Weeknote 12.22

For various reasons I can’t write a weeknote reflecting on the week as a whole, but I don’t want a second week to pass without writing something. 

Firstly, on the challenges of running a frontline operational service and my admiration for colleagues that have been doing so for some time. It’s been a tough fortnight or so in customer services. This time of year is always the busiest. The council tax billing season, rent increases for tenants, leaseholders nad people on benefit together with elections leads to higher demand. 

We’ve also seen an increase in the number of residents coming for help in the Service Centre. There are lots of really good things about this – and we wouldn;t have it any other way. But it’s about twice as quick to help someone on the phone than face to face so it’s put further pressure on the service we provide. We’ve also had more than 10% of staff sick with COVID. 

Large operational services aren’t challenging because each day comes with new surprises. But because whilst all that’s going on, you also need to make things better. And if you do too much of one at the expense of the other, you lose credibility. We’ve got a strong organisational focus on the immediate at the moment but I also know that the seasonality of customer services means we can’t wait to make the more fundamental changes that are needed. 

The other major thing about my week was speaking to a cyber security conference about what we learnt through recovering from the cyberattack. I took a few examples of datasets which I believe are components of critical national infrastructure and explained some of the challenges we faced in making industry-standard business applicaitons conform to NCSC guidelines. In short, it is harder than it should be to run them in a web-first, zero-trust, two factor authentication, cloud-based architecture. This is no one’s fault and everyone’s fault. Only urgent, concerted action across the sector and with the active participation of central government can solve this. I hoped that a dose of self righteous anger helped at least someone in the audience to believe that we can and must change. 

Next week, I’m on holiday abroad. I’ve been lucky that it’s not my first trip since lockdown. But it’s still much needed. I’m getting irritated about things that I can usually brush off. And then when I get back I’ll have to summon the focus to think about something other than the result against City. Whatever that may be,