Manage a Tenancy Re-Platforming Weeknotes Week ending: 2019-11-15

Weeknotes are a way for us to keep people informed about progress on the project. Given the technical nature of the re-platforming work we will use them to explain technical choices that we are making, including the benefit and impact of these choices. 

Project goals

  • Enable housing officers to use MaT offline when there are mobile coverage blackspots
  • Enable Hackney to decommission Outsystems, saving £80,000 per year
  • Enable Hackney to support, develop and deploy future improvements to MaT more quickly, at lower cost

Sprint goals:

The goals for Sprint 2 are to:

  1. Finish putting everything in place to deploy code we’re working on. We’ll do this by setting up the cloud infrastructure and updating the pipeline. 
  2. Be able to demo how Tenancy and Household Check will work offline in a browser. We’ll do this by:
  • Rebuilding some of the process steps in React
  • Putting in place a simple API layer to demonstrate that we’re getting data out at the right points

Good things

User research and design. This aspect of the project is going really well. We’ve had good feedback from Housing Officers and we now have a clear scope that strikes the right balance between having a stable scope and improving the service. It is reassuring for the team to know that feedback from users is being fed into the project.

Backend work is in a good place. Technical decisions we’ve taken about the backend have reduced the amount of effort required, which we are very happy about. We’re happy with the database solution that we settled on, and the team are excited about the direction this work is taking. 

Clear sprint goals that we (largely) achieved. The team felt that the goals for the first sprint were clear, and we have done well at delivering nearly everything we set out to. We can still make this better, for example by breaking big tickets down more to improve visibility of what’s been done at any given time. 

Learned things

Areas of patchy connection. We were given a steer by housing officers on particular areas of Hackney where they experience poor signal. This will help us properly test the rebuild processes for offline working. 

Saving images to the cloud. We were hoping to reuse the API that the Manage Arrears project created for saving images to the cloud. Unfortunately it’s very specific for their project and is not something that we can reuse. We will need to create a new API to handle image saving and retrieval. 

Offline storage. We need an offline store in the browser, and settled on IndexedDB. We had a number of issues working around the fact that it’s not implemented in Node environments (where we do our development), so testing it was challenging. We worked it out and now have a relatively clean API for interacting with it that we can test outside of browsers.

Documenting TypeScript. We built some tooling around automatically documenting the frontend libraries using TypeDoc. This will save us a lot of time in the long run in documenting the code we’re writing, and ensuring it can be used by people who weren’t around for the writing of it.

Difficulties

Knowledge transfer (especially for the front-end work). One of our project goals is to enable Hackney to support, develop and deploy future improvements more quickly. It’s important that a Hackney front-end developer is involved during the project; bringing someone up to speed through only show and tells, or at the end of the project, will not give them enough context to successfully build new processes and maintain the current ones. The developers and Emma met to sync up on what we’ve been doing, which was really helpful. We’ll be doing these every week going forward.

Helping the team focus. The collaboration space is fantastic for bringing people together, but unfortunately it doesn’t always lend itself to doing focused development work. Noise levels can be quite high; to mitigate this we agreed that it’s ok for people to find a quieter space to work from when they really need to focus (although we’re still encouraging people to sit together as much as possible to keep the communication open. 

Managing scope and workload for the team. Achieving our goals means managing our scope carefully. But there is also a need to fix defects with the service. We’re exploring how we can address defects without affecting how we’re going to meet our commitment to deliver the replatforming work.

There are also new features that have been identified through Gill’s user research interactions with housing officers. These new features can be prioritised, along with our existing backlog, when the current round of work is complete. 

Involving the rest of Hackney. We had our first show and tell this week, and whilst it ran smoothly we would have liked more colleagues from HackIT and the Housing team to have joined us. We’re particularly keen to engage Area Housing Managers and Housing Officers as their feedback is valuable to the project. It will also help us better manage expectations and scope. We’re going to run Show and Tells from the buildings where the Housing team tend to be based; hopefully this will engage them more in what we’re doing.

Acknowledgements

  • Thank you to Emma for continuing to stay in the loop on the project as much as you can., given all the other things you have to focus on. 
  • Thanks to everyone else who worked on the project this week – Chris, David, F, Gill, Liudvikas, Lorraine, Mirela, Richard and Shweta  

What’s next

Next week we will be:

  • Continue adding components to the React component library.
  • Finish the last parts of the data-driven frontend that need to happen before we can start working on processes.
  • Starting to rebuild the Tenancy and Household check process so that it works offline. We’ll focus initially on the steps that will take the most effort to make offline work properly. 
  • Putting in place the backend infrastructure and plumbing, so that people can demo the Tenancy and Household Check via a browser. 

The following people will be working on the project:

  • Chris
  • David 
  • F (except Monday)
  • Gill
  • Liudvikas
  • Lorraine
  • Mirela (except Monday and Tuesday)
  • Richard
  • Shweta (except Monday and Tuesday)

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