Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Richard's Last...

Well, this is my final post to the Socitm President’s Blog as the President. I will continue a public Blog at and the ComputerWorldUK and CIO Magazine sites will also continue to carry my ramblings.

In my Stoneleigh conference opening address I’ll be remarking on a busy year, but looking ahead. We are investing in our future – with today’s appointment of a Head of Policy, planned appointments of a Head of Information Assurance, commercial developments, our rebranding, the launch of our new website, continued work with Government on key issues, such as secure public sector infrastructure, the launch, at the Society’s Edinburgh Conference, of our professional development programme and working more effectively with our Members through the regions.

I’m glad to take this final opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous support given by Socitm’s staff in Northampton, board colleagues, the Events Team, colleagues in Consulting, Insight and Boilerhouse and, of course, the Society’s membership – our lifeblood and reason for being.

My best wishes to the new President for a successful year in building and sustaining our influence on behalf of members. I look forward to continuing to work with the Team and to support, as Past President, and in whatever other capacity I’m able to!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Socitm's Patron

I took a camera to Birmingham, intending to take photos at the Consulting event, but forgot, as I often do. Chris isn’t very happy, as she is making a scrap-book of my year as Socitm President, but I keep failing to provide her with material!

I remembered the camera as I skirted Parliament Square, today, for an information Assurance Events Advisory Board meeting at One Birdcage Walk, so took a picture of the continuing Tamil demonstration (but then thought better of publishing it!)

There is now a website for the UK’s Information Assurance Community, which includes events information, and a link to IA09, on 6th & 7th July. It’s hoped for a good attendance from Local Government, this year, and we already have two bookings – double last year’s number!

After the IAEAB meeting, I went on to The Adelphi, in John Adam Street, for an “Ocean & PSN Workshop”, chaired by Philip Littleavon, to plan a two day event to promote engagement with the Public Services Network developments by the Local Public Sector. We were joined by representatives of Buying Solutions, the DWP, Cabinet Office, and Vic Freir and Mark Brett on behalf of Socitm.

We decided the event will take place on 15th/ 16th September, probably at the School of Government, in Sunningdale, and target the Local CIO Council and its members’ Heads of Finance to ensure effective financial planning.

Whilst this won’t be a technical event, it’s important we are able to effectively articulate the Public Services Network rationale, and the Ocean Programme’s role. We’ll undertake further work in this regard, ahead of the event, and it’s important we use the opportunity for the local public sector to influence the PSN specification and requirements – especially in areas like flexible working and digital convergence. The work planned last Thursday, on pan-Government security vision, and a single Information Governance model for Government, will hopefully play into this work.

They’ll be a high-profile keynote address, and facilitated streams covering topics such as the Business Case, “Thorny Issues”, the Network and Security. The report-back from the Gartner Benchmark study of Government Connect value versus alternatives will (hopefully) support the case for investment.

You may remember that Lord Anthony St John of Bletso last year hosted a Socitm London Branch meeting at the House of Lords on behalf of 2e2 – our sponsor (and is again doing so, this year, on 7th May). This evening I met Lord Anthony with Terry Burt, 2e2’s Managing Director, and Andre Tytheridge, to discuss Socitm patronage. He entertained us to drinks in the Peers’ Guests Room and, I’m delighted to say, has agreed to become our first Patron! As Socitm’s Patron, Lord Anthony will promote our cause and introduce us to Ministers and Senior Civil Servants when the opportunities arise, when appropriate, will ask questions in the House on our behalf, and host occasional events in the House of Lords. He becomes an honorary member of the Society and will support and facilitate our developing Policy agenda and lobbying for effective Transformational Government Policy.

Lord Anthony is an enthusiastic supporter of ICT as an enabler of efficient Government, and of Community engagement through ICT and, until recently, chaired UK Citizens Online. I’m very grateful to our friends from 2e2 for the introduction.

Considering Consulting

A major pile-up on the M1 delayed my arrival, on Sunday evening, to a Socitm Consulting Conference held at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Birmingham.

This was the first consultants’ get together in quite a while. Apart from the networking opportunity, the event was arranged to consider how the business will be taken forward in the future and, in particular:

· To identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current model.
· To identify options for the future ownership, management and governance of Consulting.
· To begin to evaluate these options and arrive at a short list of those that should be considered further, with a view to reaching a decision later in 2009 as to the future direction of the business.

Adrian, David Houston and I attended from Socitm Limited, as we were keen to demonstrate our support and offer input on behalf of the Society. (Also, the Society co-funded the event!) A “core team” of 50ish consultants were invited to the event, most of whom (45) were able to attend. (Socitm Consulting has around 150 consultants in total.)

The evening started with a drinks reception, but we had to do some work to earn our Sunday dinner. Doug presented an overview of the business, and then each table was asked to consider what improvements in the Consulting operation were required and what worked well and certainly should not be changed. Communications came-in for some stick; it always does on such occasions! However, a number of opportunities for improvement were identified. We also discovered that some of our correspondence was being blocked in the spam filter of the 1&1 system used by some consultants, which is centrally managed! The things that consultants decided should not change were the Consulting brand, ethos and quality.

Monday was given over to a mixture of break-out sessions and feedbacks considering questions such as –

· Who should own the business?
· Who should direct the business?
· How could we create a structure that Socitm can engage with on a long-term basis? (The current agreement is to a three-year contract.)
· How should the consultant roles be structured?

Over the course of the day, the wish for a symbiotic relationship with Socitm was confirmed. A majority of consultants favoured participation in the ownership in the business, and a majority also favoured greater participation in the management of the business. Eighteen people volunteered to work with Doug and Vikki to develop how these objectives could be achieved. One of the issues for us both (Socitm and Socitm Consulting) to consider is whether/ how to raise capital to invest in growing the business.

A great many other issues were covered but, as I’m sure you can appreciate a lot of our discussion was “commercial in confidence”.

We finished just before 5.00 pm, and a small group of us went off in search of real ale, rather than join the throng at the hotel bar. We were taken to “The Wellington”, which for proper beer drinkers is an experience not to be missed! Then, back to the hotel for dinner and a competition between the tables for the most amusing tale of past experience. Chatham House rules, of course!

I was up at 4.30 am on Tuesday for the drive back to London, a quick catch-up and the day’s meetings.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

If you Tweet it, they will come...

David Pogue found a good use for Twitter.

I worked from home, on Friday, spending half my time on a report to the Mayor concerning the liquidation of Caboodle.

Further to yesterday’s post about the “ Naming & Approvals Council”, the following graph gives a breakdown if applications received in the last 3+ years, and is followed by a breakdown of the reasons for rejection over the last 3 months.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Aiming for Rational Government!

I was back at Russell Square House for my first appointment, today, in a Socitm Intellect LG Forum Management Committee – the first, I believe that I’ve been able to make as Socitm President, and definitely the last!

Potential Thought Leadership work was on the agenda. Carla had drawn-up a short paper, from the context of “as suppliers of technology, Intellect members are uniquely positioned to provide an expert view of how technology can be put to better use in order to contribute to the first-class provision of public services in local government” - to provoke our thoughts on issues such as “what will Local Government look like in 10 years?” There was consensus on some of the immediate issues, including public sector aggregated procurement/ asset reuse, the role of the CIO and pervasive & unified community infrastructure.

Among the planned future Forum themes are “E-Government 10 years on” (18th November). I volunteered Priya to present the conclusions from her MBA Thesis on the subject, which she has just embarked upon.

David Pullinger, the COI’s Head of Digital Policy, again attended the start of today’s Naming and Approvals Committee meeting at Hercules House to give us an update on progress and take any questions. He told us that just over 50%, nearly 700, of the websites that were planned to be closed now have been, with commitments to close another 355. The COI is now getting a good grip on, and controlling Government web presence more effectively. Committee members were thanked for their contribution to this important work. The Team was now starting to tackle other Government domains, such as NHS, MOD and Police.

David’s erudite response to my question about the raison d’ĂȘtre for our work, given the power of search (see my Idle Thoughts on 19th March) persuaded me that it is indeed worthwhile. Whilst accepting that search engines are becoming ever more sophisticated and accurate, our work on audience focus, editorial policy and manageability – typically material that’s transferred to DirectGov is reduced to a tenth of its original volume - facilitates reduced bureaucracy and the promotion of trust in government. Tests have shown that DirectGov is now achieving higher trust levels that names like Tesco and the BBC. I mentioned that among our biggest challenges are appeals about requested use of acronyms that cite precedents. Whilst accepting that this can create some consternation, David was clear that precedents don’t count. The Naming & Standards Guidance is now our bible to help achieve consistency and coherence. He often asks people in Government to explain their own acronyms – and they often fail!

David was also asked about policy on portals, such as “My….”. Work on these was being undertaken by the CTO Council, linked to ID Management, with a particular view to avoiding the need for multiple log-ons. There is a “Contact Council”, also, undertaking work in this area - on intermediaries.

The major discussion item for the Committee was a paper covering:

· The maintenance of domain names in perpetuity. A study in 2007 revealed that 60% of the URLs cited in Hansard are broken links leading to 404 errors or ‘Page not found’. To solve this problem, COI has recently introduced new guidance on managing URLs[1] (TG125) which requires central government departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies to maintain all Web domains in perpetuity. This is possible even after a website has closed by maintaining the domain name and implementing redirection to The National Archives. Any public facing websites are to become part of the national archive as part of the public record and, henceforth, all requests for central government cancellations will therefore be referred to the COI.

· All domains that do not comply with eligibility criteria are to be removed. We believe there are quite a few which may have resulted from an organisation’s change of status, or as a result of guidelines having changed or not having been adhered to in the past. Socitm was cited as an example, but there are others, such as It was agreed that all current domain names will be reviewed for eligibility, and that JANET (originally “Joint Academic Network) which is responsible for the administration and registration of domain names, should refer to COI renewals where the continued existence is not obvious. Ninety days be allowed to enable redirects of disqualified websites to their new domains before the DNS (Domain Name System for mapping IP addresses to websites) is withdrawn.

· The current list of central government websites – used in the Website Rationalisation project – contains a sizeable proportion (~25%) of non-government domains (e.g. .org, etc). There are also examples of government domains redirecting outside the domain. It was agreed to review the current list of domain names within 6 months, and to review the current website rationalisation list and, where sites are not already due to close, insist on them being reregistered on

There are, apparently, 3,955 domains at present; 147 were due for renewal in April.

In the afternoon, I met with Paul Davidson (Director of LeGSB) Mark Brett and Adrian Hancock to discuss consolidation of Information Governance Models for Local Government – of which there are many! Paul listed the following, but there are others:

· The CESG Information Assurance Maturity Model
· The LeGSB Information Governance Toolkit.
· The Adult Social Care Information Governance Toolkit.
· The DWP MoU for access to CIS.
· The CoCo for GCSx.
· The Data Handling Guidelines.

We couldn’t see why we should need more than one across all of the public sector. Applicability would depend upon a User’s role in Government. This, of course, is linked to the requirement for an overarching vision for pan-Government security. At the present, our silo’d Government departments each reinvent its own requirements in ignorance of others’, and Local Government is expected to struggle to cope with them all. Not acceptable! We therefore determined to organise ourselves to campaign for a more rational approach that starts with the pan-Government security vision. This will include requirements for accreditation of secure network access right across Government.

Some other issues fell-out of this discussion – including articulation of requirements for organisational Information Asset Registers, which also facilitate requirements such as Rights Management and the several other related data management requirements (such as spatial data) which currently seem to have their own management bodies acting independently of one another.

An issue for Socitm was how can we ensure our member representatives to Government Quangos are effectively supported by paid officers who will ensure that actions and decisions made in meetings are taken-forward?

We agreed to plan a day in which the morning will be dedicated to developing earlier work on engaging wider public sector stakeholders in building and lobbying for sign-up to the required pan-Government vision, and a workshop, in the afternoon, will determine Information Asset Register, linked to Information Reuse, requirements. Recruitment of volunteers for a “Psikey” pilot will also be covered.

In the evening I joined Adrian and Rose for dinner with four of the short-listed applicants for the Socitm Head of Policy position. They are being interviewed, tomorrow, by a panel comprising Steve Palmer (incoming President) Rose Crozier (HR Director) and Adrian Hancock I(Managing Director). The fifth candidate is on holiday, and will be interviewed during the course of next week’s Socitm Spring National Conference.