Modern Tools for Housing – Programme week notes 5/11/21

Lots of excellent progress this week, but there’s some uncertainty in different areas which teams are grappling with. Here’s the updates from our workstreams.

Finance – Jay – HackIT workstream DM

  • Next Show and Tell: 9th November 2021
  • Celebrations:
    • PEN test for MAA has been completed and passed
    • 5000+ letters sent to residents
    • Resolved the Housing Search API blocker so work can continue
  • Challenges:
    • MAA Bugs and issues
    • Hackney dev resource 

Manage My Home – Yvonne – HackIT workstream DM

  • Celebrations:
    • The team smashing through tickets and getting loads of functionality and bug fixes done including being able to create new tenures
    • Starting three exciting things in this sprint: Showing Repairs Hub detail; Starting to build first process (sole to joint); and complete the patches API
    • Hugo’s walkthrough of Discretionary Officer process in the Show and Tell  – really well received with loads of audience engagement and questions  :tada:
    • Really supporting each other: we’ve been  tag teaming this week in getting a lot of things over lots of lines in short timeframes – has been intense!
  • Concerns:
    • Uncertainty about how we’ll deliver next phase as Amido contract ending
    • BA resource

Repairs – Sarah – HackIT workstream DM

  • Celebrations
    • Mobile Working launched with plumbers on November 1st
    • Addresses visible to the operative job list view – it’s the one feature every single operative has requested
    • Out of Hours repairs now being raised on Repairs Hub
  • Challenges
    • Bugs from the Mobile rollout
    • Dev capacity
    • Sync with DRS, we’ve increased this to every 15 minutes but we’re still not picking up certain changes from within DRS meaning some jobs are missing from the operative job list (though they still have the printed jobs so these are still going ahead)

Challenges

The Delivery Managers aren’t reviewing the new programme documentation as quickly as I’d like. We all agreed what would have value, but now the reality of all the daily delivery work they need to do, while working under high pressure with limited staff in key roles, means they’re not being able to prioritise time to actually do it. We’ll continue to discuss and work out how we prioritise .

We have a dependence on the Document Storage team especially as a blocker for the delivery of Housing processes in Manage My Home. To manage that I’m starting to consider a potential alternative interim solution.

We’re starting to think about how we transition from blended teams working in partnership with agencies to internal product teams. This will take time and careful thought and I’m starting to plan how we manage those handovers with the current agencies. 

Looking wider

This week I had the first of what will now be regular catch-ups with the head of the Housing Property and Asset Management (PAM) group. It went really well and we both learned a lot about each other’s team’s current work and future plans. There’s still quite a lot of uncertainty in this area around the purchase of a new PAM system and how that will fit in with the Asset microservice that we’ve built so ongoing conversations will be really useful.

Team and programme health 

We had our usual 3-weekly MTFH team leads retrospective. Three strong themes emerged – a desire for less change in the people allocated to the programme, having a better narrative to explain the great work we’ve done so far and making sure new people who join can get up to speed quicker. I’ll be speaking to people next week about the narrative – especially with the significant Housing Management Leaders meeting taking place in December. I’m also going to be working with the Delivery Managers to ensure they all have good processes for onboarding and offboarding new team members.

One of the key items for next week will be planning for our workshop to review the programme governance on the 17th. All the people taking part will be there in person, I’m very much looking forward to it.

Looking ahead

It’s good that we now have some clarity about how we’re moving forward with Managed Arrears. The existing system is now being used by the whole Income Services team and 1,000s of letters have been sent to residents. We’ve also approved the work for the new feature development on that system and for continued support. At the same time, the Income Services team are organising the pilot for RentSense and reporting back by the end of the month how it might fit in alongside our current product to deliver extra value.

Cloud Engineering weeknotes, 5 November 2021

I was off last week; as I got back into things this week, I had a chance to reflect on how far we’ve come over the last 10 months. 

The catalyst for this was a chat with Stuart, our new (permanent!) Senior Engineer. Considering the circumstances of our formation, as a team we have built a stable, secure platform; we’ve coached each other and upskilled a number of Hackney colleagues who had no previous experience in AWS; we’ve made a welcoming, productive, and expert team which often puts the needs of others ahead of our own. 

And I’m proud of that. In my absence, the team kept going and did all the right things in the right way and welcomed a new member as if he’d always been here. But we just don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we’ve done and in the circumstances we’ve been working in. As I’ve said before, nobody would ever choose to do a cloud migration in our circumstances, and we have much to be proud of. 

Stuart’s arrival has given us a useful outsider’s view on what we’ve done and what’s missing. He’s given us a brain dump of documentation he’d expect as a new starter, which we will work through over the next couple of sprints. Almost all of it exists already, we just need to publish it in the Playbook so that it’s in one place. He’s also started work on formalising our change and release processes so that we can avoid repeating some of the mistakes we’ve made in the last couple of months. 

The account migrations proceed, though slowly. The work needed to move e5 and the Housing accounts is lined up, and we’ve started decommissioning unused resources (with the data backed up). There is a definite chain of events – Manage Arrears needs to be updated so that we can move Housing, which will enable us to move APIs, which will allow us to clean up those accounts and move things to more appropriate homes. 

We’ve made some additional security improvements this sprint. We have a module to automate much of the Windows Server patching, which we spoke about in our lunch & learn. We’ve also made some changes to the GitHub repo to restrict who can approve PRs and enabled Branch Protection. 

The firewalls have been completely overhauled in the last two weeks. We’ve adopted a new licensing model that saves a lot of money, and the revised Terraform allows for faster redeployments. Importantly, we’re now able to use Panorama to manage the full suite of firewalls, and this means we only need to make a configuration change in one firewall – Panorama will manage the deployment of that change to all other devices. 

Thank you for your patience while we’ve rebuilt the firewalls as we know there have been a lot of outages and cancellations – but that does neatly illustrate why we need to tighten up our own change and release processes!

NoiseWorks – Nov 2021

NoiseWorks Week Note November 2021

Background

Our goal for NoiseWorks is ‘to develop a fully integrated case management solution to effectively manage noise complaints in Hackney’. SocietyWorks is working with Hackney to develop a Saas product called “NoiseWorks”.  In Summer 2020, Hackney launched Report a Problem (FixMyStreet), a SocietyWorks product enabling customers to report concerns across a number of Hackney services such as parking, bulky waste, and noise. They are working to extend FixMyStreet to further develop a back end case management tool for our Noise team. We are currently in Beta and below is an update on our project’s current status.

Update

It’s been a little while since we’ve sent one of these out, so we thought we’d bring you all up to speed on what’s been happening.

We’re well and truly into the development phase for our MVP for NoiseWorks. Thanks to Zarino (our user researcher) and the excellent prototypes, and the detailed feedback we received from the teams at Hackney we’ve been able to create a detailed technical specification illustrating how each piece of functionality will work, as well as prioritising them to make sure the team have what they need as soon as possible to help move them away from the spreadsheet being used to log reports. 

Matthew, senior developer from SocietyWorks has been working on creating the admin interface for staff to use to ensure they can filter on cases, assign, and log actions against cases. Zarino has then been collecting feedback from Hackney to understand if it’s working as expected and in a way that will help them going forward. 

We’re continuing to run show and tell every two weeks, so do feel free to come along to stay up to date with the progress. At each session, we’ll show what we’ve been working on and open up the floor to questions and feedback.  At the previous show and tell one of the topics discussed was the internal process at Hackney and who will use the system, from this Soraya and Zarino are organising a workshop to help decide this. 

Modern Tools for Housing – Programme week notes 29/10/21

Modern Tools for Housing – Programme Week Notes 22/10/21

Modern Tools for Housing is HackIT’s programme for developing user centred software products to enable our staff to support residents in our social housing. There are three workstreams – Finance, Repairs and Manage My Home. We are continuing to improve and evolve these products so that in future our residents will be able to self-serve as much as possible and we can use our data to identify those in need to proactively offer council services.

Steady progress this week – here’s the updates from our workstreams.

Finance – Jay – HackIT workstream DM

Proud of this week

  • Our latest work package for our arrears product has been approved
  • A great Show and Tell session on Tuesday showcasing the Revived Manage Arrears system and an update from the team, highlighting their progress since the system was revived and brought back online.
  • The creation of an API critical path flow in Miro which clearly displays where blockers lie and will help us with future Sprint Planning.
  • Progress was made to solve the Housing Search API blocker, which still remains, however should hopefully be resolved next week.

Challenges this week

  • Slow progression in obtaining test credentials for the PTX system, which remains a blocker for our Direct Debit development work
  • Delays in fixing high priority Managed Arrears bugs due to development resource bottlenecks.

Manage My Home – Yvonne – HackIT workstream DM

Proud of this week:

  • Pace of delivery – We are starting to refine stories for some of the process critical patch items (patches and process engine) and we’re also making good progress on the technical spikes for notifications and form builder.
  • This week we say goodbye to our Data Engineer Mehdi who has made such a massive contribution to the project

Challenges this week:

  • Refinement – we’re short on BA resource and it’s starting to impact our ability to refine enough work ahead of the dev team picking it up. This means  we’re picking up lower priority items because the top priority critical path work needs more analysis

Repairs – Sarah – HackIT workstream DM

Proud of this week

  • Great feedback from stakeholders in this weeks’ show and tell
  • Our latest work package for our arrears product has been approved

Challenges this week

  • Team changes
  • Effectively communicating expectations around deployment of features

Tracking the usage of our products is becoming increasingly important as we roll out to more users in more teams. The workstreams are already thinking about this and there are more conversations coming soon. I’ve already proposed a reusable component solution – but my tech skills are rather out of date so we’ll see what the teams think next week!

It’s good to have a bit more clarity around our systems for managing resident arrears. We’re going to continue to develop our pre-cyber-attack system which was recently revived and which we’re using to send out 1,000s of reminder letters to residents. At the same time we’re going to organise a trial of an off-the-shelf product to see how its functionality aligns with what we have already and what’s currently being developed.

We’ve had a great first conversation about designing pages in Manage My Home to represent housing blocks and estates. We want to eventually have versions of these for both staff and residents. There’s a large amount of information we can put on each including major planned repairs (like lifts or mass window replacements), communal works (like play parks or new gardens), asbestos info, estate safety issues. Plus we’re hoping to make it a great place to communicate with residents by linking to Tenant Resident Associations but also one-button-press communications to email or SMS everyone in a block about a current issue or something happening soon.

When supporting our staff and residents we need to make sure that we include those that work for and live on the estates belonging to our Tenant Management Association partners so we’re going to review those requirements on all the workstream’s roadmaps soon.

The most exciting thing this week though was a conversation with a colleague from Adult Social Care about “tenancy sustainment pathways”. I’m very keen to support Social Care and Housing working together to support any of our social tenants that are struggling for whatever reason to stay in their properties and am excited to know how we can help with that.

Data Platform Project weeknotes 29/10/2021

What is the Data Platform project?

Hackney has long viewed its data as a strategic asset that has the potential to deliver insights to help us make better decisions and improve the lives of our residents. Behind the scenes of a statistic in a report or a dashboard are the tools, processes and infrastructure needed to get access to our data, move it, store it and transform it so that it can be used for analysis. That’s where a data platform comes in.

A data platform is an integrated technology that allows data located in data sources to be governed, accessed and delivered to users, data applications, or other technologies. We’re using the recovery from the cyber attack as an opportunity to ‘build back better’ for the future and deliver a secure, scalable, reusable cloud-based data infrastructure that brings together the council’s key data assets. We want our data platform to help us democratise access to data (where appropriate), use technology to enable deeper insight, and derive greater value from our data to improve the lives of residents.

In practice, our data platform will be composed of a number of different elements:

  • Data Lake – a centralised repository to store data all in one place, and a set of loosely coupled processes to ingest, process and publish that data (see diagram below).
  • Playbook – documentation of the platform’s tools and processes, along best practices when interacting with them
  • Data catalogue – documentation and metadata about specific datasets, columns etc.

Feedback on outputs from the Data Platform

The Data Platform team previously worked to bring together disparate repairs data into a single, cleaned repairs dataset that could be joined with other data on resident vulnerability.  Our goal was to identify households that hadn’t had a recent repair and were potentially more vulnerable so that the council could make proactive contact to check in on both the needs of the resident and the condition of the property. Through this work, we were able to give the new Link Work team (who provide targeted, holistic, and proactive support to residents) a list of residents who were aged 70+, living alone who hadn’t had a repair in two years or more. Link Workers have started to make calls to these residents and we have been receiving some excellent feedback on how well targeted these interventions have been.

The Link workers recently dealt with the needs of a resident  in her mid-70s, living alone who has health conditions that limit her mobility. She had had outstanding repairs issues and her property was very cluttered, but she has worried about raising things with her TMO because she’s afraid of how people will perceive her. She has also struggled with navigating the benefits system to claim Attendance Allowance.

The Link work team proactively reached out to her because of the data insights they were able to surface from the data platform. She said it was ‘a blessing’ to have someone check in on her and felt a weight had been lifted. She’s now receiving food support, had a visit from a therapeutic decluttering service, and is getting financial advice.

Our challenges

Our main goal was to start to ingest Council Tax data from the Academy. In addition we continued our work on making sure analysts are able to use planning data in the platform with limited support from the team.

Meeting these sprint goals has been challenging. We as a team have experienced a lot of frustration due to our inability to get access to the data we need. On numerous occasions the means of accessing the data have been insufficient for bulk reporting.

Getting Council Tax data from Academy

Academy is the Capita owned system that contains records relating Council Tax, Housing Benefit and Business Rates. It uses an INGRES database which is notoriously difficult to extract data from but has massive potential for analytics.
After  undergoing  a research ‘spike’ to decide on the best approach to ingest council tax data from the Academy, we discovered firstly that there was an API but it doesn’t support the bulk downloads we’d need to use it effectively. We also knew that it wouldn’t be great practise to connect straight to the database and run complex queries as it may slow down the academy software.

We investigated restoring the Academy app from a disk backup but discovered that the encryption keys don’t allow sharing across AWS accounts.  We also investigated creating a ‘read’ replica. Ideally this would mean a copy of the database would sit in the Academy account which we could connect to and query the database. However, this is currently blocked by a lack of access and requires some negotiation with the vendor.

Getting Planning Data from Tascomi

Tascomi is the system used by the planning team. We have been provided with an API by the vendor to access planning data.

The first version of Tascomi data workflow has been deployed. This means that we are now able to get  a change-only update each day of new or amended records and add this  to our previous snapshots to create a full dataset. We are currently onboarding a planning data analyst on the use of Qlik and Athena. We are also getting the help of another data analyst (Adam from the Data and Insight team) to help with further refinement.

However, we continue to have some challenges with the vendor, Tascomi, turning the API access on and off without prior warning. 

Next Show & Tell – Friday 12th November
Our next Show & Tell is on the 12th of November at 12-12.30pm. Come along to find out more about what we are up to and invite others that may be interested (the calendar invite is open). Email ana.bebic@hackney.gov.uk if you need any help. For anyone that can’t make it, don’t worry we will record the session and post on Currents/Slack after.