Weeknotes S1 E9

Automation & Consolidation

Voltron has moves.

Hello! It’s been a while!

I’ve attempted to write weeknotes a few times. Each time I put fingers to keyboard, I felt almost compelled to stand up and do something else. That’s interesting because I normally find the act of writing helps sooth my brain as I unpack my thoughts. But rather than fight it, I decided to go with it and just park weeknotes until I felt ready to write them again (…which appears to be today!).

In my self enforced weeknotes exile I’ve noted that I’ve been feeling a little bit off balance. I had one particularly strange week where I started off feeling a tinge of imposter syndrome and ended it by being included on a list of Social Housing Tech Leaders. That was quite the emotional rollercoaster!

I’ve been doing mindfulness on the train to work to help reclaim my mental balance. I’ve found this useful for emptying the recycle bin in my brain and bringing focus to the important stuff. I also discovered that mindfulness has the effect of elongating time. A 30 minute train ride can seem like an hour when you’re doing nothing but sitting still and observing your own thoughts and feelings. I’m not big on the whole digital detox thing, but it made me realise how easy it is to occupy every waking moment with some manner of interaction without paying much attention.

I’ve also been delving back through some of Brene Brown’s greatest hits. Her books are some of the few that I’ve read that have profoundly changed my view of the world. I like to re-read them on an almost annual basis as a reminder that all the good stuff in life comes from vulnerability.

Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.

Onwards! ✊

The last 12 months has seen quite a lot of change in our team following a remarkably stable period. Each time a coworker departs, there’s usually a frenetic week or two of “..before you go… please empty everything you know about your job into this Word document for prosperity”.

I’ve been thinking for a while that we need some sort of departmental Wiki to retain our collective knowledge in a more regular and reliable manner. Aside from applying some much needed structure to our existing documentation, I thought it would really help smooth some of the friction out when people join or leave the team. I don’t think I’ve ever walked into a job where the information I need is readily at my fingertips. I’d really like to provide that experience for someone else.

I’ve been procrastinating for far too long about what form this Wiki should take. The most recent departmental changes convinced me it was time for action.. even if it’s just a temporary stopgap on the road to something else.

So.. behold. Our Low-Tech IT Wiki.. <fanfare.wav> ..that’s largely just a load of Google Docs hyperlinked to one another inside a G Suite Team Drive.

Why Google docs?

  • It’s secured to our two factor logins.
  • It’s relatively easy to access anywhere, on anything.
  • Google’s search is predictably excellent.
  • It’s easy to update.
  • It would survive in the event of the office exploding.
  • It’s easy to export the content out.

I’ve also been on a bit of a spree trying to automate some of our day to day tasks. I talk a lot of about the benefits of digitally enabling work to free people up to do more important stuff. So this is an attempt to walk the talk in my own back yard.

Mostly it’s really small mundane things. Like setting up automated alerts for common problems (e.g. account lockouts) and automatically logging them on our internal helpdesk as a ticket. Or integrating some of the different tools we use with Trello so we have a singular place to view everything that needs doing (or has been done) as a team.

None of it is particularly awe inspiring or radical. But lots of little efficiencies hopefully add up to large time savings. That means we can take advantage of the space to do other more important things rather than shuffling information from one place to another!

I had a great chat with Jay Saggar and Polly Thompson about the HACT Housing Data Standard. I’m an avid supporter of open standards in general, but I really wasn’t sure how I could help advance the Housing Data Standard given our minimal capability to develop anything with them in-house.

However, having spoken to Jay, it’s clear that publicly supporting the standard is a good place to start. If we want to convince Housing Associations, Contractors and System Suppliers that the Housing Data Standard is the key to a more joined up future, we’ve got to keep talking about it and be more overt in our support for it.

If you’re still on the fence about why open standards are so important, I’d highly recommend watching this previously streamed event from the Good Practice WAO team on the topic.

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