Big systems and narrow bandwidth don’t mix

One month into my PULSE assignment – a mini-milestone that has arrived so quickly!  Overall, the transition has felt a lot easier than I probably expected – but then I guess working in darkest Putney is inevitably a lot less of a culture shock than uprooting to an overseas assignment!  The benefit for me of being at VSO’s London head office (apart from having no PG Tips or Marmite supply worries!) is that I get to see and learn more about the whole organisation and how it works, and through the connections I can make here, hopefully also maximise my usefulness to VSO.

My main piece of the Global Advocacy Strategy project is to define improved and more consistent ways of working based on doing some case studies of current projects. The skills of the people who will implement and oversee these processes will be key to success, so I’m also working with the head of Learning and Development to design a leadership workshop for them, which hopefully will also be a pilot for broader use.

There’s also a significant IT component, in terms of managing information on the advocacy portfolio of projects, so I’ve started talking with the IT group about how we might do some prototyping and build our needs into their longer term plans.  The IT systems stuff here intrigues me (well, I guess it would do considering my GSK day job!) – Some of the challenges are oh so familiar (data quality for example!!), and others definitely not.   From London, it all seems impressively hunky-dory, but then you remember the 30-odd other countries of VSO where getting online at all can be a bit of a lottery, and realise what a challenge it must be to operate an International organisation with VSO’s footprint across least developed countries and with extremely limited resources.  I was chatting with someone from IT yesterday who told me that like GSK, VSO wants to reduce internal overheads by moving to off-the-shelf externally hosted systems, but it’s difficult to find ones designed to be “lightweight” enough to squeeze themselves down limited bandwidth.  So obesity can apply to IT systems too!!!