Delivering HackIT’s homeworking service – Devices: Weeknote 4 w/c: 11/05/20 & 18/05/20

goals tanning GIF
Live scenes from my day off.

Things are settling down a fair bit now, the team is formed and finding our rhythm. These weeknotes are also less rambly. Hurrah! 

What we’ve been doing: 

Distribution sessions:

ongoing with colleagues across HackIT coming in to help with this every Tuesday and Thursdays. We’re ensuring that devices are only given out during these times and to people who have been contacting through our process. This way we’re able to ensure we log each device to go on the asset register and accounted for in stock takes and that they get to the right person needing them. Jackie has been getting to grips with this operationally and implemented some great ideas to make it better and less fiddly. 

Asset Management and stock

This is turning into quite a big task. We want to understand what assets we needed to manage, how their processes currently work, where they physically kept and how many of them were there. Ali has been great at providing insight into some of this.

What are we wanting to manage? 

Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, dongles, mobile phones, SIM cards, monitors, mice, keyboards, chargers, headsets, webcams, ipdas, Samsung tablets, and we need to have an idea of old laptops we can refurbish into Linux machines. 

What we’re prioritising

Chrome devices: for both distribution and also the Chromeboxes in the HSC to know what we have and if they’re removed we can trace them. 

Mobile phones: we’re in the middle stages of developing a new process for his and trialling it to then feed into our distribution sessions with a small cohort in Children and Families Service we hope to be able to replicate a larger scale to  those requesting replacement devices for broken/faulty or lost devices. 

Grab and Gos:

  • We sent out 643 email to those who last logged into each Grab and Go device
  • We have 388 replies to date
  • 17 have said they no longer need it
  • 44 have said they no longer have it
  • 330 have said they still need to use it

We’re now emailing the 255 who didn’t reply asking again, but this time they will be locked out if no response. We’re contacting the 17 to see how we can get the device returned, and we’re going to have to see if we can work out where the 44 others are! Some are still being used as Grab and Goes within teams and people have been telling us this, which is very useful to know! Sandeep and his magic-ness means he’s able to pull specific device data from a spreadsheet and auto populate an email to send out. It’s an absolute modern marvel (to me, anyway). 

We’re still getting device requests in every day and stocks are now depleting so we need to get as many as we can. 


We’ve got another planning session this week in which we’ll be joined by Anwar to give us the insight and expertise on the mobile side of things. 

And, excitingly, we’ve got our first retro! Time hasn’t been our friend but now it’s decompressing a bit, David from Delivery has kindly offered to facilitate our a retro. I’m keen to be part of this as I was operationally involved in it so can’t facilitate it myself. 

Side hustles: 

  • working with the PPE Hub regional distribution centre on their device and IT needs and potential for paperless signing system. 
  • Supplying some devices to the Covid Testing centre in Dalston.
  • Working with Adult Social Care around digital inclusion in 14 of the Housing with Care centres across the borough so older residents, with the help of centre managers, have the ability to access the internet, increase their digital skills and knowledge and most importantly allow them to connect with family virtually and decrease social isolation. 

I now have a couple of days leave and I couldn’t be happier at the prospect of doing absolutely nothing. I’ve also regained my hearing. Hurrah! 

Delivering HackIT’s homeworking service – Devices Weeknote 3: w/c 04/05/20

speeding star trek GIF by GIPHY Studios Originals

The fourth is with me now as weeknotes finally catch up to being in real time. 

I’ve been struggling with having quite a painful ear infection which has left me with hearing loss in my right ear. This made me reflect that this work requires more people than just me and Sandeep to keep it going. If either of us became ill, it would operationally stop, and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen. However, an upside of this is I need Google Meet subtitles – which if anyone has used, knows it can only translate into Klingon. So, I *think* Henry is leading Starfleet into the Nebula of Aruba, but I’ll check before packing my snorkel and goggles. 

What we’re up to:

Device distribution! Thanks to David and Jackie for doing the distribution session on Tuesday. And to Henry and Paul for Thursday’s session. 

Henry worked with the Education Department and Health & Safety on how to deal with requests for accessories. This joined up approach will ensure accessories such as monitors, keyboards and mice are available to those who have a Health and Safety need and we’re continuing this work so our distribution process works together with theirs. We’ve now done what we need to do on this so waiting for their process to be finalised and we’re good to go! 

I was joined by Mustafa from security on an Anneka Rice (one for the 80s kids) style treasure hunt round the HSC. Many staff members had told us of spare devices they had in cupboards and lockers etc. With their consent we went to find them so we could redeploy them back. Clues included: 

‘In the low cupboard opposite the narrow walkway behind the 3rd chair in the North Wing, 4th floor, behind the pink pen pot, you’ll find a key…that key opens the draw on the 4th cupboard across in the third aisle…’ 

…you get the drift.  It took a while. There are some devices which aren’t in the HSC so we’re working out a way to get those back. Some are at people’s houses and some in other council buildings across Hackney. 

We’ve also started locating the Grab and Go devices! There are approx 750 out there and so we need to find out where they are. This isn’t to take them off people who need to use them, but we need to know who has them, properly asset record them, or retrieve them if they’re not being used. We sent out emails to those who were last logged into a Grab and Go (including me!) to let us know either way. We’ve had approx 400 responses so far. 

Our current devices stocks are depleting, and while requests have also decreased, we need to ensure we’ve got enough to support on an ongoing basis. We’ve now got Ali from Service Support who can help fix faulty devices, repurpose and enroll the Grab n Goes and help refurb any windows machines people have spare in the HSC or personal devices anyone can donate. Devices can break or start playing up and need replacing, so this is very much an ongoing service for the duration. 

We have a group mailbox! This means we can contact those who need to as part of the various device strands (distribution, Grab and Goes etc), rather than just my own email address- which was becoming rather overwhelming!  The whole team will have oversight so it doesn’t just sit with one person where nobody else has access, so the service operations and delivery process are more robust. 

What’s next: 

The process of collating the requests, allocating a new device or to triage a current device is a person process. We tried to automate it but feel it’s not possible with the exceptions needed. Coordinating all the operational bits takes a lot of time and energy and I’m in need of a break. So we’re looking at what possible options we have for someone else to join the project so this can be handed over and take a bit of the load. And I get to have some leave!  

We need to start understanding our stock levels better. A process needs to be developed and implemented. This’ll include understanding faulty devices, the Grab and Goes and the spare devices people tell us about. 

Time to reflect. It’s been eight weeks of ‘doing’ and we’ve had no real time to take stock and reflect on what we’ve achieved so far and see what we need to improve, why and how. We have a sense of these and Sandeep and I do discuss in our daily stand ups and adjust. But we really need to start doing this more robustly.  

I’m also keen to hear of/speak to other councils on if and how they’ve done something similar. I can’t find anything on Pipeline so if you know of or come across any, please do let me know! 

Live long and prosper. 

Delivering HackIT’s homeworking service – Devices: Weeknote 2 – w/c Twelvety of Eastertime.

Time has now lost all meaning and nobody knows what day it is, because everyday is the same. 

bill murray well its groundhog day again GIF

Where we’re at so far -apologies; I’ve tried to keep it brief as I can!

I’ve successfully worked out how to deliver lots of services in my previous roles. But working out how to deliver a person to person service in the middle of a global pandemic is, well, quite tricky. There’s a lot of moving parts to get aligned. Alongside that, we’re working out how we as individuals operate in the world – with work, our friends, family. It’s a huge learning curve from every angle all at once!  

I came back onto this project just before the Easter break. It now had 6 new Googleforms, an aim to create a way of delivering devices and a Trello board! The Googleforms were for staff to:

  • Request a device
  • Tell us about a spare device
  • Tell us they have a device to donate
  • Tell us about a Grab and Go device
  • Tell us they have problems with broadband
  • Tell us they have a device to swap

They all needed new processes developing, but first the data needed sorting out. It was coming through various channels and needed a single database to flow into and sit in order to process requests and priorities and to deploy effectively. Amy was great at giving me a few pointers at how we could pull all the googleform data into one place, which we did, but pulling the other non sheets data was foxing me rather. 

Enter stage left: Sandeep, who pulled all the streams of data together and it’s in a much better place than it was! It took longer than expected however, due to the tangled nature of it all. This also meant we officially became a team! 

We also got clearer guidance from the BECC on critical service priorities which enables us to prioritise requests of services for both a new device or to resolve issues with their current one. 

New information comes in everyday so we’re evolving processes daily (hourly sometimes!). For example, we learnt there are priority 3 services that actually deliver priority 1 services! Confusion! We worked to understand what these exceptions were to enable us to identify critical services better. 

Questions and conundrums are popping up quite frequently, keeping all our brain cells on their toes: 

  • What’s a device? Is a monitor and a keyboard a device or not? How were we to deal with these? 
  •  How would we get the spare devices that people had told us about? 
  • How do we find all the Grab and gos? 

These tantalizing questions will wait for the next weeknote in order to prevent this becoming too long(er). 

We’re still distributing devices. We hold two distribution sessions per week: Tuesday am and Thursday pm and are now delivered with volunteers from across HackIT teams. Cate McLaurin and I kicked it off last week followed by Amy and Mal a couple of days later. Thank you so much for doing that!

For colleagues who can’t attend the HSC to pick a device up, I’ve worked with the incredibly helpful Claire in Corporate Business Support to develop a process to get devices couriered/faulty ones picked up. 

To do all this safely, things take longer as we don’t have staff in the HSC all the time. Priority requests still take at least three days to deploy, longer if a courier is needed. But the safety of everyone is the priority above anything. 

Operationally running these is taking a lot of time to keep on top of. I’m coordinating allocations manually, ensuring stock and supply levels, contacting staff dealing with their email questions and arranging those which need to be delivered. I’m also liaising with Lucy and Jasmeen on the device needs of Social Care and Housing teams to ensure frontline workers have the right tools. It’s quite relentless at times so I’ve not been able to get to Delivery team or support team sessions, check in on Slack or get to the virtual cuppas.

I ‘met’ with Rasit in Apps Support this week too about how this project could help their project to get new mobile phones and SIMs to colleagues in Environmental Operations – another priority 1 service. There’s definitely opportunities to work together here and see how our work can be adapted to help others. 

Priorities next up:  

Working on the asset management processes to keep on top of the various different devices. This’ll include spare devices and grab and gos. 

Update the googleforms as we’ve learned some aren’t giving us the data we need to fully understand the challenges people face with their device. Currently, we’re having to call back to triage to find out more, which is time consuming and slowing us down. 

I had to knock the Dairy Milk and Pringles on the head as my jeans just laugh ‘as if…’ when I attempt to put them on. I no longer style my hair and am beginning to resemble Crystal Tips. But, I have perfected a loud ‘TUT’ and sigh at those who walk down the middle of pavements.

Delivering HackIT’s homeworking service – Devices: Weeknote 1 – w/c sometime in mid-March

Go Faster Wallace And Gromit GIF by Aardman Animations
Never before has a stop-motion animated dog summed up my working life over the past 7 weeks.

Patience is a virtue, good things come to those who wait, better late than never…

These are the reasons I’m giving for writing the first weeknote, after 6 weeks of lockdown and 7 weeks since we started to deliver devices differently to enable our colleagues to work from home. 

The main reason however is that these past 7 weeks have been incredibly intense (as they have for so many). Spinning a thousand different plates while juggling several balls. Weeknotes have therefore not had any chance to elbow themselves into the working week, alongside other things. 

So, what’s been happening?

This work started back after the 16 March government announcement that people should work from home. I’d come back from a weird little jaunt to Romania and began working with Nigel, Manzela, Ali, Yulian, John and Indran from the devices team on refurbishing hundreds of old windows laptops into linux machines so that they could be deployed to staff who didn’t have device to enable them to deliver services from home. 

Ollie was leading on this and once these laptops had been built, I worked with Liz,Tim, and Sandrine to understand who needed them. This information had been given to us by the Business Continuity Leads of each service, so we needed to collate it, and get the devices deployed so staff could set themselves up working from home. 

At this point, it was unclear if a full lockdown would happen and events were evolving rapidly, so we didn’t know from one day to the next how long we had to do what we needed to do. The vast majority of devices were deployed by Friday 20th March – the day the pubs had to shut (as history will forever call it). 

We still had a few people in critical services to get devices to and we had planned two further sessions the w/c 23rd March. This was the day the full lockdown was announced and this week was an intense week working closely with social care teams and other front line priority services to get them the devices they needed. At this point social distancing was now a thing and so we had to rethink how we did the deployment to ensure the safety of colleagues in the two sessions held. This meant things happened slower, but safely. 

Massive, massive thanks to Ali, Indran and John for volunteering to come in and do the deployments that week. 

This was definitely a couple of weeks of just doing the thing and reacting to events. We set up a temporary deployment service super quick and had to change and adapt quickly and this meant we sometimes got things wrong, missed a thing, dropped a thing and forgot a thing. We could have organised our data differently, ensured comms were a bit more consistent, understood needs of users better. But the unique situation we were in didn’t afford us these luxuries at this point. 

The result was the vast majority of our colleagues now had a device to enable them to carry on providing critical services from home. 

Massive thanks to Ollie, Colin, Cate D, Paul and Mal for keeping me sane, keeping me going and keeping me laughing during that time. And the first virtual pub session, which was hilarious and just what we needed! 

And special mention to Henry who was brilliantly supportive in getting stuff done, and giving me time and help when I needed it in such a calm way, despite the massive pressure he was obviously under. 

I’d only started 6 months before this all kicked off. I’d never worked in IT before and certainly never tried to do what we did in such circumstances. I’m not usually a blower of trumpets, but with this, as a good northerner would say: I felt well chuffed. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so intensely and at such a fast pace on so many new, different things as I did in those first two weeks. 

This was also the period of the great loo roll and pasta drought (as history will forever call it). This baffled and bemused me as I’d stumble to the supermarket after intensely staring at a screen for 12 hours straight to just stare at some fairly empty shelves, and conclude in exhaustion that Dairy Milk and Pringles are totally ok for a grown adult to have for breakfast outside festive season.

It’s at this point I temporarily leave the project for a couple of weeks…


Improving Library Tech weeknotes w/e 10/01/20 and 17/01/20

We’ve had a couple of weeks of not being together as a team and in formal sprints as we’re still in the re-grouping stage, however this doesn’t mean no work has been happening. 

Tl;dr version: 


Staff PC work: 

  • I’ve been in a bit of a quote-a-thon with some suppliers due to Intel chip shortages.
  • Nigel has been a star in working with us to get the PCs delivered when they arrive.  
  • 12 week wait for delivery.  

Kiosk work: 

  • Rabbit hole of understanding the network design and how this can be done better due to other implications it has on public accessing sections of the Library Catalogue. 
  • Slow response from suppliers on possible card payment configuration options. 

Public PC work: 

  • Met with Ian Holland to help shape what this work’s priorities will be. 
  • Met with Richard Smith to discuss the first steps in getting the user research underway
  • Steve Addison gave us useful info on printer contacts and timerames and Eko was also able to give us lots of data on printer usage. 
  • Meeting with Margaret and James from libraries who are joining the project to explain what it’s about, how we work, priorities and objectives. 

Up next: 

Kiosk work:

  • Handover with Saeif in libraries of the Libraries Management System to Apps Management. 
  • Getting final information from suppliers in roder to make decisions on hardware and support contracts. 
  • Handover planning with Bibliothecha to understand kiosk fault reporting and current support contract agreements. 

Staff user research:

  • Show and Tell for Ian and Sue on this in the next couple of weeks. We will then present to ICT soon afterwards. 

Public PC work:

  • User research kick off meeting booked in next week with Richard and Thea 
  • Understanding more about the printers using data and finding out from other councils how they do this. 

Long read version: 

What we’ve done:

Henry and I met with Sue Comitti and Ian Holland, Head of Libraries, to really understand priorities, timeframes, issues, expectations and library staff involvement and input on the project. This was a really positive meeting and really helped us understand the full scope and also potential limitations, but allows us to navigate these better going forward.

Starting getting team members together: Sue will be sharing the Product Owner role with Margaret Sinn, libraries operations manager. James […] will be joining the team from libraries. These changes will hopefully mean they’ll have  more time and flexibility to offer the project as well as new insights. 

Staff PCs: It turns out there’s a worldwide shortage of Intel processing chips. Apparently, Intel can’t manufacture enough to meet demand which has left all suppliers out of/low on stock. This unfortunately has implications on the delivery of the remaining 39 PCs for the staff roll out: a 12 week wait. We looked into getting an alternative AMD processor, but Mario, Erdem and Nana concluded that as we hadn’t tested it, there wasn’t the confidence in it being able to perform the same and we’d have to retest. In addition, as everyone else in the PC ordering world had similar ideas, this has a knock on 4-6 week wait for AMD machines. After discussing with Sue, she decided we should go for Intel and wait ensuring the right machines are delivered for staff. 

Kiosk work: The suppliers have been staggeringly slow in giving us information we need to understand if we can have a card payment solution attached to these machines. This is utterly frustrating and really feels like we’re wading through treacle with this a bit now. It doesn’t help as there aren’t competitors we can leverage some get up and go ness from them with. 

Now down the rabbit hole: part of what we want to do is understand how the kiosks are networked and if this is the best solution. There is an issue with the functionality of some of the online library services on Hackney WiFi that we need to try and understand, but seems it’s linked to how it’s been networked. 

What we’re doing next

Kiosk work: Rasit is meeting with Saeief to understand the LMS more ready for handing it over from libraries to Apps support. This application has never been supported in ICT before, so any problem or issues with ti has always been resolved by libraries themselves, but in order to ensure consistency and better understanding, this will move into apps management portfolio. We need to understand it before we can support it though, and these are out=r first steps to doing this. 

Understanding why the kiosks are networked in the way they are, do they have to be and can we do this differently. This will enable us to manage the hardware better and also resolve the issue of library users not currently being able to access their library accounts. 

Meeting with the suppliers to establish a relationship with ICT in order to support the kiosks moving forward. We need to find out lots of information on them such as what faults are reported and how often; details of support contracts; how they support the hardware currently and how we’ll work together going forward. 

Staff user research: We did this just before Christmas and as yet not been able to plan and do a Show and Tell, but we’re going to present the findings back to Ian and Sue in the next couple of weeks. Once we’ve done that we’ll present it to ICT too.

Public PC work: We’ve got a session booked in with Richard and Thea to work out as a team what we want to be asking the public about PCs and printer services and how best to approach it.

Once the research has been done, we’ll be able to start working on users stores and success criteria. 

We’re gathering data about the printers to understand a bit more about usage that’ll be used to plan next steps. We’ll also be asking other libraries what their printing offer and solutions are.