Transforming Print & Post Weeknote 9th July 2020

Weeknote 4 of 6 is here! If you missed last weeks, don’t worry, it’s still around for your entertainment and information.

TL:DR Version

We designed our ‘To-Be’ service blueprint and sanity checked it with users. No one recoiled in horror at our idea and it was actually pretty well received but we need to think more about very short turn around printing needs and how that is best fulfilled. We gathered feedback ready to make recommendations for when the implementation of the service gets underway.

Thanks to those who attended our show and tell on Thursday afternoon. There was a lot of information in it so please feel free to watch the Sprint 2 Show & Tell Video Recording and access the slides (and links to bigger images) of our work. Thank you again SO MUCH to everyone who has given up their time to participate in research and testing on this project We appreciate you!

Next week is the start of our final sprint where we need to design the ‘plumbing’ that will deliver our user experience. It’s going to be exciting but intense.

The Long Read

This week our focus has been on design & test. We spent Monday and Tuesday immersed in working out what our ‘To Be’ service blueprint could look like in order to meet our prioritised user needs. We did this over a series of sessions with the team and focussed very much on what the user experience would be like rather than what providers might be able to deliver the service we want our users to have (that will come later)

We also focussed predominantly on the outgoing post and print user experience as outgoing print and post is approximately five times more volume than incoming.

We ended up with an idea of a ‘One Stop Shop’ for printing and posting that allows you to request print, print and post or post services all from one place.

User goes to the intranet (or to a web address) to make a print & post request or to find out more information. Depending of what they chose, users will be directed to the different sections. Let’s choose the first option.Print Options: Upload files, Job Nam, Quantity, Pages, Job Specifications, and so on. Cost is automatically calculated, users can save and come back later to finish the request.
A little look at the idea. See the full scenarios for more details

Once we had what the team considered a viable offer, we took it to users. Our testing consisted of a walkthrough of key features and scenario based examples. It went well and our ‘One Stop Shop’ idea was well received.

We plan to get further feedback next sprint by running a 1 hour session when interested parties can attend for a more details walkthrough than we gave in the show and tell. If you would like to attend this, please drop Emma an email.

The main concern in feedback was that the service didn’t meet the needs of immediate and ad-hoc need for printing e.g.

I have a meeting in 5 minutes and I’ve totally forgotten to print the minutes!

This is tricky for us as, arguably, our service should not be designed to fulfil that need but, where do you draw the line? If you need something in an hour or 2 should our service support it or should that need be met by some other function (e.g. the multi-functional devices in Hackney campuses or maybe just not printing the minutes at all and using an electronic alternative)?

We will be thinking about this in more depth and talking with other print related project teams in Hackney during our final sprint to make sure that, if we aren’t responsible for this need, that someone else is and that it is being fulfilled because it’s definitely a need!

We held our show & tell which was packed with a lot of work. We recorded it so that those who couldn’t attend can still see what we’ve done (and view the slides).

Our final activity of the week was our sprint retrospective. I did one of my favourite retrospectives activities every during the session called ‘The Worst We Could Do’. During this you imagine what you could do to ensure the next sprint is a failure. It’s a great way to get your team to focus on what best practises are and how they should be working. It’s also a great way to generate a list of ‘warning’ style behaviours so that you can catch any derailing nice and early. Here’s what we thought we could do to ruin the last iteration for ourselves.

a screen shot of terrible ideas like never talkign to each other again and ignoring our users
I think we can all agree, the team doing this would fail…hard…..

Next week is the start of our final sprint where we need to design the ‘plumbing’ that will deliver our user experience. It’s going to be exciting but intense. We should enable us to answer some of the more complex questions around which edge case needs we can service and which will need something new/novel/different by the time were done as well as knowing how sustainable our service is and what we can measure as success.

Until then….wish us luck!

Amazon Connect weeknotes, w/e 10 July 2020

Early weeknotes this week, as I’m going to be off for a couple of weeks. My fab colleague Philippa will be looking after this project while I’m away, but I can’t guarantee she’ll be writing any weeknotes. 

As of this morning (Wednesday 8 July) our stats since the last weeknotes are:

  • 1669 calls were offered (that is, received by the system)
  • 432 calls were partially deflected (that is, the caller used the bot but still spoke to an agent)
  • 107 calls were fully deflected (that is, the caller only used the bot or payment line)
  • 250 callers used the balance option
  • 43 callers used the transactions option
  • But only 138 callers passed identification & verification 

This is a deflection rate of 32.3%, or 17.5% if you strip out callers who went straight to the payment line. The identification & verification pass rate is 47%.

There are a couple of factors in the increases here. Last Friday the council sent text messages to tenants advertising the automated service, and setting out how to use it – and this saw a significant increase in calls to the balance service on the rent line. However, we are still concerned about the number of people who are failing at the postcode part of the verification process. We’re thinking about how to improve this, but the first change will be to simply slow down the message very slightly to make it clearer.

We’ve also had some very useful data from the reason capture we started a few weeks ago. The single most common reason mapped is “pay my rent”; this is not the language we use for the payment line so we will change it soon to see if it makes a difference. 

The service assessment was last Friday. Normally a service assessment would only be done on a web-based service, but we wanted an independent assurance on the project, its approach, and its progress at this point in the proof of concept. It’s more of a conversation with feedback and suggestions than a test. We’ll have a full review when I return from leave, but there’s already some great feedback and improvements that we can try, should we roll out. 

Bridging the digital skills divide weeknote 07/07/20

30 second read

  • Our suite of how-to videos continues to grow, in direct proportion to our inability to listen back to our own voiceovers without cringing. 
  • We’ve made some adjustments to cater for ESOL residents, including how to translate a webpage into Latin. OK, not just Latin. 
  • We’re devising a digital confidence index to measure how savvy people are online. No, we don’t really get Houseparty either.
  • We welcome Lynn to help us out with the Digital buddies strand, and aim to make progress before School’s Out for Summer. 

3 minute read

Our digital skills strand is gaining momentum with a big push on both content and publicity. We’ve created a new ‘Getting online’ section on the website menu that pulls together three related pages. First is our Digital skills page for residents wanting to improve their online confidence; then the Creating a digital presence page that’s for organisations beefing up their e-marketing (part of the Find support services project); and finally Free internet and computer access to see where you can book a computer for free. The latter is less relevant with Council buildings still in lockdown but the principle remains!

It would also be great to get wi-fi hotspots on this as we know data costs (perceived or otherwise) are a concern for some.

Talk talk

As more and more learn about this project, Council staff and external organisations regularly get in touch to learn about what we’re up to, or to offer advice. Writing weeknotes is a departure for some areas of the Council but we’re certainly reaping the benefits of transparency if we’re getting the project on people’s radar.

We’re now designing bespoke marketing messages for our target audiences: that’s residents via the Hackney website homepage, Hackney CVS’ Lunch Clubs and Immediate Theatre’s new radio show; community navigators (e.g. social prescribers) via their newsletter and team meeting; and patients through the CCG & GP Confederation. We’re not going to stop there.

Parlez parlez

We had some great feedback on the Digital skills page from an English as a Second Language (ESOL) perspective. We know this is an issue for some in the borough, no less because we had reps from Hackney’s Chinese and Turkish communities at our workshop a couple of weeks ago. As a result, we’ve revisited some of our videos, delivering the voiceover more slowly and modifying the scripts into plainer English. These edits will reach beyond an ESOL audience.

We also:

  • Added a Get started video that includes how to pause and replay
  • Recorded a new video on how to translate a website 
  • Continue to include transcripts that can be used in conjunction with the visuals

We’ve already made lots of new friends on this project, including Newham New Deal Partnership. We’re pleased to include a link to their digital helpline on our Digital skills page too.

Marks out of 10

Winston strayed into our orbit this week via our shared work on Find support services. He’ll be coordinating user research on the effectiveness of our Digital skills content with older residents. As part of this, he’s also coming up with a digital skills index so we can gauge individuals’ improvement over time.

GDS developed a similar scale a while ago but it’s overcomplicated and needs updating. There seems to be an aversion to the use of brand names in Government that we need to get over. Nobody says ‘I’ll group chat you’; they say ‘I’ll WhatsApp you’. We have to speak plain English if we are to be understood. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok. Mailchimp. Houseparty. Spotify. LinkedIn. Slack. There, we said it. And not a four letter word among them. 

Winston, the gravitational pull is too strong. You’ll never leave us now!

On your marks

We also welcome Lynn to this project via the Redeployment scheme. Of all schemes, this is a favourite. She’d normally be on the final straight of the [sadly cancelled] London Youth Games as a member of the Sports Development team. However, its loss is our gain. Lynn’s going to be helping us out on the digital buddies strand, which will see Y11 students paired with older residents to help them get online. With her schools contacts, Lynn is straight off the blocks in helping us to secure a secondary school to pilot with. Next step is to start discussing how (and how quickly) we can get this off the ground before the bell rings.

That’s us for now. Remember to check out previous weeknotes and, with any luck, the email address we’ve just requested will be working by the time of writing so you can drop us a note to

Adios, amigos.

Benefits & Housing Needs Service Redesign Project – Sprint Notes 10: A Real Corker!

Zing, zing, zing! Once again, more and more ideas are being created and tested by the team. We also want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the service staff who are doing great work; constantly delivering amazing outcomes for residents especially with demand increasing. 

We have now been working ‘remotely’ for 4 months. A long time, it all seems normal now, but so weird not to see any of the teams faces. Our team has definitely felt pressures and a variety of emotions over the last few weeks. It is great to be surrounded by such a supportive team on this project, and even find time to have some fun! A bit of a different sprint note this week. (Don’t worry updates are still here!)

What have we learnt from working remotely?

Building, and sustaining, a team can be difficult when things go belly up. Most of the team were extremely used to working in offices; with people. Testing new things, workshopping ideas and collaborating on code and design. It has taken some adjusting too! 

We have learnt a few things ….:

  • Make sure you have easy communication channels to ask any questions or share progress
  • User Research is a whole new beast, especially when a service faces increased demand during a pandemic 
  • Ways of working it’s easy to change if you are open to it
  • ‘Fun’ can bring the team closer together

We are sure there are so many more we can list – and perhaps we will start going through them in our Sprint Notes moving forward; but first, fun!

What kind of fun are we having?

Not engaging in social interactions or activities can really take its toll. This applies in delivery teams as well. How can you work with someone you never really talk to? How do you get to know people over just meetings?

Forced fun, obviously. 

A few weeks ago we forced the team to have some fun through a ‘Team Challenge’, bringing the competition back into the mix. Involving a drawing competition, a completely ridiculous scavenger hunt, an excel masterpiece and a tie-breaker maze. As you can from the pictures, the team got pretty competitive. It was great to get to know people at a more social level, and continue to build those connections needed to deliver amazing work.

Of course, working remotely also means you can just wander over to someone and ask them random questions or spark off general thoughts. Interestingly… Developers and Designers don’t really get each other sometimes. Who knew?! A lot of questions and, maybe, misunderstanding occurred when we all jumped to working remotely. 

Running a ‘Lean Coffee’ can really help here. Why not just bring everyone together, get them to post their questions and then take turns as a group to discuss them for 3 – 5 minutes. Allowing everyone to learn at the same time from each other. These quick 30 minute sessions has allowed the team to understand what everyone does, and how they are currently doing it. Easy!

Now… onto the main event!

Understanding Vulnerability:

As you know we are working on building a bigger picture of the resident’s situation when they contact any part of the service. 

Last time we showed you some prototypes we are testing with the service. We learnt a lot about the best way to visualise the information, and we are now feeding this into a platform that the service uses every day. Bringing together our knowledge bank of resources and next steps to deliver the best outcomes for residents.

Although we have it ‘designed’ we now have to go build it and make sure it all works. So, what’s next?

  • Test the tool with staff: Does surfacing vulnerability and assets in Single View add value for staff and residents?
  • Build ‘suggested next steps’ based on vulnerabilities / assets
  • …and link the tool to the guidance for having quality conversations, and knowledge bank

Going to be a very exciting two weeks! 

Evidence Store:

What is an Evidence Store? If you are a follower of the Sprint Notes… you may remember something called the ‘Doc Upload’ Tool. That’s right, we have renamed it and are starting to build a much larger and more stable platform for residents and staff to use.

Introducing the Evidence Store… 

  • A simple, fast way for staff and customers to upload and manage evidence documents, improving efficiency and user experience.
  • Once uploaded, staff will have the ability to easily manage the documents and attach to a resident’s case.

So, why are we now creating the evidence store?

  • Currently evidence documents are stored in a number of different systems (UHW, Comino, Jigsaw) which leads to confusion about which documents are held for a customer.
  • Documents are often duplicated across multiple systems to try and solve the discoverability issue but this leads to more work for officers.
  • We believe that being able to store the documents in one place and to add and view them via Single View will mean that there is less duplication and that documents are easier to find.
  • We believe we will be able to prevent officers asking customers for documents we already have.

Naturally, we needed to start the work off with a discovery into the technology – making sure it is feasible that we can even do it! 

What is the plan then? Well… 

  • Go and build the reusable evidence store API!
  • Integrate it with the existing “customer document uploads” project
  • Add integration to Single View to improve the document upload experience for officers
  • Test and see if it adds value, then explore other places where it makes sense to integrate

Keep your eyes on this one – it is going to be spicy.

Self-service Tools

In case you have forgotten: How might we design interactive web-based tools for residents to help themselves, to reduce demand and save staff time?

Well, over the last month we have run a number of workshops with staff (yes, all remote!).  Working out where the gaps are in the self-service process and starting to imagine what tools may fill these. At the last Show & Share we got the service to vote on a number of ideas to help us prioritise what we should look at first.

The top 3 ideas:

  • Self-service Plan: with steps, links and resources for finding a private rental property
  • Automated SMS Reminders: to nudge residents along their self service journey
  • One bank of resources: for all the useful tools, links and services to share

All these ideas though, have many parts to them. So we want to try out some prototypes that could form parts of them. Like calculating what you can afford and finding a private rented property. 

Over the next sprint we will be testing these tools with staff. As well as testing designs with residents; working out what works for them. Looking forward to sharing back what we learn!

That’s all folks! Want to know more?

Here is the link to our most recent Show & Share Session 24/06/20.

Keep following our notes and posts, and feel free to get in touch with Claire or Scott if you’d like to chat through any of the work.

My Rent Account, Weeknote 03/07/20

If I had to use only four words to describe my first week on My Rent Account project, they would be challenges, unknowns, frustration, and… success!

Upon receiving the brief, I had understood the project to be a simple re-platforming exercise and assumed that the team was comfortable with the proposed solution and tools.

Monday began with our first planning meeting. Emma Harley recommended a wonderful ice-breaker exercise; Emily Webber’s ‘team manual’. This consists of 9 questions that when answered, provide insight into the best way for a team to work together. Once completed, we all had an idea of how we would like to communicate, the hours we worked, and the things we were likely to struggle with. To track our answers, we used Google Jamboard.

Now we were ready to begin PLANNING!

‘Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face’ – Mike Tyson

Unfortunately, the actual planning of the work itself wasn’t so straightforward. We faced three main challenges:

  1. Some backend support was needed, we only had front end developers dedicated to this project.
  2. No one on the team had worked with the existing platform ‘Outsystems’ before.
  3. The Hackney pattern library was creating more problems than it was solving

Fuijo Cho, Chairman of Toyota, famously described plans as ‘things that change’ and I’ve found that largely to be true. By focusing on the outcome rather than the output we began to see some real success. We switched from the Hackney pattern library to GDS which meant we were able to successfully set up a dev environment. By Friday we had delivered the MVP with working Log-in, view balance, and payment pages.

This wouldn’t have been possible without the team’s positive attitude and hard work.

Next Week

Building more of the additional features required. I’d also like to ensure Richard and Wayne are getting enough of an opportunity to learn from Luca our lead front end developer from Digi2al.