Virtual Council Meetings: Weeknote, w/c 11.05.2020

Man tapping a microphone to test that is it working

Testing, testing, testing…

We’ve been doing lots of live stream testing. So where are we:

  • We’re (also) comfortable* with our choice of software (we’re using the free version of Stage 10 to provide the live feed to the YouTube channel)
  • We’re getting better at managing the stream health and have significantly reduced the number of warning messages by making small tweaks to the set up and execution
  • A smooth start to live stream is hard to achieve – it’s a bit lumpy at the moment
  • Officers and Councillors are getting used to the idea of being live streamed, even though this a bit daunting
  • Camera and microphone etiquette has improved considerably since our first round of meetings

We live streamed the joint meeting of the scrutiny panel and Living in Hackney commission on Wednesday evening. Concurrent views peaked at 19 and there was an average viewing time of 25 minutes. We will be tracking engagement over the next few weeks to see what we can learn about user behaviour. 

Our biggest challenge is how to make the live stream sustainable. There are 16 statutory meetings scheduled in June and this will require a considerable amount of support from ICT. We’re standing up a small team of live streamers who will work on a rota to provide tech support to the meetings. We’ll be monitoring this carefully. 

The schedule of committee meetings continues apace. Councillors and officers are finding their feet with the new protocols and the extra things they need to do to ensure meetings run smoothly. It’s not perfect yet, we’re still stumbling over a few things. Sometimes, this is about practice, but it could be that some of our assumptions weren’t quite right and we might need to make some changes. That’s OK, we’re starting to deliver at scale now which is a whole new learning curve. 

I continue to be impressed and grateful for my colleagues in governance and scrutiny. They meet challenges with patience and good humour. They are learning new things while concurrently supporting Councillors to do the same. Not many of us could pull that off.

Next week, we’ll be de-briefing (retro in agile speak) the team for the licensing sub committee to help improve the overall delivery of committee and commission meetings. We’re stepping up our preparation for the meetings in June and a period of “beta testing” designed to shift this work into something that looks and feels like business as usual. 

*Upload speeds are still a consideration

Asbestos project – week note 15/05/20

This project is continuing to come up to speed nicely. This week we’ve been doing the following.

  • Speaking to shineVision (the providers of our new asbestos management system Shine) about the capabilities of their product
  • Working with our current provider and our new one to ensure everything is going well for our data migration from one system to the other
  • Finalising the work with HackIT’s Service Desk and Apps Support teams for Shine to supported by them
  • Starting to build our user research panel from the diverse teams in the council who need to be aware of asbestos issues
  • Spoken to colleagues in Corporate Property about their migration from their existing system to Shine
  • Created an initial draft timeline for the project (very early, likely to change substantially)

In the coming week we plan to do the following.

  • Create a first draft of user needs to be confirmed by our wide array of stakeholders
  • Complete the list of our wider interested parties group so we can make sure that everyone who needs to be is informed about the status of the project
  • Speak to staff at Westminster Council who are already using Shine to manage asbestos in their borough
  • Start planning in regular show and tells

If your work for Hackney and are interested in being part of the asbestos discussion please drop me an email. If you work outside the council have an interested in asbestos put a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you.

Benefits & Housing Needs Service Redesign Project – Sprint Notes 7: Truly Engaging Work

So firstly something to shout about (well, tweet about) – The attendance at the Show & Share session on 29/04/20 was over 100 people. It also included 6 Benefits & Housing Needs Officers talking about their experiences of using the new tools. This is an awesome achievement, and clearly illustrates the level of engagement from the Benefits & Housing Needs Service. 

If you missed it you can catch up here.

Over the moon to see 6 Officers update on progress to over 100 attendees

SMS Tool & Document Upload

As we highlighted in our last sprint notes, the SMS Tool has been rapidly scaled up in order to help officers communicate effectively with residents in the current environment. The headline stats are:

67 Officers have used the tool, 592 texts have been sent to 431 residents

Officer feedback has been positive, particularly highlighting the ease of using a desktop tool to send and access messages as an alternative to a phone. Also for making contact with residents who hadn’t responded to emails or telephone calls. Key areas that the tool is being used for: arranging appointments, prompting for information and providing addresses.

Testing of the new Document Upload prototype has begun! The tool allows a resident to take a picture of the required evidence and share it with the service. Information uploaded by residents in testing has included Universal Credit documents and medical information. Initial feedback has highlighted the speed of response by customers as a key advantage of the tool.

Information and Evidence & Single View

We are very happy to advise that the new website pages and waiting time tool are now live on our website. The waiting time tool (which estimates the minimum time a customer will spend waiting for social housing via the Housing Register) will be used to inform conversations with residents about their housing options. Going forward we will be monitoring feedback received through our website and adapting the pages accordingly.

“If I hadn’t seen how long the wait time was I would have continued to bid and see bidding as my only option” – Resident, after using the waiting time calculator

One small step for the Single View crew has resulted in a giant leap for the B&HN Service  this sprint, by successfully incorporating documents from Jigsaw. This now means that staff across the service can view documents and information from all five of our main systems in one place. This enables staff to quickly access key information about a resident from one place, so they can provide them with effective advice.  

Shared Plan & Understanding Vulnerability

The focus for Shared Plan in this sprint has been on testing with officers. In one example, two officers collaborated on a Shared Plan to assist someone with finding private rented sector accommodation. A Housing Advice Officer and a Housing Supply Officer both contributed to the plan along with the resident. The plan included actions for each person and took 15 to 20 minutes to build and agree steps. The plan was shared with the resident via the SMS tool. It’s exciting to see how all these component parts can start working together!

A live Shared Plan created by two officers and shared with a resident

Feedback from the officers highlighted how it was much easier to keep track of progress without emails getting lost. The focus for the Shared Plan going forward is on further testing with customers who are in emergency accommodation as part of the COVID19 response with a view to live scaling.

The work on understanding vulnerability has currently been paused to allow the team time to pivot onto upscaling the SMS tool and prototyping Document Upload. However it is set to return with a bang in phase three, so watch this space.

Want to know more?

Here is the link to our most recent Show & Share Session 29/04/20. 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.

Platform API weeknotes, 13 May 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. 

What have we done?

We’ve had our first “proper” sprint, though it was only four days due to the bank holiday. We still got a lot done in that time, however. Our focus remained on building our foundations, and following the previous sprint’s workshops we had a number of tasks lined up and waiting. We wanted to test what we had agreed on the Mosaic social care database. 

The first thing was for Ben R to update our base template repo to use .NET Core 3.1, as pretty much everything depended on this. Mirela set up Terraform for the base API; Terraform is an infrastructure-as-code tool which allows us to create our infrastructure quickly and easily in AWS. She’s also used Terraform to automate setting up data migration. 

The developers had some more short workshops and discussions to agree rules on linting and testing style, which then led to work to set that up as part of our continuous integration process. We agreed to add a couple of tasks coming out of these discussions to the sprint – normally this is frowned upon in Scrum, but my take on things is “what works for this team in their circumstances”. If there is work we didn’t foresee during planning, we should take it on if we can, especially if it’ll unblock other work. 

We didn’t manage to start work on migrating the Mosaic data. The system owners, entirely properly, asked for additional information on what we were doing, and it took a couple of days to agree access to the data and the approach. On the positive side, we’ve done a lot of good work on data protection up front which we can reuse with other data sources, and the business areas are really interested in what we’re doing. 

Early sprints can often feel slow, with not a lot of work done, but in just seven working days I really do feel we’ve done a hell of a lot – this will really set us up to move quickly in the coming weeks. 

Delivering HackIT’s homeworking service – Devices Weeknote 3: w/c 04/05/20

speeding star trek GIF by GIPHY Studios Originals

The fourth is with me now as weeknotes finally catch up to being in real time. 

I’ve been struggling with having quite a painful ear infection which has left me with hearing loss in my right ear. This made me reflect that this work requires more people than just me and Sandeep to keep it going. If either of us became ill, it would operationally stop, and we need to make sure that doesn’t happen. However, an upside of this is I need Google Meet subtitles – which if anyone has used, knows it can only translate into Klingon. So, I *think* Henry is leading Starfleet into the Nebula of Aruba, but I’ll check before packing my snorkel and goggles. 

What we’re up to:

Device distribution! Thanks to David and Jackie for doing the distribution session on Tuesday. And to Henry and Paul for Thursday’s session. 

Henry worked with the Education Department and Health & Safety on how to deal with requests for accessories. This joined up approach will ensure accessories such as monitors, keyboards and mice are available to those who have a Health and Safety need and we’re continuing this work so our distribution process works together with theirs. We’ve now done what we need to do on this so waiting for their process to be finalised and we’re good to go! 

I was joined by Mustafa from security on an Anneka Rice (one for the 80s kids) style treasure hunt round the HSC. Many staff members had told us of spare devices they had in cupboards and lockers etc. With their consent we went to find them so we could redeploy them back. Clues included: 

‘In the low cupboard opposite the narrow walkway behind the 3rd chair in the North Wing, 4th floor, behind the pink pen pot, you’ll find a key…that key opens the draw on the 4th cupboard across in the third aisle…’ 

…you get the drift.  It took a while. There are some devices which aren’t in the HSC so we’re working out a way to get those back. Some are at people’s houses and some in other council buildings across Hackney. 

We’ve also started locating the Grab and Go devices! There are approx 750 out there and so we need to find out where they are. This isn’t to take them off people who need to use them, but we need to know who has them, properly asset record them, or retrieve them if they’re not being used. We sent out emails to those who were last logged into a Grab and Go (including me!) to let us know either way. We’ve had approx 400 responses so far. 

Our current devices stocks are depleting, and while requests have also decreased, we need to ensure we’ve got enough to support on an ongoing basis. We’ve now got Ali from Service Support who can help fix faulty devices, repurpose and enroll the Grab n Goes and help refurb any windows machines people have spare in the HSC or personal devices anyone can donate. Devices can break or start playing up and need replacing, so this is very much an ongoing service for the duration. 

We have a group mailbox! This means we can contact those who need to as part of the various device strands (distribution, Grab and Goes etc), rather than just my own email address- which was becoming rather overwhelming!  The whole team will have oversight so it doesn’t just sit with one person where nobody else has access, so the service operations and delivery process are more robust. 

What’s next: 

The process of collating the requests, allocating a new device or to triage a current device is a person process. We tried to automate it but feel it’s not possible with the exceptions needed. Coordinating all the operational bits takes a lot of time and energy and I’m in need of a break. So we’re looking at what possible options we have for someone else to join the project so this can be handed over and take a bit of the load. And I get to have some leave!  

We need to start understanding our stock levels better. A process needs to be developed and implemented. This’ll include understanding faulty devices, the Grab and Goes and the spare devices people tell us about. 

Time to reflect. It’s been eight weeks of ‘doing’ and we’ve had no real time to take stock and reflect on what we’ve achieved so far and see what we need to improve, why and how. We have a sense of these and Sandeep and I do discuss in our daily stand ups and adjust. But we really need to start doing this more robustly.  

I’m also keen to hear of/speak to other councils on if and how they’ve done something similar. I can’t find anything on Pipeline so if you know of or come across any, please do let me know! 

Live long and prosper.