Week beginning 7 February

Focus for the week

I think I lost my way a bit this week. On Sunday morning I ran a half marathon distance in 90 minutes – an ambition I’ve held for five years. On Sunday afternoon Liverpool were taken apart by Man City and it didn’t get much better from there. 

On writing this week’s note I had to check back and work out what I’d thought I was going to focus on. It was a bit esoteric. And then on Monday morning, a meeting I was well-prepared for didn’t actually happen; the discussion was about totally different things and it was followed up by some interviews that took me away from the regular goal-setting session we do at Council Silver. So this week happened, I did some things and then it ended. And when it ended all I had to show for it was that I had completed the tasks I’d set myself last weekend (my to do list is typically titled either ‘weekend tasks’ or ‘Monday morning’).  

Ones to watch 

Document upload and evidence store – One of the common capabilities we knew we needed was when residents need to provide documents. It was one of the big reasons for people visiting the Service Centre. Successfully scanning and uploading a document is hard if you’re not confident online and/or unless it’s really easy to do. Services like AirBnB have set a new standard in making this easier. We’d built an alpha, but knew more work was needed. The team is starting to deliver tangible benefits to residents whilst learning the sort of subtle but crucial details that make the difference between a service that works for people sufficiently motivated and something so good, people prefer to use it. 

Land charges – We set a goal in December of being able to provide access to our land charges data by the end of January (it was divided across multiple systems and we’ve currently been able to extract data from just one of those). We’re reluctant to make distant commitments when too much is unknown and that means when we do, it increases the importance of delivering. There were a couple of points during January when the team’s weeknotes showed that they worried whether they would succeed. But they kept going, and it was good to see this week that we’re able to restore a partial service – an important step towards our goal of full recovery of this important service. 

Here to Help – I was pleased to hear this week that we’ve got some funding to evaluate Here to Help, the service to support vulnerable residents which has emerged out of our COVID response. We’ve worked hard and made some important investments and naturally think we’ve done a good job. But if we’re to develop it into a common approach to supporting vulnerable people we need to know that it’s effective. 

What I’m learning

Creating a shared language – for most of the last four years, we’ve preferred to avoid explicit prioritisation in favour of a growth mindset (how can you compare a Comino migration to an M3 upgrade). But first COVID then the cyberattack has made those choices essential. I wager that colleagues have been more understanding of these choices than I ever thought likely. As we get past the first phase of applications recovery, those choices will become trickier. So we’re trying to create a common language, in terms of the capability that recovery will enable for our services ‘we can . . .’ I’m really interested in how this might become a shared language for how we work together beyond the pandemic and cyberattack recovery. 

Declarations – Local government IT requires all sorts of messy compromises. And we’ve been clear that our recovery from the cyberattack will look different depending on the service and context. However, we’ve also identified a number of areas where we need to make clearer declarations of intent to help guide the team. Our ‘cloud, unless (it can’t work)’ policy is a really important foundation of that and I drifted off to sleep one night thinking of soundbites to encapsulate some of the guardrails that will guide our recovery – keeping us clearly focused on our strategic goals while remaining sufficiently flexible to respond to uncertainty. 

Courage – it’s easy to create a story for yourself which you believe to be universally true. I’m courageous. Except, of course just because I can be doesn’t mean I am. There were three occasions this week when I was tipped into being more courageous in a circumstance where I hadn’t been previously. I suspect, in retrospect, it wasn’t a coincidence that they came together. 

Next week

Back to basics next week, I think. My meta-goal is to start filling the orchestration graph in the applications and data recovery workstream I’m leading. But I’ll do this through returning to clear articulated goals, linked to the ‘we can’ language of the roadmap. It’s not new but I need to get back in the habit. 

Of course at the current time of writing Liverpool and England haven’t yet played – so it could all fall apart by 4pm today.