Week beginning 11 July

Strange week. I actually did some useful things, I think and twice managed to avoid doing things that would have been disruptive. But it felt unsatisfactory to be part of. There isn’t a single cause. And sat in the sun this morning, it could be worse!

The five main things that I took responsibility for . . . 

Developing a business case for the next phase of work with social care. I was lucky enough to have two decent-length train journeys which was enough to take a deep breath and tell the whole story in a way that (hopefully) is simple enough to make sense without being so simple that it could be misleading. 

How we’re going to tackle voids management in our housing programme. Voids (the process which manages a home from the point at which it’s becoming vacant to the point at which it’s occupied), is, I’m learning, a meta process. It draws together processes which work on their own and need to be joined-up to keep to a minimum the period where the home is empty. Thankfully there’s some good public literature we can draw from and we could orchestrate a good conversation with the product teams in repairs and tenancy management. 

How we’re managing asset data in housing The Building Safety Act requires a golden thread of safety information for landlords managing a building. There are lots of asset management databases that do these tasks. But we also need to manage adjacent activities – like repairs, rent accounts and supporting vulnerable tenants. So making sure we have a single source of truth, whilst ensuring that tools support those workflows isn’t trivial. So I wanted to make sure that we were approaching this in the right way. 

How we’re embedding an engineering mindset in development. Rashmi has been leading some really impressive work to codify more of the work we’re doing in solution architecture, security and reusable components. None of that’s mine, but I wanted to make sure we had oversight of it at Cyber Silver so we could ensure we’re having the right conversations and scrutiny throughout the development lifecycle. 

We’re at a different stage of development with our cloud platform but similarly, we need to take stock and capture what we’ve achieved, where we’re making progress and also reflect the things we haven’t yet done. I gave some thought to the areas we needed to cover and hoped that I’d left enough space for James and Darren to figure out how best to convert that into something useful. 

I looked at these in a different light thanks to my Steve Gerrard revelation last week. It was probably too late (or I was too slow) to work appreciably differently. But it did help me think more deliberately about the holes I was leaving elsewhere on the pitch.  

I was fortunate that there were so many things that I could just glance at. A full list would be too long. Marian is leading the next stage of the rollout of our new phone system and has taken forward the useful things we learnt from the initial release into a set of further phased releases. Zoe has led the new stage of work on Here to Help which has involved an evaluation by UCL’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose and collaborating with Newham Council to create a toolkit for services looking to adopt preventative approaches. The housing finance products team has brought our arrears management tools back into use to support the income collection team.  

But I also started making a list of the things I wasn’t doing. In theory, it should give me a reference point either for times when I’ve got spare capacity and/or when those things move from being important to urgent. That’s three lists now: the things I actually need to do; the things I need to watch and the things I’m not doing. 

There’s a possibility that next week is my last full week at work for a couple of weeks. I’ve got a vague plan for a holiday. I’m often reluctant to really commit to a break – and COVID provides cover for legitimising that. But as we think about the shape of recovery, it feels as though we’re coming towards the end of a phase where some really big ticket items are coming to a conclusion. Some of the next wave of projects have taken longer to get going than we’d have liked (typically for reasons beyond our control). But they’re no less important. So we need to be careful to ensure they have the same energy, commitment and focus whilst being realistic that it’s going to be hard to muster that over the 6 weeks around August particularly if parts of a team are unavailable at different times. 

In the meantime, I have a list of three to attend to . . .