Manage a Tenancy week-notes 2019-11-01

Week notes 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

The goal for this first sprint is to lay the technical foundations that will help us deliver the project successfully. This includes:

  • Setting up a deployment pipeline. This will allow us to release working code smoothly.
  • Building a data-driven front-end system. This will reduce the amount of effort required to build and improve processes.
  • Beginning to populate a react component library. This will allow us to reuse visual components when building processes, speeding up the process while also maintaining consistency in design.
  • Further defining how we deliver the project in the right way (this includes carrying out a privacy impact assessment, identifying priorities for the service assessment and agreeing what user testing we need). This will reduce the risk of us hitting pitfalls later on.  
  • Identifying a suitable database solution to store data recorded as part of MaT processes that will be flexible and extensible to accommodate the various data structures of the different processes. 

Good Things

  • We’ve started development work. We’re celebrating the fact that we have officially started sprinting and the re-platforming work has properly begun. 
  • Deployment Pipeline is going well. We’ve made a decision on what the minimum requirement is for a pipeline and this is now being implemented. We don’t think that the timeline for this will have a negative impact on the project.
  • We can incorporate some UX improvements. Many of the UX improvements identified by Gill can be put in place without the need to go through lots of user testing and iterating. This means we can safely make these changes in the time that dxw and Hackney have working together. There are some exceptions to this, particularly when it comes to screens or guidance that will help users work offline. These are important parts of the project, and we want to make sure that there is a good offline user experience, which will mean getting some user feedback.
  • We are making progress on identifying the best database (DB) solution for storing process information. We are looking into NoSQL databases, particularly document DBs. We’re looking at the costs involved and are testing different solutions with dummy data. We expect that documentDBs will be the right fit for MaT processes, as they do not have a predefined schema; this means that they can easily accommodate different data formats. We are also considering reporting when testing those solutions.
  • We are working well as a blended team. Team members are communicating well with each other. This is helped by the new co-working space that we have. 

Learned things

  • We need to make the project accessible to non-technical people, and we need to demonstrate progress quickly. Lorraine and David both gave us feedback on how to communicate what we’re doing in a way that will build trust with the Housing team. This feedback will help us frame things like Show and Tells in the right way. 
  • HackIT colleagues (Emma, Mirela, and Shweta) learned about the proposed approach for building data-driven front-ends. We agreed to build a library to be used by all processes (and beyond) to “orchestrate” the multipage form pattern they all follow.
  • Hackney is still deciding how to host the replatformed service. We have talked about possibly setting up a new AWS account (or an organizational unit within a “root” account), to increase confidence around deploying infrastructure and reducing the potential impact on other projects.

Difficulties

Most of the challenges we’re currently working through are about the same thing – people’s availability and capacity to deliver what we need. 

  • Shweta is leaving HackIT. We’re going to have a new developer joining the team at around the same time but it’s going to take a little while for them to come up to speed.
  • Front-end development skills are not currently widely held skill in Hackney Council. Emma is going to keep an eye on what we’re doing via sprint planning sessions and code reviews. Ideally she will be able to get involved in replatforming at least one process, so that she can become more familiar with React.  
  • We want to minimise the risk of any individual being a single point of failure. The way to mitigate this is by making sure our work and decisions are well documented and that people are empowered to make decisions. 

Acknowledgements

  • Thanks to Lorraine for helping us think about how we talk about progress in a way that will build trust with the Housing team. 
  • Thanks to Emma for joining sprint planning. We know how busy you are, so this is really appreciated.
  • Thanks to everyone else who worked on the project this week – Chris, David, F, Gill, Liudvikas, Mirela, Richard and Shweta  

What’s next

We’re going to continue laying the technical foundations, which will help us deliver the rest of the project at pace. Specifically we will:

  • Finish setting up an MVP continuous integration pipeline, for both the front-end and back-end work.
  • Finish building the outline of the data-driven front-end system.
  • Continue rebuilding the existing pattern library components in React, in a way that minimises future maintenance work.
  • Carry out the privacy impact assessment and capture what we think is important for the service assessment. 
  • Finalise which elements of the new Tenancy and Household check process can be implemented.
  • Finalise the user testing we expect to need; we’re keen to minimise the burden that this poses on Housing Officers but also want to make sure we get their feedback on the offline-specific elements. 
  • Define the database schema and get the backend ready.
  • Define what API endpoints we need to create the processes.

Next week the following people will be working on the project:

  • Chris
  • David (except for Monday)
  • F (except for Monday)
  • Gill
  • Liudvikas
  • Mirela
  • Richard
  • Shweta

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