The week began with a visit from Paul Brewer and colleagues from Adur and Worthing who borrowed our workshop room for the day. It was good to welcome them to HackIT Towers and I enjoyed comparing notes when we caught up at lunchtime. It’s interesting that while there are some differences in the technology approaches we’re taking for our digital service delivery (Adur and Worthing are taking a ‘low code’ platform approach, whereas we’re doing more in-house development), there are also many areas where our approaches are very similar. It was great to hear about the successes they’re having through using design led approaches to rethink services and put users first, and we also had a very good discussion about the work we’re each doing to assess our digital architectures and make sure that we’re considering longer term sustainability as well as the delivery of rapid change and improvement.
I caught up with Ajman, our Director of Housing, this week. He’s keen to make sure that he’s got a good understanding of the work that our teams are doing together to support improvements across the housing service and the benefits that this will provide for residents. I’m pleased that he shares our view that simply switching from one traditional housing system to another won’t improve much at all, but it also emphasised to me the importance of the work that Jasmine, Matthew, Nic and the rest of our team working with housing are doing to help new colleagues understand the approach we’re taking. Taking an Agile and design led approach is different from the ‘Prince 2’ driven approaches used in many councils and it’s essential that we help colleagues grow their confidence in the direction we’re taking together.
Big news on Wednesday was the announcement of the Local Digital Declaration, setting out a cross-sector commitment to collaborative working to deliver better digital services for residents and businesses across the country. I’m pleased that we have had the opportunity to contribute to the shaping of the Declaration and also that our Mayor personally set out Hackney’s commitment to support it. I blogged about our support for the Declaration on our HackIT blog here: https://blogs.hackney.gov.uk/hackit/in-support-of-the-local-digital-declaration (includes the Mayor’s video message).
Also on Wednesday, we had our latest strategic service overview meeting where Andy gave us a summary of the work in progress with colleagues in Public Realm. These services touch on the lives of every resident in the borough and I was pleased to hear how the working relationship is developing and how we’re working together to identify and deliver improvements. Looking forward, I’m particularly interested in ways that we might work with colleagues in libraries to continue to improve the digital support we offer to residents. Libraries have their origins in the mid-19th century as a means of supporting education and social improvement, and it’s interesting to think about how this purpose is evolving in the 21st century.
One area that every ICT service I’ve ever worked with has struggled to do well is effective asset management, and mid-week I caught up with Michael and Henry to talk through our work on that here at Hackney. As we prepare our plans to refresh our ageing PCs and laptops this is an important area of focus for us and is an area where making services more user focused can also help improve our administration of assets by simplifying processes and improving the way we manage data. I’m pleased that we are linking this with work to look at ways that we can further improve the support we provide for our users. Our bookable 1:1 advice sessions have been a big success and I’m keen to see us explore ways that we can build on the topic based ‘stand up’ briefings we’re currently running to support users as part of the G Suite roll out and support our team in developing their technical confidence with the devices we provide to our users.
After lots of hard work it looks like our ‘WiFi-4-All’ wifi service is beginning to behave better. Further investigation and some updates made last week had resulted in a much faster service by the end of the week and I’m hoping that puts us on a good footing moving forward. Thank you to Lindsay, Keith and the others who’ve been working on this.
Thursday was a day away from the office as I met up with people from several other London councils for a workshop to develop thinking for the London Office of Technology and Innovation (‘LOTI’) that Theo Blackwell, London’s Chief Digital Officer, is leading. It was a long day, but we covered a lot of ground and worked in groups to dig into some of the proposed areas that LOTI might focus on in more detail. The way this is developing fits nicely with the Local Digital Declaration — with the emphasis on purposeful collaboration to explore opportunities for innovation, which I think it more likely to deliver valuable results and move at a faster pace than a more formal shared service approach. It was also good to have our Mayor dash back from the LGA conference to join part of the day — showing his support as the incoming digital lead for London Councils.
Training and development was another area of focus last week. As well as our forthcoming apprenticeship programme we are also looking at ways that we can make sure we get the most out of the training and development strategy that we agreed through our recent restructure. As part of that Cate McLaurin and I met with Emily from the Organisational Development team to discuss ways that we might be able to use Apprenticeship Levy funding as part of supporting development opportunities for our existing team. There are some potential ways we could do this that would fit well with the priorities we’ve agreed and we’ll be doing more work over the summer to explore those further.
Finally, a theme for Friday was connecting in with colleagues across other areas of the Council (I think that Hackney does this rather well). I met up with a colleague from the Resident Sustainment Team in Housing as part of the ‘Let’s Network Hackney’ programme and learned more about how her team are using the new tools we’ve been providing to spend more time with residents and get access to the information they need more quickly. And Matthew Cain and I took time with colleagues in the Strategy, Policy and Economic Development division hearing about work they’re doing to encourage work shadowing in their teams and talking about ways that we might participate in that to help further develop the links across our services.
Something I’ve learned this week
I’ve got a number of favourite tools that I like to use to organise myself and make sure I’m getting the right things done (although sometimes it can feel like that’s mostly about tracking the things that I haven’t got done and carrying them forward for another day….). This week I was trying to pull together the objectives we’ve agreed to prioritise at our recent management team away day. What I’ve learned is that simply because I prefer a certain set of tools that doesn’t mean that others prefer them too (and if this is genuinely going to be a shared work plan then I need to take account of other people’s needs and preferences as well). I am going to need to give more thought to how best to do this. I thought that I’d figured out a good way to do it using Trello, but on further examination that was going to end up messy and I want to make sure it’s easy to check and update progress, not a chore.