Weeknote 20 - 24 April 2020

Weeknote 20 - 24 April 2020

3 minute read

On “zoombombing” and getting “forward” to normal.

Do not post links or codes for online meetings (e.g. Zoom) in public!

Please take care when sharing links to online calls. Tools like Zoom have become a popular way to stay in touch but please don’t post links or meeting codes in public. Unfortunately, some awful people lurk on the internet and you do not want them sneaking into your call and sharing horrific material1.

Getting “forward” to normal

Once again, there was too much going on this week so this week note is a bit of a brain dump. I’m still finding these notes useful for my own well being so I am going to keep making the time even though most people are way too busy to take a look.

We had an all-hands update from our CIO with nearly 200 people joining in via Microsoft Teams. Way too many people for a conversation but much more engaging than an emailed update and, with the chat channel on the side, more interactive than some of the in-person all-hands sessions we have had. It is now clear that things are never going “back” to normal so we are actively talking about what comes next. Part of the answer is to accelerate things that were already on our road map but, now that 1000’s of Council Staff are already productive at home we can be much more ambitious.

As we moved everyone out of their normal office at the start of the lock down we had a massive spike in service calls as our infrastructure and people adjusted. Call volumes are already back down to normal level and there has been praise from across the organisation for how the IS team have enabled this. This has been made possible by some wise preparation in recent years supplemented by some fantastic team work over the last few weeks. Especially impressive as we have been finishing off migrating our finance and HR systems to the cloud and completing our Windows 10 roll-out at the same time.

In theory, we have paused our agile transformation as we have requests and projects which are higher priority. In practice, we are continuing and even accelerating. People adopt agile ways of working quite naturally in a crisis situation and we have been able to get tools into the hands of some of our operational teams very quickly. Nice to see things raised in a morning catch up one day and join a prototype demonstration just a couple of days later.

Obviously, not everything can go well all the time. Adjusting to the lock down was hard work but the decisions involved were pretty clear. As that work tails off we have to get back to some tough decisions and reconciling different views. Here are a couple of examples from this week:

  • Developing bespoke software is still a high risk activity and managing development within fixed budgets and timescales hasn’t magically got easier. No one enjoys talking about this risk and uncertainty but it won’t go away on its own and often requires developers and users to negotiate and compromise.
  • Most of the IS team are specialists and our internal and external customers want them to work on their particular project or problem. We can’t do everything at once so we have to prioritise and that means some people have to wait.

I hope these are other areas where we can go “forward” into a new kind of normal. We can do more to confront the unavoidable uncertainty in the work we do and, if we are smart about it, we can even use the uncertainty to all of our advantage. We can also get better at making collective decisions about the right priorities for the County rather than for an individual department in the Council.

A word about some good causes

I haven’t put so much time or attention into good causes recently. I am a fan of some of the cross-Government communities but have neglected them recently and I even switched off Slack entirely for a couple of weeks. People have been very understanding and I definitely want to get back into these groups again when things calm down a little.


  1. This is pretty shocking stuff but Onyeka Onyekwelu was a victim of one of these attacks and has bravely shared her story

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