Modern Tools for Housing – Programme Week Notes 3/12/21

Modern Tools for Housing – Programme Week Notes 3/12/21

The temperature’s dropping, the decorations are up – last week’s happenings from our three workstreams.

Finance – Silvia – HackIT workstream DM

  • Next Show and Tell: 7th December 2021
  • Celebrations:
    • Progress was made on the Managed Arrears NOSP (notice of seeking possession) date bug, which has now been fixed. This means that our Income Collection Officers can now see if / when the important action has been taken when they interact with the tenant
    • User testing for the screens for the MAA Enhancement piece of work was successful, with the development handover taking place at the end of the week
  • Challenges:
    • MAA Bugs and issues continue
    • Hackney development resource (see below for our new contractor advert)

Manage My Home – Yvonne – HackIT workstream DM

  • Next Show and Tell: Thursday 16th December
  • Celebrations:
    • Picking up speed on designing processes
    • Offline working well on the way to being delivered and being shared with Repairs
    • Equalities service is live
  • Challenges:
    • Google Groups (permissions) is still ongoing and is a blocker to integrating with Repairs. We’re hoping to get this unblocked next week. 
    • Uncertainty on handover and end of Amido contract. 
    • Notifications – finance isn’t as far along as we’d thought and we’ll need to do some work to reuse their component.

Repairs – Sarah – HackIT workstream DM

  • Next show and tell Wednesday 8th December 2021
  • Celebrations
    • Fixed the 400 error message that operatives were seeing when closing jobs
    • Purdy onboarding discovery making good progress
  • Challenges
    • Managing the needs and expectations of stakeholders/ trade unions/ management as we look to resolve bugs, DRS integration issues, reporting for bonus application
    • Managing the balance between rolling out to more operatives and ensuring that we have addressed the main issues for mobile

The highlight of the week was Daniel and I presenting to the Housing Leadership forum on Wednesday. This was about 50 top managers from across Hackney’s Housing department. We were only one of several people presenting – covering a wide range of topics from Property Management to Resident Safety. Our presentation went over well and was followed by a frank and honest discussion with the audience who supported us in what we’re doing but naturally would rather things were progressing faster.

I’ve had a number of good follow-on conversations including emphasising the need to support people in the Traveller community and the exciting possibilities regarding adding links to the many safety related documents for our properties onto our Asset pages and making them available to our residents.

One minor snafu this week. I was meant to present the programme roadmap to the steering group on Monday – only to discover that somehow we had two different versions that different people had been updating. I’ll make sure they’re combined by the next steering group in January.

We have our first Product Owner meet-up for some time on Monday. Cate and I are looking forward to discussing how we can improve our benefits management processes.

We’re now recruiting an experienced .NET for our Finance workstream.

Lastly, I’m sad to report that Jay, the HackIT Delivery Manager for our Finance workstream, has decided to move on from Hackney. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours. We’re in the process of introducing Silvia into the team. We’re going to give her plenty of time to get up to speed between now and the new year and then it’ll be full steam ahead.

Modern Tools for Housing – Programme Week Notes 26/11/21

Another week zooms by as the nights draw in and we’re getting rapidly close to the festive season. Here’s the update from our teams.

Finance – Jay – HackIT workstream DM

  • Next Show and Tell: 7th December 2021
  • Celebrations:
    • Great progress has been made with a MAA Rules Engine concept
    • PTX testing environment is now set up
  • Challenges:
    • MAA Bugs and issues
    • Hackney development resource

Manage My Home – Yvonne – HackIT workstream DM

  • Celebrations:
    • Detailed discussions are continuing with the Document Storage team
    • The team is working excellently at pace – we managed to bring in four new work tickets (two technical enablers and two delivering user new functionality) this sprint – both of which will move us closer to our goal of delivering our first Housing management processes
  • Challenges:
    • Google Groups (permissions) is complex due to the different approaches the teams have taken across the workstreams. Integration is proving trickier than envisaged
    • Heading into our last full sprint before the current contract ends
    • We have the notifications component documentation but what is currently built is missing a few “must have” requirements for us

Repairs – Sarah – HackIT workstream DM

  • Celebrations
    • Fixed the ‘no access’ jobs being deleted from DRS
    • Development meetings with Advanced started off well
    • Deployed changes to mobile, improved job view including adding in the job description
  • Challenges
    • Solving the issue with the operative job splits – we’ve added more logging to see what’s going on
    • Keeping all stakeholders onboard while we build the last part of the bonus process ‘closing a week’

Our Digital Marketplace tender process is continuing. We whittled the applications down to a five company shortlist who have until midday Monday 6th to submit their full proposals. We hope to be able to announce a decision shortly after.

Some of our senior stakeholders have said that they want to have access to our test systems so they can see for themselves how our products function. It’s fantastic to have that level of interest so we’ll be setting that up this week.

Speaking of senior leaders, we’re looking forward to taking part in the Housing senior leadership day on Wednesday where we’re going to be presenting about the MTFH work to-date and our future plans to a large audience of departmental managers.

We’re restarting our research into moving away a number of our Housing resident processes from needing so-called “wet signatures” (signatures on a piece of paper). We’re collecting evidence of how this requirement has been removed in central and local government processes so if you have any examples of this please let me know.

We’re still lining up to recruit a senior .NET contractor to help work on the MTFH Finance workstream so if you know anyone who may be interested again, please let me know in a comment below.

A couple of bits I’ve been tardy on. I need to finish writing up the workshop that we had of evolving the governance of our programme and share that for feedback this week. I’m also re-starting the regular catch-ups with the programme Product Owners that stopped when I started the new Lead Delivery Manager role. I’m looking forward to discussing a number of important topics with them, but also really listening to how I can best help them with their goals for their workstreams.

Cloud Engineering weeknotes, 26 November 2021

This week we’ve been looking to the future a fair bit. The first part of this was in reviewing our roadmap and planning the larger pieces of work for the next 5-6 months. A lot has changed since we put this roadmap together back in March, and we have a much better understanding of what is needed and how we work with other teams. 

We have removed some items now deemed unnecessary, some items that run counter to our working philosophy, and some items that are low-value. If they are important enough, they will come back in the future. 

We’re concentrating on a smaller number of items, doing fewer things better, and we will start with testing our disaster recovery capability. We’ve had a couple of dry runs and will build on that; the idea is to see how we react and then iterate to build on strengths and identify weaknesses. 

Looking to the future has also included starting to plan for when our contractor colleagues roll off. This will be phased, with at least one person remaining till January or February. We are now starting handovers, with documentation and coaching. 

Part of this effort is a lot of work done in the last week or so to put as much automation into the firewalls as possible. We should soon be in a position where nobody has to go into the control panel; everything should be managed by Panorama and any changes made via Terraform. We have high availability, and changes to things like routing should be very rare. 

This extends to Globalprotect, which is part of the firewall software. We’re piloting a new way to create an application in Globalprotect using its API, rather than needing direct access to the control panel, and it’s gone well. Be on the lookout for more Globalprotect changes in the next week or so. 

We’ve made some progress on the account migrations this week. The work to migrate Advanced e5 is prepared, and the change should be made imminently. We’ve also migrated Housing-Dev, and work on the Websites account is progressing well. Unfortunately we’re blocked on the other Housing accounts, which in turn blocks the final set of migrations. We are talking daily to the MTFH team about getting this unblocked. 

The next few weeks may be frantic, but the light in the tunnel is getting bright. 

Data Platform Project Weeknotes 13: 23.11.2021

For more information about the HackIT Data Platform project please have a look at this weeknote on the HackIT blog.

Improving the Data Platform playbook

We have spent some more time restructuring our Data Platform playbook. After thinking about the particular needs of data scientists, analysts, engineers and managers and mapping the common and unique parts of the playbook that they may need to access, we have started the process of restructuring the playbook so that it uses a much clearer navigation menu for these users. We see this as a two part process involving restructuring the menu and refining and adding necessary content. 

One example of additions made to content in the playbook is the process  around simplifying creating Glue jobs in code (see weeknote 12 for more information). After writing the content (in this case instructions) for the playbook we have spent some time making sure that they are user friendly to analysts with a broad range of familiarity with such tools as Terraform and GitHub.

This testing is set to continue with our colleagues in the Parking team but has already given us a lot of insight into how we can make the playbook more user friendly and accessible.

Collaborating with Manage My Home

Last week members of the data platform team presented a proposal  on the benefits of using Kafka over an AWS S3 bucket for the event streaming process to the HackIt Technical Architecture meetup. 

Kafka is an open source software which provides a framework for storing, reading and analysing streaming data. We looked at the positives and negatives of introducing Kafka over the current SNS/SQS solution and believe that Kafka provides a more reliable and scalable solution to meet the needs of the data platform. After some lively discussion and debate, we are waiting to find out the next steps for this and are keen to start working with the Manage My Home team on event streaming as soon as possible. Ultimately this will enable us to get the data into a BI tool like Qlik so that the Manage My Home team understands how the tool is being used.

Exploring our Roadmap and Ways of Working

We held another workshop to further refine our product roadmap. As a team we identified all the possible user needs that various analysts, engineers and managers might have when using the platform. We then looked for commonalities between these user groups and mapped the needs on  an affinity map. This process enabled us to refine user needs by priority, complexity and difficulty.

We have also held a workshop to reflect on our current team pattern of agile working and ceremonies. There was a lot of debate about Scrum vs Kanban as agile processes and the best approach when it comes to estimating the complexity and time to complete a task when planning. We have come up with some changes which we hope will make the planning process more efficient. However, we acknowledge that this is an evolving process and one that we will reflect on the success of in the near future.  

Ingestion and use of Tascomi planning data

Work is still ongoing to change the Tascomi ingestion process in a way that stores daily data snapshots in the platform. This sprint, we are also attaching data quality checks to the process.  This is an opportunity to test and refine an entry in our Playbook.

Adam Burnett from the Data and Insight team is deconstructing previous Qlikview reports to understand the business logic behind key KPIs, sourcing the relevant data in the Tascomi tables and recreating them for the Planning team to review. In some cases this means identifying new datasets that need to be added into our daily loads. 

Email if you have any question about that Data Platform.

Modern Tools for Housing – Programme Week Notes 19/11/21

Some fantastic demos this week, and a great workshop on future governance for the programme.. The current Digital Marketplace tender is attracting a number of applications and we ran a demo for potential suppliers so that they could see what we’ve done so far. Here’s the updates from our workstreams.

Finance – Jay – HackIT workstream DM

  • Next Show and Tell: 23rd November 2021
  • Celebrations:
    • Great progress has been made with a MAA Rules Engine concept
    • PTX testing environment is now set up
  • Challenges:
    • MAA Bugs and issues
    • Hackney dev resource (still a significant challenge which we’re focussing on solving)

Manage My Home – Yvonne – HackIT workstream DM

  • Celebrations:
  • Repairs Hub integration is almost ready – this is a great addition to the product which will make it much easier for housing officers and others to see the whole picture for residents. It’s not quite live yet as we need to finalise the  Google group permissions) 
  • Ever more progress towards building our first process
  • Humairaa’s great work on Patches API
  • Concerns:
    • Amido contract is ending soon so we need to spend time making sure we’ve got everything documented and a plan for what happens next

Repairs – Sarah – HackIT workstream DM

  • Celebrations
    • Building relationships with operatives/ supervisors as we continue to oversee onboarding at the DLO
    • Reporting available for bonus calculation
    • Time booked in with Advanced to address the issue with the sync issue with DRS
  • Challenges
    • 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 the jobs are still going ahead)
    • Solving the issue with the operative job splits

This weeknote is after a short gap as I was away in the Scottish Highlands last week. A tremendous amount of great work has been achieved in the last two weeks.

The key programme level news is that we have clarity on what’s next in terms of budget. This enables us to focus on moving through our roadmaps for the next few months – especially starting to look towards focusing on resident use of MTFH.

We’ve been gratified to see a number of applications for our current tender on the Digital Marketplace. The tender closes on Tuesday and we will be announcing the shortlist of five going to the proposal submission very shortly afterwards.

It was excellent to watch the show and tell for Manage My Home and see the repairs information for properties now being displayed along with hearing about the proposals for the service’s process engine and seeing the wireframes for the new work tray. It also blew me away to hear that in the ongoing process redesign work some processes have had their number of steps cut by nearly 50%. This will really enable our Housing Officers to spend more time with our most vulnerable residents. 

Manage Arrears continues to be used across the whole of the Rents team and as increasingly large amounts of the automation functionality is switched on this is enabling Rent Officers to spend less of their time on IT admin tasks and more on the strategy of which residents to target and how to work with them.

We are shortly going to be looking for a senior .NET contractor to come and work with us in the MTFH Finance workstream. If you know of anyone who is available and may be interested please drop me a line at

Despite the ongoing technical integration issues the Repairs team are still working diligently onsite with the DLO operatives and steadily continue to increase both the number of users and the functionality they have via mobile working.

We’re still closely monitoring the integration points our workstreams have with each other and with other teams in HackIT. In particular we’re conscious of the possibility of MMH being blocked on delivering the first Housing processes by issues integrating with our Document Store service. We’ll be picking that up again at the start of next week.