Weeknote w/c 3 June: management team update, thinking about mobiles and more

This week I felt that I managed to spend more of my time than usual on the bigger picture things I want to focus on. Partly this was luck of the draw with a slightly less back-to-back diary, but I am continuing my efforts to try to remember to make sure that important stuff doesn’t get sidelined due to ‘urgent’ things. I’m wondering whether I should try having my own personal ‘waste snake’ to keep track of distractions… *

DMT conversation points

A few people have been asking for details on the discussions we have at our Divisional Management Team meetings. A while ago I tried out sharing a link to meeting notes, but I’m trying to spend more of the time I spend in meetings paying attention and participating, which is tricky to do if I’m also writing up notes that will be easy to read for people who weren’t in the meeting. I am keen to make sure that we work in the open though, so here’s a summary from this week’s meeting. I’d welcome feedback on whether it’s useful and suggestions for things I could add.


We started by catching up with Dawn from finance to look at our revenue budget forecast. The budget monitor for May is currently being prepared, so we were looking at working figures not the final forecast. These were in line with the picture we established from our finance review work and we are going to have to make sure that we complete the follow up actions so that we monitor our budgets effectively and address the budget pressures we identified. What’s encouraging is that we are now working with clearer budget figures much earlier in the financial year than we were last year. (Cate and I will be talking through the finance review at this Thursday’s HackIT strategy stand up – make sure you come along to find out more about how we are managing our money)


We followed that by doing some more work on our investment budgets. I’m working with finance to update this as the current investment budget is made up of capital funding, but as we shift to using cloud services and helping to deliver service transformation, the way that we are spending the money means we need most of it to be revenue budgets. Finance have asked us for some more information about the work we propose to prioritise and the governance processes that these align with, so we went through this and updated the details they’ve asked for. The feedback I’ve had from finance colleagues sounds encouraging, so hopefully we’ll be able to wrap this up soon. Getting this right will be important for future years too so it’s one of my main priorities at the moment.


Finally, we caught up with Michael, who heads up our audit service. Henry’s the HackIT lead for all things audit and I was encouraged to see that we’ve made good progress with the audit plan and follow up actions. We also looked at the audit plan for this year and discussed ways that we can make sure that audit work is actively helping us drive improvements in our work, not just ticking a box.

Developing the thinking for our future approach for mobile telephony

Cate has been working on the recommendations for our future approach for mobile phones. We had really useful feedback to our recent survey and it’s helped us think through what we should recommend when we take this back to HMT (the board). Headlines from this are:

  • We will need to differentiate between services for whom mobile phones are a core work tool (which is mostly field based teams who use mobile phones to receive and update work) and other teams for whom mobile phones are a general productivity tool (ie where mobiles are used for email, calendar, messages etc).
  • In the former case we are likely to still provide corporate devices but in the latter case we want to recommend that we go ahead with paying an allowance instead. There’s a strong case for this because of the bureaucracy and effort involved with managing the issue, return and reassignment of devices and also the clear feedback from users that the traditional corporate device model doesn’t meet their needs.
  • We do, however, need to think about the amount of the allowance we offer. Because an allowance is taxable the amount we had suggested wasn’t seen as being enough to incentivise people to use their own phones. Cate and I are going to remodel the figures to see what might work.
  • To support this we will also need to pull together simple advice for users on how to keep work and personal personae separate on a single device. There are simple ways to do this but it’s clear that a lot of people aren’t currently aware of what’s available to help them do this.
  • And finally, we will need to improve the app for access to the corporate phone system. The current one isn’t good enough and I’ve been very disappointed with the beta for a new app that the provider has given us to test. But as this affects access from the current corporate devices too it needs to be a priority irrespective of any changes we make.

We will hopefully take our final recommendations to HMT before the summer break.

Other highlights from last week were:

  • A very encouraging meeting of the Housing steering group. We still have more work to do to embed a shared understanding of agile delivery (specifically what makes a ‘minimum viable product’ viable and the advantages of delivering in rapid iterations over a ‘big bang’ of a ‘finished’ product), but I was really pleased to hear colleagues in the housing service articulating the tangible benefits of the work we’ve been doing together. This included big reductions in faff for staff and strong evidence that the new digital products are helping to deliver service improvements for tenants and leaseholders.
  • I joined the HMT update on the development of the Council’s workforce strategy. Lots of the work we are doing in our team links in with this and it’s good to see that the thinking includes focus on digital skills and the wider markers of progress in the direction we want to take, not just a tick list of tasks. There are some amazing examples of innovative thinking being demonstrated by teams across the Council and showcasing these will be part of the way forward too.
  • Mid-week I joined colleagues from MHCLG, a number of councils and other sector bodies to reflect on progress with the Local Digital Declaration and share ideas for next steps. I’ve been very impressed by the quality of the outputs of the recent Local Digital Fund projects and think that some of those could deliver significant benefits across local government if they’re developed further.
  • Felix ran an excellent workshop looking at our ‘transition into service’ approach (we are looking at how we might move beyond our historic ‘ITIL’y approach and achieve a smoother flow and more engaged model for the support of new systems and Software as a Service packages after the initial project completes).
  • I took some time to plan out the work for the review of our salary supplements which is due next April. This is a really important part of making sure that we have a sustainable service for the long term and remain competitive. Over the coming months we will be doing benchmarking using a range of sources (including market surveys and comparators from other councils). It’s some way off but I’m pleased that we’re starting this now so we can do a thorough piece of work.
  • Colin updated me on the good progress that he’s made bringing the Macs that are used by some teams across the Council into a consistent management set up. This will improve the user experience and also save money from historic external support arrangements.
  • I met with some colleagues in Adults’ Social Care who are looking at how Assistive Technology might help support people in living with greater independence. I like the approach they’re taking, which is focused on smaller scale experiments to explore ideas rather than a big ‘technology X will solve all our problems’ approach. I also thought that this would be an area that would fit well with LOTI, ** so I sounded out colleagues in the core LOTI group. Their response was positive, so we’ve added this to the list of ideas that will be considered for prioritisation.

Something I’m learning

I always enjoy finding out about colleagues’ interests outside of work, because I think it gives a more rounded picture of the people you work with and makes the workplace more interesting. This week I went to a colleague’s leaving do and discovered that they’re the lead singer in a band who perform Rage Against the Machine style songs. This caught me by surprise but made for a very entertaining evening as they performed a set of their own work and covers!

* Our dev team are trying this as a technique where they jot down a Post-It for everything which takes time away from their core priorities.

** The London Office of Technology & Innovation, which launches on Monday 10 June.