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Digital, strategy and architecture 

Working together to make things right

Leadership meeting, October 2019

Every 4-6 weeks, a bunch of us meet up to talk about what’s going well, what our blockers are, and how we could improve things in digital, strategy and architecture.

We’ve decided to publish our minutes, so we can be open and honest about what we’re working on. These are the minutes for October.



  1. Cheryl’s corporate update
  2. Performance reporting and KPIs
  3. Service improvements
  4. Support
  5. Recruitment
  6. Any other business

 1. Cheryl’s corporate update

There is still no news on the LGSS Review.

The people in charge have expressed that they have an idea for where they want to go. However, no official decision has been made yet. When it is made, no one knows how long it will take for that decision to be implemented.  We understand this we be a mix of lead authority and repatriation for different services.

If the lead authority model gets confirmed, this means that different councils will lead on different areas of the shared service. For example, Cambridgeshire County Council might lead on HR, and Northamptonshire County Council might lead on IT (these are just hypothetical examples, not suggestions).

In the future, whichever council takes charge of IT will decide which teams need to continue to act as a shared service (as in, in the way we work now), and which teams would be better off going back to being managed directly by their individual councils (repatriation).

We agreed as a team that this situation was really difficult and reflected on how awful it was that this has been hanging in the air for 18 months.

The uncertainty of this decision does have a negative impact on our service in the following ways:

  • it’s bad for morale. People don’t feel safe and secure when there is potential for big change to come from on high
  • relationships with suppliers suffer. We can’t commit to 3 year deals, because we don’t know what we’ll look like in 3 years. So we commit to 18 months, but don’t benefit from a good discount, or the trust that we’ll be a longterm customer
  • relationships with customers can suffer.  Customers may try to second guess where the review will end up and this will make them cautious and stop them from doing things.

Cheryl has feed back these concerns to DMT (the monthly director’s management meeting, attended by all IT heads of service and until recently, our IT director Stewart Martin.) Mark Ashton, our MD, is currently filling in for Stewart (who will be out of action to at least 2020), but he’s over-capacity and the reality is that we won’t be getting a lot of extra support from on high. Steve felt that, at the very least, we should acknowledge that a whole layer of leadership has disappeared while Stewart has been in hospital. This puts extra pressure on Cheryl to lead without much support, as she only has a line-manager by proxy, and while she may still get some 1-1s, what she won’t get is someone who has the mental space, vision, or experience in IT, to be helping her to push things forwards.

So here’s what we’re going to do, while we’re in this predicament.

  • Please take this acknowledgement from us that we know things are a bit rubbish with the Review. We appreciate your own resilience in powering through and continuing to make design, build and support services.
  • As a leadership team, we are going to put some time into supporting each other, so we can be more stable supporting the rest of the team (that’s you guys)
  • As a leadership team, we’re going to revisit our service plan, and make sure we’re continuing to carry out the vision established in collaboration with Stewart Martin. We believe he knew what he was doing, and we’re going to keep on track in his absence.
  • Acknowledge that the lead authority decision is outside our control. It’s not something that is a reflection of our work, or something we can influence by changing – so the best we can do is continue to strive for the things we believe in – good digital services, designing reliable, secure and compliant architecture and helping our customers develop IT strategies to support their continuous improvement.
  • If you have questions, need anything, or think we’re missing something important, please flag it up. You’ll be helping us, help you.

Other stuff from the top table

Northamptonshire County Council has gone out for service leads on cross cutting workstreams for the unitaries.

A couple of posts will be advertised – to manage LGSS and Serco as a subcontractor, around the CCC merge with PCC.  These will be CCC posts.  

These workstreams, along with the need to implement whatever comes out of the lead authority model decision, mean that there may actually be a substantial amount of work for our team to do going forwards. Cheryl also made a good point that all of our partner organisations still have a very pressing need to transform their services on a day-to-day basis, so we don’t imagine work to dry up any time soon.

Stewart Martin is off for the foreseeable future. He won’t be back until Jan 2020 at the earliest, and a replacement director will not be considered until there is news on the CIPFA review.

 2. Performance reporting and KPIs

We’ve been working on more accurate ways to measure performance across IT. Below is a dashboard, which will be able to show real-time data about how we are performing as a service.

We noted that some of this data needs some signalling around what ‘good’ looks like. For example, the ‘time to value’ is 8 weeks. Is that good or not? Who knows? Whereas, if you look at ‘Uptime’ we can see immediately that this has improved.

Actually, time to value is a false reading anyway, as no projects have been through the process yet, to provide this data… but this is about to change with Anthony Taylor’s Project Closure form!

This allows scrum masters, or occasionally digital services architects to summarise the project, in terms of the time spent in engagement, design, delivery and support, whether the ultimate goal and objectives were delivered as per the proposal (time, cost, scope), and the lessons learnt from the project and retro. 

Having this information will help us gather evidence for the work we’ve done, keep a record of how accurately we’re estimating and monitor which projects bring the most value, both in savings and to the end user.

Kat Sexton had some questions regarding how the form might impact design and requested closer involvement. One issue that came up is that at the moment, DSAs log initial engagement under pre-sales in Harvest. When a project gets the go-ahead, we’ll need to make sure this time is logged against the individual project in Harvest, to get an accurate reading. 

Cheryl agreed that this data could be logged as both pre-sales and project engagement so as to save on admin, but DSAs will still need to record engagement per project (in Outlook or other) so the right data is inputted when the project is approved.

Action: DSAs to keep track of initial engagement time spent, so they can attribute it to an individual project, once it has been approved and set up in Harvest.

Action: Steve Purr to arrange feedback session, for further forms when ready.

Action: Kat Sexton to feedback any further thoughts on KPIs, the dashboard and closure form to Dan/Steve.

Action: Josie will be completing a project closure form for waste, so we can see how useful it is and feedback

Action: Anthony is working on a customer satisfaction form, which will be triggered when a project closure form is submitted. This will be sent to the project stakeholders, and we’ll find out what they really think about us.

Action: Steve Purr is working on a portfolio view of the top 5 projects for each council. We’re not sure how this will be used yet, apart from ego-maniac head of service’s shouting ‘my service is bigger than your service’ at DMT. But we’re doing the work anyway… because we’re curious about where this one ends up.

Action: Researchers and Designers – for our data to work properly, please log your work in Harvest under the phase of the project, rather than the task. For example, if you are doing a mock up of something, but we’re in the delivery phase, that goes under delivery, not design.

Action: We’ve realised we need a process flow of how a project typically works end to end. Lisa… this job is most likely coming to you as part of your BA induction!

3. Service improvements

We’ve been thinking about transparency this month. We’ve had some requests to make our leadership objectives public, so you can all see what we’re working on (and hold us accountable). 

Action: Please think about your own objectives, and whether we can share them

4. Support

We didn’t even mention this. Too busy rambling on about other things.

5. Recruitment 

Lisa will start as a BA on Wednesday 16th October (but she’ll be in NCC that day). 

Our two new Research Analysts, Zainab and Panos, start at Cambridge on Monday 21st October. Please come in and meet them on Monday and Wednesday if you’re near Cambridge. If not, you’ll get to meet them at the team day on 24th October.

There’s been a delay for advertising for the Dev 1 post at MKC and NCC/CCC. The Dev 1 role was re-evaluated in the interested of fairness, to get a similar grading to those at NCC/CCC. Unfortunately, it came out a grade lower, so we have submitted an appeal. Hopefully this will be rescored today, but will keep you updated. Thanks to Alan and Jim for all their help.

Action: Kiri to finalise inductions for Lisa, Zainab and Panos.

Action: Kat, Adele and Mitchell will be helping to support our new design members over the next few weeks.

6. Any other business?

The team day is on 24th October and is for everyone in digital, strategy and architecture.

Seeing as the corporate world is a tad gloomy at the moment, Cheryl is going to release her update in an email before the day, and present a lighter introduction on the day itself.

In terms of activities, we will be embarking on a subarctic survival simulation. Your plane has crash landed, and you have to work together in small groups to rank a list of 15 salvaged items in order of importance. What will help your group survive?

The exercise practices both rational problem solving and interpersonal social skills, both of which are needed to deliver an effective solution. In our team, we need to work together to bring together our different skill and knowledge sets, but often, confidence, personalities, and perceived status can prevent us from getting all the best ideas out and on the table.

  • Have you ever kept something to yourself because you’re not sure others are interested?
  • Have you even jumped in and led a conversation because no one else is saying anything?
  • Have you ever agreed with someone else, to avoid confrontation, or because you assume they have more knowledge or experience?
  • Have you ever just not got that involved because you’re not bought into the outcome/you don’t really care?

This exercise will hopefully help us observe when we are doing these things, and practice how to work together to get the best out of ourselves and others.

There will be some other stuff happening too, focused on our day jobs, but that’s still being fleshed out. It makes sense to do this in teams so digital people will be in one room and the technical architects in the other.

Next meeting:

Provisional date set 05/11/19 @ 10:00