued
  • The discussion allows people to reflect together and learn from each other
  • They can lead to changes and improvements in practice

Weekly update email

Every Friday send an email to interested people saying what you did this week and what you’ll be doing next week.

It works because:

  • It’s good to communicate
  • It makes you look back over the past week and forward to the next week
  • It’s of the moment with no consequences or accountability
  • It’s in easy to read sound bites
  • It isn’t a project update so it can be lighter, more general

Time tracking

Record, even roughly, how you spend your time during the working week.

It works because:

  • It’s purely quantitative, there is no connection to outcome at the point of recording meaning there is no need to justify how you spent your time
  • It helps you to think about when you do things not just what you do, so if you notice you haven’t put any time into a particular project you can do that next week
  • Over time you start to see which parts of your work take up your time. This enables you to think about whether time spent equals value delivered

Read books and articles

Reading seems to be one of the least valued work activities, even among knowledge workers, but it should be encouraged as part of a reflective practice.

It works because

  • It brings in ideas from outside the team or organisation
  • Lots of people can read the same thing, discuss it and reach a common understanding
  • It builds knowledge quickly making reflecting on other things easier

Weekly Update #130

What happened this week…

  • Went to the Blood Pressure Community Mobilisation workshop.
  • Attended the London to Brighton Bike Ride Delivery Group meeting.
  • Tested the Central Ordering site and trained CSC.
  • Submitted the Central Ordering subdomain to CAB.
  • Set up L2B Hospitality tickets.
  • Improved product descriptions on the Online Shop.
  • Set up L2B Off Road Tickets.
  • Set up LiveChat and introduced the CSC Team.
  • Went to training workshop on using Build Measure Learn loops.
  • Set the budget targets for Ecommerce for 19/20.
  • Restarted wedding favours and clothing advertising campaigns.
  • Sold Celia Birtwell products through
  • Arranged for increased capacity hosting for the Online Shop.
  • Collected product information and images for Blood Pressure Monitors.
  • Agreed go live date for selling defibrillators.
  • Drafted the contract for a Blood Pressure Monitor supplier.
  • Updated the Ecommerce Roadmap.
  • Updated the Ecommerce Time Tracker.

Read this week…

Doing next week…

  • Discussing selling bespoke events clothing.
  • Testing the Central Ordering site with Community Fundraising Managers.
  • Meeting with the Product Manager for the NDN.
  • Discussing connectivity between Magento and AX.
  • Reviewing the requirements for Credit Memo dev work on Magento.
  • Training the Ebay Hub team in using Freshdesk.
  • Setting the defibrillators live on the Online Shop.

Interesting stat of the week…

  • Last week, 0.56% of new visitors completed an order compared to 7.87% of returning visitors, meaning that returning visitors outperform new visitors by over 1,400%.

In the not too distant future…

  • Launching selling defibrillators on the Online Shop and website next week.

Limiting the work in progress for autonomous teams is important for organisational effectiveness

When an individual working alone has too many things to do, doing everything means that everything goes slowly. They can prioritise certain things, spend more time on them at the expense of doing other things, but ultimately everything still moves slowly.

When an individual with too many things to do works with another individuals with too many things to do, the problem is compounded because each has to wait for the other to complete pieces of work before they can work on their things. Two people can talk to each other and coordinate the work and make some efficiencies but it’s still easy to see how having too many things to do impacts these individuals.

When a team has too many things to do it becomes too complex to coordinate even just two teams with simple communication and aligned agreement. People being people tend to drift out of alignment and do their own thing. Even if the teams have someone with the role of specifically coordinating the work of the teams it’s still impossible to know how long each person will take to finish their work and so people get blocked waiting for others.

When all the individuals and teams across an entire organisation have too much to do, the compounded blocking is multipled and it becomes impossible to even figure out the current state of which work is dependent on which other work and which is blocked waiting for which piece of work to be finished. Trying to plot this into the future is a task of so many unknowns and such complexity that it is beyond human comprehension.

This tells us that the problem isn’t actually to do with the work, what is being done or how long it take, the problem is that when so many variables interact in a complex system they have unpredictable effects on each other. But one effect we can all observe is that work takes longer to complete because people get blocked.

How do we make individuals, teams and organisations more effective? How do we reduce the complexity to be more effective? Reduce the work? Reduce the interactions?

Perhaps the answer really is autonomous teams with strict limits on work in progress, but then I think that organisations look at the model and think it would be more cost-effective to slice the teams the other way.

5 digital trends charities should definitely not avoid in 2019

This JustGiving blog post includes five “trends” (it’s questionable whether these five things are actually trends; a trend is the direction a thing moves or changes not the thing itself, but moving on…) that charities should avoid in 2019. I’m not sure blanket statements about what charities should avoid is very helpful so I wanted to reconsider them.

I agree that charities probably do need more focus, but given that the charity industry is going through massive changes and challenges, not least of which is concerned with how to be more innovative, perhaps the ‘head in the sand’ approach of avoiding things just because they haven’t necessarily reached the plateau of productivity on the hype curve may be counterproductive. There are models for considering new things (such as McKinsey’s three horizons) that can foster discussion rather than shutting down the conversation and prepare charities with a healthy pipeline of innovative ways to achieve their objectives.

Viral campaigns

A bit like buying a lottery ticket instead of learning how to earn money from an actual job every day

That senior management in charities prioritise short term fundraising initiatives in the hope of making a quick buck suggests a misunderstanding either on the part of management or marketers, but I struggle to accept that all the very smart people that I know who run and market charities fall into such an obvious trap.

Virality has a scientific definition. It is an achievable thing with sufficient planning and resources. The ability to understand and utilise vitality in trends should be one of the tools in a fundraisers bag, not at the expense of longer term planning, but as a means of leveraging current events and temporary things that pop up in the consciousness of people.

#Firstfiver was a great example of a viral campaign that could of benefited far more charities than it did if more of them had already considered how to solve the logistical challenges of getting paper five pound notes in people’s pockets into a physical donation tins. A charity that has prepared ahead of time to respond to raising trends, not just by sending a few tweets with a hashtag, but by offering solutions for members of the public to support a charity they might not usually consider could leverage a trend into a significant financial contribution.

So if 99.99% of charities choose not to consider the potential for viral trends in their marketing and fundraising planning for 2019, then that leaves more space for the .01% who do decide to commit to building the capacity to responding quickly to events in a fast changing world in a way that amplifies the trend and achieves their objectives, be they awareness raising, income generation, or mass action.

Digital transformation

Transformation’ implies magical, overnight change

If digital transformation is being communicated as an overnight solution to all a charity’s ills then it is the communication that is at fault, not digital transformation. Just as the industrial revolution took hundreds of years to play out, so will the digital transformation of our society. It already and will continue to touch every part of our lives, from our health care records to traffic management to paying for a coffee. Digital transformation involves transforming technologies, cultures, mindsets, behaviours and thinking. It cannot be thought of as a quick fix.

Charities that don’t adopt the mindset and adapt to this changing world will find themselves irrelevent in the eyes of their staff, volunteers and supporters. Can anyone imagine engaging with a charity only through face-to-face contact because they don’t have a website or use email? No, of course not, because every charity has a website and uses email, so their digital transformation has already begun. To ignore ongoing transformation in 2019 and not embed digital into their strategy, not improve the reach, efficiency, and cost-reduction benefits of online fundraising, not support their staff and volunteers to improve their digital skills, will leave a charity even further behind. Charities should be accelerating their digital transformation in 2019 and beyond.


There are just three problems with Bitcoin

There are just three solutions with Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies of which bitcoin is one of many).

Mining bitcoins does take a lot of energy. Generating renewable energy from wind power had the same inefficiency issue when it was introduced. It cost more to produce the power than it was worth, but pioneers and early adopters used and developed the technology into a viable alternative and soon it will be more cost-efficient to use renewable energy sources than mine for fossil fuels. The more organisations looking at opportunities to leverage the benefits of cryptocurrencies, the more funding will be driven into development, and the more efficient and viable they will become.

Bitcoins are a currency used on the dark web, but far more criminals use cash. Does this mean charities shouldn’t accept cash? Of course not. Criminals using something does not mean a charity shouldn’t use it. There is no logical argument here for charities to not spend time understanding how cryptocurrencies might affect them or be utilised by them.

Third – and this is a big one – people who donate to charities just don’t use it… yet. No one used contactless cards to donate to charities.. until they did. But charities exploring options around cryptocurrencies should involve more than just taking donations, they should be looking at how cryptocurrencies will change their investment portfolio, how it may change banking practice and consequently their finance governance.

Charities might not be committing significant resources to building the systems and skills to take bitcoin donations in 2019, but cryptocurrencies should definitely be in their horizon three initiatives with people in Digital, Technology and Finance thinking about how to handle bitcoin and cryptocurrency in the near future.


Treat blockchain like I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here! By all means, watch it and follow it, but don’t spend precious work time on it

In the early 70’s when the relational data model was invented lots of people thought it was useless. Why would you want to establish a relationship between two pieces of data? Nowadays relational databases power every charity’s CRM system.

Blockchains are decentralized, distributed, sometimes-public digital ledgers that are used to record transactions across many computers, which although not the answer to every data storage problem, do have some specific uses which can apply to and benefit charities. Where a charity is working with multiple organisations who all contribute data, and all parties want unshakeable assurance that the data is reliable, and those partnerships require that no single organisation is the owner and controller of the transactional record, then blockchain might be a solution.

Blockchain will increase in prevalence over the coming years and become the de facto solution where data needs to be decentralised and distributed across a network to ensure trust in the recorded transactions. So if charities aren’t giving serious thought to use cases for blockchain and would rather continue in the mindset of centralising data under their control and watch reality TV shows instead, then they will find themselves investing in the wrong solutions in the very near future.


But don’t spend precious time importing agile wholesale when it’s a square peg for a round hole.

Referring to the original manifesto for agile software development as the only source of thinking about Agile is very limited, as is only referring to Scrum when speaking about Agile. Being agile means (among other things depending on whose thinking you’re referencing) getting closer to customers, working in small batches, having short feedback loops, and responding to change. Navy SEAL teams use Scrum to improve ownership among team members. Marketers apply agile thinking when they involve customers by testing ideas ahead of launching a campaign. There are lots of examples of how Agile can be applied to more than just software development.

Charities should most definitely not be avoiding working towards achieving greater agility, “moving with quickness, ease and grace“, as Joshua Kerievsky puts it. Agility is a key competitive advantage that has been realised in almost every other industry. If charities don’t become far more agile than they currently are they run the very real risk of being left behind, not only as an organisation but as an industry. They will quickly be overtaken as more agile startups and businesses move into their markets. There is nothing that charities do that could not be usurped by a business, leaving the charity behind and irrelevant in the eyes of its supporters. Having agility is essential for charities to keep pace with the changing modern world and people’s changing expectations.



There are lots of other innovative developments in thinking and technology in addition to these five that I also think charities should also be considering in 2019, things like machine learning, 3D printing, co-creation, autonomous teams, digital twins, the quantified and augmented self, AR & VR, voice & virtual assistants., etc., etc. A charity that has all of its focus on the mainstream technologies and thinking of the past is being left further and further behind. Charities need to be exploring all the new ideas they can using a robust innovation model that allows them to extract value at the right point in time.

Weekly Update #129

What happened this week…

  • Tested the Fundraiser site.
  • Updated London to Brighton product listings
  • Added defibrillator product descriptions.
  • Discussed how Ecommerce can support Art Beat.
  • Worked on Shopping Feed fixes.
  • Discussed Events merchandise fulfillment.
  • Went live with the new Celia Birtwell Range.
  • Updated the Ecommerce Time Tracker.


Read this week…


Doing next week…

  • Attending the Community Mobilisation workshop for blood pressure testing.
  • Writing more product information for defibrillators.
  • Setting up Blood Pressure Monitor suppliers.
  • Meeting the NDN Product Marketing Manager.
  • Reviewing Cutover for RMSP.
  • Agreeing the range for Blood Pressure Monitors.
  • Confirming the date for going live with selling defibrillators.
  • Going to the London to Brighton Bike Ride Delivery Group meeting.
  • Testing and training on the Central Ordering site with CSC.
  • Setting the advertising budgets.
  • Reviewing the Ecommerce Roadmap.


Interesting stat of the week…

  • 78.7% of conversions happen the first time a customer comes to the Online Shop. 2% happen one day later, and 1% happen two days later.


In the not too distant future…

  • Launching selling defibrillators on the Online Shop and website.
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