Re-engineering Hackney Content weeknotes 15/07/19

The content population is complete! We only have left those pages that may warrant a different template from the standard, such as Contact Us or Leaving Care. And the Homepage.

On that note, Joanne Moore kick-started a discussion with us about how we can best include Search on the homepage; which led to us thinking more deeply about the homepage’s raison d’etre. 

Looking at the ‘competition’, there’s been a trend in recent years for councils to simply list their services on the homepage, with a few quick links to specific tasks. This does tend to give the impression that all the council does is take money off us for parking fines and council tax. It certainly doesn’t leave anyone with a warm fuzzy feeling about all the other things the council does. Yes, we all want to be in and out quickly when paying rent; but we’d also like to know Hackney Pride is polishing its rainbows in readiness for the parade or that free bike checks are on offer in London Fields. So we’re looking at how we can meet both needs. 

Meanwhile, Wing has been researching the family tree for the menu. Some pages are parents, some are children, some are parents and children, some are grandparents, some are confirmed bachelors. We need to cater for all options in one list as well as sort out a mechanism to order the items. Our minimum will be manual ordering but we hope to move to drag and drop in the longer run. 

An added complication is how to ensure landing page urls (eg /housing) – ubiquitous in leaflets and mousemat giveaways – have a place to call home. We’re endeavouring to design something revolutionary involving the menu, it’ll either crash-and-burn or win us a Webby. 

We met with a couple of Housing teams this week to discuss metrics and how we can help them move forward with their digital services. Hotjar really will be a goldmine for this as end users love telling us how we can do better. We’ve got a list going of all the lovely teams with a pioneering spirit; and of all the lovely things that could be sprinkled with digital fairy dust once the move to WordPress is complete. 

I enjoyed a course at the GLA yesterday to help us get off the blocks with Google Data Studio. It’s given me enough to move forward; and I can spend a few evenings next week watching metrics tutorials instead of Pose. And the Category is… Working Mother in Lounging Pyjamas at 2am Trying to Connect to WiFi.

Hiring contractors? You need to know about IR35 03/04/2019

You’re likely aware that the age of the contractor is coming to a close. The public sector has been required to treat contractors as employees since 2017, except in unusual circumstances. The same is coming to the private sector next year. In our industry, this is big news as tech companies have lived, thrived and sailed away on the back of IT contractors. 

At the moment, many contractors have their own limited company and pay themselves a salary and dividend through that vehicle, which is tax efficient for them. HMRC has ruled that this is not a practice to be encouraged and, if in all other respects the contractor is an employee, then they need to be taxed as an employee via PAYE. This is known as ‘being inside IR35’. 

Consequently, contractors in IR35 must be on the payroll of an ‘umbrella company’. The umbrella acts as the contractor’s employer and taxes them for PAYE and National Insurance. Most recruitment agencies have an umbrella that they can suggest to the contractor.

Being inside IR35 also means, however, that the contractor is entitled to Hackney’s holiday pay of 27 days plus bank holidays. Contractors will need to request annual leave via their umbrella company but will continue to be paid their daily rate while on leave. Hackney has waived the legal 12 weeks before these entitlements kick in so they are eligible as soon as they start the post. Sick pay is not included unless the contractor and umbrella have agreed that separately. Similarly, contractors’ pension arrangements are agreed between them and the umbrella so that is not within our control. 

Recruitment agencies on Matrix are meant to know what being inside IR35 means for a contractor. However, it is worth re-making the point to the recruitment agencies when a request for a contractor is made. This means putting it on the advert, job description, LinkedIn, HackIT, blog… anywhere we advertise the post. It is also imperative that anyone interviewing makes it explicit that the post is inside IR35 and what that means to the candidate. 

Please make sure you’re up to speed with this as everyone needs to know what they’ll have in their pay packet and the end of each month.

Neighbourhood CRM weeknotes 09/12/18

What a week! We rolled out the second incarnation of the website on Tuesday and ran shadowing with a different agent each morning and afternoon until Friday. We were on hand to guide agents where they needed prompts as well as to collate feedback on their user experience. As part of our Service Assessment (and professional pride), we expect to iterate and improve post-launch and we will continue to shadow at various points so that we can stay engaged with their needs. Currently, HackIT doesn’t have a support model for continual improvement and this is something we need to explore further in the coming weeks. I’m used to clients buying x hours’ development per month (eg for usability tweaks, bug-fixing) and that could work here too, even if our ‘clients’ are other departments and no actual money exchanges hands.  

One of our biggest headaches this week was transactions not coming through correctly. Discrepancies between balances on the CRM, My Rent Account and Universal Housing were putting giant question marks over all our heads. We’ve identified our definition of balance as one of the causes – no, it is not where you stand now, it is where you will stand after next week’s rent and next week’s housing benefit. Strange but true. And now corrected.

The other apparent cause is how transactions are fed into the CRM. Huge thanks to Selwyn Preston and Emma Harley’s team on My Rent Account for diagnosing and fixing this problem. Essentially, failed caches do not get reloaded automatically and so some transactions have not been reconciled to the CRM. 

We then had a real humdinger last thing Friday when a couple of calls from tenants revealed that Paris was still pointing to the test environment instead of live. None of the 10 payments we had taken had gone through. We sprang into action to discuss it with Finance while Sachin made the fix. A genuine human error but, in the interests of learning from our mistakes, something that automated testing would have picked up. Meat for our next retro at any rate. 

Neighbourhood CRM weeknotes 09/11/18

We’ve been prepping for our local government service assessment on Monday and it’s been a hectic couple of days. We’re going a bit off piste with our structure compared to other teams’ efforts and it could go either way, frankly. 

There are 15 standards in the assessment and we have to provide evidence as to how we’ve met them. Our first move has been to use a Google site as a repository for information instead of a document. We set up the site way back when and it’s been a useful tool to date, particularly when onboarding new members. So we thought we’d beef up its content and repurpose for our assessment. 

In conjunction, we’ve produced a Trello board of the standards. Evidence of how we’ve met each standard is on the website so all we’ve had to do is link Trello back to the relevant part of the site. We’ll be using the board in the assessment so all our assessors’ recommendations and conclusions will be stored in this one place too. 

It’s been a slog (thanks for the caffeine hit, Philippa Newis) but we’ve finally got there. The website is probably no more work than creating a document to be honest; and at least it won’t be retired and filed on a team drive for eternity afterwards. Now we have it, we can HackIT, tweet it and InstaFace the heck out of it.

To demonstrate the new service to assessors, we went all luvvie yesterday and recorded a role-play of callers ringing the neighbourhood office. Will’s going to be channelling Spielberg all weekend with some tight editing. Will Sachin Shetty end up on the cutting room floor? No!

In other news, we’re just waiting on security sign-off for the Privacy Impact Assessment. Turned out to be easier than we thought as we’re not really gathering new data or reusing old, just implementing new tech. Thanks for that godsend in a busy week.

Sprint 7 lived its best life and but now we’ve said adios, and bonjoured our way into Sprint 8. This is a one-weeker to cover off the export of data to Qlik and to finish off our PDF stories. With two days out for the assessment, it’s going to be tight to complete by Tuesday. We’ve allowed a full week for end-to-end testing and tidying up before launch so, if we speak nicely to Jira, maybe we can get an extension. 

Resourcing resourcing resourcing 21/09/18

My two projects are both being delivered in-house (ie without external agencies) and are about to reach critical milestones. The Neighbourhoods CRM project is in full swing and we are looking towards launch. The Minimum Viable Product for this project covers calls about Rent only, however, the NCC also deals with anti-social behaviour, leaseholder queries, cleaning and much more. It has always been our intention to continue beyond Minimum and so we need to know who is going to be on this project, and for how long. 

In a similar vein, Grievances is nearing Build phase. We’ve got a high fidelity prototype on Axure wires and we have to start planning who’s building this thing.

This is where resource management starts to shine. We should know, in advance, which projects are about to hit which phase. We need to anticipate bottlenecks. We may have to manage expectations and schedule in projects. We may have to hire in skills. We may have to hire full stop. What we definitely don’t want to be doing is paying for contractors because we didn’t do any of the things above.

There is plenty of resourcing software out there. For our purposes, we just want broad strokes for forecasting. Some software micro-manages all meaning out of reality: are we really letting people book 30 mins of someone’s time four months in advance? Nobody wants to go down that rabbit hole but we do need week by week, or at least month by month, predictions. 

We should base our broad stokes on a realistic figure of resources’ availability. If we assume 80% billability (ie 80% on projects, 20% on training, team meetings, writing G+ posts) then that’s about 6 hours per day. So, if we estimate a project will need about 200hrs of backend development then that’s about 7 weeks. Give or take a couple of days’ holiday, sickness, etc, and we arrive at 8 weeks. As the 200hrs was pretty much a guesstimate, we might as well call it 10 weeks. That’s it: broad strokes. We don’t need to be telling services we will kick off their project on 17 February 2019. It’s more like “Q1”. 

Keith Gatt’s already using Float to manage resources within the Platform team. We can expand this out readily to Development and, if we see bottlenecks arising elsewhere, we can roll out further to Delivery, Service Design, Data, Support or anywhere else that needs to manage time, resources and expectations. Float is easy to use and great value for money. And who doesn’t love a bit of colour-coding?

Digitising the grievance process weeknotes 14/09/18

Our big event this week was sharing our prototype with the head of HR and his team. Thanks to Will, we had some lovely clickable wireframes that did a great job in showing how the website will look, feel and function. Proving that you really do need to fake-it-to-make-it when it comes to interfaces. 

Next week, Wing will be testing the Complainant journey on those wires with some Housing colleagues that Jasmeen Sangha signed up for us. We know that Lucy Clifton is out there drumming up recruits too. Cheers!

Dan’s also invited us along to his regular union meeting in a couple of weeks so we’ll be able to demo the wires to the reps and get their valuable feedback. 

We’ve finally put to bed the battle between informal and formal grievances. If it’s a grievance, it’s formal. Anything else is normal line management. So, informal grievance, put on a suit or be off with you. 

As prototyping is about two thirds complete, we need to start thinking about who is going to build this thing…