Hackney Spacebank: weeknote, w/c 15th July

Three things you need to know about this week:

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

Sam, Winston and Liam have been busy recruiting for research participants through our local networks, including our friends at Hackney CVS. We are also recruiting via Facebook and Twitter. We will be measuring the effectiveness of these channels so we know where to invest our time and energy in future rounds. 

A picture paints a thousand words

Liam has been visiting all our libraries to take photos of the meeting rooms for hire. Thank you to our library colleagues for giving us access to the rooms. We will be using these photos to help promote the rooms and to test whether seeing pictures of the space encourages people to make a booking. 

Getting closer to starting the libraries build

Lead by Richard, the team finalised the MVP for the libraries booking solution. This means we can start planning the build in more detail. In the prototype phase we used a roadmap, but I’m keen to try impact mapping this time around. To shape the direction of our work over the next few months I’ll seeking involvement from the library service and other stakeholders. Fresh eyes on the product and what it means to deliver value will be of huge benefit. 

And finally…. 

We are thin on the ground next week. Three team members (including me) are on annual leave next week. Sam, Joy and Liam will be holding the fort. 

Weeknote: Hackney Spacebank, w/c 8th July 2019

It’s a bumper edition weeknote from the Spacebank camp!

Here’s the key things you need to know:

Community halls discovery phase

We started the discovery phase for the community halls work this week. In brief, our aims are to understand:

  • who are user groups are, including internal users
  • the needs of our users, including internal users
  • the current end to end journeys of our user groups
  • the current business process for community halls bookings and access

We are excited to be working closely with colleagues from housing, in particular Sara, Coralie and Gilbert. Our work will be contributing to the community halls review – it’s great to working strategically with the service, collaborating from the outset and learning together. On Wednesday, the team spent the day visiting some of the community halls in the borough. 

For those interested in agile type things, we are experimenting with a kanban approach to delivery. This is instead of time boxed periods of work, known as sprints in a scrum approach. We hope this will give the team more flexibility to explore themes and deal with unknowns (of which there are many). We’ll refine the backlog every week, have retros every 2-3 weeks and regular feedback sessions (also known as show and tells). 

Prototype phase service assessment

We completed this at the end of June. For details, check out our Trello board and assessor report. I also wrote a blog about our experience of preparing and participating in the assessment. 

I’m pleased to say that we had excellent feedback from the assessors. We will be taking forward their recommendations in our upcoming build phase. Speaking of which…

Build phase: library booking system
We are bottoming out our team requirements and budget. I hope to finalise things in the next week or so. We are linking up with West Berkshire and Hertfordshire as they are working on booking systems to share learning and to explore whether there is potential for further collaboration. 

Service assessments: treasure, dragons and a place to dry your socks

An unsuspecting vanguard 

The Hackney Spacebank team are looking at ways we can improve access to low cost or no cost meeting space in the borough for voluntary and community groups, micro businesses and residents. 

We’ve been squirrelling away for the last six months – give or take a couple of fire breaks – and we’re now ready to build our MVP. It feels like we’re at the bottom of a mountain, blinking into the sun, trying to get a glimpse of a hazy summit. We’ve got some navigation, our wits and a great team ethos. Like the best kind of adventures, there will be mysteries to unravel, treasure to be found and dragons to be tackled along the way. 

We’ve completed two service assessments on our journey thus far. These are like a bit Scottish Bothies – stone dwellings for individuals or small groups hiking in the mountains. A place of shelter to pause, unpack our bags, refuel and regroup. At Hackney, service assessments are an assurance, not a gateway. They are an opportunity to ask: are we doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time? 

Our Spacebank team have been accidental pioneers of Hackney service assessments. We volunteered to do the first ever discovery phase service assessment back in March where we experimented with a self assessment approach and a couple of weeks ago we completed the first prototype (Alpha) assessment. 

A reluctant start

I didn’t feel popular when I broached the subject of prepping for a service assessment mid way through a series of five sprints. I understand why. The team were knee deep in the detail of prototyping a new service. I was asking them to step back and reflect. All the information we needed was in their heads and I had to find a way to extract it with minimal disruption. 

Over the next couple of sprints, I ran two 1-hour workshops. We took three or four service assessment standards and answered two questions: what’s the story we want to tell and how can we evidence this?* We looked at the good stuff and the not so good stuff, treating everything as valuable learning and identifying areas where the assessors could help us improve. 

For some of the team, completing a service assessment was new territory. I kicked the first workshop off with a short slide deck so that everyone knew enough** to join in. After we had bottomed out each service standard and assigned them to a team member, we agreed how to structure the assessment itself. We wanted the prototype to do the heavy lifting. We used a demo to walk through our proposed minimal viable product (MVP) and highlight some of our key messages. For example: our growing understanding of users’ needs, iterations as a result of testing, and tech choices.

On the day we were ready. There was a healthy dose of nerves, supplemented by caffeine and chocolate. After the demo, we broke into small groups each led by an assessor. This was the opportunity for an in-depth conversation on a smaller number of service standards. To wrap up we came back together and assessors fed back their thoughts and recommendations to the whole group. 

And at the end of it all, what did the team say: 

“The assessors were excellent and gave really useful, actionable feedback.” Emma, Developer

“I liked how we prepared by giving the assessors the information they needed for each service standard on Trello before the assessment. This allowed us to use the time with the assessors to get their feedback on things we could consider during the next phase of the project.” Sam, User Researcher

“I think the format in which we did an intro, a demo and breaking up into groups and playing back the highlights was a really good way of making the most of our time in our service assessment.” Joy, Service Designer

And our assessors said:

“Super interesting alpha assessment today at #HackIT. It’s always a privilege to meet talented committed teams doing the hard work to make things better for users.” Kate McCaul, Head of Digital at Acas

What are we learning?

Here’s what we are learning about participating in service assessments:

  • Preparation in bite sized chunks – little and often but involve the whole team
  • Take the lead (delivery managers/product owners) but share the responsibility
  • Give ownership of each standard to the relevant team member
  • Show “the thing” and practise showing “the thing”
  • Give assessors early sight of preparations
  • Structure the assessment to support conversations rather than questions and answers
  • Talk about the not so good – your best learning comes from this

Feel free to explore our Trello board and read our service assessment report. A big thank you to our assessors: Cate MacLaurin, Head of Delivery at Hackney, Kate McCaul, Head of Digital at Acas and Giulia Merlo, Service Design Lead at Cancer Research UK. Any tips on dragon handling are welcome. 

*The second question became redundant quite quickly as describing the story surfaced the evidence simultaneously

**What’s enough? A judgement call based on the personalities in the team and confidence levels. 

The hiking analogy of this blog post has been inspired by my long-time friend Shona MacPherson who lives in the Scottish Highlands. Today, she starts a solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, an epic 2650 mile walk from the U.S. border with Canada to the U.S. border with Mexico. She’s raising money for Mikeysline – a suicide prevention charity. 

New Build defect management beta: Weeknotes, w/c 3rd June 2019

Compiled by Niall Booth

What we’re thinking about:

> We’re making solid progress on the application. A simple version of the end to end journey for managing a defect is in place – allowing for the creation of a defect, reviewing a defect, and sending a defect on to a contractor.

> The big challenge is time. As we get to the business end of the project, we’ll make sure we are regularly reviewing our progress.

Some of what we’ve been doing

> We had a research playback on the initial research and testing we did with residents.

> Based on those findings, we improved the content we’ll include in the notifications we send to residents.

> We tested out the application with the new build team.

> We’ve been working on styling what’s been developed to this point so that it’s usable, information is presented in an understandable format, and that we adhere to Hackney standards.

> We developed the ability to review and edit a defect when it’s been created. It’s now possible, when creating a defect, to send this defect on to a building contractor to notify them. This is basic at the moment but provides a platform on which we can build out from.

What’s next?

> Playback on research with building contractors
> More testing with the new build team
> Continuing the development and design of the application – styling the pages, working on implementing GOV Notify, developing a contractor view.
> Show + Tell and retro on Tuesday
> Sprint planning on Wednesday

Who’s on the team next week?

Amy Marie Phillips – user researcher (Mon – Thur)
Agz Deberny – designer (Mon – Wed)
Niall Booth – delivery lead (Mon – Thur part time)
Tom Hipkin – developer (Mon – Tue)

Hackney Spacebank: Weeknote, w/c 3 June 2019

We crossed the finish line! We wrapped up our prototype phase this week.

This culminated in a workshop with library colleagues. They are the internal users of the service we are building. It was incredibly valuable to be able to capture their experiences, identify their needs and hear their frustrations. They validated a lot of what we had learnt already (phew), as well as filling in some gaps in our knowledge. Joy our service designer worked incredibly to pull the workshop together and did a great job facilitating a lively discussion.

In our retrospective on Wednesday, we looked back over the last 10 weeks. We used a journey map, populating it with key activities from each sprint, mountain top moments and pain points. We prioritised the highs and lows, and identified what we could do to improve as a team going into build.

Here’s a flavour of our peaks and pits:

  • Trying out different types of user research methods and tools
  • Having conversations that changed the direction of our work
  • Healthy debate about the pros and cons of user centred design and agile
  • Recruiting research participants was time consuming
  • Hard to engage stakeholders consistently
  • Work felt reactive and hard to achieve in sprints

Coming up next week…

We’ll be doing a show and tell on Wednesday – focusing on the new user journeys and revealing our MVP.

Our service assessment is on Friday. We look forward to welcoming Kate McCaul from Acas and Guilia Merlo from Cancer Research UK, who will be our external assessors.

And finally, I am very relieved that there are no more bank holidays to mess with my sprints until August. Bah humbug!