Weeknotes w/c 27 August 2018 – back to work

I’m congratulating myself for arranging my holidays so that I returned during the bank holiday week. Not only was it nice to have a four day week after my time away, it also meant that my incoming email was lighter than usual, giving me a bit more time for catching up. As a result I seem to have managed to remain refreshed rather than getting a nagging sense of being miles behind with everything as soon as I got back! (I should credit Cate, Henry and Matthew with an important part in that too – as they dealt with most of the things that were sent my way while I was off sunning myself)

I started my week by catching up on progress with our GDPR action plan, including the Digital Action Plan training we’re providing to all of our users so that they are well informed about their data protection responsibilities and know how to get help and advice when they need it. I’m very pleased to see that lots of people have already completed this important training, despite it being the holiday season, and we’ve seen some good examples of where people are taking action as a result. I was also really chuffed to see the content for this training shared openly via our team blog and GitHub while I was away (see Sarah’s blog post here: https://blogs.hackney.gov.uk/hackit/sharing-our-work-data-awareness-training-content). This is an important example of how we are putting our commitment to the Local Digital Declaration into action. In the past I’ve seen councils charging other councils to use work like this, and I think it’s important that we stop that and work collaboratively wherever possible.

We’re also pushing forward with the work to review how our documents are managed, moving away from dated and hard to use systems and making it easy for our users to get the information they need wherever they are and to work collaboratively, reducing the number of documents that are passed to and fro by email. As you’d expect, this is a mammoth task as it involves lots of teams and millions of documents. We’ve been grappling with how we can best unpick this into bite-sized chunks so that we can make progress and learn by doing, and I was encouraged to see that the approach for this is beginning to take shape. There’s a real appetite among our users to engage with this work and we’ve learned lots more detail about how different teams are working through the migration to G Suite that we’ve been delivering over the summer. I’m hoping that this will stand us in good stead as we move forward into the next phase of this work.

Cate McLaurin and I caught up and went through work that her team are doing to make sure that we’re managing our mobile telephony services effectively and ensuring that our procurement and contract management processes are working well. These are tricky and complex areas, where it’s very easy to get stuck due to the various challenges involved and it’s too easy for a focus on process to override user needs. It’s really refreshing to see how Cate and team are working closely with colleagues across the service and keeping focused on finding practical steps that will move us forward, even if there will still be more work needed later on. That reminded me of something that a former colleague said a couple of years ago when complexity was bogging down our team:

In parallel with that, Cate’s work to develop our governance model is also looking very promising. We’re keen to make sure that we don’t accidentally create a bureaucratic monster and to ensure that we fit in with existing corporate governance. Cate’s been taking a user led approach working with a wide range of colleagues and will be sharing more about the thinking in coming weeks. A key part of that is going to be making sure that we have clearly articulated the principles and standards that we use to make decisions so that we can devolve decision making and make sure that teams are able act with confidence. Some other highlights from the week included:

  • Checking in on our work to improve our FOI performance, asset management and the project to refresh our users’ ICT kit.
  • Comparing notes from our respective holidays with Matthew Cain and catching up with progress across our portfolio of digital and data projects.
  • An introductory chat with Rich, who’s joined us from working in an academic institution. It was interesting to learn about the inner workings of universities and we also discussed email habits, which reminded me of this post: https://bytherye.com/2015/11/02/is-email-here-to-stay/.
  • Getting our annual user survey ready for launch this week. This is an important part of making sure that we are responding to our users and tracking our progress in meeting their needs.

Something I’ve learned this week

While I was away I decided to trim my Twitter grazing down to a much reduced list. I’ve decided to keep this up now that I’m back and to use the spare time to focus on reading a book while I’m on my train into work (I find I’m still dealing with stuff left over from the day on my way home so far). I’m rather enjoying this and think I’m going to try sticking with that.