Improving Library Tech weeknotes w/e 10/01/20 and 17/01/20

We’ve had a couple of weeks of not being together as a team and in formal sprints as we’re still in the re-grouping stage, however this doesn’t mean no work has been happening. 

Tl;dr version: 


Staff PC work: 

  • I’ve been in a bit of a quote-a-thon with some suppliers due to Intel chip shortages.
  • Nigel has been a star in working with us to get the PCs delivered when they arrive.  
  • 12 week wait for delivery.  

Kiosk work: 

  • Rabbit hole of understanding the network design and how this can be done better due to other implications it has on public accessing sections of the Library Catalogue. 
  • Slow response from suppliers on possible card payment configuration options. 

Public PC work: 

  • Met with Ian Holland to help shape what this work’s priorities will be. 
  • Met with Richard Smith to discuss the first steps in getting the user research underway
  • Steve Addison gave us useful info on printer contacts and timerames and Eko was also able to give us lots of data on printer usage. 
  • Meeting with Margaret and James from libraries who are joining the project to explain what it’s about, how we work, priorities and objectives. 

Up next: 

Kiosk work:

  • Handover with Saeif in libraries of the Libraries Management System to Apps Management. 
  • Getting final information from suppliers in roder to make decisions on hardware and support contracts. 
  • Handover planning with Bibliothecha to understand kiosk fault reporting and current support contract agreements. 

Staff user research:

  • Show and Tell for Ian and Sue on this in the next couple of weeks. We will then present to ICT soon afterwards. 

Public PC work:

  • User research kick off meeting booked in next week with Richard and Thea 
  • Understanding more about the printers using data and finding out from other councils how they do this. 

Long read version: 

What we’ve done:

Henry and I met with Sue Comitti and Ian Holland, Head of Libraries, to really understand priorities, timeframes, issues, expectations and library staff involvement and input on the project. This was a really positive meeting and really helped us understand the full scope and also potential limitations, but allows us to navigate these better going forward.

Starting getting team members together: Sue will be sharing the Product Owner role with Margaret Sinn, libraries operations manager. James […] will be joining the team from libraries. These changes will hopefully mean they’ll have  more time and flexibility to offer the project as well as new insights. 

Staff PCs: It turns out there’s a worldwide shortage of Intel processing chips. Apparently, Intel can’t manufacture enough to meet demand which has left all suppliers out of/low on stock. This unfortunately has implications on the delivery of the remaining 39 PCs for the staff roll out: a 12 week wait. We looked into getting an alternative AMD processor, but Mario, Erdem and Nana concluded that as we hadn’t tested it, there wasn’t the confidence in it being able to perform the same and we’d have to retest. In addition, as everyone else in the PC ordering world had similar ideas, this has a knock on 4-6 week wait for AMD machines. After discussing with Sue, she decided we should go for Intel and wait ensuring the right machines are delivered for staff. 

Kiosk work: The suppliers have been staggeringly slow in giving us information we need to understand if we can have a card payment solution attached to these machines. This is utterly frustrating and really feels like we’re wading through treacle with this a bit now. It doesn’t help as there aren’t competitors we can leverage some get up and go ness from them with. 

Now down the rabbit hole: part of what we want to do is understand how the kiosks are networked and if this is the best solution. There is an issue with the functionality of some of the online library services on Hackney WiFi that we need to try and understand, but seems it’s linked to how it’s been networked. 

What we’re doing next

Kiosk work: Rasit is meeting with Saeief to understand the LMS more ready for handing it over from libraries to Apps support. This application has never been supported in ICT before, so any problem or issues with ti has always been resolved by libraries themselves, but in order to ensure consistency and better understanding, this will move into apps management portfolio. We need to understand it before we can support it though, and these are out=r first steps to doing this. 

Understanding why the kiosks are networked in the way they are, do they have to be and can we do this differently. This will enable us to manage the hardware better and also resolve the issue of library users not currently being able to access their library accounts. 

Meeting with the suppliers to establish a relationship with ICT in order to support the kiosks moving forward. We need to find out lots of information on them such as what faults are reported and how often; details of support contracts; how they support the hardware currently and how we’ll work together going forward. 

Staff user research: We did this just before Christmas and as yet not been able to plan and do a Show and Tell, but we’re going to present the findings back to Ian and Sue in the next couple of weeks. Once we’ve done that we’ll present it to ICT too.

Public PC work: We’ve got a session booked in with Richard and Thea to work out as a team what we want to be asking the public about PCs and printer services and how best to approach it.

Once the research has been done, we’ll be able to start working on users stores and success criteria. 

We’re gathering data about the printers to understand a bit more about usage that’ll be used to plan next steps. We’ll also be asking other libraries what their printing offer and solutions are.

Housing data in the cloud: weeknote, w/c 13.01.2020

A starry tunnel.
“Love tunnels, hate walls”

What happened last sprint

“Love tunnels, hate walls.” Profound words from Steve our data engineer, which neatly summarise our last sprint. Getting the VPN tunnel working was our biggest challenge and the majority of our work in the sprint depended on an operational VPN. 

On the positive side, our developers and infrastructure engineers did some excellent problem solving and we did get it working. We learnt a lot, shared knowledge between two teams and we are able to document what we’ve done to make it repeatable. We’re chipping away at professional silos and demonstrating that collaboration really does make the world a better place (cue some suitably cheesy ear worm). 

On the flipside, three quarters of our stories were blocked at the end of the sprint because of our prickly VPN problem. We understood that the VPN was a dependency when we planned our work, but we didn’t anticipate the degree to which it would hinder us. 

Our star of the sprint is Isaiah who worked long and late last Thursday to get the VPN tunnel working. 

What we’ve changed as a result

Omar, our colleague from the infrastructure team will be coming along to daily standups and sprint planning. We would love to steal him and bring him onto the project team, but that’s not possible at the moment.  

What’s happening this sprint

We are facing our biggest unknown – how to sync data back to our on prem database. We’ll be doing some in depth work on this with AWS in February. Ahead of time, we need to do our homework and make a decent stab of understanding the art of the possible. 

Even Doctor Who doesn’t have all the answers all the time.

This really plays to the strengths of the team. Collectively, we are comfortable with a high level of detail and enjoy tackling complexity. There’s a sense of anticipation about the sync bit of the puzzle. It’s the make or break of the hypothesis we’re testing. There’s a flurry of activity going on as I write. The team is preparing for a workshop on Monday afternoon. I’ll share the outcomes in my next weeknote.

Report a Problem Weeknotes : week ending: 2020-01-17

Weeknotes are a way for us to keep people informed about progress on the project.


  • It’s currently difficult for Hackney residents and visitors to the borough to report issues such as broken street lights, potholes, noise nuisance or fly tipping
  • To do so often requires knowledge of the inner workings of the council
  • Our current citizen reporting systems don’t integrate well to our back-end casework systems
  • Very few of the reporting mechanisms offer any explanation of the process or next steps tracking 


  • To enable Hackney residents and visitors to be able to use a single high quality digital service to report a variety of issues that the Council is responsible for solving
  • For our call centre staff to be able to use the system to record issues raised by citizens via phone calls
  • For these issues to be routed to the appropriate part of the Council
  • For a citizen reporter to be able to track the status of issues
  • For a citizen reporter to be automatically notified by changes of status
  • Through user research to demonstrate that citizens and staff are comfortable using the service
  • For the service to be integrated to back-end digital services
  • Being able to report on our overall and service area specific metrics


Things are definitely starting to fall into place. We have our first weekly project status call on Monday and there’s going to be lots to discuss.

We’ll be discussing the initial statement of work. We’re not fully planned out with what we want from FixMyStreet in Hackney so it’ll be interesting to see how we can firm up the initial pieces of work while leaving some flexibility for later in the year.

Discuss the initial integration work that’s already taking place. This is between FixMyStreet and our first back-end system Alloy.

We’ll be talking about planning in some service design workshops. We’re thinking about having different “start pages” for each of the reporting categories so that google can handle the issue of people using different words to mean the same thing. We’re also very keen to start designing how we’re going to collect information related to noise nuisance. We also need to have a discussion about if / how we’re going to support anonymous reporting.

We still need to come up with an overall service name. FixMyStreet doesn’t really work for us as many of the issues won’t be street-based. If you have any ideas let us know in the comments below.

Outside of the catch-up call there’s lots of other things going on.

We’ve been contacted by some senior staff in the Council. They have pointed us to particularly keen Hackney residents who may be interested in participating in user research for the project. It’ll be great to work closely with people who will be actively using the service.

We’re lining up the first conversation with our Contact Centre leads. We’re doing this to understand how we can train council front-line staff in how to use the service to report issues residents are phoning in about.


You need to make time. It should go without saying but with lots of projects in critical stages in HackIT it’s sometimes possible that projects that are going well get given less time! Something to be careful of.


We need to plan further ahead. We need to plan in at least a couple of service design workshop and may now have left it to late to hit the dates we’d originally planned. Always remember to get meeting planning done first!


Thanks to everyone who worked on the project this week – David D., David E., Louise W., Louise H, Matthew, Martin, Struan, Susan, Sandrine, Rasit and Wayne.


In the next week we will do the following.

  • Organise the PO for FixMyStreet
  • Have our first weekly catch-up
  • Book the two service design meetings

The following people will be working on the project: David D., David E., Louise W., Louise H, Martin, Matthew, Wayne, Rasit, Struan and representatives from Hackney’s Highways team.

Hackney Re-Platforming Weeknotes : week ending: 2020-01-17

Weeknotes are a way for us to keep people informed about progress on the project. Given the technical nature of the re-platforming work we will use them to explain technical choices that we are making, including the benefit and impact of these choices. 

Project goals

  • Enable housing officers to use MaT offline when there is poor mobile coverage
  • Enable Hackney to decommission Outsystems, saving £80,000 per year
  • Enable Hackney to support, develop and deploy future improvements to MaT more quickly, at lower cost

Sprint goals:

The goals for Sprint 5 are to:

  1. Replatform all of the Tenancy and Household Check and Home Check frontend (including save and return)
  2. Do testing of offline functionality within the team
  3. Have all APIs in place and integrated with the frontend (including image persisting and S3)
  4. Connect the React frontend to Outsystems
  5. Get in a position to where we can release Tenancy and Household Check and Home Check to a group of Housing Officers for further user testing with users by 3rd Feb

Good things

We’re making good progress on building the APIs we need and integrating them with the frontend.  The team reduced the scale of what’s needed right now by descoping the S3 API until next week. The logic for this can be dealt with in the image persisting endpoints of the process API and the extracted and used in the S3 API. 

We’ve nearly connected the new front end to Outsystems. This means that we will shortly be in a position to do the necessary offline testing (see below). 

We’re on track to get the rebuilt service in front of Housing Officers during February. This will include Tenancy and Household Check and Homecheck in the first instance, with Introductory Tenancy Visit to come slightly later. Achieving this goal means there will be some finalising work needed after the end of this current sprint, but we believe that this is manageable.  


Assembling Home Check and Introductory Tenancy Visit will take place after this sprint. We will not have time during this sprint to set up and deploy Home Check. But given that the process steps for Home Check are already covered by Tenancy and Household Check this will be a straightforward task and can be delivered after this sprint.  


We haven’t tested offline working yet. The team were blocked by a couple of issues this week in getting Tenancy and Household check to a point where we can test offline working. Progress is being made and this is a priority. Gill and Richard will be doing this testing once the technical changes have been made, and we will most likely need to pick up changes after this sprint.   

We still need to handover the data-driven frontend system to Hackney. As well as handing over the task of assembling process steps (which is straightforward), we want to handover management of the data-driven frontend (remultiform) system. This will work best when Emma is actually working on the project; she will be picking this up with F on Monday. 


Thanks to everyone who worked on the project this week – Bukky, Chris, David, Emma, F, Gill, Liudvikas, Mirela, Richard and Tuomo.  

What’s next

  1. Emma will be pairing with F on some remultiform work to get a better understanding of that codebase
  2. Gill will be carrying out offline testing, with support from Richard
  3. Richard will work with Emma on clarifying the scope of follow-on work that is needed after this sprint. We will be timeboxing this follow-on work

The following people will be working on the project next week:

  • Ana
  • Bukky
  • Chris
  • David 
  • Emma (Monday only)
  • Gill
  • Liudvikas
  • Lorraine
  • Mirela 
  • Richard
  • Tuomo

Finding support services near you (formerly Directory of services) weeknotes 17/01/20

This week, we’ve been busy trialling our chosen database, MiDoS, and analysing the results from our interviews and surveys with local organisations. 

Before departing for the slopes, Chris from Intuiti – the company that owns MiDoS – kindly sorted us out with a login to the admin interface. It is through this route that organisations can enter their details into the MiDoS database, ready to be pulled into any front-end website we choose. 

Meg and Winston tested the out-the-box interface and we are pleased to report that, with zero training, it’s very easy to use. We’ll verify this with volunteers from the organisations themselves but we couldn’t help having a poke about ourselves in the meantime. 

There are a few fields we want to tweak before we open it up to organisations and we’ll be working with MiDoS to configure those to suit our needs. And we also want to apply our own taxonomy to organisations, based on the services they provide, so that end users can find the services they need.

Our user research lead, Wing, has finished interviewing voluntary organisations large and small about their digital presence; and our survey on the same subject has closed. We’ve found that 90% of organisations (18/20) use their own website to market themselves and their activities, and many supplement this with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote individual events. One of the two organisations that doesn’t have a website expressed a desire to have one, which we hope to address through the ‘upskilling’ arm of this project.

Only 10% of organisations (2/20) have an up to date entry in the existing iCare directory. One of them, which did not have its own site, said they did get referrals from it. The rest cited “lack of time”, “it’s not used”, “I can’t remember the password” or “I don’t know how to do it” as reasons why it wasn’t updated. 35% (7/20) were not listed in iCare at all.

We can conclude that only one organisation saw the existing directory as a key part of its digital strategy. What does that mean for this project? Is the directory dead?

We don’t think so. With iCare, organisations are asked to update too many extraneous details that they’re already updating on their own websites (eg opening hours, minutiae of activities). Many don’t bother, and end users have stopped trusting the information. Equally, iCare doesn’t provide sufficient information on what the organisations actually do and consequently doesn’t encourage click-throughs to organisations’ own sites. Finally, its front-end design tucks the directory right at the bottom and also fails to encourage users to browse through to other organisations providing similar services.

We intend to address these issues with this project and, with the benefit of Agile and continual testing, we’ll be able to make sure we stay on track. It’s also worth highlighting that one interviewee wanted a user-friendly directory that not only signposts clients to them but that they can signpost clients to.

One clarification following our renaming exercise. Although we are now calling this project ‘Finding support services near you’, this isn’t reflective of any potential name for the directory. It’s simply the working title of the project so that those involved can understand readily what we are trying to achieve.

We rounded off the week with a planning session for our ‘How might we… verify an organisation’ workshop for next week. We’ll let you know the outcome of our collective creativity in next week’s update. If you can’t contain your excitement until then, you can always distract yourselves with Megxit.