Thursday, 31 July 2008

Adrian, David and I had a 9.00 am teleconference – mainly discussing the agenda and actions required ahead of our next board meeting on 14th August. This "end-of-week catch-up" was brought forward as I've got the day off tomorrow, to go to the Motor Show. I said in an earlier entry that I only had one further day's holiday booked up to the end of November, but forgot about this one!

After that I met with Louise Ward and Lucy Docherty from CIO Connect to review whether there's potential for collaboration with Socitm. They'll come back to me with any proposals.

Following which I had an enjoyable interview with Helen Olsen from "Local Government IT in Use" magazine, and didn't at all mind that chocolate brownie her daughter had smeared onto her notebook was then thereby transferred to my table!

It was then off to Eland House for a meeting with some of the Government Connect Team – Philip Littleavon, Simon Turnbull and Lee Grafton. I can't tell you all that we discussed, as I would have to shoot myself, apparently, but it did include help for Authorities who will struggle to achieve the Code of Connection. I do feel that our dialogue is increasingly productive, and I'm becoming more confident about the Government Connect programme and associated projects. GC will have a presence at the Socitm Annual Conference, by when the CoCo help proposition will have been finalised. In the meantime the Collaboration Forum for the GC Team, DCSF Authentication Team and Socitm members will be available from Monday, and members will be invited to apply for registration.

Then I walked down Victoria Street and arrived a little late at Transport for London's offices for a meeting with BT's Julia Branagan, and TfL's Vince Tooke, to discuss requirements for the London Public Services Network study, principles and requirements, spending a fair bit of time on Newham's plans. By the way, if you hear of the Ocean project, it's the procurement of Public Services Network that will be the successor to the Government Secure Intranet.

In an e-mail exchange with Martin Greenwood I learned that he and Chris Head are working on a proposed "CIO Charter" for the use of ICT, based-on further development of the strategic ICT principles I developed for Newham. Knows how to get 'round me, that man!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

I spent most of today in a Newham Council "Trading Workshop". A number of Council services have been developing projects or plans to exploit their skills or assets in trading commercially for greater efficiency, to support regeneration, and to bring down costs to the Community. In the last few years legislation affecting Local Government powers to trade has been liberalised - and it's understood that there's disappointment in Government bodies such as the DCLG (Department for Communities & Local Government) that Councils generally haven't exploited opportunities that may have opened-up.

Jaimin Patel, Newham's Language Shop Manager, organised today's proceedings, and Helen Sidwell, our Head of Legal Services, chaired, following an introduction by Bob Heaton, Executive Director of Resources, The Language Shop was used as a Case Study to develop the approach to options appraisal, market analysis, forms of venture etc.

Legal advisers from Trowers & Hamlins were on-hand, and took us through the relevant legislation and considerations around trading vehicles, governance and structure. Among these was whether Newham should establish a Holding Company, within which separate business subsidiaries would reside, or whether independent companies for our (quite diverse) prospective businesses should be formed.

Following lunch, four other prospective ventures gave overviews of their propositions. These included the Newham Telecommunications Convergence project, with its proposal to establish a trading vehicle for the exploitation of its network assets. The most fully developed proposal was from Newco – Newham's supported business and manufacturer of windows, doors & kitchens, 50% of whose employees have disabilities. This was originally established in 1922, since when it has been trading in its various ventures, but subject to Local Authority trading constraints. Another "pitch" was from Pest Control.

Following the workshop, actions were agreed with a view to taking a report and recommendations to Newham's Executive Board in September.

For me, much of the ground we covered had become familiar territory because of the work we have been undertaking in turning around Socitm's business and membership organisation. Nevertheless it was an interesting and constructive use of our time that I expect to facilitate the completion and execution of our various business plans.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Martin Greenwood and I were back in London to meet Clive Taylor, Sue Davis and Nicola Bain from Gartner, at the Cumberland Hotel, near Marble Arch. Our meeting was prompted both by the impending need to renew, renegotiate, or allow to lapse, an existing contract (due to expire at the end of August) for the provision of discounted Gartner Research services to Local Government through Socitm, and to follow-up on potential collaboration on Green ICT services for Local Government. In the event, we agreed that we weren't yet ready to move forward on the latter topic, but we did agree to set-up a further three meetings at Gartner's offices in Egham to explore the potential for working together on Research, Consulting and Events. The Research meeting would consider the overall relationship between our organisations, whereas the other two meetings will be specifically discuss whether there are opportunities for Gartner Consulting and Socitm Consulting to work together, playing to one another's strengths, and whether there is potential for Gartner (which we were told is the UK's biggest IT Events organiser) to provide Socitm with an Events Management service. Holidays permitting, we hope to set all three meetings up within the next few weeks.

I returned home to work on an article I promised to Government Technology on "Information Sharing across Government" (following Sir Ian Magee's recent review of Criminality Information), and also to prepare for tomorrow's "Capitalising Income" meeting, in which we'll be considering trading business cases including the ones relation to Newham's Telecommunications Convergence Strategy.

Among the correspondence I dealt-with, there was also confirmation of a meeting with Kable to discuss potential provision of an Events Management service, and a memo from Computer Aid International confirming what I had been told at the London Connects Conference – that the 100,000th PC they sent to Ethiopia was part of a consignment donated by the London Borough of Newham! Links to photos of Newham PCs in use at the Cistercian Brothers School, in Ethiopia, and in Selam Orphan, Destitute Mothers and the Aged Association, Ethiopia were included.

Voting in the CW Blog Awards 08 ends on Thursday 31st. If you haven't yet voted in the CIO and IT Director Blog category, please could I ask you to consider voting for mine? Vote here!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Adrian Hancock, David Houston, Martin Greenwood and I met in York for Insight Business planning.

The emerging structure of Socitm and new membership model were among the considerations. We agreed to include the Insight membership fee in the proposed corporate membership fee. The proposed membership model will be presented to the next Socitm Board meeting (14th August) and, provided it's agreed by the Board, I'll write with details to the full membership, immediately thereafter, seeking feedback that may further shape the final proposals to October's EGM.

Other discussions concerned the work programme, commissioning model and shared risk and reward. The structure of the Society and relationships between its constituent bodies, which I am committed to completing and reporting to the membership by the end of September, are now shaping-up well; there will be separate commercial and membership services divisions.

On Friday I wrote, as below, to Bryan Glick, the Editor of Computing regarding its coverage of Government Connect. Bryan wrote back asking if I'd like to provide a 500 word opinion piece, expanding on my thoughts, which I will do this week. I'm interested, 'though to hear any views from Socitm members.

Incidentally, Janie Davies, the Computing reporter who wrote the articles I objected to, also wrote to explain that she had received my comments after she had written the first article. That may be, but I don't think the second article reflected the information I provided, either! Letter follows…

"Computing's coverage of "Government Connect" in the past two weeks has played-up negative views, and I'd like to make Socitm's position clear regarding this important project.

"The GC project has been around, now, for eight years, during which time I and many of my colleagues have been pretty disparaging about it – justifiably, we think. However, we now recognise that, in Philip Littleavon, we have a determined, capable, Project Director, with a track record of success, who we think can, and will, build on some of the recent good work undertaken by Simon Norbury and others to rationalise and refocus the project. We have always supported the principles, and now we are finally much more confident about the execution of the project.

"We have some concerns about some of the language and the way communications are directed from Philip, who is new to Local Government, which we have discussed with him. There is understandable scepticism about Gov. Connect, given its long and inglorious history, and we must avoid inflaming resistance by disregarding understandable concerns.

"However, we appreciate that, to get results, directness and "cutting to the chase" are useful characteristics! Socitm was commissioned by Philip to undertake a study of Local Government readiness to adopt Government Connect, which has been completed and delivered, including recommendations on the help that's required by some Authorities. We also plan to offer a service to support implementation where help is required.

"I know that consensus doesn't necessarily make good copy, but I would ask that Computing address the false impression that it may have created regarding the relationship between Government Connect and Socitm. Our spokespeople have been quoted out of context and much of the positive comment, including my own responses to queries from your reporter, appear to have been ignored completely.

"For the future, we would like to see the vital links to identity management and authentication re-established, and the programme broadened to enable service access other than only through GCSX. It's also vital that we articulate an overall vision for secure data sharing, which can be communicated to "the man on the street" to regain public trust. I'm pleased to say that Government Connect and other key Government agencies have agreed to work with us on these, and Socitm is providing access to its collaboration software to facilitate the discussion."

Friday, 25 July 2008

The Socitm Events Committee met today at Bucks County Council's offices in Aylesbury. I joined the team for an agenda that was all about putting the final touches to this year's conference. Conference bookings and the exhibition are shaping-up very well, and it was quite exciting reviewing the numbers, with some changes actually happening in "real time", and deciding on details such as entertainment, the partners' programme and accommodation.

We have added a couple of workshops - one of which will support our launch of a service supporting professional development based on the Aspire model - and filled the final plenary spot with a session that I'm certain will prove a big draw. Look-out for an updated flyer with finalised details in the near future.

As ever, I was impressed at the professionalism and dedication of Socitm members and staff.

I'm not a great fan of surveys, but get dozens sent to me each week, it seems. I always try to help with student research, and complete the Socitm surveys, of course (!) but, frankly, most others are deleted without much thought. So, it's with some trepidation that I am asking Socitm members to complete yet another survey. I'm really keen to understand whether, and how, Society members may wish, and be able, to engage in Socitm's business. This survey really is very short. I'm really looking just for "expressions of interest" at this stage, and will follow-up with members who indicate they are able to help us. My aim, in the medium term, is to establish a database of Members' interests identifying those who are willing and able to undertake representative roles.

The weather's still looking good. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Today started with a trip to Parsons Green to do a bit of filming for Socitm's Conference and its promotion; a round trip of 3 hours + for a similar number of minutes' video. I wished I'd checked my calendar earlier and been a bit more prepared – like having my hair cut!

Back at Direct House, Geoff and I had a meeting with Sarah Fasey and Mark Taylor from Microsoft. Mark is the Director who now leads on Microsoft potential support of, and engagement with, the 2012 Olympics, which, of course, is what the meeting was about. We had fairly wide-ranging discussions of potential opportunities, and agreed to set-up a work-shop involving the five Olympic boroughs and other key stakeholders from areas like regeneration and health, about October, to further develop ideas with partners.

I had lunch with James Lee and Alf Raju for an update on the Public Sector Mobile Portal. Progress is now very good, although the launch will be delayed a couple of weeks.

Rob Anderson, of OGC Buying Solutions, came to see me in the afternoon, as part of information gathering he's doing about Local Government requirements, as preparation for the Software Licensing renegotiation project.

Incidentally, the background to this is that the previous agreement on public sector licensing expired at the end of March. Microsoft provided an extension to the end of June to enable continuation of discussions that were in progress, but that finally did not bear fruit. Microsoft and OGC BS then agreed to a further contract extension to the end of next March, but on a lower discount rate, to enable this new project approach to proceed.

We discussed a lot of the obvious, and not-so-obvious, issues in what is a very difficult area. i.e. The need to be able to adjust prices down, as easily as up, to take account of volume variations, licensing in partnerships that may involve public, private and third sectors, and ultimately whole communities, amalgamating emerging technologies – virtualisation, thin client, Software-as-a-Service, reconciling different licensing terms for different sectors, software metering….

The inaugural Project Board meeting is next Thursday, but I can't attend as it conflicts with a Government Connect Programme Board. I'm therefore hoping that a Socitm Member from the Shared Learning Group will be able to represent me.

There was lots in the news today, that caught my eye (and I've asked for reassurance that Newham isn't vulnerable to the Asprox virus that seems to have caught-out some of our peers) but the item I decided worth commenting on is ComputerWorldUK's article about the potential for SharePoint chaos because it does parallel concerns we have had, and justifies our cautious approach!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

I was interested to read this post about the Information Commissioner's ruling that 5 police forces must delete old records of criminal convictions/ cautions was upheld by the Information Tribunal. It seems that most of the records were very old indeed, and that their subjects had not re-offended. It reminded, also, of a recent story of a University refusing to accept a very well qualified student onto its law degree course because he had a conviction for burglary.

It seems to me that in all such matters Society now finds it hard to keep a sense of proportion on how it uses the systems and sanctions available to it.

When I was a teenager, I could easily have found myself in a similar situation to that of the Bradford student denied the opportunity to pursue his preferred academic/ career studies. I was from a poor area and in a group of youths, many of whom were involved in burglary. Probably the only reason I wasn't involved was because of the strict curfew my Mum enforced; I had to be home before the nightly forays began! Incidentally, we all carried sheath-knives and suchlike – wearing them openly on our belts – but I never heard of anyone using them in fights, and don't think any of us dreamed of doing so.

I worked from home, today but, as I'm on this year's Judging Panel, had an evening invitation to the LGC Awards 2009 Launch Party at Dartmouth House in London's West End. I drove into town for the "do", stood chatting in the venue's courtyard for an hour, then drove home. It cost me a tenner for parking!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Today I attended Newham's New Ways of Working Training for Managers, at Stratford Old Town Hall.

(This week, Newham's HR Service is the first to relocate to Building 1000. I understand all went smoothly from an ICT perspective!)

The top story in the weekly newsletter from our friends in PSF (Public Sector Forum), today, was "NI14 supplier playing field skewed by IDeA?"

This suggests the IDeA (Improvement & Development Agency) was unfairly advertising a single product to the detriment of its competitors in its official guide to National Indicator No. 14, and Socitm is implicated because of Socitm Insight's association with the product in question. We (in Socitm) were not consulted about the guide, and have some sympathy with the views PSF expressed. However, there were some factual inaccuracies in the story concerning Socitm and its Insight service, which have been addressed to PSF's Ian Dunmore. i.e.
  1. Socitm Insight does not re-sell GovMetric and gets no sales or any other revenue from it.
  2. What Socitm Insight has done is to package the GovMetric service with its own website take-up service and its new Channel Value Benchmarking service to provide a comprehensive offering around customer access improvement. By packaging GovMetric with our services we can signal to the marketplace that we are offering complementary, rather than competing, services.
  3. Socitm Insight had very little involvement in preparation of the NI 14 guidance. A member attended one meeting on behalf of Socitm. In fact, we were surprised to see ourselves listed as a contributor.
  4. Socitm Insight was as surprised as anyone else to see the GovMetric service mentioned in the way it was in the document.
  5. Socitm Insight is mentioned once, in the list of contributors. The Customer Access Improvement Service - the umbrella under which Socitm is marketing the website take-up service, GovMetric and the Channel Value Benchmarking Service - is not mentioned at all.

To which I would add that Brent's e-Government Register, and Socitm's Application Software Index (which we are planning to merge) aim to list all available suppliers and solutions.

I got home at 6.30 - the first time, this year, that my being home early and good weather have coincided, so did an hour's gardening with Chris, then we dined al fresco, enjoyed a bottle of wine (breaking our resolve about not drinking mid-week) and sat outside chatting 'til late. Lovely!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Stephen Jones accepted my invitation on behalf of the Socitm Board to become a Non-Executive Director. Steve has extensive experience in areas including Sales Management, board positions with major technology companies, company start-ups, and his acceptance further builds the business skills and commercial experience of our team.

My 9 am meeting was cancelled because of sickness…

The London Fire & Emergency Planning Service hosted today's CIO Board meeting, chaired by TfL's Phil Pavitt, at its Union Street offices in Southwark. Our agenda included the usual agenda items, plus "Green IT Alignment" (which will probably become a new work-stream) and Olympic Legacy Planning.

Phil advised us that it was hoped to make an announcement arising from the work of the Data Centre stream at the end of August.

On behalf of the group, TfL has procured BT to undertake a study on pan-London network development, covering just about all public sectors accept for Health, and a BT consultant - Julia Brannigan - presented an outline of the planned approach. Today also marked the start of the stakeholder engagement process and it's planned to present an initial report back to the board in September. My initial thought was to ensure that design principles that include coverage, scope and accessibility, including equity of access, irrespective of neighbourhood affluence, are established.

Other interesting developments included a prospective development of the Public Sector (Mobile) Portal project to incorporate the 2-3 Gb. of storage that's now available at bus stops, working with Google.

Friday, 18 July 2008

I couldn't help being amused at this article, and some of the comments upon it!

Today I worked from home and finished the week fairly satisfied to be in that rare position of being up-to-date with correspondence.

Rose and I drafted proposed appraisal targets for Adrian, and have booked his appraisal meeting for 6th August.

The two Executive Directors (Adrian and David Houston) and I had an end-of-week catch-up by Teleconference – covering budget monitoring, preparations for a supplier meeting on 7th August, membership model development progress, Director training and contracts, among other things.

This month's Socitm President's Report was today published on the web-site.

Back in June (on Saturday 21st) I wrote of my encounter on a flight to Philadelphia. David and I have since corresponded and here is an extract from his latest e-mail to me. I'm hoping that, working with LOLA and others, we can get a campaign going to do something really useful to combat such social injustice.

"Not only is there a digital divide – there is a digital overload – I work with Indigenous people all over the world – who need a voice and positive action taken to protect their lands, rights, lives – yet if we get this information out – it needs to affect people – there has to be action – I can supply images of chiefs in Brazil confronting loggers/ranchers to try to save the forest – what few people understand is that if they are not able to protect this forest – we as a people are at risk (20% of all man-made carbon emissions are for forest destruction). We need to get these people on the internet and to funnel this to people that will take action.

"These are also examples of my work and the messages that can be delivered really make a difference…
  • Price of herbs in remote parts of Nepal – posting prices on text messages – so don't get ripped off and children sold off to bonded labour when cannot pay bills.
  • Price of wheat in Delhi for small farmers in Punjab.
  • Use of cameras in child labour in India – documentation of atrocities and use of video.
    Access to information in remote areas – a good example is a washer ring in a hand pump in India – cannot find part or locally charged a small fortune – take a picture of the washer/hand pump registration # of well and send to central dissemination area in Delhi – hey presto a washer for 5 cents and postage of 20 cents rather than the local charge/corruption/non-availability.

"I have contacts with the Congo pygmy people where cannibalism is being caused to the people due to mining of certain minerals used in computers – the miners have run out of bush meat – so they eat the people.

"If we can help these people get messages out – be part of the global community – and target their messages – LET ME KNOW.
"On my constant travels – the message I hear most, from a Native American reservation in the US, the Pacific Island, Indigenous people of Nepal, Africa, Central America, etc. etc. is 'I have not been forgotten'".

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Today started with "The Greening IT" Launch, at the Science Museum.

Chris Chant – DeFRA (Department for Food & Rural Affairs) CIO – introduced the meeting, explaining the event was being held to launch the programme based on an initial report, published by the Cabinet Office, developed on behalf of the CIO Council by a group chaired by the MOD's Catalina McGregor. The strategy was to act quickly and "simply".

Tom Watson, the Minister for Transformational Government, was next to speak. He referred to the Science Museum's Survival Exhibition – by-lined "Your Planet needs you" (which we all got to visit afterwards) saying our World is a contained eco-system. "It took Al Gore 15 years from championing the Information Superhighway to link the need to combat an inconvenient truth" (environmental damage potential of ICT). "Turning-off all Whitehall computers at night would have the same effect as taking 40,000 cars off the road." Central Government has set a target of making its central office estate carbon neutral by 2012, and all Government carbon-neutral by 2020.

John Higgins, Director-General of Intellect – made the case for developing an economic model that factors-in the cost of carbon in all business cases, and for a cross-Government Charter. "Increasing ICT's 2% contribution to World carbon emissions would be a good thing if it created greater carbon savings elsewhere."

Andrew Lee – Chief Executive of the Sustainable Development Committee – said it takes 1.7 tons of raw materials to make a PC, which has the same environmental impact as a SUV (Chelsea Tractor).

I had a couple of hours to kill in Westminster before my next meeting, so I tried using BT OpenZone in this wonderful wireless city. It cost £6 for 90 minutes' use within 24 hours of signing-on, which I didn't think unreasonable. The signal was strong, but speed was very slow, and I lost network access within about 30 minutes, and was unable to reconnect. Episodes like this just reinforce, for me, the need to have a comprehensive approach to accessible broadband infrastructure.

After lunch, I met with Keith Holder, at the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools & Families) about their work on Authentication. We spoke about the programme – authentication currently being piloted in the "key to success" application in a number of Authorities – next stage to pilot the employee registration process – full functionality through the Government Gateway by November – and of links to Government Connect, and how Socitm can help with the programme and cross-Government linkage. We agreed a number of actions including working with Government Connect and others through a Socitm facilitated Discussion Forum on the pan-Government high-level vision for Security and Data Sharing, and quarterly follow-up meetings.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

On Tuesday afternoon I attended mandatory training for senior management of Newham Council on the Corporate Manslaughter & Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which came into force at the beginning of April, this year. It applies to both the public and private sectors and, hence, Socitm, so we'll need to ensure we consider implications for us. I got permission to copy the hand-outs.

An e-Mail arrived from BT's Dr. Joe Walsh.

"I thought I should bring to your attention the announcement we have just made about a major investment in very high speed broadband. Full details are in the press notice attached, but in brief we will be spending around £1.5 billion bringing a range of fibre based broadband services with top speeds of up to 100Mb/sec (and the prospect of speeds of more than 1,000 Mb/sec in the future) within reach of up to ten million homes.

"The effect will be to maintain and advance the leadership role the UK has already built in the availability and use of broadband services.

"We still have work to do in relation to agreeing an appropriate regulatory framework with our regulator and in developing our detailed deployment plans. In addition, we are in contact with the GLA Group, including the LDA, and the Regional Minister to take on board their views to inform our roll-out plans.

"We are very keen to work with the London Boroughs, and would welcome any input to our planning that you may wish to contribute."

I replied, saying we should talk.

Meantime, we are setting-up meeting to plan Programme Management of the full Newham Infrastructure Convergence project and procurement of the network, the Public Sector Mobile Portal project is proceeding apace, and we are considering a proposal for a Newham WiMax pilot.

"Communities in control: real people, real power" - launched 9 July 2008.

Socitm is planning a response to this White Paper, which is about passing power to communities and giving real control and influence to more people. As one of the means of achieving this, the White Paper encourages the use of web 2.0, email and SMS as accepted petition methods. The paper contains an annex which gives an indication of plans for implementation. Some elements of the White Paper will be subject to formal consultation in the coming months. Some of the policies within the White Paper will require legislation and will feature in the Community Empowerment, Housing and Economic Regeneration Bill, which forms part of the draft 2008/2009 legislative programme.

Feedback can be registered by sending an email to You can also make a posting on the Communities in Control discussion forum at

However you respond, please send Socitm a copy, to help us collate a corporate response on behalf of our members.

Get your entries in to Innovate08 – supported by Socitm

Innovate 08 is a Microsoft initiative supported by Socitm that will showcase and develop ground-breaking ideas in local government that may have a technology element. The competition will identify and support teams with innovative approaches to tackling some of the biggest issues facing Councils today, including social inclusion, place-shaping, community engagement and environment. The competition is being run with LGC, and further information about entry criteria and how to enter can be found on the LGC website. The closing date is 24 July and the winner will have the opportunity to present their solution at Socitm 2008.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

OGC (Office of Government Commerce) Buying Solutions has asked Socitm to provide input to its Team that is to negotiate a new Microsoft licensing agreement for the Public Sector, advising, particularly, on Local Government requirements, which we have gladly agreed to do.

Adrian & I met in Starbucks, near Kings Cross Station, in Euston Road, for last minute discussion of issues pertaining to today's Socitm Board Meeting - then went on to the Committee Room booked for the purpose, in Camden Town Hall in good time for the 10.00 start.

The meeting again had a packed agenda, reflecting the present pace and scale of development in the Society. I'll include a full report and other news since our last meeting, which I plan to publish on the web-site and circulate to our membership next Wednesday. I'm afraid this is a little later than intended because I'm on holiday from tomorrow – back on Tuesday. "Wot – again", you say? Yes, but apart from one day for a wedding in August, this should be the last until the end of November. In fact, this year is the first (that I can remember) when I've ever taken or booked my entire leave entitlement, and certainly the first time that's happened so early in the year – partly reflecting the overseas socialising on behalf of the Society!

A few points that I think may be of interest, from today's meeting are:
  • Shey Cobley, last year's Graham Williamson Challenge Award winner, attended for the first time as an adviser to the Board. When asked to reflect her impressions at the end of the meeting, one of her comments suggested a continuing need to achieve greater transparency and clarity in financial matters, which also suggests the chief priority for our next meeting! Shey, who does some lecturing for Oxford Brookes University, also made some very pertinent observations about the opportunities for engaging with higher education in areas like research, and also mentioned the Oxford Internet Institute in this connection.
  • The Board agreed to appoint Adrian Hancock to a three-year contract as Managing Director; this is subject to an appraisal, as soon as we can arrange it, which will include a number of performance objectives, to which some of the remuneration will be linked. Rose (as holder of the HR Portfolio on behalf of the Board) and I will conduct the appraisal.
  • David Houston presented his last report on behalf of the Affiliates, proposing a structure with separate Membership and Commercial divisions, which was agreed (with some amendments relating to developments such as the CIO Council and Socitm Futures).
  • The Board also agreed to appoint David Houston as an Interim Executive Director. David will mainly be focussing on developing our financial systems and sustainability, developing the commercial arm of the business, and helping to firm-up the new Membership model. We anticipate that David will also assist with the recruitment of his permanent replacement, in due course. In appointing the second Executive Director, a requirement will be for the appointee to be London-based.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Today I attended the London Connects Conference – a highlight of the London Government year.

The highlight of the day, for me, was my attendance, in the afternoon, of the "Public Office" meeting organised by Kable. In an especially laid-out room, participants were first invited to view and hear the stories of five families – each of which was struggling to negotiate help from public sector bureaucracy with problems they faced in their lives. Then we were asked to consider various projects – from both the public and third sectors – under five intervention themes, their effectiveness and what we can learn from them. Then, in teams we were asked to consider how the public sector can organise itself to support the sort of family situations that we learned about and, finally, we came together to discuss our learning from the afternoon.

What struck me was the fact that I quickly noticed a number of parallels in my own family life in trying to deal with life's problems – such as bereavement, care of elderly parents, dealing with disability, schooling etc. I am, however, more affluent and better equipped to deal with those problems, than most of our case studies, and the problems may not have been so severe. All the featured families seemed to show a remarkable determination to try and find the solutions for themselves, in the face of public services that were far from joined-up, and lacked empathy with the situations that they found themselves in.

My personal view was that, although the sort of challenges these families encountered are not new, they have probably been exacerbated by modern living, and a core issue is how we engage Society in developing the solutions, but there is certainly much that public services ought to be able to do to organise itself better to provide more comprehensive and cohesive services. A common theme was that families were looking for the help to be able to help themselves, so mentoring and advocacy seemed key requirements.

"The Public Office" is being developed as a project to consider how Public Service (including the private and third sectors) can listen to the real voices of service users and think about how public services could be re-engineered from the users' point of view. I understand there will be a web-site (at ) which doesn't appear to have been launched yet, but I'm looking forward to supporting its development.

The Public Office will be a feature at Socitm 2008 - 12th-14th October. (Early bird booking ends on 25th July!)

Monday, 7 July 2008

Today, former members of the disbanded "Information Age Government Group" met to consider the detailed remit, governance and relationships for its replacement, with the short paper agreed by Policy Development that was agreed by the Board as its starting point. The name for the new Group was agreed as "Socitm Futures". The minutes of the meeting will be published in full in the Members' Area of the Socitm web-site. (Incidentally, the minutes of the last Board Meeting will be published today.)

The detailed terms of reference for the Group will be written-up and published shortly.

Having decided on how the Group will operate, we turned our attention to the initial areas for policy development. The highest priorities were considered to be data security, societal engagement through ICT and Green IT, but the full list of initial topics is as follows. Further suggestions from members will be welcomed.
  • Information Assurance/Governance and Compliance The role of Local Government - Support for the well-being agenda.
  • MSA (Mapping Services Agreement) and associated topics.
  • Shared Services front/back office + governance/compliance/procurement etc.
  • LAA issues - Guidance good practice etc.
    Information Sharing
  • Green ICT + Sustainability
  • Remote/mobile/flexible/home working
  • Public Sector Network interconnects (GCSx/GSI/CJIT/N3/PNN etc) Identity Management and Authentication (Employees and Citizens) Resilience & Continuity.

I chaired today's meeting, but it was agreed that those present would continue to serve on the Group and Glyn Evans (who previously chaired SIAG) would chair future meetings pending confirmation by the National Advisory Council, which I now need to arrange. I will shortly be writing to invite all nominees for NAC membership to its first meeting (ensuring all Socitm regions and public sector constituencies are represented) to its first meeting. In view of the fact that we're now getting into the holiday period, I plan to make this the end of summer – 23rd September is the date I have in-mind.

There was some discussion of why Socitm should articulate policies, and agreement that this is essential to provide clear direction and advice to our membership. The fact that the Society has been extremely active in developing the Information Assurance process, with Government, for four years, but has not developed its own policy, for me, illustrates the requirement. We must capitalise on all this research and experience to develop policy on behalf of our membership, starting out with the sort of Vision and commitments I described in my 4th June blog.

Our activity in this area also serves to illustrate the amount of good work that Socitm undertakes "in the background" – although I think we need to publicise this more! Socitm through SIAG joined the Cabinet Office GIPSI (General Information Assurance Products and Services Group) - a pan-Government Cabinet Office Security group.

This group has become the National Information Assurance Forum see:

NIAF has been involved in the drafting of the National Information Assurance Strategy: which has a Local Government delivery approach, drafted after detailed work and consultation with Socitm.

The Data handling review: has involved Socitm through the LGA (Local Government Association) to work on producing a set of Data Handling guidelines for Local Authorities; these will be published by the end of the summer. We have also been involved with the Department of Health (DoH) working on producing an integrated version of the Information Governance toolkit, The DoH are also reviewing their information strategy around adult social care. Socitm is involved in the work of that group:

We continue to support the National Local Authority Warning, Advice and Reporting Point programme: which is now helping pull all of this work together.

Friday, 4 July 2008

US Independence Day – or rather the date of adoption of the text of the declaration, as I learned on my recent trip; the declaration was actually made on 8th July.

I heard, today, that my blog was recently nominated in the 2008 IT Blog Awards by a reader. "All nominated blogs have now been considered by our panel of judges and I am delighted to inform you that CIO Blog has made the shortlist in the CIO/IT Director category." After having looked at my fellow nominees' blogs, I have to admit that most of them have rather more imaginative titles than mine, but don't be seduced by such superficial presentation, vote, in the "CIO & IT Director Blogs" category, for the "CIO Blog at ComputerWorld UK" via the following link…

This morning fellow Socitm Director, Steve Palmer, and I had discussions about previously identified partnership opportunities with the NCC's (National Computing Centre's) CEO - Steve Markwell, Accredit UK Project Director -Vaughan Shaylor and Group Marketing Manager - Michael Dean.

The Accredit UK scheme provides professional ICT development for small businesses. The NCC would like to partner with Socitm to promote the scheme and negotiate appropriate exemptions from public sector procurement procedures for businesses that have obtained relevant qualification through the scheme. I undertook to set-up a further meeting with the DCLG (Department for Communities & Local Government) and with someone from the Digital Inclusion Team, as bureaucratic challenges and engagement with ICT can often be among the issues that small businesses have to contend with. In the meantime, Socitm has been offered a place on the Accredit UK Advisory Board, and I have promised Socitm's help in promoting the scheme.

There appear to be opportunities for Socitm Consulting and Training services to contribute skills to support NCC membership development packages, and for them to become part of the Accredit UK third-party assessment community. A follow-up meeting is being arranged with Socitm Consulting management.

We had a lengthy discussion about how to jointly develop our professionalism services, particularly in support of the Government IT Profession and the ICT competency needs of business, as well as the ICT service. We concluded that we should set-up a workshop with wider stakeholders to agree the approach. This may map onto "Profit Alliance" developments, but should include other public sector representation. This is to be planned for around the end of September.

Last, but not least, there may be possibilities for sharing administration systems and services, and I'm asking Adrian to discuss these with Michael before we commit ourselves to new systems that are under consideration.

After lunch, I met with Sean Harney, Newham's Orange Account Manager – both to brief him on the Newham Telecommunications Convergence project, and to discuss Socitm's planned consultation with private sector colleagues on partnering package developments.

I also attended Newham ICT's Monthly Team Talk to hear Michael Irvine, Newham Homes' CEO, presenting on the company's plans to achieve a three-star rating, and how ICT can help.

Since becoming Socitm President, I've been really pleased to receive quite a few messages of congratulation and support, but I thought the following extract from a note received from Fahri Zihni, a previous Socitm President (now at Aston University) worth mentioning…

"In my personal view, information and communications technology is without a shadow of doubt, one of the greatest miracles of human ingenuity which among all the well publicised ills associated with it, has made and will continue to make, the world a better place by helping deliver education, know-how and prosperity across the globe. So we should be more than proud to be a part of the ICT profession."

That seemed to me a pretty good rallying call for our profession, and also signals the sort of continuing aspiration that Socitm can support – and here I am thinking, particularly, of how we can now engage in tackling social exclusion and combating social injustice through our use of ICT.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Last night I stayed in Hull, and was able to continue getting up-to-date with correspondence, using the hotel's Internet, in the evening and this morning. I then spent a good part of today driving to the National School of Government, at Sunningdale Park, in Ascot, where a Local Government CIO Council is being held tomorrow, starting with a reception and dinner, this evening.

Yesterday, colleagues from Socitm met with Dane Wright, from Brent Council, to discuss taking-on its "e-Government Register" (which, as I previously mentioned, was demonstrated to the last Socitm London Branch meeting) with the aim of migrating our Supplier Index to it. The meeting went well, but there's a fair bit of work to do, so the transition will likely take place over the next year, co-ordinated by a joint board. Steve Pennant offered support from London Connects.

The Public Sector Infrastructure Team met today, but I again missed the meeting. It's currently doing interesting work on Data Centres, Unified Communications, Data Transfer and Public Sector Network, but I am still unclear of the strategic context and fit with other Government Work-Groups, so I'm suggesting a meeting of any Socitm members who are involved in any of the Government Teams to see if we can clarify the relationships.
Jos Creese was confirmed as the chair of the LG CiO Council meeting, which met today. Its minutes will be published in the public area of the Socitm web-site, so I am not going to try and report, in detail, the meeting here. However, there are a few points that I'd like highlight. The first is our determination to be as open as possible about the work we do. It does often seem that Government work on ICT and transformation is its best kept secret, with minutes and reports marked "not for circulation" or otherwise restricted. We want to ensure that Local Government is well informed of developments and able to confidently support and engage in transformational government initiatives.

Paul Davidson, who chairs the "Local Government Reference Group to the Chief Technology Officer Council", came along to describe its work. Essentially, its relationship to the National CTO Council is the same as ours' to the CIO Council. There was a lot of discussion about the various ICT transformation working groups, and we agreed to map the groups, their terms of reference and the local government representative involvement, ensure there is no duplication, and that we have effective representation in all areas. This will also be published on the Socitm web-site.

Two weeks ago, Philip Littleavon, the Government Connect Programme Director, gave Socitm and other stakeholders the opportunity to comment on planned policy announcements on the Government Connect role in Data Handling procedures, which have been developed partly in response to publication of the Hannigan Report, and which will confirm the intended pivotal role of Government Connect in securely processing Government Client information. I wrote expressing reservations, given GC's "long and chequered history", about what now seemed a precipitous move, while supporting the aims of quickly turning the situation around and achieving real benefits - and invited Philip to discuss the proposals with us at today's meeting. He wasn't able to attend personally, but Simon Norbury came along to explain and discuss the plans with us. I have to say that Simon gave the most comprehensive and cohesive explanation of the strategy that I've heard to date. Our feedback was essentially a plea to ensure that communication of the policy to Councils is as effective and well-targeted. (Mark Brett has just delivered a survey of Local Authorities, commissioned by GC, of the help and support that Local Authorities who have not yet engaged in Government Connect, require to do so.)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008 I thought this story a little dispiriting. I have no great claim to green credentials (I drive a TVR, for heaven's sake!) However, it doesn't take a great deal of effort to adopt green standards that, for the most part, are consistent with efficiency and best practice. Successful society has to be built upon individuals' acceptance of personal responsibility for their actions, rather than "it's someone else's problem".

Today I attended a Socitm Police Group meeting at the Humberside Police Headquarters in Hull. This has only recently become fully operational again following last year's flooding. Many of the people based there are still repairing the damage to their homes, and some haven't yet been able to return home.

The morning was concerned with presentation by representatives of the NPIA (National Policing Improvement Agency), and discussion of, the Gateway process for key-stage project reviews developed by the OGC (Office for Government Commerce) as now being rolled-out through the OGC accredited Police hub. (There are three others, for Health, the Ministry of Defence & Local Government.) Ann Middleton, from the Metropolitan Police, who chairs the Group, commented to the effect that the Gate Five Review process – benefits realisation – could be adapted to review systems already implemented, which I strongly agreed with. Whilst the Gateway Review process was borne from the desire (and need) to avoid the sort of project failures that have gained high media profile, and rightly so, it's still the case that many already implemented systems are used extremely ineffectively, but that doesn't grab the headlines the way big budget project cancellations and failures do!

I undertook to raise Socitm engagement with the Gateway Process – initially at next week's Socitm Futures meeting. It's clearly quite closely aligned with our theme around business engagement/ business efficiency and the need to partner with business to ensure effective exploitation of ICT infrastructure. I'm also interested in the "banking" system originally adopted to support the Review process – whereby Central Government Department's provided personnel to be trained-in and undertake reviews, which roughly equated to the value they received from being the beneficiaries of reviews. It's an approach that the Microsoft Shared Learning Group has also being trying to get off the ground.

After lunch, I outlined Socitm developments and ambitions. As we have set ourselves a target of developing the Society to represent all who work in IT in the Public and Third Sectors, I am particularly keen to get feedback from sectors that are not in the Society's Local Government roots – like Police. I'm glad to say that most of the comments confirmed issues that have already been identified and are either being addressed, or in the pipeline, and there was agreement that we are moving in the right direction. Some of the issues concerned demands on time and the competiveness of our environment,, sector-specific collateral, professional development and the SFIA framework (Skills Framework for the Information Age) – I spoke about our plan to launch a service based on the Aspire packaged software supporting SFIA, developed by Leeds City Council, in September – and continuity of support. Socitm had let the Police Group down, in concerning that last issue, following the retirement of its former national secretary, and I assured the Group of the Board's determination to ensure future continuity of support.