Finding support services near you (formerly Directory of services) weeknotes 24/01/20

It’s official, we’re moving towards a single source of reliable data on services.

We’ve begun to reimagine how the City and Hackney directory could work, starting with a fresh database (MiDoS) where information is stored.

Applying this approach means the data is stored independently from the front-ends that use it – meaning that, in the future, we can drive other user experiences from the same data set, without needing to duplicate work.

Has anyone else done it?

Yes. This is similar to what Transport for London does with its data, which led to innovations like Citymapper. Buckinghamshire County Council has adopted this approach and other Local Authorities/ Integrated Care Systems are beginning to follow suit. It’s the same logic that underlies GOV.UK Registers: durable, maintained open datasets that can be repurposed to solve many user-facing problems.

Over the next few weeks we will be providing a select group of organisations that operate in Well Street with logins to the MiDoS database (so they can view/ amend/ add to their data) and gather feedback that will help inform our next steps.

Hackney residents are surrounded by community and voluntary organisations that are ready and willing to help, but it can be hard to find them.

In conjunction with the Well Street Common Partnership Programme being led by Hackney CVS, we’re developing a simple website that aims to simplify this search for services, pulling information from the directory.

But let’s not get too excited… We need to know that community and voluntary organisations will keep their information up to date and that those searching trust the information that is there.

Over the next few weeks we will have something visual to share with you (pending our proposal getting approved by the IT Enabler Board on Monday so we have some £ to do it).

How do we TRUST the organisations who are on there?

We held a verification workshop with a range of colleagues (from Employment Advisors to Nurses) to understand what lengths they go to to ensure an organisation they refer to are the ‘real deal’.

Turns out it’s quite a lot. And it varies.

To summarise, there are a range of approaches to validate legal angles (are they who are say they are) and quality (are they any good?).

Our next step is to propose a verification approach for organisations that are/ want to be listed on the directory. Watch this space (or read the detailed findings here).

These weeknotes were originally written by team member Meg Dibb-Fuller

Hackney Spacebank: Weeknote, w/c 20.1.20

Peaks and Pits – or rather Pit and Peaks this week

This week’s week note takes inspiration from our Monday morning stand-up where each member of the team talks about their peaks and pits of the weekend- a nice way to get the week started.

‘Pit of the week’

Our sprint planning sessions have highlighted some holes in our user stories which we would like to resolve as a team, but, unfortunately, it has been proving impossible to get everyone together at the same time to work on this. Thankfully, Richard has managed to find some time with the majority of the team next week, so fingers crossed by Monday we’ll have those holes filled. 

‘Peaks’ of the week

Moving swiftly onto the peaks of this week which I am glad to say outweigh our pits! 

*Still acknowledging that our pits have, and continue to be, key to our learning and development of the project.*

Interim Payment Solution

We have developed an interim payment solution for libraries. As part of this work, we have created an email template which will be used by libraries to request payment. We have influenced as much of the wording on the interim payment solution as possible, which includes automated emails received by bookers and libraries staff. We have also developed a mechanism to get feedback from said users around the solution to help inform the development of our integrated payment system in the future. We await the green light from libraries, but we remain hopeful we will have this live by the end of next week. 

Community Halls 

On the Community Halls landing page, Eleanor and Junior have included a more comprehensive copy to give visitors all of the information they need to find out what our community halls service can provide for them including information on pricing, hall hire times, accessibility and facilities.

The enquiry form has been improved by employing best practice form design to offer a way to open a meaningful conversation between the service and the customer, allowing customers to have their questions answered and their needs met.

Overall, the project is progressing nicely and we are adding value every few weeks, doing small bits to help shape bigger work. 

‘Peaks and Pits’

Housing Data in the Cloud: weeknotes, w/c 20.01.2020

The Starship Enterprise – going to places no human has been before.

Sync – the final frontier

This sprint is all about moving data. We are testing our preferred migration tool and running some manual tests to see how our existing system* reacts when we try and introduce new data. 

We played with LEGO on Monday. Part team building, part therapy, part creativity. We split the team into two. Both groups built a bridge without seeing what the other group was building. Then they had to work out how to attach the bridges together. 

Mind the gap: getting our bridges to connect

Our LEGO bridge has become an analogy for our sync deliberations. We realised that we have to come at it from two directions: understanding what’s possible in our current reality (hence our manual tests) and articulating set a of high level principles for a future state. The latter we were able to break down further into “must haves” and “nice to haves”. 

This sets us up nicely for our collaboration with AWS starting next month. We will be working together on building setting up the migration, cleansing and transforming our sample data and syncing this back our existing database. 

In people news, Omar from infrastructure is joining our core team. This is great as he has expertise we’ve been missing. A crucial element of this project is about shared learning and making things repeatable. The knowledge we are rapidly accumulating about creating and maintaining cloud environments needs to sit across multiple teams. 

On that point, I’m thinking about how to visualise the learning curve of the team. I’m looking for ideas, feel free to point me towards resources or blogs in the comments section. 

*The system being the old house from my previous weeknote: “an old house which has had many occupants. Each occupant has added data, moved that data around, put it in different rooms, called it different things and used it to prop up the fabric of the building. The old house is weighed down with data, nobody can find what they are looking for and removing data risks a structural collapse.”

MOKRs weeknote – 2

Project vision

We have bold missions for how residents benefit from public services fit for the internet-era and we manage our work in small chunks so that we’re able to course-correct and we do that in a spirit consistent with our values. 

Goal for the week

Develop a clear process for how we’re going to develop our objectives so that managers can lead. 

Our users are..They need..We will..So that the Council will..and our residents will..
An objectives story

What we did

Matt Ballantine saved this week. His podcast on OKRs came at just the right time to give me the focus I needed. We’re using OKRs a bit differently with our missions doing the heavy work of setting the aspirational goal, but the lessons are still transferable. It was useful to hear that Google aim to meet 60% of their objectives whilst other companies aim at nearer 80%. It gives us confidence not to aim for 100%. 

I wanted to develop a formula for writing objectives which was as simple as a user story and, like a good user story, helped provoke a conversation about whether we’d understood the need, whether the activity fitted the need and the goal fitted the activity. 

I wouldn’t claim to have achieved something with the simplicity and elegance of a user story. But I had three opportunities to test the formula. A small group of us used it to test a way of expressing an objective for the Space Bank project. It provoked exactly the right sort of conversation and following that, I made a tweak to distinguish between how our residents and the council will benefit. 

The second opportunity was working with the leaders of our infrastructure team. Lindsay and Mal found the distinction in the ‘so that’ useful. It was particularly good to hear them say that they wanted to capture the benefits to residents as well as to the council and its staff. They also had a head-start on OKRs because they’ve thought really carefully about planning their work. They’re hoping we, as DMT, will help them decide what not to do so they can work at pace, better.   

I also had a good session with Tony in print. I’m really keen that MOKRs works as well for services orientated towards BAU as it does for project teams, so was pleased to have the chance. We identified 8 areas for potential objectives and Tony will now use the template to work with some of his team to frame these as objectives.    

Next week

I’ll be designing the workshop for team leads to come together and scrutinise the objectives. We’ll need to avoid the trap of covering ‘everything’ or doing so little in detail that some teams are short-changed. 

I hope to provide more direct support to teams as I did for infrastructure and print. 

And, if there’s time, I’d like to produce a prototype of the tool we’ll use to communicate our objectives to colleagues in other services. This may even slot in with the presentation I’m giving to housing senior management on Friday. 

ADVENTURES OF A DELIVERY MANAGER (Alpha) – New Year 2020

Confessions, Weaknesses & Resolutions.

New year, new me… I’m going to get better at documenting my projects this year.

It seems that New Year’s resolutions are almost passé these days. Everyone I’ve asked since coming back to work either isn’t doing one or refuses to do one because it’s probable that they won’t keep it for the whole year anyway. 

In some ways I get it… in some ways I don’t. 

It’s fair because it seems daft to embark on a journey that we have no confidence in completing at the point of setting out. On the other, it seems defeatist to deny ourselves an opportunity to set out on a path of self-improvement, as there must be at least a part of us that wants to improve to have entertained the thought in the first place.

That said, there is a trend that I have seen emerging, which is about setting intentions around improvement – some professional, some personal.

These intentions have been kinder (to self and others) and also less extreme, less definite and much more open to the realities of how life and work tend to flow. One example was the decision by one of my colleagues to simply eat meat less often.

No massive declaration.

No ego-led grandiose commitment.

No self-created pressure to deliver on an almost impossible overnight habit change.

This reminds me quite a lot about both Agile and my journey via “Adventures of a Delivery Manager”.

More conventional forms of Project Management have often jarred me through their rigidness and absolute declarations of the right way and the wrong way of doing things. As have static programmes of learning where there is the right way and the wrong way to learn.

If I look back on my journey over the past 18 weeks (yes, EIGHTEEN weeks), it has taken turns and twists that I could never have seen coming and I have learned my craft (so far), often in quite a topsy turvey nature – largely based on the needs at the time.

It’s also the challenges that have grown me the most. The things that, (had I meticulously planned my adventures), I would have written out of the plan and hoped dearly for them not to appear. But, having undertaken the journey with a set of themes and intentions as opposed to a rigid pathway, I have been able to make these challenges my friends and embraced them for the rich learning experiences that they have been.

So what about my ‘resolution’ for 2020?

I really like the idea of setting intentions. Albeit I don’t think we should wait for new years or even decades to make commitments for self improvement (although I do think the G+ community would probably grow tired quite quickly of ‘new day new me’ posts)… The break between Christmas and New Year does allow for a period of reflection. The down time also allows me to return refreshed and with my brain waves being in a more receptive state.

My general intention and principle has always been that I want to be a brilliant Delivery Manager, but it always serves to be specific and I was shown a weakness of mine early upon returning to work – so this seems like a good place to create a new, specific intention.

Upon returning to HackIT, we had a session where we talked about the concept of “Minimum Viable Documentation” for our projects.

I was excited for this session, because I had struggled to fully understand how and where we consistently document our projects and had experienced some challenges when inheriting a project from a departed colleague to understand properly what had happened before me. 


During the session however, as my colleagues were sharing their various methods for project documentation – it dawned on me that I really wasn’t doing such a good job on my own projects. Cate, our Head of Delivery, delicately suggested that there was a spectrum of strong to weak project documentation activity across the team and I knew that I was on the weak end of that spectrum. I was disappointed with myself, because I knew that if someone were to take over my project, they would be faced with largely the same problem that I had experienced.

Acknowledging weakness can be hard, especially when that weakness affects (or potentially affects) others. But equally, by acknowledging weakness it can be turned into a strength.

This is one of the things that I especially like about the safe space environment here at Hackney Council. Following that meeting, I felt both safe and empowered to approach Cate and ‘confess’ my shortcomings around product documentation.

Doing that wasn’t, however, an indulgence guilt admission. It was in fact an opportunity. It stands to reason that if Cate presented the concept of such a spectrum, then regardless of whether I was or wasn’t at the lower or bottom end of it, Cate would know who was at the top end of it. That was the purpose of the conversation. By openly sharing my weakness, I was able to seek help from a place of strength and Cate recommended that I speak with my fellow Delivery Manager Soraya, who (I can safely say), IS really rather good with project documentation. And who was also very willing to help!

The conversations, both with Cate and Soraya, enabled me to see that this is a need and a weakness that will require consistent work, to form a new habit. Documentation has always been hard for me – it’s one of the reasons that I was attracted to Agile in the first place, but that’s no excuse to pretend it isn’t important. However, they have kindly set me up on a path of self improvement in this area and I feel confident that the shortcoming is surmountable and that I am supported in my efforts to turn it around.

So my ‘intention’ for 2020, is to consistently put effort into project documentation, to get regular feedback and help and to get better at it across the year.

Here’s to 2020!

Ian