Weeknote #1 (2 July 2021)

Hello world!

Here at Kingston and Sutton’s shared digital service we’ve set ourselves an ambition to talk more about the work we’re doing publically. You know: make things open, it makes things better. And in local government there are hundreds of organisations we can learn from and share with.

Inspired by the weeknotes from Digital Dorset, MHCLG’s Local Digital team, Lingjing Yin’s new weeknotes from Greenwich, and many others we’ve decided to give it a ago. To start we intend to publish a fortnight-note with contributions from different teams each time.

Here’s what we’ve got for you this week:

Trying to improve a service while migrating platform adds even more complexity

Paul, Head of Design

This week I’ve been reflecting on how important it is to ensure we understand the level of quality we want to achieve from a piece of work and what is primarily driving us to achieve it. 

One of the projects we’re working on has been getting into difficulty recently. The main issue has been managing the project’s multiple stakeholders and their expectations. Ultimately the project seems to have become a bit confused about what it is trying to deliver. There are a few key drivers underpinning the project:

  • Move functionality away from a legacy platform
  • Transform service delivery
  • Achieve savings

The key take away for me is that the above have very different levels of quality and effort. Lifting and shifting functionality from one platform to another requires careful planning and analysis to ensure a like for like transfer but should essentially be quite straightforward and easy to achieve.

Transforming service delivery on the other hand, often involves solving complex problems. To achieve transformation often requires changes to policy, working practices or sophisticated logic creation, which all takes time.

On reflection I think the problem the project is facing has been caused, in part, because it is trying to deliver on all these drivers at the same time. This makes it very difficult to manage the different expectations around pace and complexity.

So whilst this week has been challenging, it has proved incredibly valuable in thinking about how we might reframe our delivery into more logical chunks of work whose quality expectations can be more easily articulated. 

There’s still work to be done but I think we’ll be much better able to articulate the work of sequencing, why we’re opting for that sequence and what will be achieved at the end of it.

Getting the word out about digital jobs is difficult

Ellie, Senior Business Manager

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been running a recruitment campaign to expand our Digital and IT team.

We had a large number of roles to fill, so we were keen to use the opportunity to increase diversity in the team and be more inclusive in our recruitment campaign. We therefore reached out to a number of sites with specific audiences – those focussed on women in tech (Ada’s List), those with disabilities (Evenbreak) and also specialists in the BAME community (UKBlackTech). We were also eager to utilise previously proven channels such as LinkedIn and also our own social networks. 

This week we ran a retro and here are some of the reflections:

Went well:

  • having budget to promote the roles and enable us to work with a broader range of agencies
  • receiving a lot of applications overall
  • raising our visibility and reputation in the marketplace
  • increased traffic through our newly launched Twitter profile and Blog site.

Challenges we faced:

  • on-boarding niche recruitment sites, as they don’t always have documents in place to meet our business needs
  • high competition from other employers for a small number of skilled candidates, often with shorter application processes and offering higher salaries
  • difficulty calculating the return on investment for our spend on adverts and where to focus our efforts – as third party site conversions (eg user clicking ‘Apply’ button) did not correlate with number of actual submitted applications on our recruitment site
  • the need to include appropriate balance of keywords throughout ad title, tags and content – to ensure they would be discoverable, appear naturally in search results and target relevant job seekers.

Having uncovered some of the main issues in our current processes, we are now working hard to review the lessons learnt and see where we can evolve our practices to achieve optimum results in future campaigns. I will look to share these insights here in the coming weeks.

We need to give contractors a good induction

Pamela, Head of Research

At Kingston and Sutton we rely on contractors to supplement the skills and experience in our digital teams. So this week we’ve been thinking about how we induct them, to ensure they feel part of the team.

We’ve written some points to describe the experience we’d like our contractors have:

  • we should tell the team we’re hiring extra people, so your arrival isn’t a surprise
  • we should welcome you into the team in the same way as everyone else
  • we don’t need to tell everyone you’re a contractor
  • we should assure you that it’s ok not to hit the ground running, because you need to learn about the work first
  • we should be open and transparent about previous work and explain the strategy
  • we should be clear about our ways of working, expectations and standards, as all organisations differ.

One change we’re going to try is buddying contractors with a staff member in a similar role. The staff member can support and advise on our ways of working, preferred approaches and artefacts. This will ensure we’re getting what we need and our staff are able to learn from the contractor’s experience.

Things we’ve read lately

Tom started with us a few weeks ago and has been reading advice on new jobs from:

And about Local Gov Drupal’s Sprint #3 and their feature design process (access request needed).

Jon‘s been reading Managing for Happiness. The author, Jurgen Appelo, gave the Agile2016 keynote on Managing for Happiness. The book captures much of the presentation and is full of concrete games, tools, and practices for all workers.

Our website team have been reading up on GOV.UK Accounts to learn about their approach and what it might mean for service delivery.

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