Hackney Telephony Strategy Design approach

Hackney Telephony Strategy Design approach project is a short term piece of work looking to understand what Hackney needs from its telephony services by identifying a set of flexible requirements for a solution that meets those needs for the next 3 to 4 years. 



Following our first show and tell last week we have been taking on board the feedback received so we can finalise our outputs from the project. 

This week is our last week with the exception of show and tells which we will look to pull together and schedule in. We will also be dusting off our presentation skills so we can record the show and tell those who are keen to see what we have been up to. 

What we’ve been doing

As with last week this one has very much been about consolidation while taking on board feedback received. 

In support of this week have been finalising the cost model, closing out conversations around procurement options, documenting input into any future service assessment and  pulling together a structure for the next phase of the telephony procurement. 

Next Steps

We have two things remaining and that is to issue our final document for further review with Mathew and Rob, which will go out today, and as mentioned previously carry out a show and tell which we will do over the coming weeks.

Also, just a big thank you to everyone who has had input into this work, for our part we’ve really enjoyed talking to you all.



This week we have been focussing on pulling together our prototype deliverables ready for a round of challenge sessions prior to sharing our findings and recommendations wider. 

Focus has also increased on plotting the way through various procurement routes which I am sure as some of you will appreciate, while not exhaustive in which frameworks to use, how to structure the procurement can be a bit of a minefield. 

As the deliverables develop we are also looking at the next steps and plans for the next phase to support the required procurement activity over the coming months. You can read more on this below.

What we’ve been doing

We have been consolidating all of our research and analysis to ensure we meet the original ask in terms of providing those flexible requirements and a procurement document that stands up to onward challenge.

We very much see that challenge around ensuring a clear understanding of the market, a service that meets the needs of all its customers while ensuring costs are understood and modelled. No service can be delivered without thoughts turning to planning for the next phase and the skills that are needed to deliver both the change needed and an effective service once operational. 

JF has been back in force this week really getting under the covers of the most appropriate route to market not only looking internally at the most appropriate frameworks but also looking to understand how suppliers engage commercially with government. As the telephony service is made up of multiple smaller components understanding the approach to buying these, individually, as one whole or somewhere in between is key to shaping next steps. 

We have to say a big thank you to Steve and his team this week for pulling together information to help support cost modelling and comparisons. JF also has the task of consolidating the information we have so we can have productive conversations around the value of any new service when compared to the current one. 

Thanks to those we have spoken with over the last 6 weeks we have a clear view on where there is a need to bolster the service by ensuring the rights skills are in place. This is more around ensuring ownership sits in the right place as the Customer Service, Digital and Data teams continue to deliver transformational services while setting the teams up to manage any new service into the future. We have used the DDaT framework as the basis for these skills however we do acknowledge suppliers have a role to play in ensuring we have the right blend of skills when managing any service, this is feeding through into the requirements for the procurement activity. 

As you can appreciate, focus has been on analysis but this hasn’t taken away from working in the ways defined in the Google Venture design sprint. Sarah has been spending some time storyboarding and defining test criteria for the future service. Both of these are a visual way of looking at what the future service needs to deliver based on the user needs identified but also how these will be tested through market engagement and the procurement itself.  

Next Steps

We are coming toward the end of this piece of work now and really focussing on finishing the consolidation of research and analysis we have been carrying out into a coherent set of findings, recommendations and clear deliverables to support the procurement activity needed.  It’s been a fascinating piece of work which has enabled us to reach back into our networks to understand the market, speaking with suppliers and understanding current offerings and their associated pricing models. What we have really enjoyed though is speaking with you all which has allowed us to do all of the above. 

Next week we will be taking on board feedback and dealing with clarifications but also pulling together show and tells so we can play back our findings to a wider audience.

Thank you for taking time out to read our week notes again this week.



We have swapped Fran and Andy for both James D and James F this week who are enjoying some well deserved time off. This means focus has changed a little from market and cost analysis to looking at the service in conjunction with the Tech code of practice. 

Going hand in hand with the Tech code of Practice of course is the GDS service assessment. Sarah has been working through the service standard and starting to shape our findings to date around each of the points in the standard. 

As usual a big thank you to those who have taken time out to meet with us over the last few weeks. It has been great this week to pick up further on learnings of previous pilots along with platform view of the service both of which validating our thinking to date while taking on board feedback of our own to address.

Thank you Fran and Andy for the fresh pair of eyes this week too.

What we’ve been doing

I have struggled a little this week thinking on content for our weeknotes as application of the Tech code of practice and the service standard is something Hackney do regularly on your services so seems a little pointless explaining the nature of both of these.

However we thought we’d share some initial thoughts on 3 of the 12 points in the Tech Code of Practice in the context of telephony. 

Define User Needs and Make Better Use of Data both need to be considered from the different perspectives of internal and external users. In particular there are at least 3 user groups with differing needs – the citizens of Hackney communicating with the council, contact centre teams handling inbound queries and staff with general internal and external communication needs. Likewise the Data point in the code needs to be considered in the context of currently unmet needs for far greater insight into inbound call data and management information for the contact centres. But equally Telephony will be seen by citizens as part of a service experience that often requires them to repeatedly provide the same data. 

A simpler point in the code that Hackney have plenty of experience in is the requirement to Use Cloud First. However here we want to go further than ticking the box that says procured from GCloud and provided in a browser. We are developing the technical criteria for the strategy that will seek to dig into the underlying infrastructure of potenisal solutions to see whether they really are built for the internet and not simply traditional applications ported to virtual hosting. 

The main things that stand out in relation to the service standard at this stage as expected is the insights from research. 

I find myself wondering how GDS will respond to the nature of the research carried out to date, I suspect they may deem the scope a little narrow but by very design of the service it is the needs of the Council in meeting its obligations to its residents rather the it being a service for the residents that is the basis of the service here. In order to meet its obligations residents need to be able to call the council and not have to wrestle with complex call routing so this is something I will explore a little more next week.

We have derived over 300 user stories and 15 user needs, we will validate personas next week so through interviews as part of this work and having access to research carried out for previous pilots we have a good view of the user need.  It is so very clear from talking to you all that joining up the experience is critical as is defining and solving the whole problem, and of course not forgetting to make it simple, all of these are things that have over time potentially go by the wayside. If James F were here he would be telling me he is ‘on it’ and has it in hand having worked through the market choices but as you all know, what we do in alpha is key to how we start to test some of this…

Next Steps

Next week James2 are back from leave so back at full capacity we will close out cost analysis, Andy and Sarah will compare notes across the tech code of practice and service assessment and with input from other fresh eyes we will pull together a show and tell so we can share insights with those of you we haven’t been lucky enough to speak to.



– It has been an intense week having moved into full blown analysis mode, intense but fun, but more of that later. 

– We have carried out a number of interviews this week which as with all interviews to date have been informative, and continue to throw further insight into the current service and more importantly what is needed of any future service. 

In numbers:

Key themes identified so far:

What we’ve been doing

We are starting to form a set of recommendations following the sterling work both James F and James D have been carrying out on the market research. Hats off to you both for reviewing what is quite a broad market and narrowing this down to what is important to Hackney both technically, commercially and culturally. It’s clear that whilst the market can meet all of the user needs from a technical standpoint, the pricing landscape is complicated and in some cases less than transparent, particularly around volume and committed-use discounts. It’s good to see that the more open vendors have pricing available via APIs which is refreshing, as opposed to the normal “call us and we’ll give you a nice price” from the more traditional vendors.

We’ve also been looking at routes to market and have spoken to the Crown Commercial Service to see how best to access the market leaders via their frameworks, to ensure that procurement is as effective and straightforward as possible.

Sarah has analysed over 300 user stories and has made good progress on distilling these into a rounded set of user needs, which we will look to share once we have these validated over the coming days. These are very much based on the “How Might We” cards we have mentioned once or twice over the last few weeks. 

Ok, so maybe our idea of fun isn’t universal, but consolidating insights into something meaningful seems to work for us and it hopefully makes it more accessible for discussions around next steps towards procurement and technical activities. 

What has been really helpful this week is understanding more of the Hackney  experiences from some of the technology pilots (AWS Connect, Tawk) that have been carried out recently and ensuring the learnings from these are carried forward. We still have more of this to do next week (Google Voice) so looking forward to that. 

Next Steps

Both the market research and user needs analysis inform our focus for next week where Andy (welcome back) will assess against the tech code of practice and Sarah will (no doubt gladly) switch from looking at virtual stickies to understanding the customer journeys in a bit more detail and thinking ahead to service assessment criteria.

Our next steps have a slightly different focus if not still analysis based:  

  1. Documenting of user journeys 
  2. Tech code of practice assessment 
  3. Continue cost comparisons across the market

We haven’t made as much progress on getting our show and tell into as good a shape as we had hoped, I think we have all been carried away documenting our findings but will make sure this is higher on the priority list next week. We will also be in a better place to share more detail having carried out a couple of reviews of our insights to date.



– This week we find ourselves moving into the analysis phase as per our sprint plan. As expected this means we continue to interview the amazing teams across the council so thank you to those who have taken time out to meet with us.  

– Insights are shifting toward understanding the technology that supports current ways of working which in turn is helping James F to focus the market analysis he has under way. As you can appreciate the market has plenty of offerings to choose from, but increased insights is helping sort the wheat from the chaff. 

– Themes are emerging around the need for a user friendly contact centre solution, particularly around reporting, queue management, call flow along with better information available to staff receiving calls on who the caller is and any insight into whether there have been other interactions with the council to support a better experience for residents.

What we’ve been doing

We continue to update the ‘How might we…’ (HMW) cards as we write up each interview we have carried out. You can see some of the themes emerging looking at the Miro Design Sprint board where we are capturing key information. As mentioned last week we continue to validate these with those we have interviewed along with validating themes and priorities. 

Based on the interviews to date in line with the Google Venture Design sprints we have also started sketching out the problems that need solving, the breadth of the services that are involved along with wider considerations and constraints that need factoring in. Again, you can see these developing on the Miro Board.

A key element of the market research is not just the technology, but also the costs that best suit the needs of the council and represent the best value for money for residents.  Pricing models for both communication and Contact Centre systems, although some suppliers have these fully integrated as part of their offerings, fall into several models which you’ll recognise such as Pay-As-You-Go, Volume-Based, Committed Use, Per User or Per Seat, but we’re also exploring others such as “Freemium” where service providers are entirely free up to a certain level, which may offer opportunities for certain teams looking to explore a specific service without commitment and “Risk-Reward” which depends on the fulfillment of certain preset key performance indicators (KPIs) which may help for specific campaigns perhaps or or where set performance goals provide an incentive for the supplier. All of this will help inform the procurement activities and build a cost model where the council can test different pricing models alongside the technology offerings.

Analysis of technical documentation will help to iterate our initial Wardley map for telephony and dependent services. James D has been speaking with a number of HackIT teams over the last week as the mapping progresses. 

A large chunk of this Sprint has been spent on the write up and analysis of user needs and stories, there is a lot to work through based on the amount of information gathered from the interviews we have carried out so far. This will carry on into next week.

The next phase of the Google Venture Sprints is to start sketching solution options. This will very much be based on the outputs so far from analysis of the HMW card, the user needs Sarah is writing up, James Ds Wardley Maps and James Fs Market analysis. We are also looking forward to welcoming Andy B back from leave to benefit from his insights into the Tech Code of Practice. Fran is taking some well earned time off, but will be back with us soon so we can benefit from her wealth of data experience which has been a topic for a fair few of our interviews to date. 

Next Steps

Our next steps look very much how they did last week based on the focus of the focus of the two sprints:  

  1. conclude research interviews
  2. analyse pain points and user needs
  3. complete Wardley mapping
  4. complete initial market testing and analysis

This project so far has taken time to get a detailed understanding of current solutions, how the council uses them now, but also how it would like to use them in the future. 

Our analysis remains ongoing, but with additional focus on documentation next week. James Fs insights document is starting to take shape, this now needs enriching with cost information. Sarah needs to finalise the write up of the user needs and with the sharing of tech documents the Wardley Maps will come into their own. 

Our minds are starting to move toward our first show and tell and we have seen great examples through other HackIT weeknotes on how to share current progress more widely, Watch this space for updates on this in our next weeknotes.



– We have continued to meet with the committed, amazing teams across the council during the second of our research sprints. Focus this week has shifted more toward understanding the back office functions and how they interact with the current telephony services. 

– Again, we continue to gain more insight into the current ways of working that have developed over time and more recently with changes in working arrangements, but also on what works well and what doesn’t. 

– Themes are emerging around pain points such as poor call quality and some key needs, particularly where there are safeguarding and sensitive services to consider. These are informing our approach to market analysis, but also building a solid set of requirements and user needs for the future service.

What we’ve been doing

We are updating the ‘How might we…’ (HMW) cards as we write up each interview we have carried out. You can see some of the themes emerging looking at the Miro Design Sprint board where we are capturing key information. Visualising information in this way make it easier to spot themes and understand how these link to the pain points and user needs that we will be writing up over the next two sprints, and we will publish this for all to see on next weeks update once those we’ve interviewed have had a chance to validate the HMWs.

Based on the emerging themes James F has started work on a review and analysis of the market. This includes not only looking at the technology currently used by the council, but also getting a sense of how the various services offered by the market not just meet the needs of the council, but are also aligned with its approach. So, for example are they open and transparent about their APIs and SDKs in terms of their technical documentation, is their pricing clear or opaque, do they have a clear technology roadmap that Hackney can understand in relation to its own ambitions as to whether it’s aligned with initiatives such as the “single view” and API platform?

Ongoing analysis of technical documentation is helping to create Wardely maps for telephony and dependent services. There is more work to be done here over the next couple of sprints so look out for links over the next couple of weeks on this and contact from James D.. 

The next phase of the Google Venture Sprints is to start sketching and validate priorities. The sketches are emerging from the research carried out and based on an increasing understanding of the current issues along with the ‘How might we…’cards. Developing the sketches is a focus for our next sprint, which we’ll publish onto the Miro board next week for all to see how these are progressing.

Next Steps

In the coming week we are moving into a two week analysis phase where we will:

  1. conclude research interviews
  2. analyse pain points and user needs
  3. complete Wardley mapping
  4. complete initial market testing and analysis

This project so far has taken time to understand lessons from the recent onboarding of the FAST team onto Puzzel, we will continue to understand how this is going over the coming weeks to ensure any insights from emerging data is captured and fed into the approach.

Through more focussed research this week we now have a better understanding on how the back office interacts with telephony and call centre services which in turn is giving us a much richer view on the needs of any solution of the future. 

We also have an increased awareness of the many varied ways the teams adopt and use the current telephony and call centre services. This not only highlights the needs for in house configuration but the varied user needs the service must meet.



The project has been set the challenge of solving  the following problems:

  1. Cost of ownership; 
  2. Reliability and call quality; 
  3. Self service and levels of automation; 
  4. Support remote and field workers; 
  5. Efficient end to end customer journeys
  6. Understand the skills needed in house to manage and maintain the service

The success criteria defined as:

  1. An objective assessment against the Technology code of practice;
  2. A model for understanding the costs associated with the recommended approach;
  3. An analysis of the skills required to maximise the recommended approach.

The team consists of James Findlay, Sarah Taylor, Fran Bennett, James Duncan and Andy Beale.

We have been working with representation from ICT, Back office and Customer Service, Data and Digital in our first week and it has been a joy so far. So a big thank you to Steve, Cate, Jim, Kelly, Lorraine, Nicola, Adbul, Rashmi, Beverley, Monsur and Joseph for their help so far this week. Not forgetting a big thank you in advance to those we are looking forward to meeting with next week.

How we started

We are taking a Google Design Sprint approach as the basis for our discovery, but modified it a bit to account for people’s time and remote working situation.

We have spent our first week by having conversations with key stakeholders (“Ask the Experts”), learning more about how the existing telephone services work (Mobile, Cloudya, Netcall & Puzzel), what their issues and concerns are, and what they’d like to be different. These conversations are being themed and the forward look is being captured as “How might we…” to help us theme ideas and help make a decision about areas we can focus on for the future of “telephony” at Hackney. (You’ll see this on the Miro Board next week once we’ve had some more conversations).

We have also started a literature review to help our understanding of the current tech, commercial and user needs landscape, so that we can build a picture of baseline costs, user experience, current/future customer journey, and how to support building internal capability for the future.

What we have found so far:

There are amazing, committed people working at Hackney (we’re not just saying that, it’s been a brilliant start to the engagement, which isn’t always the case #justsaying !). 

There are some frustrations around existing telephony services, but we’ve been given positive and practical views on how to help move to a better place. Specifically there needs to be greater flexibility for managers and staff to update workflow, see real time information and run reports that help everyone improve the service for all. Also, it’s clear that the usual Voice over IP pros and cons are being seen i.e. good scalability, but sometimes poor quality calls as some examples.

The API platform Hackney has built is best practice and it’s a joy to see this work progressing in an open way. We see this as a key area for us to explore as we look towards future communications services and the vision for a “single view Hackney” and what key requirements the market review will need to include.

Next Steps

We are continuing to meet with key stakeholders along with working to get an understanding of the technical dependencies to support Wardley Mapping value chain analysis. This will mean getting into some more technical detail around both the supplier’s and Hackney technology stacks.

Another key activity for next week is to look at recent project activity along with reviewing services that have recently transitioned to Puzzel to ensure the learnings from these projects are fed into the wider review currently under way.

We will also be spending some time mapping the customer journeys and identifying a number of prototypes to test over the coming weeks.

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