Platform API weeknotes, 15 April 2020

What is it?

The platform API project is part of an effort to separate the end-user interfaces, business logic and data of the various databases used by Hackney Council to deliver services to residents. We will do this in a way that enables us to provide a better experience to residents and staff, make changes to how we deliver services more quickly and at a lower cost, and have a consistent version of the truth for our people and property data. 

Who’s working on it?

The team is

  • Rashmi Shetty – Product Owner
  • Darren McCormac – Delivery Manager
  • Mirela Georgieva, Humairaa Mulla, Ben Reynolds-Carr – Developers
  • Lisa Stidle – Data & Insight lead

We’ll be joined later by a team from Made Tech.

What have we done?

We started two weeks ago, initially looking at Leaseholder & Tenant data in the Universal Housing (UH) and CRM databases. We knew that there was a particular problem here: There are multiple sources of truth for the services that pull data from these sources, and there are multiple APIs doing similar duty. We were also aware of data quality issues – mostly multiple records for an individual, as the databases aren’t person-centric – which we hoped to resolve in some form. 

We made pretty good progress on understanding the UH database before Easter, especially on understanding how the UH and CRM databases interacted, and which fields were and were not updated when they synced. We identified some fields which would be of significant value and had started to work out identifiers to link records. 

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve decided to pivot the project. Over the last couple of months, HackIT has been working on a service called Single View, intended to give our staff all relevant information about a resident or household through one single interface. It’s currently being used by staff in Benefits & Housing Needs and it pulls a mix of fields from databases covering housing, council tax, and social care. 

We plan to rationalise the existing APIs and to pull in additional data relating to vulnerability to make a platform API that, for the moment, we’re calling the Resident Contact Information Platform API. During this pandemic, it’s not enough to deal only with particular people in a household on a formal basis (e.g. the person who pays the council tax, the person who holds a parking ticket). We need to know as much as possible about the household, so that we can work with anyone in it who needs our help and support. 

Bringing this data together will really help our officers using Single View, and it will benefit our most vulnerable residents. However, it must be done with care to protect residents’ privacy. 

We’ll be starting with the existing databases used by Single View, and adding information provided to us by residents using either Hackney’s Coronavirus support form or GOV.UK’s Shield form. We’ve set aside 1-2 weeks for discovery then will spend 3-4 weeks prototyping. The aim is not just to get something of immediate value to our staff and residents, but also to develop a repeatable framework for further platform APIs, which should make development faster and easier in future. 

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