Weeknotes w/c 3 September 2018

I think that technically it’s still summer for a few weeks yet *, but there’s definitely an autumnal feel now. I’ve concluded that spring and autumn are my favourite seasons and I’m really liking arriving in Hackney in the morning and walking into the office as the bright sun streams down Dalston Lane.

As we’ve had overlapping holidays, this week was my first opportunity in a long time to catch up with Henry and talk through the work that our Platform teams are doing. The Platform teams’ responsibilities cover a wide range of areas that are really important to our service and which underpin the work of the whole division. I was very pleased to see how much progress is being made, despite people being away for the summer holidays. Key highlights from areas we looked at this week included:

  • Confirmation that our PSN Code of Connection has been signed off for another year, very positive news and the result of lots of hard work that the team have been leading to keep our systems up to date and secure. The work to make sure that we’re ready for next year’s renewal starts now as it’s essential that security is something that we are focusing on throughout the year, not just an annual event.
  • A noticeable positive impact on our service performance as a result of the team’s focus on service improvement over the summer months. It’s essential that we focus on the quality of the experience we provide for our users, not just closing calls down on the system to make the graphs look good. I’m pleased to see the thought that Michael, Paul and the Service Support team are giving to this, breaking the work down into manageable chunks and linking the review of calls in with the wider improvement work that Cate D is leading.
  • Continuing the work to make sure that our asset management is effective. This is something that every ICT service I’ve worked in has found hard, as it involves keeping track of a large number of devices and software licences in what are often fast changing and complex organisations. But getting it right is critical so that we can make sure that we’re maximising the value for money that we get from the Council’s investments in ICT and know that the decisions we take are based on accurate information.
  • Planning ahead to make sure that we have a smooth transition from the project team who have been leading the G Suite migration to regular day-to-day support. Again, I was pleased to see that the teams have been working well together and have identified a clear plan with focused priorities, rather than getting bogged down.

Henry and I also caught up with Stephen (Hackney’s director for strategy, policy and economic development) to look at the progress with our strategic thinking re: internet connectivity in the borough, which links to a number of outcomes we are working to deliver in line with the Mayor’s manifesto. We agreed the headline discussion points that we want to focus on at our next update with the Mayor and Cllr Nicholson, and we also agreed the approach we will take for linking into existing Council governance where decisions need to be confirmed.

Other headlines from the week included:

  • I joined the fortnightly Projects ‘Shout Out’ session that Dennis is experimenting with. This is a quick fire stand up where we run through headlines across our projects, with the emphasis on identifying aspects that might impact on other projects and giving project teams the opportunity to ask colleagues for help if they need it. I found that this gave me a very useful overview and will be trying to join the sessions on a regular basis.
  • Wednesday’s DMT covered a number of important updates, including reviewing our service performance, audit plan and work to address actions that audit have identified, and Stephen’s work to review our procurement and contract management arrangements. Stephen has made really good progress with his review and I’m pleased with how this is taking shape.
  • Cate and I caught up re: the apprentice network that we are setting up. Our goal is to work together with other digital employers in the borough to foster networks of support for our apprentices and to help other employers grow apprenticeship opportunities in Hackney.
  • On Wednesday I attended the Local Government Association’s Cyber Security Stakeholder Group meeting. This group brings together people from across local government, central government and other agencies such as the National Cyber Security Centre to help improve cyber security and resilience across the local government sector. We got an early look at the initial findings from the ‘cyber stocktake’ that the LGA are leading on and we discussed how the results will be used to provide additional targeted support for councils.
  • At this week’s Housing Transformation Board we looked at an update that Matthew had prepared giving a summary of the releases we will be delivering over the next two months: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1M6l5RpqDIIBVEen1Iq-wECQopCOlXfS3. It’s brilliant to see really big improvements for customer contact management, incomes, repairs, and tenancy management which will deliver big benefits for residents and colleagues in housing services.
  • Our first set of meeting rooms are now up and running with Hangouts Meet kit so that they can be used for presentations and video meetings. We’re starting with a small group of rooms, including rooms in Council offices elsewhere in the borough, and using this to make sure that we have a good handle on the user experience and support / guidance that users need before we press on with a wider roll out.
  • And this week my introduction chats were with Jasmeen and Emma. We had really good conversations about how we can share our ideas and experience and learn from one another across the team, and also the different organisations that they’ve worked in before and what we can learn from that at Hackney.

Something I’m learning

I’m currently giving quite a lot of thought to how we can work together across the Council to get the most out of the things that Hackney has done to enable a genuinely modern workplace. The combination of modern office spaces, progressive HR policies that are positive about flexible working and trusting managers and staff to get the job done, and the improved technologies that we’re rolling out is really powerful.

I’m keen to make sure that we play a part in building a strong sense of shared direction across the Council to use these to best effect, and there are lots of teams across departments that we can use as exemplars to help show the way. This is much more than an ‘IT thing’, so my main focus at the moment is looking at how we link up with colleagues to develop our approach for this and also make sure that we do this in a way that’s consistent with our agile approach, avoiding the potential trap of proposing a ‘corporate culture change programme’, which Tim (the Chief Exec) is rightly wary of. It’s increasingly clear that this links in with thinking that Matthew’s been doing about ways we might develop a ‘change support agency’ model to help service managers reimagine the way that their services are developed, so I’m hoping we can join those up.

* Although, that prompted me to check and it turns out that ‘it depends’: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/seasons/autumn/when-does-autumn-start