Hackney Employment Opportunities – All the world is a stage

Digital Service Weeknotes W/e 26/06

“All the world is a stage and all the men and women are merely players.” 
(Opening line from William Shakespeare’s ‘As you like’.)

I remember having to memorise this sonnet during my younger years on a drama course in school. One takeaway I took from the experience was the amount of work that goes into a theatre production. From the endless hours of rehearsal, to planning the lighting and sound. Another element of theatre production that requires a huge amount of effort is set design and build. 

Now, this effort may vary depending on your budget however, the set design is a very important success factor in production and its impact on its audience. It’s the difference between immersing the audience into a completely new world or utter detachment from it. Needless to say, none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the production team’s relentless commitment to creating a set design true to the director’s vision. 

My early theatre experience, thanks to this drama course gave me a fond appreciation for theatre which I still have to this day. Until you have worked on a theatre production you can never really appreciate the amount of work that goes into these things. 

Shakespeare Othello.

Staging environments whether they are real or virtual require the same degree of effort and commitment to create the designed vision. Just like in theatre production the creation of a staging environment in the world of web development is extremely important, especially when migrating data. One good developer practice for website creation is by creating a virtual replica of the space you want to build which can sometimes be referred to as a ‘staging environment’. The developer team can add or remove things without breaking whatever is being used in the real space. This week we managed to successfully finish that process and achieve a mile stone. 

What we have achieved

This week we built a website and managed to overcome some of the technical issues we had regarding continuous integration. 

  • User-centric design | The way we have managed to achieve this is through the creation of the mini product owner. I believe this initiative is proving to be really helpful to the team as it is providing some valuable insight into some of the team’s processes and pain points. At the same time, the mini product owner is finding the process rewarding as they can see that they are truly adding value for which our team truly appreciates.
  • Set-up continuous integration | In order for our web build to truly make meaningful differences sometimes you need to push the boundaries of the current set up or design. To achieve this in a safe way we have chosen to replicate the current environment by building a staging environment. One of the challenges we have been experiencing whilst setting up our staging environment is being able to enable continuous deployment. This will allow for updates to our build to be automated and seamless instead of having to do this manually. You can read more about the benefits of continues integration within web builds here
  • Creating a vision statement for our project | This is something that the team has decided may be best done via conversations with different teams to establish common themes. Once we have those mapped out we will draft a statement that encapsulates them all and is aligned with our overarching vision. 

What has been challenging

  • We have had a very productive sprint. However, in saying that is has come with its fair share of challenges. Unfortunately, we are moving into the holiday season and although COVID has been pretty challenging on businesses as a whole. We have all been stretched so healthy breaks have been necessary. As a result, absences in teams happen causing a natural pause in the turnaround on receiving feedback from some of our inquires during testing or research sessions. This has resulted in natural delays in some tasks progress.

Next steps

  • Have onboarding session to CMS with content editors
  • Mapping out ‘as is’ Adult Learning user journey
  • Find out how and where we host the employability learning and training videos

Platform APIs weeknotes, 1 July 2020

Last week was (finally!) a bit quieter, but still really productive. The Housing API has proven to be a bit more tricky than we expected – oddly, given we know the underlying database so well – but it’s been a great learning experience for Humairaa and Bukky. We’re almost there and the code for both endpoints should be merged today, we expect. 

We’ve started work on the Resident Information platform API – you might notice a subtle difference in the name, as we’ve decided to make contact details (email and phone number) a layer, much like Resident Vulnerability. The infrastructure and database have been built, but we’ve paused work on the actual API for a sprint or so to work out things like linking of records. This needs a much wider discussion with a number of teams, and without the ability to link we don’t really have an API that is fit for purpose. 

We took the opportunity of a quieter week to do some tidying-up of the base API and to do a couple of investigations. We’ve decided not to pursue updates on the Academy database at this time, due to the sheer complexity of that work, which would be a project in itself. We do have a promising lead, but it’s on the back burner for now. Mirela has also written the Mini-Playbook on data migration, which we’re pleased to share with a wider audience. 

As it’s the end of the month, we’ve reviewed and updated our Roadmap. The big news here is that we are slightly ahead of where we expected to be (and slightly underspending on budget!). We’ve prioritised getting a simple integration of our new APIs with Single View, and to make it useful we’ve brought forward “Cautionary Alerts”. This is part of the housing system, alerting staff to any important information about a council property (such as “New Build” or “Dangerous Animal”). This isn’t currently offered in Single View and will be a big win for the staff who use it. We’re confident that we’ll have done this – and more – by the end of July. 

Finding Support Services Weeknote – 15/6/20-22-6/20

What’s been happening on the Find Support Services project over the last couple of weeks… in bullet-point form…

NOTE: There has been an overuse of the words ‘we’ and ‘are’ in this weeknote!

IT development

  • We are currently in the process of deciding on an IT supplier for further development work on the map – we will be looking to commence the work with them mid-July – exciting times ahead!
  • Last week we decided added a filter option to the map to make it easier for those using it to find what they are looking for, however, after testing we decided that it was confusing and have now decided to remove it from the map- we will be looking at ways to re-introduce this in a better way in the next few sprints.  


  • We are continuing to add organisations to the map with a total 131 to date, and are now going a step further by following these organisations on Twitter as a mutual way to share and update information. 
  • Keeping the momentum up with getting new VCSOs on the map. We are attending Hackney CVS’s Children, Young People, Maternity and Families network meeting on Thursday (thanks Kristine) 
  • We are also using Twitter to continue building a community of ‘good practice’ with those listed on the map. As part of this, we have introduced a new way to highlight the great work that voluntary and community organisations are doing to support Hackney residents during this difficult time. It’s called ‘Spotlight’ – see here!
  • As mentioned in our previous week-note, we have trialled different ways of contacting organisations as a way to confirm that their information is up to date. We started with ‘phone calls’ and had an 83% response rate, the following two weeks we used ’email’ and had a response rate of 30%. We decided to continue with another week of emails to compile more data and see if we have a consistent trend. Most organisations responded within 2 days and so on the 3rd day, we decided to send a reminder email – this increased responses by a further 10%. 
  • This week we will be trialling Twitter. Twitter was not the preferred method of communication for any of the organisations, and there are a number of organisations on the map that do not hold a Twitter account. However, we are going to try it with a small group to see what we get back.
  • We are continuing our work around understanding how we can engage those harder to reach groups, and have recently been able to add an additional three organisations to the map who cater to the Orthodox Jewish community. There is still a way to go with this, but we are hopeful this will increase in the near future. 

Marketing and Communications

  • We are working with the Integrated Care Systems Comms & Engagement Leads to ensure the map is part of the COVID-19 recovery communications strategy (rather than develop our own!) 
  • We are in the process of designing leaflets that provide Find Support Services information for volunteers to pass on to residents when running errands for them (e.g. dropping off prescriptions). We hope this will drive further traffic to the map and get residents the support they need. 
  • Finally we are exploring how and if Find Support Services could be the go-to directory of service within the Council (instead of iCare, for example). Discussions have commenced with Adult Social Care but there are a lot of considerations for us to work through (including ensuring it meets the Health and Social Care Act). Watch this space. 

Delivering HackIT’s homeworking service – Devices: weeknote 6 w/c 15/06/20 & 22/06/20

fetch just right GIF by VARTA Automotive
This spanner is more important than it looks.

What appears to be true to form, I said something, started planning, and then a big spanner came and threw itself into the middle of it all. Details of said spanner is at the end, but for now:

A significant development is we now have an official devices team! Colin, Mons and Paul have changed the way in which support is delivered and this meant we now have four dedicated members of a devices team. Anwar is now devices lead within service support and with Ali , Shakti and Zaf they’ll carry on as the devices team once this project ends (which I’m hoping won’t be quite yet as I’m still loving the team!)

As this project didn’t start in a traditional style and evolved from something set up in a unprecedented crisis, now we have a team, I’m keen to ensure we start to work in a more agile way. We have been working in sprints with planning sessions and we have daily stand ups and work from Trello and suchlike, there’s a lot of elements still missing and I’m keen to get these in place. Some of the team have never worked in this way before so I want to make sure they feel comfortable and will enjoy this way of working.

But the spanner came and knocked it out of our dairies. This is quite frustrating, but the team has been great at understanding and we’ll pick it up again in a couple of weeks.

The other significant development is: we’re now out of Chromebooks for staff. Henry is now working on possibly freeing up Chromebox bundles from the HSC to offer staff to use at home insead. This may take a week or so to organize. We do still the refurbished Linux and we ensure staff are aware of the Chromebook situation before requesting.

Asset Management:

We’ve been cracking ahead with this: We’ve got various processes tested and into the live asset register we didn’t have before: monitors, dongles, mobile handsets and SIMs.

We still have a lot more to move over however.

Understanding what our stock levels are, when and how we order things are proving to be something we keep stumbling on. Mainly because pulling together the eporcesses also require us to physically do something. This is to go through and log, tidy, organize and udneratsn everything that’s in Room 11. For those who don’t know, Room 11 is an aladdin’s cave of hardware, cables, boxes of stuff, wires, bits that stick onto other bits to make it fit another bit. It’s a bit of organised chaos in there, so it needs to be sorted out so we know where a thing physically goes so the process can be followed effectively.

This work was started and the team made brilliant headway with it. Then; Spanner. So, this will be resumed in a couple of weeks. It’s also given us something to test another process with: broken/unwanted equipment and how to dispose of it.

Mobile phones:

These are now rocking and rolling. We started to understand what needs to be done with mobile phone requests for weeks abcl. Many requests were from pre-covid days (remember those?) so we needed to whittle these down to see if they fitted the criteria of replacing a broken/faulty/lost/stolen/device and also produce step by step guidance for the team in dealing with these in the asset register. While it’ll be done by the devices team generally, this’ll help ensure this work can be picked up by anybody at any time as it’s now open and transparent across the whole support team.

We tested the process a couple of times on build, asset logging and deployment of the handsets and SIMs and this now works well and is live.

Grab and Gos:

From the 24 who said they didn’t need it anymore and we could have it back, only 20 responded to return requests and of those 10 said they still needed it or passed it onto someone else to use. 4 we didn’t get a response from adn 6 returned them.

We’ve locked the 4 we didn’t get a response form and nobody has rung to get them unlocked, which is interesting.

We also met with Richard Smith about how to approach doing some research with them to understand why they didn’t respond.

So, we’ll need to do another sweep of these to try and locate again.

The big piece of work with those who didn’t respond to our initial requests to tell us they had it, and we know they’re still using it, has now also met the spanner. So this work will need to be on hold for another couple of weeks.

The spanner:

The government announced back in April that it would provide laptops for disadvantaged children to catch up on school work they’ve missed due to the Covid 19 lockdown.

Hackney Learning Trust were given an allocation of 1580 laptops and 195 routers to distribute to vulnerable school children and care leavers across the borough. However they need help in the logistics of premises, accepting the delivery, allocating them to relevant recipients, batching up and distributing them all.

HLT were finally able to put an order in this past week and they are due to arrive next week.

This should take approx 2 weeks to deliver, hence we’re not able to carry on with the devices project work during that time. It’s a very important spanner.

The distribution sessions of devices and mobile phones will carry on though; Jackie, Ali and Zaf will be holding the helm while Sandeep, Anwar, Shakti and myself will be spanner juggling. 

Single View for Housing week note : 26/6/20

Before I get into what we’ve been up to this week a quick heads-up that the name of this project may be changing. We’ll definitely still be doing week notes every week so continue to tune in to find out what we’ve been up to.

Currently we’re wrapping up the week-long discovery for this project and are getting ready to run our kick-off sessions on Monday and then to start running our first agile sprint later in the week.

Our multidisciplinary team has come together brilliantly despite never having worked with each other before. Everyone’s contributed a ton of new ideas and fed back on what the rest of the ream have been doing.

Amongst other things we’ve done the following.

  • Validated our existing user needs with our excellent user group and added a few things we’d missed out
  • Built a great initial architecture plan
  • Put together our high-level “epic” tasks in our team’s joint-owned backlog
  • Agreed how we’ll fund the work and put together the related business cases, roadmaps and contracts

One of the things we’re really keen to discuss next week is how an all-remote team of people who don’t know each other can start to form an efficiently working team.

Things are gaining steam on this project! We’re starting our one-week discovery on Monday and our multidisciplinary team is already coming together. So far we have a very active Slack channel but there’s been some suggestions of other things we might try.

  • A shared place to record our semi-formed thoughts as we go along – perhaps in Ideaflip
  • A continuously open Google Meet room that the team can dip in and out of
  • Regular end-of-the-day meetings to talk about non-work things so we can get to know each other

If you have some suggestions of things you’ve done previously for this please let us know.

Onward to full project-start!