Weeknote w/c 22 July: next steps in delivering great customer services for our residents

The summer holidays are upon us and I had a slightly shorter week so that I could take my share of the childcare responsibilities. There’s still lots I want to get done before we’re too far into August…

Preparing for our new Member led customer services board

I spent some time last week with Matthew preparing for the new Member led customer services board which has its first meeting this week. I’m excited about this because it’s designed to be cross-cutting, bringing together senior officers and Members from across a wide range of portfolios, and is an opportunity to look at how we can work together to use data, digital service design and technology to deliver further improvements for our residents, as well as reducing the cost of services.

Matthew has held pre-meets with each of the attendees to talk through their hopes for the group and reflect on the significant achievements that Hackney has already delivered over previous years. These provide a solid foundation for future improvements and I think it’s going to be exciting to see what can be achieved in the next stage of our journey.

Designing our software licencing to fit our future direction

A significant area of our spending as a service relates to software licencing, and making sure that we have designed our licencing to fit the Council’s strategic direction can be very complex. Many of our legacy systems have their origins in desktop computing and the licencing models can be a poor fit for a world where users are mainly using web and mobile devices, and information flows between systems to deliver more joined up services for our residents.

On Wednesday we had a really useful session with colleagues from the Crown Commercial Service who talked us through some of the tricks that software vendors use and ways that they can help us secure the best value and flexibility from our licencing. This was a good example of how local and central government can work together to get best value for money for taxpayers.

Other highlights from last week were:

  • Henry and I met up with the coach that he’s been working with recently. This was a very positive conversation and I found it particularly valuable to talk through the ways that Henry and I work together and how we can get the best from one another.
  • Andy, Matthew and I met up with colleagues from the Council’s Regeneration team to discuss how we can help them move away from eDOCS as quickly as possible. They’re seeing lots of benefits from adopting G Suite and are keen to bring their historic information together in one place so that they can work collaboratively across their teams. Following this we’ve shared a proposed approach to move this forward which we hope will be of benefit to them as well as helping us to refine the approach we take for engaging with other service areas.
  • We had a catch up looking at progress with developing new ‘How to HackIT’ guides. We had fewer guides ready to publish than we had in previous months but I’m expecting that one for the procurement collection will be published this week and there are a couple of others which will hopefully be ready soon. We also unpicked the commissioning and procurement lifecycle to identify the guides that we’d like to produce to help teams who need to buy things.
  • I attended the third LOTI workshop, which was the first one since the central LOTI team arrived in post. Onyeka from the team did a really good write up here: https://medium.com/@onyeka.onyekwelu/week-2-choosing-projects-creating-systems-c1fd107e3310.
  • I had a catch up to look at the work we’re doing to review our salary supplements (ahead of the formal review next April). We’ve made good progress with this and I’m happy with the way it’s shaping up. We’ve agreed an approach with our HR colleagues which will mean that we’re ready in good time, including time to discuss our approach with the wider team. (Ahead of that, I’m happy to discuss any questions you have about this – just drop me a line if you’d like to make time for a chat)
  • Soraya gave Matthew and me an excellent update on the work she’s been doing to look at how we recruit and attract people to join our team. She had pulled together some useful insights and identified a few hypotheses which she’ll be exploring in the next stages of this work.

Something I’m reflecting on

I watched ‘The Great Hack’ at the weekend. I thought that this was disappointing viewing because I felt that it struggled to tell what I think is the deeper story about how the internet and social networks are changing society and politics.

The narrative seemed to suggest that a strange dark magic was being used to influence how people vote, but I think this is simply a case of new and more powerful forms of marketing which we’re already very familiar with in the world of commerce. What’s changed from traditional political campaigning is scale in terms of the breadth and depth of information available and the ability to use modern technology to profile people and deliver much more personalized messages than traditional billboard posters, leaflets and broadcast media. There have been similarly dramatic shifts affecting society in the past, and I suspect that each time that has happened the changes felt unfathomable to many people while those who ‘got it’ have been able to harness them to further their goals.

The programme touched briefly on some of the deeper questions about power and the interests behind some of the ways this has been used. But I thought that got lost, which was a shame.