Benefits & Housing Needs Service Redesign Project – Sprint Notes 5: Pivoting

Regular followers to our sprint notes will no doubt notice that we seem to have skipped a sprint! We can assure you the work has continued but the impact of Covid19, the subsequent move of the Benefits & Housing Needs service to remote delivery coupled with some changes to the project team have meant a slight interruption to our normal comms plan. We’ll endeavour to catch you up on what has been going on in the next few paragraphs. provides a sports example for pivoting that reads; Basketball. to keep one foot in place while holding the ball and moving the other foot one step in any direction.

Anyone familiar with the lingo associated with startups (and the associated success and failure of many modern companies) will be familiar with the term ‘pivot’ and the need to rapidly change direction to succeed. I like the basketball definition above – it also mentions keeping one foot in place while changing direction with the other. That’s a nice summary of how we’ve been focussing our energy as a team over the last few weeks. 

The team have been grappling with two key questions:

1. How do we keep firm and grounded in our vision for the future service? 2. How do we rapidly re-prioritise our efforts to provide maximum value to staff and residents in the current environment?

Updating our vision for the future service
We’ve updated our tube line inspired map of the future service to reflect conversations and learning so far. The key changes reflect;

  • The importance of  understanding vulnerabilities and assets
  • That tenancy sustainment plays a crucial role
  • A new branch has been added that ends with really good information and advice
  • We have added an (optional) stop for the crisis support that some of our more vulnerable residents will need before moving forward with a longer term plan

SMS Tool & Document Upload
Kicking off with a new section for our sprint notes (where our “pivoting” comes into play).

We had previously experimented with using SMS to check in and nudge residents on their Shared Plan, and had a working prototype to test if people engaged with this format. As the service moved to being delivered remotely, it became clear there were more places SMS could add value across the service. 

The team came together quickly to ensure the solution was secure and would cope with an increased load. One week later and we’re now scaling it across teams. We’ll still need to retrospectively check we’re meeting the right user needs, and undergo a service assessment, but overall we’re really excited with the potential impact delivered in a short space of time. 

Now that the Hackney Service Centre has shut, there’s no easy way for residents to share evidence (think ID, proof of address/income, and bills) to support any applications they’re making to the service, and for these to be attached to their record.

In less than a week the dev team produced a safe, secure and working prototype of a new “Doc Upload” tool. Residents are able to take a photo, add info and share with the service. There’s loads of potential for this to improve how documents are managed from the beginning (by linking with Single View) to make sure residents only need to tell us once. Lots of testing to come!

Information and Evidence & Single View
We’ve now tested and iterated both the waiting time tool and changes to the content on the Hackney website. Security and accessibility tests have been completed and there are only a few small tweaks to be made before these changes will be pushed live. Watch this space. 

The Single View crew have now nearly onboarded all of the staff across the service and the analytics data is clearly showing that users are actively adopting it. The team have also:

  • shown they can successfully retrieve documents from the Jigsaw system
  • completed accessibility testing of the app
  • made some user interface improvements
  • added some really useful snippets of data based on user feedback (for example bedroom requirements from housing register applications)

Shared Plan & Understanding Vulnerability
When “everything that everybody does is geared around preventing homelessness”, then it’s part of all officers’ jobs to build and contribute to a shared plan of action.

We’ve built a working prototype that enables:

  • Multiple officers to contribute actions
  • Residents to access via a link texted to them
  • Residents to mark actions as complete

There are now six officers across three different teams testing the Shared Plan. The initial feedback has been brilliant, particularly during this time of remote working.

“This is exactly what we need. Make your plan bitesized. It’s a way to make just a few steps at a time” – Officer, Housing Supply Team “I think this is going to be so useful now that everything is remote” – Officer, Housing Advice and Options Team

Next steps for Shared Plan include optimising the view for residents on mobile, and giving residents more ways to input into their plan. Then we can measure if this is actually engaging people more and changing their behaviour.

For the moment we’ve paused on understanding vulnerability and assets, and will pick it up again in the next phase. There’s also potential for this to be fed into wider Hackney work around their covid response (of which understanding a resident’s vulnerability plays a key part) – so watch this space.

Want to know more? Here are the links to our most recent  Show & Share Sessions 25/03/20 and 01/04/20. Keep following our notes and posts, and feel free to get in touch with Claire or Scott if you’d like to chat through any of the work.

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