At Placecube our people are our power, we are committed to doing the right thing and this translates across our people, products and services. As our people are so valuable to us, we’re introducing The Faces Behind Placecube as a new feature on our blog to tell their story and showcase how they help and support with their invaluable work and contribution to the company. First up, is our Chief Product Officer, Dr Gavin Beckett, read on to discover more…
Dr Gavin Beckett, Chief Product Officer
Describe your average working day.
I don’t really have average working days! Each one is different and varied, but they all contain similar themes and activities. I’ll usually start with some time catching up on messages in Slack or Gmail, and then drop into one or more standups where our teams delivering projects for customers are sharing what they’ve done, what’s next and any blockers they need removing. I use them as a way of learning about what’s going on, rather than asking the team to brief me separately and I rarely get involved as our capable product owners and developers organise themselves!
I often have a number of calls with clients, which can be to discuss strategic plans, or to help gain clarity on operational tasks. I’m the Placecube Exec sponsor for several major projects so I could be talking to Dorset about how we want to steer the next stage of the Local Digital Fund Low Code Waste developments, to Redbridge about the way they are thinking about integrations between user centred Housing Tenancy services in Digital Place and their back office Housing Management system, or to North Northants or Lisburn & Castlereagh about the ways they’d like to see our CRM cube evolving.
I also see one or more of my Product team every day, in planned meetings on Google Meet or Teams and in Slack huddles when they need to check in on something quickly. We might be reviewing a new design for a component in the Digital Place CMS or Account, or discussing the shape of a bid that will use our expertise in data standards, analysis and visualisation, brought through our acquisition of Porism.
I try to block some time out every day to think about the bigger strategic picture of how our products need to develop, looking at the feedback we receive from customers, adding in what we’ve learned from bids, and considering how we might shape product initiatives to solve the problems councils are sharing with us.
And throughout the day I’ll be messaging my colleagues in the leadership team about cross-Placecube issues or actions that we need to decide on or provide support for our teams to manage themselves.
Provide a brief overview of your career history, and why did you join Placecube?
I came to Placecube from a long career in Local Government, because I saw it as a way to take my personal mission further - bringing well designed reusable open source digital services to Local Government.
Since about 2000 I had been leading Bristol City Council’s adoption of open source software for a number of critical services including the corporate website and worked with colleagues to introduce service design and agile digital practices - with the purpose of providing better services for our residents and businesses within the constraints of reducing public sector budgets. I wanted to take this mission further, so I left the council in 2017 and over the next year I worked for the embryonic Local Digital team set up by MHCLG (now DLUHC), co-creating the Local Digital Declaration alongside 40+ councils and public sector bodies, which convinced me that there was a new appetite for sharing and reusing service patterns and open source solutions but a real barrier to doing it. So when Jason asked me to join him and colleagues to shape and launch Placecube and Digital Place it felt like the natural home for the next stage of my mission!
What is your favourite thing about working in Placecube?
I get to do something really meaningful, with colleagues who have similar passions and a wide range of skills that complement mine, and our work and products help our customers to deliver better services that meet the needs of people who live and work in their local areas.
What is your biggest achievement?
When I look back at my career, all of the things I’ve done that people typically recognise as achievements have been delivered through the people I’ve had around me - the Digital Transformation team I worked with in Bristol who delivered new end to end services by doing the hard work to make things simple for residents, the people in the Local Digital network that led me to get involved with the Local Digital Declaration in 2018, and the great people in Placecube who’ve collectively developed Digital Place, and grown Placecube’s community of clients. So I’d say my biggest achievement has been in finding, growing and nurturing the network of people around me that have helped me to be successful. And that includes my wife and two sons of course!!
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Ignore those people that tell you to stop talking to people outside your organisation, and focus on internal work…the only way to improve and grow is to have open eyes and ears, to meet new people and learn from them - then help them in turn. Organisations and people that turn inward during crises have a worse experience than those that stay connected.