Weeknote w/c 15 July: mobiles, robots and focus

Getting there with mobiles

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Cate and I were reviewing the feedback we’d received from our recent survey to find out from staff how they use corporate mobile phones and their thoughts on our proposed future approach (https://bytherye.com/2019/06/09/weeknote-w-c-3-june-management-team-update-thinking-about-mobiles-and-more/). We’ve now completed this and on Tuesday we took our updated recommendations to the Hackney Management Team.

I was very pleased that these were agreed (with a couple of caveats that we still need to work on as prerequisites before we will be able to launch our proposed approach), but afterwards I decided that I was explaining the goals we’re hoping to achieve in the wrong way. I realised that the way I’ve been describing the proposed change in approach made it sound like we were planning to take something away from our users, which meant that the benefits weren’t coming across clearly enough. Reflecting on that, I’ve boiled this down to five key points which I think are a more effective description of what we propose to do:

  • We are going to give our users more choice over the devices they use, by letting them decide whether to use their own device or whether to have a dedicated phone for work purposes.
  • We will extend access to everyone, meaning that all staff will be able to benefit from mobile access to their work.
  • We will reduce our environmental impact by avoiding buying over 3,000 new phones to refresh the current end-of-life devices, supporting Hackney’s environmental commitments.
  • We are going to cut out bureaucracy and make things simpler, by paying a universal allowance through payroll rather than a request and approval process to acquire a phone and the resulting asset management work.
  • And we will deliver savings of over £590k over three years.

The new approach will mean that all staff are paid a monthly allowance of £10 which they can either use towards the costs of using their personal phone and call / data plan for their work or to buy a dedicated phone for work purposes. Our approach to security will mean that we can provide secure access to core work apps (inc phone calls, email, calendar, files etc) without needing to make additional changes to our systems. The slides that Cate and I talked through at Thursday’s strategy stand up give more details about the feedback we’ve had from users and how we plan to respond to the points people raised (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1pHphy6-ssqyMNFTurQiQ15368G4qtV36Fl8GFSGxKtM).

A visit from the Committee for Standards in Public Life

On Monday, Liz, Matthew and I caught up with members of the Committee for Standards in Public Life (who advise the Prime Minister on ethical standards across the whole of public life in England). This was in the context of the Committee’s review of the implications of Artificial Intelligence for standards in public service (there’s more info about their review here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/ai-and-public-standards).

We had a wide ranging conversation (the committee have deliberately avoided defining AI too narrowly because the term gets used to cover a lot of different aspects of how technology is developing) and my overall impression was that our thinking at Hackney is looking at the right things and is in line with what they are seeing elsewhere. We made it clear that we think that we are still at an early stage of exploring what will be possible with technology and data, and we are approaching this carefully to make sure that we don’t get carried away with what we could do without giving due consideration to what we should do.

We shared some of the key things we’re learning, including:

  • The importance of data quality, which is especially complicated in an environment like ours with so many different services and systems.
  • How we have chosen to see GDPR as an opportunity to develop the culture of data and privacy awareness across the Council, not just a compliance burden.
  • The work we are doing to develop data skills in our team, including our work on apprenticeships, the roles we designed into our team and participation in the GDS / ONS data science accelerator programme.
  • And how our ‘Think big, act small’ principle is designed to help us experiment with new ideas and opportunities while also managing risk.

Other highlights from last week were:

  • Sarah and I had a useful catch up with Tim (the Chief Exec) and Ian (the boss) about our work on Subject Access Requests and Freedom Of Information requests.
  • We had a very positive meeting of the Housing Steering Group looking at progress with our digital services. I was especially pleased with the update from Lindsey in the repairs contact centre, who was reporting significant benefits from the work to make it easier to report and track repairs.
  • On Monday evening I joined Dan (Hackney’s Head of HR) for a session with Audit Committee giving them an overview of the work that the Data & Insight team have been doing to provide managers with improved access to people data using the new dashboards they have developed. This was very well received and prompted a good conversation about how the data can be used to make sure that Hackney performs well and is a good place to work.
  • I’ve been continuing the work to look at the updates to salary supplements which are due next year. We’ve done some assessment against other councils and benchmarking tools which we’ll be discussing with HR colleagues this week.
  • On Wednesday I caught up with our Finance colleagues to check through the latest budget position. We’re now a quarter of the way through the financial year, so it’s important that we’re clear about the actions we need to take to secure a balanced budget position at year end.
  • On Thursday afternoon, I caught up with Lucy, Marian, Ross and Tessa to look at how we can assess the benefits of the work we’re doing to join up health and social care. The anecdotal feedback is that social care teams are finding it very valuable to be able to access core health data easily as part of supporting people in need of care and the data suggests that the usage is ahead of our expectations. We’re going to do some more work to develop a more detailed understanding so that we can be sure about the benefits and clear about areas for further improvement.
  • And I wrapped up with week with a meeting with senior folk from one of our major suppliers. It was good to report very positive feedback from users and it was also valuable to have an opportunity to be frank about areas where we would like to see improvements.

Something I’m learning

I’m not finishing the follow up work that I need to do on our capital and investment budgets quickly enough, which is annoying me. That’s entirely down to me not making enough time to focus on it, and I’m going to have to knuckle down and finish it this week because it’s important across many areas of our work. I need to keep reminding myself that there are some things which just need to be given the time they need, even if they feel less immediately time critical than other tasks which crop up during the week. Otherwise it’s too easy for time to slip away from me.