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.

Finding support services near you (formerly Directory of services) weeknotes 10/01/20

Happy New Year!

After a bit of a break, it’s useful to recap what’s happened before and why. So here’s a reminder of our problem statement.

In the last sprint of 2019 we:

  • Started to explore investment in digital upskilling across voluntary and care services in the borough.
  • Interviewed and surveyed organisations operating within the Well Street Common Neighbourhood to test the assumption that they will add to and update a single directory; and to get an idea of their digital confidence or any gaps in their skills.
  • Extended the minimum viable directory (currently a spreadsheet) to social prescribers, Hackney Adult Social Care 3 Conversations, Job Centre employment advisors, sexual health nurses and physiotherapists.
  • Ran a naming exercise, and we’re pleased to announce the new name of Finding support services near you that, in just a few words, encapsulates the point of the project rather than the underlying technology. This will replace the Directory of Services name in future weeknotes. If you want to learn more about the importance of naming projects, read here.

What’s next: 

  • Analysing the results of the survey and interviews with voluntary and care organisations, feeding back next time.
  • Transferring the data held within the minimum viable DoS spreadsheet into MiDoS and trialling with end-users within Well Street Common (including social prescribers, social workers, employment advisors, voluntary and care organisations and residents).
  • Continuing to gather feedback, adapt and test again.
  • Implementing the standardised voluntary and care services and local authority data structure led by Buckinghamshire County Council. Click here for an example of how this is being piloted by the Local Government Association (LGA).
  • Running a workshop to define the verification process and standard for organisations that want to be featured in the directory.

These weeknotes were originally written by team member Lucy Clifton.

Housing data in the cloud: Weeknote, w/c 02.12.2019

Housing data in the cloud. It does what it says on the tin. 

We’ve got data, lots of data. 

This data lives in 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. 

We are changing this. 

That’s a bold statement, let me put some context around it. We are taking our first experimental steps to see if we can move a tiny piece of housing data into a cloud platform. 

Back in October we did a week long discovery to identify a data candidate for prototype and to think about what success might look like. Thankfully, we’re not starting from scratch. Other fine minds have looked at our old, overstuffed house – we’ve valiantly attempted renovation and even extension. Colleagues from MadeTech have pulled all this learning together and made a set of recommendations, which we are testing in the prototype we are building over the next few weeks.  

Introducing the dream team

The avengers getting ready for battle.
This is what we look like in my imagination. I’m Natasha Romanoff obviously 🙂

We are working with support from AWS and MadeTech along with our award winning team of Hackney developers. With got expertise from our data and insight team and three technical architects (at my last count). I’m terrified, the team is absolutely buzzing. We’re finally staring into the eyes of our nemesis – let the battle commence. 

We are working in 5 day sprints. I love the drive of the team. They want to work hard and fast. We’ve covering new ground everyday. The team are absorbing new ideas, skills and ways of working like a sponge. We don’t all see things in the same way, but the team are embracing this too. 

This week, we’ve identified our use case. Right from the outset we want to demonstrate how our work can bring tangible value to the Council services that rely on this data. We’ve got to keep this grounded in business need and ultimately the needs of Hackney residents. We’ve also set up our cloud platform in AWS this week. Next up: is deciding what database we need for this prototype. There is A LOT of debate about this in the team. I’m expecting a few fireworks. We’ve got a spike early next week to try and crack this.