We’ve been working with Hackney Council and MadeTech, collaboratively redesigning their Benefits and Housing Needs. We’re inviting you to follow our work through shared sprint notes as we design a service which is easily understood, fair, accessible and beneficial to Hackney residents. These sprint notes were first published by Hackney. You can follow our process on HackIT, and the other great work happening at Hackney Council.

Zing, zing, zing! Once again, more and more ideas are being created and tested by the team. We want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the service staff who are doing great work and constantly delivering amazing outcomes for residents, especially with demand increasing.

We’ve now been working remotely for four months. A long time and it all seems normal now, but weird not to see any of the team's faces. Our team has definitely felt pressures and a variety of emotions over the last few weeks. And so, it’s great to be surrounded by such a supportive team on this project and even finding time to have some fun.

Here’s a bit of a different sprint notes update this week.

What have we learnt from working remotely?

Building and sustaining a team can be difficult when things change. Most of the team were extremely used to working in offices - with people. And so testing new things, workshopping ideas and collaborating on code and design has taken some adjusting.

But we’ve learnt a few things;

  • make sure you have easy communication channels to ask any questions or share progress
  • user research is a whole new beast, especially when a service faces increased demand during a pandemic
  • ways of working are easy to change if you’re open to it
  • fun can bring the team closer together

We’re sure there are so many more we can list, and perhaps we will start going through them in our sprint notes moving forward. But first, fun!

What kind of fun are we having?

Not engaging in social interactions or activities can really take its toll, this applies in delivery teams as well. How can you work with someone you never really talk to? How do you get to know people through meetings? Forced fun, of course.

A few weeks ago we forced the team to have some fun through a ‘Team Challenge’, bringing competition into the mix. Involving a drawing competition, a completely ridiculous scavenger hunt, an excel masterpiece and a tie-breaker maze. As you can from the pictures, the team got pretty competitive. It was great to get to know people at a more social level and continue to build those connections needed to deliver impactful work.

Hackney Council drawing competition

Working remotely also means you can’t wander over to someone and ask them random questions or spark off their ideas.

Interestingly developers and designers don’t understand each other sometimes, who knew?! A lot of questions and some misunderstandings occurred when we started working remotely.

Lean coffee virtual session

Running a ‘Lean Coffee’ can really help here. Why not bring everyone together, get them to post their questions and then take turns as a group to discuss them for 3–5 minutes. Allowing everyone to learn at the same time, from each other. These quick 30 minute sessions have allowed the team to understand what everyone does, and how they are currently doing it. Easy.

And now, our project updates.

Understanding Vulnerability

As you know we’re working on building a bigger picture of the resident’s situation when they contact any part of the service.

Last time we showed you some prototypes we’re testing with the service. We’ve learnt a lot about the best way to visualise the information, and we’re now feeding this into a platform that the service uses every day. Bringing together our knowledge bank of resources and next steps to deliver the best outcomes for residents.

Hackney vulnerability snapshot platform

Although we have it ‘designed’ we now have to build it and make sure it all works. So, what’s next?

  • Test the tool with staff: Does surfacing vulnerability and assets in Single View add value for staff and residents?
  • Build ‘suggested next steps’ based on vulnerabilities/assets
  • Link the tool to the guidance for having quality conversations, and knowledge bank

Evidence Store

What is an Evidence Store? If you’re a follower of these sprint notes, you may remember something called the ‘Doc Upload’ Tool. We’ve renamed it and are starting to build a much larger and more stable platform for residents and staff to use.

Introducing the Evidence Store;

  • A simple, fast way for staff and customers to upload and manage evidence documents, improving efficiency and user experience
  • Once uploaded, staff will have the ability to easily manage the documents and attach to a resident’s case

So, why are we now creating the evidence store?

  • Currently, evidence documents are stored in different systems (UHW, Comino, Jigsaw) which leads to confusion about which documents are held for a customer
  • Documents are often duplicated across multiple systems to try and solve the discoverability issue, but this leads to more work for officers
  • Being able to store the documents in one place, add and view them via Single View will mean that there is less duplication and that documents are easier to find
  • We’ll be able to prevent officers from asking customers for documents we already have
The Evidence Store Explained

Naturally, we needed to start the work off with a discovery into the technology, making sure it’s feasible.

Technology discovery learnings

What is the plan?

  • Build the reusable evidence store API
  • Integrate it with the existing “customer document uploads” project
  • Add integration to Single View to improve the document upload experience for officers
  • Test and see if it adds value, then explore other places where it makes sense to integrate

Self-service Tools

In case you’ve forgotten: How might we design interactive web-based tools for residents to help themselves, to reduce demand and save staff time?

Over the last month, we’ve run workshops with staff, working out where the gaps are in the self-service process and starting to imagine what tools may fill these. At the last Show & Share, the service voted on a number of ideas to help us prioritise what we should look at first.

Self service tool ideas ranked in order of preference

The top three ideas:

  • Self-service Plan: with steps, links and resources for finding a private rental property
  • Automated SMS Reminders: to nudge residents along their self-service journey
  • One bank of resources: for all the useful tools, links and services to share

All these ideas have many parts to them, so we wanted to try out some prototypes that could form parts of them. Like calculating what you can afford and finding a private rented property.

Privately rented property protoype platform

Over the next sprint, we’ll be testing these tools with staff. As well as testing designs with residents and figuring out what works for them. We’re looking forward to sharing what we learn.

Get in touch

We’re always happy to answer any questions you have about FutureGov and discuss how we can work together.

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