User stories not requirements will give us better outcomes – discuss

I pitched a session at #procurementunconference19 boldly titled ‘User stories not requirements will give us better outcomes’

I wanted to find out if other people had experiences to share about how we move away from long lists of requirements, developed in silos, then given to suppliers – to a more collaborative, outcome focused way of doing things. 

At HackIT we use the digital marketplace where we can, and make wide use of CCS frameworks. I used a recent example of a procurement for ‘printing as a service’ where we’ve tried hard to give the suppliers space to tell us what they think the solution might be for us, rather than specifying every detail in advance. 

The discussion around the table was incredibly useful – a host of examples of where people are trying new things, facing challenges and being bold with their approaches.

Here’s the top 5 things I wrote down during the discussion:

Too often we’re trying to buy something where we’ve got uncertainty– and instead of trying to make it more certain (by locking down requirements) we need a way of embracing the uncertainty and using it to get better outcomes overall. Otherwise we risk buying the wrong thing.

Procurement works best when you have the right people working together at the right time, who understand the problem you’re trying to solve. This means having product groups and multi-disciplinary teams in place, and break down professional silos where documents are passed from team to team.

Can we use experiments to understand the problem – and if so, how do we make experiments as small as possible? The smaller they are the less risk you have, which means you can fail faster. For example – we’ve added in a 6 month pilot of our new ‘printing as a service’ solution, but could we have made this smaller and more iterative? How can we involve suppliers and users during our experiments?

Can we use KPIs that measure delivery against culture and approachwhere we might usually only use outputs (eg availability), and if we could do this what would our measures be and would it drive innovation and engagement?

There was an example of teams using story points or dev pointsas an agreed deliverable in a statement of work – and of teams planning in advance to create iterative statements of work in collaboration with suppliers, rather than fixing an overall statement of work at the start.

Notes from #procurement unconference19, Session 1 – Bear

Originally published at

Extending Repairs Hub to RCC Agents

The Repairs Hub has now been actively used for over 2 weeks in the Repairs Contact Centre and the agents have successfully used it to raise 500 repairs so far. During the last week, we’ve implemented some changes based on what we’ve learned from users during this time.

Improvements made in the latest release:

Added link from the NCC (CRM) app directly to the property page in Repairs Hub – there’s no more need to search twice for the same address

Added support for further SOR codes when raising repairs

Description for new repairs is now limited to 250 characters (and we’ve added a handy character counter)

Resolved issue with assigning ‘gas breakdown’ jobs to ‘gas servicing’ – they should come through correctly now

Added alert for agents to not book an appointment for immediate and emergency jobs

Added ‘raised by’ on works order page to display the name of agent who raised the repair

We’re now going into our last week and planning to make a few more eagerly awaited improvements. We will hold our last Show & Tell on Tuesday 9th July at 10:30 in the ground floor meeting room at the Florfield depot. Come join us there!

Link to Sprint 6 Show and Tell Slides

LOTI – working together to extend digital apprenticeships across London

This week saw the launch of the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI), and at Hackney we’re really proud to be one of the founding members.

One of LOTIs first strands of work is a shared endeavour to scale digital apprenticeships across the core LOTI boroughs, with a working goal of 100 apprenticeships by 2020. We want to lay the foundations for developing digital skills across London’s diverse communities.

We’re also clear that we want to use this opportunity to improve diversity in the tech sector – challenging the status quo, and using our collective energy to make a difference.

Hackney’s ambitious apprenticeship programme is well underway so we’ve been asked to lead the work on this strand. Apprenticeships are a key part of our workforce strategy – we know that in a market where digital skills are at a premium we need to work hard to attract the right candidates, and that growing our own talent is vital. It’s also a great way of bringing new ideas, energy and diverse experiences into our team.

The day after LOTI’s launch we held a kick-off workshop with 9 other London local authorities, the GLA and Government Digital Service, and the new Director of LOTI, Eddie Copeland.

Hackney’s approach

At Hackney we’re open about what we think has helped us make a success of our apprentice programme so far and also about the challenges we’ve faced. We shared that story with the room, starting with our apprentices’ experience of joining our team and beginning their studies. We then asked people to share with each other the things they are working on, details of any barriers they’re facing, and the ambitions they have to create apprenticeship opportunities for people in their boroughs.

That’s given us a really good insight into where we should focus our efforts next. The priorities we’ll be working on include:

  • Sharing our knowledge and skills
  • Collaborating on specific issues, such as navigating the apprenticeship standards and procuring training providers
  • Building momentum by helping and supporting each other when we’re faced with a ‘you can’t’

We will also need to decide how we’ll collaborate when we’re back in our home councils. We’re a large-ish and diverse groups of people, and our various organisations almost certainly use different collaboration tools. So we’ll be giving some thought to how we can best grow this network, share our knowledge, and work with the core LOTI team as they get started and see how we can foster easy collaboration between us.

Working in partnership with suppliers

We hosted a small, open breakfast event for suppliers as part of the Hackney fringe for London Tech Week to discover how we can make HackIT a great place to do business. Hackney Council has a clear commitment to in-sourcing and it’s important we get value for money from commercial organisations and have clear accountability in contracts. So why the breakfast?

We can make things better for residents if we do the best possible work in the most efficient way. We’ve put a strong emphasis on partnering with small businesses to help us learn new skills and adopt new ways of working. Working with a range of businesses gives us access to the best talent and a diversity of experiences and skills. Many of these businesses are local and we can use procurement to encourage them to provide job and training opportunities for our local residents. If we make it more costly to do business in Hackney, then ultimately that cost will be passed on to residents.

Today’s breakfast was targeted at businesses we’ve not yet worked with, or not worked with as often. We want to ensure that the best people want to work with us and show that working with Hackney Council could be rewarding. But we also wanted to test our thinking so that we avoid unintentionally excluding some suppliers from our procurements. Sometimes it can be more efficient to have a standard way of doing things but if you are too specific, you increase the barriers to working with new suppliers which narrows the advice you receive.

We focused the discussion on two topics: How we buy things, and How we create opportunities. It was reassuring to hear that attendees felt that we are right to use the government’s Digital Marketplace by default. It is cheap for suppliers to participate and the marketplace is refreshed frequently.

Our standards

We had a useful discussion about how we see Service Standard assessments. It’s a key frame of reference for the ability of the supplier and event in our project lifecycle. We could do more to show that we’re aligning to the government Service Standard and that they aren’t conducted as a confrontational gateway but as an honest assessment of what’s been done and what needs to be done next.

We’ll consider how we can provide reassurance to suppliers about how and why we conduct Service Standard Assessments. We’ll also explore how we might engage our supplier community more broadly in assessments


We discussed the balance between user research and service design, and development. Our experience has been that an agency tends to be better at one than the other but both are key enablers of delivering the right solution for residents. But we’re also interested in how behavioural science, ethnography, data science and devops can add new disciplines and perspectives on our challenges.

We’ll consider how we can reflect when we believe a team needs a blend of skills or when a task is better-suited to a stronger design or development skillset.


We had feedback from a couple of agencies that had worked with us that we face challenges ensuring that our own staff are sufficiently focused on the project. We know this is an important issue for the team, too. We explored how agencies manage these tensions – and we could learn more still rom software suppliers who manage bugs and incidents alongside software improvements.

We’ll explore how we can ensure we’re providing the right team with sufficient time to make projects successful.

Early thinking

We then explored how we create opportunities, shared our current approach and discussed what more we could do. We built our projects pipeline in the open in response to a previous supplier event so we wanted to know whether we’d made progress. The reassuring news was that nobody else was doing it better. But it was evident that we could be more open in order to learn more from suppliers. We explored whether an ideas wall would help suppliers spot forthcoming plans and whether service mapping would help suppliers tell us about components that might accelerate our plans.

We’ll experiment with different ways to share early-stage ideas so that suppliers can plan for forthcoming procurements and share what they know.

The breakfast was a sufficiently useful event that it re-doubled our commitment to holding these more frequently. We’ve got bold aspirations and sometimes we’ll fall short, so it’s important to be challenged by suppliers in a non-competitive environment. We’ve made some good progress, and helped demonstrate that Hackney is a rewarding place to do business. But there’s more to be done.

Recruitment open evening – 12 June

We are inviting you to our HackIT offices on Mare Street for an opportunity to meet some of the people that work in the Delivery, Development, Digital, Data and Insight and Infrastructure teams.

There will be good chats, tasty nibbles and lots of excitement to take away. If you’d like to learn more about working with us, are thinking about a switch to the public sector or just want a faster commute, pop along next Wednesday. 

We will host 3 separate kickoff times, though you are welcome to hangout for as long as you want. The first will be at 4pm then 5pm and 6pm.

If you would like a more informal chat we will be heading to The Old Ship on Mare Street from 7pm and it would be great to see you there.

Register on Eventbrite

Please contact if you have any questions.