Manage a Tenancy week notes – 18/10/19

Week ending: 2019-10-18

Week notes are a way for us to keep people informed about progress on the project. Given the technical nature of the re-platforming work we will use them to explain technical choices that we are making, including the benefit and impact of these choices. 

The goal for this week was to better understand the project’s technical constraints, and to prioritise the most important elements.  

Project goals

  • Enable housing officers to use Manage a Tenancy offline when there are mobile coverage blackspots
  • Enable Hackney to decommission Outsystems, saving £80,000 per year
  • Enable Hackney to support, develop and deploy future improvements to Manage a Tenancy more quickly, at lower cost

Good Things

The team now has a very clear steer on scope and priority, which we can turn into a more realistic roadmap for this phase of the project. We will focus initially on building offline processes rather than the hub and worktray; the benefit is that we can meet the needs of the Housing team first and foremost:

  • It is the most rapid route to making the digital processes work offline
  • It gives Hackney the greatest opportunity to practice building processes in React, putting the team in the best position to digitise further processes in future.  

We also discovered that the work to replatform My Rent Account should be relatively straightforward; this is what we were expecting, but it was good to validate this assumption. This is work that the team will tackle at a later date, after the initial dxw-phase of the project is complete. 

Learned things

We learned more about the API that the Hub and worktray currently use, and we explored different ways in which we can ‘futureproof’ this aspect of the work. Importantly, we agreed on a way in which we can decouple the front-end work from the API; we can do this by having an object in the front end that can deal with changes to the API endpoints. 

This was a useful discussion and should help Hackney in the longer term; we will continue exploring this once we start delivery on 30th October. 

We learned about the status of the continuous integration pipeline project, and were able to feed into the planning of that work. This was very useful, and should remove potential blockers further down the line. 

Other things we learned:

  • The Google SSO project is at a relatively early stage for Hackney; this is now something that we can safely deprioritise from the Manage a Tenancy work for now
  • The Outsystems contract is in place until September 2020
  • The Qlik dashboards pull data either directly from Dynamics or from UH; this is no longer a dependency on us
  • The work to replatform My Rent Account is relatively straightforward, and this can be picked up after the initial dxw phase of the project, and will benefit from the React groundwork that is laid in the Manage a Tenancy phase.

Difficulties

The trade-off that comes with prioritising offline processes is that the replatforming the hub will need to come at a later stage in the project. Although this can be done in time to decommission Outsystems, this does carry some degree of risk. 

The work involved is largely front-end development; this is not currently a widely held skill in Hackney Council. A good mitigation would be for Hackney front end developers to get involved in replatforming at least one process, so that they can learn how to build things in React.  

Achievements

  • We have a clearer and more realistic scope for the team to focus on during the first phase of this project; thank you to Matthew for giving us the steer that we needed. 
  • Thank you to David, Mirela and Shweta for being so flexible when we had to move meetings around because of illness.

What’s next

We will :

  • Update high-level roadmap that we created together, which will help us prioritize work and talk about the risks and dependencies more clearly. 
  • Amend the statement of work to reflect the revised scope and priorities.
  • Carry out some technical prep before we start sprinting on 30th Oct; this includes things like:
  • investigating how we might build React and HTML/CSS/JS components from the same source for Hackney’s component library
  • looking into how we might automate testing our internal reflection of the API against the Swagger JSON

Manage a Tenancy week notes 11/10/19

Week notes are a way for us to keep people informed about progress on the project. Given the technical nature of the re-platforming work we will use them to explain technical choices that we are making, including the benefit and impact of these choices. 

The focus this week has been on defining our ways of working, and learning about what’s required for Manage a Tenancy. As a result of the inception work we have built a draft roadmap to indicate the order in which we’re going to do things. 

Project goals

  • Enable housing officers to use Manage a Tenancy offline when there are mobile coverage blackspots
  • Enable Hackney to decommission Outsystems, saving £80,000 per year
  • Enable Hackney to support, develop and deploy future improvements to Manage a Tenancy more quickly, at lower cost

Good Things

This was the first time that the technical delivery team was able to come together. We now have a much better understanding of the work and risks involved in replatforming Manage a Tenancy. 

We agreed how to make our work more reusable for Hackney colleagues in the long term. Rather than building complicated bespoke pages for user journeys, we will approach a data-driven front-end. We intend to do this by building components that can be easily assembled into a new process by writing a config file. The benefit of this approach is that it should make it easier for the HackIT team to digitise new processes in future, rather than relying on third parties to do this. It may also be useful for other digital projects in Hackney.

HackIT and dxw worked together to create a DACI matrix, to agree what everyone is doing on the project. One of the key takeaways from this activity was that we want to avoid front-end vs. back-end silos. dxw and HackIT developers will work closely together. We will co-locate to help this as much as possible.  

We now have a high-level roadmap that we created together, which will help us prioritize work and talk about the risks and dependencies more clearly. 

Learned things

The members of the team from dxw learned a lot about the existing technical architecture and constraints for Manage a Tenancy. Some of the key takeaways:

  • The Hub and work tray currently use an API which talks to CRM Dynamics 365. Next week, we’ll explore whether we can work with this API and still achieve the project goals or whether we’ll need more help from Hackney developers to make changes to the API. The benefit of refactoring it, is that it will make future improvements easier to deliver. 
  • There is a degree of conditional logic in the processes which we need to replicate. Our current assumption is that by using configuration files written in TypeScript (rather than a simple JSON mapping) we should be able to minimise issues in handling this logic.
  • The re-platforming project could benefit from otherHackIT initiatives – this includes implementation of a new continuous integration  pipeline and Google SSO. Each of these adds some degree of risk to the project, which needs to be managed carefully, or we could decide to take advantage of these initiatives at a later point.
  • A shared component library for Hackney is currently being built, but will need some work converting to React (the framework we’re using to build the user interfaces) components before it can be used in this project. We intend to do that work as we need it, rather than doing it all up front.

Difficulties

We now have a clearer sense of the challenges involved for Manage a Tenancy. The project currently carries a high degree of risk which we need to manage carefully.

  • Frontend scope: there is a lot to deliver in just 5 sprints. We may need to extend the timeframes, or tackle My Rent Account in a second phase.
  • Backend scope: there are still discussions required in order to fully realise the scope of the backend work required, specifically around whether changes to the hub API are required. We are working together to understand how the scope of these changes will affect the speed that the team can deliver the frontend features; we may need to adjust priorities to ensure the frontend work is unblocked as soon as possible.
  • Managing expectations: once we’re clear what benefits can be delivered when, we’ll need to work with Lorraine so that she can set expectations for housing officers and senior stakeholders. For example, some user experience changes have been identified and implementing these will require additional user research and testing. Given the need to de-risk the project we think that it makes sense to descope these changes for the time being, and address them once the new system has been built. 
  • Dependencies on us: there are dependencies on us outside of the core scope (e.g. implementing Google SSO, managing defects, and corporate dashboards). We think that it is sensible to reduce any risk on the project and this likely means deprioritising things which are not on the critical path. 

Achievements

  • We’ve drafted a DACI and a roadmap for MaT, which will help us work together in delivering the project
  • We’ve agreed a rough technical approach for creating data-driven frontends with reusable components
  • Thank you Mirela and Shweta for taking the time to talk us all through the existing setup, and for answering all our questions!

What’s next

We will continue inception work next week. Some of the key areas we will be digging into include:

  • My Rent Account technical overview
  • Changes required to the existing Hub API (which may be a blocker for the frontend work)
  • Agreeing the priorities  for Manage a Tenancy
  • Further investigative work for how we might achieve some of the more technically challenging aspects of the project
  • Scheduling key meetings (planning, show & tells, retrospectives) 

Sprint 1 will begin on Wednesday 30th October.

Manage a Tenancy : Week notes – 4/10/19

Pushing blocks together

We send out weeknotes to give an update on progress. They highlight things we’re worried about, acknowledge achievements and show progress. They also lay out what we plan to do next. Along with our show and tells, this is the main way you will find out about the project so please read. 

Get in touch with David Durant with any questions or feedback. 

This is a particularly short weeknote, as the project only officially began yesterday.

Good Things

It is very early days, but we’re celebrating that the project has now officially begun. We have only had one day of inception, but the Manage a Tenancy overview was really valuable. The team now has a much clearer idea of scope, and ideas on the best approach are beginning to emerge. 

Learned things

The Inception phase is all about learning, and the first day with Hackney definitely gave us that. It was really useful to learn about the users of the Manage a Tenancy service – Housing Officers and Area Housing Managers. We were also able to learn about the housing processes that we will be replatforming:

  1. Hub and Work tray
  2. Tenancy and Housing Check
  3. Home Check
  4. Initial/Introductory Tenancy Visit

We also learned about the process for Enhanced Tenancy and Residents Association Meetings. Although originally out of scope, aligning it more closely to what we’re doing may save effort in the long run. 

Difficulties What we’re thinking about

We haven’t yet come into difficulties, but there are aspects of the project that we’re thinking about and would like to dig into more during inception:

  • Striking a balance between making improvements and getting the project delivered on time. There are opportunities to improve the service,  but only if this doesn’t impact our timeframe. We will agree on the best approach next week to strike this balance. 
  • Joining up front-end and back-end development. We need to ensure that these two strands of work are brought together as much as possible. The ways of working session next week is a good opportunity to define how we will do this. 
  • Making the outputs reusable. Rather than developing each process separately, we are thinking about developing individual components which can then be configured into a process. This would make it quicker to update the processes in future (and create new ones).
  • Thinking creatively about the Housing Officer user journey. The goal is to design processes that work offline for a Housing Officer, so that they can carry out their work in the field. We should think about this in terms of the end-to-end user journey, as there may be changes we can make to the journey that create a better experience, whilst also minimising issues like patchy uploads in areas of bad signal. For example, is it possible for Housing Officers to “queue” up a set of visits at the start of their day, and then synch them once they return to the office.  

Achievements

Thank you to David for getting all the right people in the room and to F for asking lots of helpful technical questions during the first walkthrough meeting.

What’s next

We continue the inception work next week, which will include:

  • Tuesday 8th Oct – Ways of Working
  • Wednesday 9th Oct – Technical Overview
  • Thursday 10th Oct – Roadmapping, risks and dependencies 
  • Monday 14th or Tuesday 15th Oct – Data migration

We will also start booking in the sprint ceremonies next week, including show and tells. 

Sprint 1 will begin on Wednesday 30th October.

Breaking the tech language code

Here at HackIT we’ve had quite a lot of new starters recently as we’ve continued to expand our capability to undertake in-house delivery of digital services.

Some of those folks come with a strong background in the kinds of technology we use. For example, our developers are all up-to-date with all the latest techniques to do with APIs, AWS, Git and SaaS services.

However, some people come from a background where the above would just be a list of meaningless acronyms. For example, some of our excellent new Delivery Managers have been a little overwhelmed of the barrage of new tech-related phrases they have been barraged with as soon as they arrived.

In order to help new HackIT members prioritise which tech things to learn about first, we did the best thing to do in such circumstances – we asked everyone! We put this spreadsheet together to start collecting technical terms people either thought were important or that they were encountering for the first time. We then ask everyone to self-assign themselves as either technical or non-technical and then rate each of the terms as “critical” (things to understand in the first 1-2 weeks), “important” ( things to understand in the first 4 weeks), “useful” (things to understand in the first couple of months) or “not useful” (nice-to-have’s). When we then totalled up the votes this is when we found.

The top 15 terms prioritised by tech-folks.

  • Front end developer
  • Back end developer
  • UX designer
  • QA engineer
  • Front-end code
  • Back-end code
  • MOSCOW
  • GDS
  • Git
  • Dev / test servers
  • Production
  • Cloud
  • UI designer
  • Github
  • Branch

The top 15 terms prioritised by non-tech-folks.

  • GDS
  • API
  • Local Gov Digital
  • Cloud
  • Server
  • AWS
  • Documentation
  • Front-end code
  • Back-end code
  • Digital Marketplace
  • SaaS
  • Github
  • MHCLG Local Digital
  • Time and materials
  • Dev / test servers

There are many more terms in the spreadsheet.

We’re not going to be providing definitions for these terms at this point. Partly because sometimes they differ between people and we don’t want to start any internal flame-wars! Really though, what we want to do is encourage lots of conversations where new starters discuss some of the topics they’re not sure about with their colleagues and hopefully pick up a lot of other concepts along the way.

We’re going to be updating this list on a regular basis and using it as part of our onboarding process for new starters so especially keen people can have a chance to start getting up to speed on things that may be brand new to them before they even start here at HackIT!

Manage a Tenancy : Week notes – 20/9/19

This week we deployed another iteration of ETRA. Unfortunately it introduced some minor defects. While these were quickly fixed we’ve decided that this is happening too often so we’re going to start doing debrief sessions every time we have a regression after a push to production to find out why and add extra automated tests if needed.

We had another good session to continue to fill out the user journeys and user stories for MaT before the replatforming work with DXW starts on 30/9/19. This time the team went up to the Stamford Hill Housing Officer’s office to work with the team there to fill out the sections related to Tenancy and Household Checks.

We’ve still got more of that work to do but much of what is left may be able to be significantly reduced to work from our digital designer showing that some of the existing pages are sufficiently similar that they can be merged.

We had a good meeting with DXW on Friday morning that has put us on track for us starting work a week on Monday.

We have a good list of teams we’ll need to work with so lining up how we’ll work with them is going to be a major priority. They include the following.

  • Tech architecture (especially for staff single-sign-on)
  • Data and insight (especially for data modelling – perhaps based on the HACT models for Housing)
  • Dashboards (to ensure we continue to produce useful stats for our Area Housing Managers)
  • UX library (for the “reactifying” of our new Design Library)

At the same time our Service Design work to line up both next-steps tactical and longer-term strategic additions / changes to the service is going well and we’re looking forward to their output in the next 1-2 weeks.