Weeknote w/c 26 August: getting back up to speed

On Sunday 13 October I’m running the Royal Parks Half Marathon with a group of people from the school trust that I’m part of. We’re raising money for Lambeth & Southwark Mind, who work to promote positive mental health. All donations very gratefully received! https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=CommunitasTrustRunners&isTeam=true

A lot of my week was taken up with clearing through email and other bits and bobs that had come in while I was on leave. I was pleased that I’d planned in a decent amount of desk time so that I could get this done and I finished the week feeling fairly calm and up to speed. It’s taken me quite a long time to learn that it’s useful to treat returning from a holiday as something that’s worth planning for properly.

Mobile phones

We’re getting into the detail of the arrangements for implementing the new approach for mobile phones that I shared earlier in the summer (https://bytherye.com/2019/07/24/weeknote-w-c-15-july-mobiles-robots-and-focus/). One important aspect is how we apply this to service areas where staff are mostly mobile (eg people working in parks and repairs). We’ve a reasonable idea about how we think this will work and have had some useful detailed feedback from colleagues in some of those services. We will be using to help make sure we get the specifics right and have agreed that we’ll set up a session to work through that and co-design it together.


I had a good follow up meeting with colleagues in finance this week to move forward with the work that we’ve been doing to reprofile some of our investment funding. 

Historically, Hackney ICT has operated on a fairly typical model where investments have been largely capital in nature – investing in new infrastructure (servers, network switches etc) and major systems implementations. But as technology changes and the Council’s digital maturity develops, the nature of the investments that we need to make is changing too. Key drivers for this are:

  • Growing use of cloud services, where the Council ‘rents’ computing capacity and software rather than buying those as ‘assets’, increasing agility and the ability to deliver improvements at pace, and reducing risk. This means that costs shift from capital purchases to revenue subscriptions.
  • A greater need to invest in ongoing digital transformation to help Hackney take maximum advantage of the potential for technology, data and digital service design to improve services and realise efficiencies through smarter service delivery. This means that costs shift from ‘one and done’ capital implementation projects to the ongoing skills and capacity needed to deliver continuous and accelerating improvement across services.

Our strategy also means that some of our work is creating ‘intangible assets’ (software built on open source platforms) rather than the traditional proprietary systems that are familiar to finance colleagues.

I’ve been encouraged by the constructive approach that our finance colleagues have taken in working through this together. We’ve now agreed most of the budget lines that need to be set up and those should be in place shortly.

We’re not home and dry quite yet though, and there is further work to do looking at budget pressures due to increases in costs from some of our software vendors and reviewing our charging for print. Once we’ve got those done we will hopefully be in a position to confirm that we are on track with our budget management for the year.

I also…

  • Had a good catch up with Liz and Matthew looking at how we can make sure that we are maximising the visibility of the excellent work that the Data & Insight team are doing.
  • Caught up with a colleague from another council who I have mentoring sessions with. I was really pleased to see that they’ve started blogging some of their ideas following an earlier conversation we had (https://thelocalanalyst.blog/).
  • Looked at our intranet content with Paul and discussed how we might use the shift to our new intranet platform as an opportunity to simplify that. (And how we can use user research to make sure we’re providing useful guidance that meets people’s needs.)
  • Enjoyed the show and tell that the GOV.UK PaaS team gave on Thursday. I was particularly impressed with the breadth of ground that the team covered – from technical details to the wider strategic business model – which helped provide a good understanding of what the service can offer.
  • Had positive catch ups with Kim (our Group Director for Neighbourhoods & Housing, who’s leaving soon to move to be Chief Exec at Lewisham) and Kay (our Director of Customer Services). Kim’s been clearing out old files and has found a bundle of old Hackney booklets, including ‘How to get the most out of ICT’. She’s promised to share that with me when she leaves!
  • Wrapped up the week with a good catch up on the Spacebank project with Philippa and Richard. The team are learning loads from the work that they’re doing with the Community Halls team and the earlier user research is also proving valuable in assessing options for the next steps in taking the prototype work forward.

I was also really pleased to hear that Richard has linked up with our colleagues in Croydon to do some collaborative user research work (https://croydon.digital/2019/08/30/croydon-teams-up-with-4-other-councils-on-user-research/). It’s great to see connections like this being made and the User Research library that we developed last year (https://research.localgov.digital/) being used to good effect.

Something I’ve learned

Kindles don’t do very well if you run them through a cycle of the washing machine 😢

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