Weeknote w/c 5 November: new thinking about governance and architecture, plus a backlog that’s…

Last week was brisk and it felt like Friday arrived rather quickly!

Governance and architecture

Early on in the week we grabbed a bit of time as a management team to check in on the work to develop our governance and architecture thinking. This is really important because we need to be able to give teams who are delivering new digital services clear guiderails that they can use so that they know that they’re making decisions that fit with the direction we want to take. We’re committed to reusing existing standards (such as the Technology Code of Practice) where possible, but we know that we also need to make sure that we’ve explained how the thinking comes together so that it’s clear for the people who need to refer to it.

We’ve decided that if we want to be user centric we need to start with user needs. So we’ve made a start at bringing those together in this doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/15vOuxEWZv7YY-rRfu5u3dNKYhdQysVSijN3sH8UxnWs/edit?usp=sharing. The doc is shared for commenting, so any feedback or suggestions would be very much appreciated!

(Our architecture team also delivered a show and tell this week to share the thinking that’s going into moving us to a ‘web first’ network model: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1turLuoq9VfPqK5bRSxUqJ9rZZd5Q3J_bGDmBXrpLVgc/edit?usp=sharing. I was really pleased to see them extend the invitation to a range of colleagues and contacts from beyond Hackney – helping us to test out our thinking and direction.)

Backlog busting

Our Service Support team have been leading work to tackle the backlog that had built up in support and request management across our service. I mentioned in my note for w/c 24 September that this was being planned carefully to make sure that we didn’t just make the stats look good without also making sure that we had met our users’ needs (healthy looking graphs are of no value at all if they are just masking lots of frustrated users who’ve been told that we’ve closed their call without actually getting the thing they needed sorted).

We checked on progress at our management team meeting last week and I was really pleased to see that the backlog has been reduced by c 74% and is continuing to fall. And I was equally pleased to see that overall satisfaction with the quality of service has risen while the number of users escalating their issues hasn’t. The only negative progress was the satisfaction with the timeliness of our response – which isn’t a surprise as we’ve been working through things that have taken too long to resolve.

Overall this is a really positive piece of progress and it was great to hear how the team are continuing to work on this to make sure that the improvement is sustainable for the long term and we keep pushing ourselves to further improve the user experience we offer.

As ever, the week covered a healthy range of other topics too:

  • We began the week with the quarterly Information Governance Group meeting, where we checked in on our work to apply the principles set out in the General Data Protection Regulation to our work here in Hackney and noted the really positive progress with making sure that our systems and processes are helping us to keep secure.
  • Henry and I caught up with finance colleagues to look at ways that we can apply ‘digital’ thinking to the Council’s finance processes. This reminded me how glad I am to work somewhere like Hackney where the ambition to use technology, data and service design to make things work better for users is widely supported across the organisation.
  • The Council’s Brexit working group met to discuss the developments for the UK’s exit from the EU and the preparations that the Council needs to make.
  • I joined the regular bi-monthly meeting of the steering group for our local health and social care Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, catching up with progress to join up data and processes across a wide range of NHS and local authority partners so that we can help people live healthy lives across East London.
  • We continued our work to clarify our plans to support effective information sharing and management using the new productivity tools that we’ve been rolling out. I think we’ve managed to distill our policies for this down to three key questions which will work for most user needs, with more detailed discussion needed for colleagues whose needs are more complex. The next step is for the team to write this up and test it out with real users.
  • I had a really good workshop with colleagues from the Council’s Emergency Planning team, looking at the toolkit we’ve set up to help them manage major incidents. I enjoyed taking some time to do ‘real work’ and it was very rewarding to work with them to find simple and quick ways that their important work can be made easier to manage.
  • Our mid-year check in on our finances continued, with a focus on capital this week. I’m very grateful to Ramesh, who leaves Hackney this week, for the hard work that he’s put in with the budget managers across our team so that we have a clear position that will help us decide where we need to focus our efforts.
  • And this week’s welcome intros with new members of the team were with Darrell, Erdem and Nana, who’ve joined as infrastructure apprentices, Amy, who’s joined our information management team, and Philippa, who’s joined our Delivery team (and who appears to share my enthusiasm for better governance). I’m really pleased to see the energy and ideas that our new starters are bringing and the way that they’re already helping to shape our development as a team.

Something I’m learning

Something that I always find tricky is getting the right balance between being sufficiently engaged in the detail to have a good knowledge of the issues our team are working on while also staying true to our HackIT manifesto principle of ‘Trust the team’. There have been a few examples this week where I wished I’d got closer to the detail sooner, but these are minor compared with the many more examples that show how much people can achieve if they’re given the space to explore and innovate. This runs against my control freak instincts, but I’m going to keep reminding myself how important it is to make sure that I resist the urge to micro-manage.

Trust the Team, from the HackIT manifesto: http://hackit.org.uk/how-we-work/hackit-manifesto