Strengthening support on the Hackney website – Weeknotes W/C 25/11/19

Dan running the team through the tech stack

This third phase of the DevOps programme is focused on strengthening support on the Hackney website. We are using DevOps tools and approaches to make the website more reliable and sustainable. It is also testing one of the hypotheses from our initial discovery:

“Developers working alongside people with ‘ops’ (i.e. infrastructure / applications support) skills will increase velocity, resilience, security and stability”

This project will run between 25th November and the 20th December. 

Previously we carried out a discovery; and launched an initial alpha focused on cloud procurement and a DevOps pipeline approach.

The team

The team is made up of people from the applications, infrastructure and delivery teams as well as a DevOps engineer, Dan, and a Front-End developer, Luca, from Digi2al (who we have been working with on the DevOps programme). 

This is the first time we have applications people in our team, and it is a great opportunity to see how closely apps skills align with DevOps skills. Equally, for some of the team, this is the first time that they have worked on a development project using agile methodologies. As a result of all this, one of our key focuses is learning and development.

For the first time during the DevOps programme we have a team working on this almost full time, which is great as it allows us to more easily maintain focus and build momentum.

What we are doing?

This week we have been getting up to speed with the underlying technology of the website. Luca and Dan have been diving in at the deep end and quickly getting up to speed with the codebase. The rest of the team has been getting familiar with the technology and terms; and shadowing the more experienced members of the team. 

We have to strike a balance in this project between outputs and knowledge transfer. One week into this four week project, the HackIT team is primarily learning. While the  Digi2al duo has been identifying areas where the team can up-skill, providing introductory readings and running tech workshops.

There is an existing backlog from the project that delivered the website, which included a combination of bugs and small features. Product Owner on this project, Susan, has been looking through the backlog with Dan and Luca to identify tasks that add the most value and also make the website more maintainable and supportable in the future. 

This has resulted in an early focus on two areas: search and WordPress. Luca’s refactoring and simplifying of search will greatly improve the quality of search on the website and make future improvements easier. 

Secondly, Dan is working with Omar from Infrastructure to make the WordPress backend more reliable. It has a tendency to fall over during simultaneous deployments, requiring a manual restart. By restructuring the AWS architecture upon which WordPress sits, we should be able to save our content publishers  time and ensure the site is updated readily for our residents. 

What’s next?

We will agree on areas that our HackIT team members can look at over the next three weeks that will add value and broaden their learning. They are also continuing to shadow the Digi2al members of the team. 

Luca and Dan are working through the search and WordPress re-architecting, respectively, in addition to picking up minor bugs and code-reviewing other work that is taking place on the website. They are also running tech workshops and supporting the learning of the rest of the team by suggesting material to learn and exercises to try. 

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