Weeknote w/c 11 February: developing the way we work

‘How to HackIT’

At our strategy stand up a couple of weeks ago Matthew explained how we’ve been developing our model for supporting consistent ways of working across our team, while also retaining our lightweight governance approach in line with the principles that Cate set out previously (Matthew’s slides are here: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1jnF5Ey7qqBHAAlYA7j28-RvmwEOOWUPMXi2afpGbXsg and Cate’s blog post explaining our governance principles is here: https://blogs.hackney.gov.uk/hackit/governance-so-good-people-prefer-to-use-it).

We’re calling this ‘How to HackIT’ and we’re envisaging this as a set of guides that will explain our approach across the work we do. This will never be a ‘finished product’ — the context we work in, the technologies we work with and the challenges we need to address will continue to change, so it’s important that this remains a living thing which is continually iterated so that it remains relevant.

We identified a set of user needs for ‘How to HackIT’ guides at our away day before Christmas. This week I took some time to look through these to rationalise them into what I’m hoping will be a clear first set that we can work through with colleagues from across the team and agree the priority user stories for us to work on first.

I’m also excited to hear that other people across the team have been working at producing ‘How to HackIT’ guides based on things that they’ve been working on. This is great because it’s important that this isn’t just a ‘top down’ thing, in line with our HackIT manifesto commitment to ‘trust the team’. To help with that we want to put in place a simple approach that anyone can use to share work in a consistent way so that it will benefit other colleagues, and we’ve defined that as one of our user stories.

We’ve had a first go at bringing this together and that’s now up as an Alpha which we can use to test out our thinking and get feedback: http://hackit.org.uk/how-we-work/how-to-hackit. As it’s an Alpha it’s still quite rough (some of the guides are more fully developed than others) but I’m very interested to hear your feedback and suggestions for how we can improve this.

The future for end-user kit

We’ve been looking at some of the ways that end-user computing is changing and thinking about ways we can adapt to that. Alongside pressing on with refresh of the Council’s PCs and laptops (which is much needed as many are over ten years old…) we are looking at how we can support a wider range of devices effectively. For example, we have a number of teams who use Macs for their work and lots of different types of personal computer that users use to connect to our systems when they’re working from home. As well as making sure that we’re using the right technology for management and security of kit and data, it’s also important that our support teams have the opportunity to gain the knowledge needed to help with queries — which is quite different from the traditional highly standardised model for business computing.

In addition to that we’re considering our options for how we provide mobile phones in future. The current ‘one size fits all’ approach is cumbersome to manage, expensive and a common cause of grumbles. It’s hard for the low cost phones that we currently provide to compete with the quality of devices that most people have for their personal use, and given the range of different flavours of Android that are available as well as users who prefer iPhones there aren’t many people for whom the corporate standard is a good fit for their needs and preferences. We’re exploring ways that we could do this quite differently and give people greater choice and flexibility while also making the service simpler to manage. We’ll be doing more work on this over the coming weeks and I’ll keep you posted with progress.

Other highlights from last week were:

  • Some useful conversations about how we manage our business applications and adapt so that we are able to support new digital services effectively
  • More work with colleagues in finance to make sure we’re managing our budgets well
  • A catch up with the Mayor to make sure that the preparations for the Digital Advisory Panel meeting we’re holding later this week are in hand
  • Progress updates for our work to support transformation in housing services (which includes Hackney being shortlisted for the ‘digital landlord of the year’ award at the UK Housing Awards — the only local authority shortlisted in the category)

Something I’m learning

I spent a little bit of time this weekend finding out more about how Amazon’s self-publishing platform works (helping someone else out, not because I’m planning to write a novel!). I was interested in the analogies between selling physical books and publishing a book for digital sales (Amazon describe their metadata concepts by comparison to bookshelves and the advice you get from booksellers). I also think it’s interesting to see how traditional publishing is being affected by it now being so easy for authors to publish their own work to a global audience, with services like Kindle Unlimited making it very low cost and low risk for readers to try out their books.