Monday, 29 September 2008

Monday at home...

Another cancelled meeting meant I got to spend my day working at home.

I read and commented upon a draft Socitm Insight report on Change Management, did work in preparation for the conference, and was involved in a number of discussions – some of which are at and…

The broadcast with the agenda, resolutions and voting instructions for our EGM were issued, today, in the nick of time. Sorry – we had hoped to get them out earlier, but were delayed in getting the bureaucracy right.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Ready for PSMP?

Mercifully, two meetings were cancelled, today, which provided the opportunity to catch-up with correspondence, and have a fairly free weekend!

I had lunch with Martin Scarfe to be updated on NeAT, and to discuss participation in the ALIP (Assisted Living Innovation Platform) and Health Hub bids led by the BRE.

The Public Sector Mobile Portal (PSMP) launches in Newham on Monday.

Thanks, again, to all those who completed the Microsoft Software Contract Survey. Summarised and detailed results have been sent to all those who provided e-mail addresses.

One more week to go before the Silicon.Com-Rades sleep-out to raise money for “Action for Children” (was NCH – National Children’s Homes). Thank you very much if you’ve sponsored me. I’ll be writing with my thanks to all sponsors after the event. If you haven’t sponsored me, please can I make a final appeal for your support?

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Discussion & Debate

KPMG hosted an “informal breakfast meeting” to discuss the “CIOs’ view of the challenges faced by the Public Sector”, with John Suffolk (Government CIO) as Guest Speaker, at their Salisbury Square offices. Most attendees were Government CIOs or private sector CEOs, or KPMG executives. Mike More, CEO of Westminster City Council, was the other Local Government representative. Unsurprisingly, data sharing and data security dominated the discussion. There were no great insights, although I was very struck by John’s observation on Microsoft “Live Update” – the gist of which, if I understood correctly, was that 750m PCs worldwide are auto-updated each month (many without their owners realising it), which, cumulatively, are likely to represent all the challenges represented by the systems we run in Government, so why is it that we are so risk averse when it comes to applying updates, and insist on expensive destruction testing before they’re applied? It’s an argument that I have often tried, but much less eloquently, with technical staff, but always lost miserably!

At Direct House, Geoff held a fact-finding meeting with Newham ICT colleagues and Microsoft experts to develop Newham’s detailed identity management/ role-based access requirements. I put in a brief appearance as I was keen to ensure that Government initiatives that I’ve learned about were being reflected, and also to try and stay up-to-date with Newham developments!

After which, I had a meeting with Michiel Van Der Voort, the British Computer Society’s International Director, and the recently retired Peter Ryder, who took delight in telling me he’d been relaxing, reading his paper, in the sunshine on the Embankment, at the BCS offices in Covent Garden. The object was to discuss international co-operation/ collaboration ahead of the forthcoming LOLA Annual Conference, at which Peter is continuing to represent Socitm. There were two main areas of agreement… to collaborate internationally on professional development, recognising that around 80% of requirements are generic, but the other 20%, in the Public Sector, are sector-specific, playing to LOLA Societies’ expertise… and developing shared vision – not just managing the here and now, but articulating future goals, according to the best information we have today, enabling more focussed strategy and better tactics.

In case you missed the Socitm broadcast, “at last there's a dedicated online job service for public sector information technologists seeking new positions and for public sector organisations looking to employ them”. We hope, eventually, to be able to reflect all public sector ICT vacancies and job seekers.

Finally, today, my friends at Public Sector Forums are having a bit of a pop at Socitm and our “Web 2.0 and why it matters” launch, employing all the usual rhetoric, such as “cabal”.

Now it’s personal! I personally proof-read the report, and thought it was excellent. I’d like to be able to provide a blow by blow discourse of the arguments PSF’s article – “Blind leading the Blind” – attempts to make, but really don’t have the time. From memory, however, some of the points I’d be likely to make are pretty obvious. Narrative on Second Life, for example, provides examples of how companies are actually using the medium.

Having said all that, discussion and debate is always healthy! None of can really be certain of the direction in which we’re headed; one of the reasons why I may often seem preoccupied with “vision”. Did you read the recent “Naked Leader” (David Taylor) article? He opined that Second Life and such virtual worlds are passing fads, and can never have any real business benefit. I’m inclined to agree with him, but they are extreme examples of current Social media. What’s beyond dispute is that the underlying technology – IP convergence, the network of networks and, unlike people like me, who are much closer to the ends of their careers than the starts, the computer savvy young generation (“Digital Natives”, as John Suffolk calls them) are shaping our tomorrows.

I understand it’s likely there’ll be further discussion of these issues in the socitmweb2 micro-site.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


My first appointment, today, was at the Local Gov TV offices at Turnham Green where I did 3 minutes of filming on sharing data securely and related Socitm support.

In the street outside, as I was arriving for the filming, I bumped into Simon Hills of StartHere – and learned that StartHere’s offices are right next door. As the filming took no time at all, I therefore popped next-door for a cup of coffee and a catch-up, when finished.

StartHere is “extremely keen to work with forward thinking authorities on developing a model for the collection, maintenance and deployment of information about local services – a model that is effective and sustainable”. Newham is one such Authority, of course, but if you think yours is, too, please do contact

Back in the City, I met with Terry Burt, CEO of 2e2, and his colleagues, Andre Tytheridge and Nathan Marke, at their offices in Gracechurch Street, to discuss the Newham Telecoms Convergence project, and potential opportunities arising. They kindly offered me a base when I am working in the City, which I may well take advantage of as it has to be better than working in Coffee shops, and drinking lots of coffee, between meetings!

In the afternoon, the HMRC’s offices at Somerset House, on the Strand, provided the meeting location for a new working party set-up by the Public Sector Infrastructure Team, to consider Unified Communications requirements. I was delighted to attend, as it’s something I’ve been urging the Team to do for some time. However, I can’t claim any credit for this eventuality; the real driver is the Ocean procurement for the Public Sector Network development. As well as Government departments, the CESG, Audit Commission and Welsh Office, Siemens, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and Mitel are represented on the Group.

A requirement of the PSN is that suppliers’ products must interwork - If they don’t they will not be able to supply products for the PSN - it’s therefore clearly in suppliers’ interests to co-operate.

As always, I was concerned to establish a vision (for Unified Communications, in this instance) before stepping back to agree the requirements for PSN Phase One (the Ocean procurement), which are bound to be tactical. I’m pleased to say that I was supported in this by the representatives from OGC Buying Solutions, who are leading the programme, and committed to following an “open Book” process.

There was some agreement that a layered model, enabling engagement according to capability and infrastructure and security requirements, is needed.

Apparently, we are required to produce an “exemplar” by January. There was some discussion of Exemplars and Champions, but I’m still not totally clear what we’re supposed to produce, ‘though it needs to facilitate Ocean standards to be base-lined by April.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Another Big Day...

The first meeting of the new Socitm National Advisory Council, today was another big day for me and, hopefully, Socitm. There were no nominations for Chair as, it seemed, Members had expected this to be pre-arranged, so John Serle volunteered. Colleagues accepted his offer for the meeting, and reconfirmed his “election” as the first Chair at the end of the meeting.

Members had a lot of catching-up with progress in Socitm reorganisation to do and, understandably, some felt the NAC should have met sooner, particularly given that Socitm Futures, which is accountable to the NAC, is already active. However, there was acceptance that we are where we are, and we did our best to bring the group up-to-speed with presentations on the new organisation, the membership system proposals, updates from Consulting and Insight, and a report from Events.

Discussion and refinement of the terms of reference will continue online through the NAC’s GovX Space, but there was broad agreement of the central role it has in representing Members, maintaining oversight of the delivery programme and services, and scrutiny of the organisation and management of Socitm’s business. The Group also agreed to include finalisation and adoption of Society Values, and updated ICT Strategy as items it will lead on.

Crucially, the NAC agreed to realistically scope its own work. i.e. Unlike the previous National Council, it should not attempt to “do everything”. Its primary role is to ensure that Member interests and requirements are effectively represented – which includes scrutinising the management of the Society, but not managing it. Similarly, although it may take lead responsibility for key agenda issues that does not mean it has to do all the work; there will be a focus on commissioning work to be done, and prioritising, work by the paid workforce, and Socitm services and contractors.

The NAC will meet physically three times a year, but arrange virtual meetings, as and when required between times, as well as working collaboratively through the GovX Forums.

I think we agreed upon the diagrammatic representation of the new Society structure that I presented, although there was clearly a need for some text to clarify relationships, which we agreed to produce. As soon as this has been agreed with the NAC we will publish this to the wider membership – before the Annual Conference.

In the evening, I attended the CNET Networks UK Business Technology Awards at the London Hilton on Park Lane. I was invited, by Silicon, to meet fellow Byte Night Team members, but the only other Team Member to attend was Nic Evans – European IT Director of Key Equipment Finance. The evening’s compere was John Culshaw, who entertained us hugely with the “nerdy” material at his disposal… You know the sort of thing – Hokey Cokey MTG8.12 SmartMesh Nested Server (not a real product!) My favourite winner was Bighand Mobile – a digital dictation facility on a PDA – simply because effective deployment of voice processing technology seems long overdue.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Avoiding the "Data Security Survey Rips Government" Pitfalls

Today, I went along to the LGA Conference on Data Handling in Government, at Local Government House in Smith Square, Westminster. The Data Handling Guidelines for Local Government, which Mark Brett has worked-on with the LGA, on behalf of Socitm, was due to be launched, but in the event we weren’t quite ready so “pre-publication copies” of the guidance were provided.

I particularly enjoyed a workshop run by Dave Roddis, Service Quality Manager, and Jasmine Speight, Quality Standards Officer, of Rotherham Borough Council on “Living the Customer Journey through Video Diaries”, which I thought a really powerful means of gaining buy-in to radical service improvement – and it certainly seems to have worked for Rotherham. “Prepare for the dropping of jaws”, Dave said, when video “journey maps” are shown to Services’ Managers and staff (and they finally see themselves from their customers’ viewpoint).

In the afternoon, I followed Alison Wellens, Head of Data Protection Practice (Public Sector) at the Information Commissioner’s Office, talking about “Keeping it Legal – pitfalls in handling data and how to make sure you do it properly”. My summary:-
  • Shared – i.e. by whole of Public Sector – Vision required.
  • Need pragmatic advice for the public at large.
  • Let’s make Government Connect the “master project”.
  • In a fast-changing environment we need to future-proof.
  • The one thing we need less security about is Government’s work on Information Assurance!

Meantime, we still have stories like this…

Friday, 19 September 2008

Friday, working from home

The President’s Report, for September, has been published today.

The total number of responses to the Microsoft Software Contracts Survey was 218. Many thanks! A summary of the results will be e-mailed to all respondents next week.

Socitm has reached an amicable settlement with a communications consultancy that infringed its copyright by quoting extensively from Better connected in a report commissioned by a leading local authority. The consultancy was not entitled to access the Better connected report because it was not a subscriber to Socitm Insight. In addition, no permission was sought to quote from it. The consultancy has agreed to take out a subscription to Socitm Insight and to pay Socitm's legal costs. Socitm decided to take action and make the issue public in order to deter others from attempting to benefit from intellectual property acquired illegally.

David Houston has done a great job in finalising the new membership model paper. This will be available to Members, for the Conference EGM vote, together with the proposed revisions to the Memorandum & Articles of Association, early next week.

I’m pleased to be able to report that Paul Murphy, MP, Secretary of State for Wales, and Minister for Digital Inclusion, will be speaking at the Socitm Conference on the Monday morning (13th October).

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Top Secret

I was in the office at Direct House by seven, trying to get on top of all the correspondence from returning holiday-makers! I also needed to ensure that I could get to 79 Whitehall by nine to do some promotional filming – in discussion with Simon Norbury - for Government Connect, ahead of the Government Connect Board meeting starting at 9:30. Other board members were being filmed after the meeting, but I needed to be away sharply at the meeting's planned 11:30 finish.

The Government Connect Board is chaired by Janet Callendar, Tameside's Chief Executive, and includes senior representation from the DWP, DCSF, DCLG, LGA and IDeA. Today's agenda included a short presentation, from me, of a survey of Local Authorities' preparedness to achieve the GCSx Code of Connection and engage with Government Connect, which was undertaken by Mark Brett on behalf of Socitm. In summary, recommendations from the survey were:
  • Clear, consistent communications are needed. (An issue for the whole of Government and all its businesses.)
  • There should be regional support & sharing of good practice.
  • A range of (stipulated) Training is required.
  • Practitioners' Forums & Resources should be set-up.
  • There should be a CoCo (Code of Connection) Implementation "Toolkit".
  • Guidance and clarification on protective marking is required.

Philip Littleavon, the Government Connect Programme Director, then presented the Programme's proposed response, comprising a package of support that will be launched at the Socitm Annual Conference, which was agreed.

I am well aware, from discussions with colleagues at the various Socitm meetings I've attended, of some of the concerns and anxieties there are around achieving the CoCo within the stipulated timescales, and also of some apparent barriers. Having previously been one of the most vocal critics of Government Connect, I firmly believe, now, that the present apptroach is the most practical means of addressing pan-Government security, which none of us can deny is a critical requirement in joined-up Government. If there are flaws, they will be fixed. It's only part of the solution and, as yet, is far from "pan-Government", but it's the only realistic starting point and Government Connect, as a pan-Government security mechanism, is gaining traction. Socitm can, and should, help that process. The Government Connect Team is supporting the Gov X Discussion Forum that we set-up to debate and resolve concerns. Socitm is determined to act as a "critical friend" to Government Connect (and all of Government). If things are not right, we will say so – but also suggest, or help to identify, solutions – but should not obfuscate or obstruct.

I will be happy for colleagues to write to me personally with any comments or concerns.

Having said all that, I am very encouraged by, and pleased to report, other items on our agenda, which included engagement with the DfES EAS (Employee Authentication Services) development and with the "Ocean" procurement of the successor to GSi (Government Secure Intranet).

The meeting had not quite finished when I had to leave to travel back to East Ham to attend a Newham Finance Lunchtime Seminar on Strategic Projects – my interest being, of course, the NTC programme.

Back at Direct House, I met BT's Fiona Dew for our regular update. She introduced Tony Digweed, the new Regional Sales Manager for the London Local Government Sector. My main update for BT was that the potential redevelopment of our Bridge Road site as a new regional Data Centre now looks very unlikely. The value placed on the site by the potential developers was insufficient versus alternatives.

In the evening I attended a dinner and discussion of "IT Security in the Public Sector", hosted by Lord Erroll in the Attlee Room at the House of Lords. Duncan Hine – Executive Director, Identity and Passport Service – was the main speaker. The discussion was lively and engaging but – you guessed it - under Chatham House rules!

Got home a little before midnight.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Back to My Roots

It was back up to Birmingham, today, to attend the West Midlands Regional meeting. I was born in the West Midlands (Newcastle-under-Lyme) and most of my forbears worked in the Potteries. A great many of my family member still live in the area and I’m a regular visitor, but I stopped short of claiming to be a kindred spirit!

The West Midlands, as a Socitm Region, has more or less drifted apart in the last 18 months and its RIEP, which was represented at the meeting, has stepped-in to provide some of the cohesion required around ICT partnership working. Today’s meeting was held to garner interest in re-establishing an active regional Socitm base. I did my update on the reorganisation and changes that we have been driving through in our Society, stressing that we have now embarked on the most important stage – that of re-engaging with, building and focussing on value delivered to our membership. There was much discussion about the added value (or absence thereof) provided by Socitm, and of the multiplicity of interests that we now aspire to represent. The small, but select, audience (of around 20), however, generally approved of the direction that we’ve set and, I am very pleased to say, elected a regional committee of willing volunteers to re-build a strong and effective regional representation and membership in the region.

Tony Riding attended to present an overview of the work undertaken by Socitm Insight in the last year, which made clear that was much more than just “Better Connected”, which was among the understandable impressions of the Society that had been represented in earlier discussions.

I had to leave at lunch-time to get home to prepare for quite a full day tomorrow, but the meeting was continuing in the afternoon, with items on regional back-up and Disaster Recovery, and the future work programme.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Barking up the Wrong Tree...

It seems that Socitm has been barking-up the wrong tree with all this Web 2.0 stuff. We have it on the highest authority – Sir Neville-Kingdom GCMG KCVO, no less. – has taken the trouble to put us right in his own Blog. Clearly, Socitm Insight would do well to follow the example of our venerable leader, and KISS.

Sir Bonar forgot to link to the stuff he was complaining about. (Well, he is getting on a bit.) So, here it is…

Aside from the light entertainment provided by Sir Bonar, my day was characterised by frustration, and that "one step forward, two steps back" feeling provoked, on this occasion, by misunderstandings and tiredness. Halfway through my Socitm Presidency, I'm becoming consumed with thoughts of how much remains to be done, and how little time there is to do it!

However, I managed to clear a week's correspondence backlog, and write this month's President's Report. I also spent a lot of time on the 'phone in discussion of potential developments that I hope to be able to report soon.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Proving the Pivotal Role of ICT

The Computing Awards Shortlist has been announced.

One of the work-plan items that I hope the National Advisory Council will agree to at its meeting, next week, is to update Socitm’s Strategy. The last published Strategy 2005-2009, was excellent and still quite relevant but, as might be expected in our fast-changing environment, there are a host of new developments to be accommodated, and a review will be very timely. The strategy may have been good, but unfortunately seems to have been a well-kept secret! When I went to the website to look for it, it wasn’t there – but it is now.

Paul Masters, from Leicester City Council, joined Martin Greenwood, Roland Waterhouse, Doug Maclean, Vicky Sargent, Janet de Rochefort, Chris Morton and I at Vicky’s offices in Birmingham to discuss development of the Socitm Measurement branded services. As previously mentioned (20th August) Socitm Measurement will integrate a number of existing and new services, with a new focus on demonstrating effective use of ICT – on the basis that there’s no point in having excellent ICT if it isn’t exploited by its customers’ businesses!

In terms of the market positioning, we agreed that Socitm policy and service development in this area would support the CIO agenda, working with the board and executive to reinforce ICT’s pivotal role in business transformation. We will seek the support and co-operation of other key stakeholders, like SOLACE, the LGA, Intellect and RIEPs. Socitm Measurement services are also being designed to support new partnership developments, including Local and Multi Area Agreements.

We discussed how service outputs would comprise an organisational performance dashboard. It’s likely we’ll develop a baseline offering through a self-assessment toolkit, with customised services through a subscription model to address weaknesses identified through gap analysis. The next steps will be to publish a prospectus, describing in simple, non-technical language the core service components. There will be a workshop on 19th November to further discuss and build-upon the requirements with Members. In the meantime, I plan to base my welcoming speech at the Annual Conference on the proposed new direction of travel for these Socitm Services.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Vices & Virtues of Virtualisation

One of the "challenges" of getting to Socitm Regional meetings is that often different regions meet on the same day! Today, I attended Socitm South's meeting, whose invitation I accepted some time ago, in Guildford, while Adrian represented the Board at Socitm East.

Nick Roberts, who was recently re-elected as Socitm South Chair introduced our meeting – "The Virtues and Vices of Virtualisation" – sponsored by IBM, whose Luke Shutler gave a lively first presentation on Desktop Virtualisation. Luke cited one of those facts that tend to stick in your mind… If a nanosecond was a second, data that took three seconds to retrieve from a processor would take fourteen days to retrieve from disc. (I'll take his word for it that is a fact.) Shepway District Council's Steve Makin gave an amusing and forthright presentation on server virtualisation, which amounted to "Just Do it!" Simon Jones presented on thin client exploitation in Hampshire (and the benefits of having moved from a mainframe environment straight to thin client). I was particularly interested in Hampshire's two-tier server architecture.

Janet De-Rochefort, Ian Cooper, Ken Boxhall and myself provided Socitm business updates then, after lunch, Civica's Alex Lemon presented "Virtually Licensed". He used to work in Microsoft's Audit Department and, in 284 engagements during his last year there, found that every single customer was both under and over licensed. The average licensing shortfall was £100k but, for some reason, they didn't bother to measure the over-licensing disparity! Alex provided a number of links to useful licensing resources, which will be on the Socitm website, with the rest of the day's proceedings, but it appears the most useful are:


Thursday, 11 September 2008

Judgement Day

Incisive Media’s offices in Soho provided the venue for judging the entries to this year’s Computing Awards. The judges were split into three Groups. I was with Bryan Glick – Editor of Computing, Jim Norton – Senior Policy Adviser, Institute of Directors, Denise Plumpton – Director of Information, Highways Agency and Charles Ward – Intellect Chief Operating Officer, judging:-
  • Private Sector Project of the Year
  • Public Sector Project of the Year
  • Community Project of the Year
  • Innovative Project of the Year
  • Green Project of the Year
  • Outsourcing Project of the Year
  • Student Project of the Year
We short-listed eight entries in each category, which will be announced next week, and were then treated to a nice lunch at a local restaurant. The Awards Ceremony will be on 5th November at the Battersea Events Arena.

Clicking on the new President's Dinner Slideshow, at the top of my Blog, opens the Album.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The What & Why of Web 2.0

My sincere apologies to Martin Brooks, and colleagues at IDOX plc, which I referred to as “Adox” in yesterday’s Blog entry. I can’t explain how I made such an error when editing text pasted from my speech that referred to “Plantech”; I guess I may have been a little woozy after the night before, but I’ve now corrected the entry (and have also added a photo of Chris and I after the dinner)!

I thought this story from earlier this week worthy of mention only because Experian pulled-out of a Microsoft SLG trial of Card Space for federated identity management; Eduserve took its place.

Socitm Insight’s “Web 2.0: what it is, and why it matters” event was held, today, at the Natural History Museum.

I originally planned to spend my day there, but it clashed with a Microsoft Agreement Project Board, which I thought I should attend. The agenda included benchmarking, supplier intelligence and agreement of requirements, concerning which I hope, with the board’s permission, to publish the presentation that is to be circulated. The weighting of commercial, technical and social considerations is among the issues we are grappling with. There is now a consensus that this project is developing the model for public sector engagement with major software suppliers generally. The Socitm survey looks like proving an excellent source of intelligence.

I got back to the Natural History Museum in the early afternoon, and attended the last sessions. It was obvious that the event was a great success. I read a draft of the Web 2.0 report, published today, a few weeks ago. I thought it excellent, and commend to you. The report, and the rest of the day’s proceedings, are on a new Micro-site, launched today. This also has Blogs and Discussion Forums, which members are urged to contribute to, and should be a valuable resource. (Insight subscriber log-in required.)

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The President's Dinner

The Socitm Board of Directors meeting was held, today, at Russell Square. I will report on this, in full, in my next President’s Report – due at the beginning of next week.

The SBD Meeting was followed, in the evening by the annual President’s Dinner – held at Stationers’ Hall close to London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The President’s dinner is one of only a few formal occasions when the President gets to wear his/ her chain of office. A toastmaster introduces the Guests and presides over the proceedings. The event is, of course, very enjoyable but has a serious and important purpose, which is to thank the Society’s Activists, Suppliers and Partners for their support and for contributing over the course of the preceding year. It’s also an important occasion for building and cementing relations with other key stakeholders, including Government and other professional societies serving the Public Sector. The President has to earn his (or her) supper by greeting guests and making a speech. Mine is attached, for information. The photo is of Chris and I; thanks to Terry Street.

Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests

Stationers’ Hall is the home of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, the City of London’s 47th Livery Company. The 100th Livery Company is the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, but whereas the Stationers’ Company was formed in 1403, the Information Technologists’ Company was a little later on the scene, gaining its Livery status in 1992, so, unfortunately, cannot lay claim to quite such august premises. Anyway, you are very welcome to the Stationers’ Hall.

The Socitm President’s Dinner is held each year to thank friends and colleagues for their contributions to the Society and, in this year of considerable change for Socitm, we have much to be thankful for.

Thanks, first, to the Caterers and staff of Stationers’ Hall for what I hope you’ll agree was a magnificent dinner.

Among the changes, the Society now has a streamlined Board that’s focussed on running its business effectively. This was a key requirement because, although Socitm is first and foremost here to serve its members, member services rely on considerable support from commercial revenue. In recent years the Society’s costs have far outstripped its income. My next thanks, therefore, must be to last year’s President, Rose Crozier, for her resolve in launching a much-needed root and branch reorganisation, without which I’m not sure we could have survived.

I think the worst is now over, and I am extremely thankful to all Socitm staff and suppliers for their tremendous commitment and support through a very difficult period. It looks like we will achieve a modest surplus, this year, and, in spite of the belt-tightening, we’ve been able to invest in much-needed new systems, so this Cobbler’s child will soon be shod!

I’m confident the Society can now go on to achieve so much more for its membership through its engagement with the Government IT Profession, and through a new membership model, to be voted-on at this year’s conference, which will extend our remit to include all who work in IT in the Public and Third sectors.

A colleague once told me I was a “grafter”. It’s probably the compliment that I have valued most (I think it was intended as a compliment!) because it’s something I recognise in myself; I like to think that what I may lack in intellectual capacity I make up for in sheer hard work. Well, there’s another grafter who I’d like to single-out for thanks – our Managing Director, Adrian Hancock, without whose drive and commitment I doubt we could have achieved nearly so much in the last six months – and there’s also no doubting his intellectual capacity!

Whilst I may enjoy the challenge of leading Socitm’s renaissance, the travel and long hours mean that I don’t spend us much time with Chris, my long-suffering wife, as I should, and when I am home she often gets the worst of me, through my preoccupation or tiredness. Thanks, Chris for your love and for putting up with me!

Among our objectives for the Society and its proposed new membership model are to adopt a more strategic approach to partnering with the private sector. The response from private sector colleagues has so far been extremely positive, and you seem, especially, to like another Socitm innovation – we are actually going to articulate and recommend policies to our membership! The excellent work that has been done by services like Socitm Insight, publishing incisive research reports on important topics, hasn’t been manifested in Society Policy.

Well, now we’re getting off the fence, and our new Socitm Futures group, developed from what used to be SIAG, has been given the remit for leading policy formulation. Member consultation is, of course, a key part of the process. This will complement our new determination to work effectively with Government as a Critical Friend, throwing our weight behind pragmatic developments, and engaging in constructive dialogue concerning less well thought-through initiatives.

In this connection, I’m pleased to report that the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) has appointed Socitm to advise it on how Local Government can engage with emerging pan-Government strategy on Security and authentication.

We also launched the Local Public Sector CIO (Chief Information Officer) Council, in April, to provide an effective interface with the Central Government CIO Council. We are working with the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools & Families – not Cushions & Soft Furnishings, apparently) on employee authentication. We’re launching a service based on the Aspire system developed by Leeds, to support professional development through SFIA (the Skills Framework for the Information Age). We are working with the LGA (Local Government Association) and others, like the Cabinet Office CSIA (Central Sponsor for Information Assurance) on the NIAF (National Information Assurance Forum).

I could go on, but it would take the rest of the evening to explain all the acronyms; however - you get the idea – we’re “engaged”!

I think the old Socitm could have been compared to the Hot Air Balloonist in a joke that’s being doing the rounds for some years, now, but it’s one of my favourites.

A man in a hot air balloon realised he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 50 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be in IT," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the woman. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything you’ve delayed my trip."

The woman below responded: "You must be in management."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow it's my fault!"

Socitm is now clear about where’s it’s going and how it will get there. It’s dealing with its problems, and is now well-placed to provide effectiveness leadership, support and career development for its members.

Our new National Advisory Council meets, for the first time, the week after next. The new NAC is the final and most critical component in the reorganised Society of IT Management. It will hold the Board and management of Socitm to account by ensuring that all areas of its work are regularly scrutinised, and will set the agenda for membership services.

There are a couple more groups whose invaluable support I need to acknowledge. The first is Socitm affiliates’ – supplier members of the Society – who provided a considerable amount of free consultancy help. In particular, thanks to David Houston, Bernard Gudgin and John Serle.
I also want to thank my fellow Directors for the commitment and support they’ve shown.

I think we can be big enough to admit that, if the Society lost its way a little, elected Members like myself have to shoulder some of the blame. If Socitm is to remain a Society that’s led by elected members for the benefit of its membership, then it has to be realistic about the time and commitment that’s required. One of the tasks that I’ve set myself before the end of my Presidential year is to develop formal protocols that set-out the expectations, in terms of time and commitment, of those elected to office.

Considerable thanks, therefore, to the London Borough of Newham for supporting my Presidency, and in giving me the time to fully engage in leading the turn-around of Socitm’s fortunes. The public sector, as a whole, will benefit greatly from its professional IT Society’s success, and I trust, therefore, that other Authorities will follow your lead.

Finally, my sincere thanks to Idox for sponsoring the President’s dinner. Plantech – now part of the Idox Group - has been a long-term sponsor and friend to Socitm, and we are truly grateful for your continued support.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Innovators '08

Today saw the finals of the Microsoft/ LGC Innovate’08 Competition at Microsoft's offices in Victoria Street. I liked the format, with each team of finalists, having received some mentoring from Microsoft “buddies”, since making the short-list, presenting to the judges and their co-finalists.

The judges were Karen Day - Editor of Local Government Chronicle, John Hayes – Director of Services at the IDeA, Jerry Fishenden - Microsoft’s National Technology Officer for the UK, and me. The winner will be helped, by Microsoft, to develop its project to fruition.

Congratulations to Kent County Council who were winners with their “Pic ‘n’ Mix” project – using Web 2.0 technology, such as mash-ups and social networking, to empower communities through personalised solutions, expanding horizons and enabling better informed engagement and debate.

The runners-up were:
  • South Tyneside Council – “Points mean Prizes” – incentivising unemployed people to take-up opportunities to help them into employment through winning “points” invested into local community projects.
  • London Borough of Lewisham – Development of Wikis to support the borough’s Local Assemblies.
  • Charnwood Borough Council – Using Microsoft Outlook to co-ordinate, not just meetings, but travel to meetings through car sharing, thereby reducing its carbon footprint.

My correspondence is getting out-of-control, again! I ended the day feeling a little stressed-out – which possibly has much to do with what the rest of the week has in-store for me!

PS “Twist & Shout Communications” were not the group who performed at Socitm ’07, as I erroneously reported on Friday, but, I’m told, just as entertaining!

Friday, 5 September 2008

All about Events

David Wilde hosted today's Events Committee at Westminster City Hall. As the Conference looms closer all is still shaping-up well. A final programme update has just been issued. I'm delighted that we have "Twist and Shout Communications" with "Citizen Sally – Power to the People!" in the plenary spot at 2:10 pm on Tuesday. This Group performed in one of the parallel sessions at last year's conference and were a tremendous hit.

I updated Events colleagues on the preliminary consultation undertaken with prospective partners in Events Management. It was agreed to appoint a Working Group – Ken Boxhall, Steve Palmer, Martin Fuggles, Adrian Hancock and myself – to develop the detailed requirements and scope, and engage in formal negotiations, as necessary. The Events Team will continue with its remit, and will be kept in-the-loop on developments, but the aim is to have a detailed plan of the way forward agreed and ready for implementation by the end of this year. The only "non-negotiable" is Socitm continued "in-house" specification of the events programme and content, aligned with the developing policy agenda.

I then crossed Victoria Street to Edelman's Offices for a final briefing on Monday's Microsoft Innovate '08 Awards Final. A Tele-Conference was set-up for most participants but, as I was right on their door-step, couldn't miss the opportunity for another visit to their swanky offices!

Back at Direct House I was "Guest Presenter" at Newham ICT's Team Talk!

I brought the TVR to work, and Chris travelled-up to the office to join me, from where we were driving up to Newcastle-upon-Tyne for the Car Club's annual "Big Northern Gathering". It looks like we'd have had great difficulty in choosing a worse weekend for it!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Working with our Peers

When I read this story, today, it struck me as something Socitm should be having a look at.

The Local Government Data Handling Guidelines, developed by the LGA (Local Government Association) and Socitm are being launched at a LGA Conference on 22nd September. I'm making a short presentation about information sharing and security, which I drafted this morning, and posted to the Government Connect discussion space, inviting any comments.

After lunch, I attended my first CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy) IT Panel. Socitm used to be represented through Peter Ryder, but we had let our representation lapse, of late. I'm glad I went, because there seemed to be lots of scope for co-operation. [Among the aims I set myself for the second half of my Presidency, was building the relationships with other professional bodies and stakeholders we should be working with to deliver a comprehensive joined-up Government agenda.]

The meeting started with a presentation from Fujitsu of the Flex Framework. Although the Cabinet Office signed its contract last year, the Intelligent Customer Function has only just been set-up. That, perhaps, explains why we have heard nothing back from the Cabinet Office's Kevin Dougherty, since our meeting on 23rd January (Blog for week ending 25th January) when we provided copious data about Newham's "Per Seat" ICT infrastructure contract arrangement for comparison purposes. Apart from the Cabinet Office's, three other Government contract have been signed – with the ONS, DIUS & CAFCASS – and another is due to be signed any time now.
Other agenda items included Shared Service for District Councils and "Ten Top Tips for Delivering Efficiency through Technology".

The Group agreed that we should explore co-operation and the Chair, Alan Edwards, of the Royal Wolverhampton Hospital NHS Trust, and I were tasked with liaising to decide how to take discussions forward. For my part, I am particularly keen to discuss how CIPFA can offer guidance to its members on consistent accounting for costs to enable effective benchmarking and accurate determination of services' unit cost through the different delivery channels. There's scope to link such work into the Customer Access Improvement Service (CAIS) recently launched by Socitm Insight. A number of other possibilities were also discussed.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A Day of Innovations

If you are in the majority of people who "Google", you've probably already seen the invitation to download the beta of the Google "Chrome" "browser" – launched hot on the heels of beta 2 of Microsoft Internet Explorer 8. ComputerWorldUK has a good article on the subject. I'd like to be able to make deeply philosophical pronouncements on the subject, but I can't! One thing's for sure, 'though, our IT environment is changing fast, consistent with my view that IT and the web are becoming one and the same.

I finally finished my latest batch of awards judging, today. That's one intensive activity I won't miss too much, come the end of my Socitm Presidential term! However, I have been privileged to read quite a few interesting and innovative ideas and I've discussed, with Geoff, holding an in-house workshop to review the best ideas to see which we can emulate. I'd also like to involve one or two Socitm colleagues to consider what learning and best practice the Society can promote for its membership.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

A Prototype for Public Sector Supplier Engagement?

I met Carol Lawson, of KPMG, who is undertaking an independent audit, for OGC Buying Solutions, of the Microsoft Software Agreement Project. We had an interesting conversation and, I think we agreed that one of the key "learnings", so far, is that the Public Sector's approach to contracting with Microsoft should be no different to that in engaging any other software supplier. This project, therefore, represents a prototype for all other engagements. Other points concerned focus and leadership from the Board.

The rest of my day was spent in correspondence, preparing for next week's Board meeting, and for the National Advisory Council the week after next.

Monday, 1 September 2008

You Tube video on Employee Authentication Services

Thanks to Newham ICT's Richard Carde, who circulated a briefing on its work on Contact Point, and included the following DCSF (Department of Children, Schools & Families) YouTube video on EAS (Employee Authentication Services), of which I was unaware. The "soundtrack" is a little odd, but I applaud the initiative, and wonder why it hasn't been more widely promoted.

Martin Greenwood reminded me that, earlier in the summer, I promised to chair a Socitm Insight event on the
Impact of Web 2.0. The date was set for 10th September, but somehow didn't make it to my calendar, and I'm supposed to be at a Microsoft Agreement Project Board meeting. I'm arranging for someone to stand-in for me (again!) to enable me to chair the Insight event, which looks like it should be a good one, with 120 already booked.

This morning I met with Frazer Dawkins and a colleague from Nortel, which will be working with BT to deliver the communications infrastructure for the London 2012 Games. I brought them up-to-date on Newham's Telecoms Convergence programme, and we agreed to work together through our NTC Programme Manager, when appointed. (Interviews have been conducted during the past week, but I'm not involved as Socitm Consulting is bidding.) We also discussed help that Socitm can provide in publicising developments.

Geoff, Shane, Gary and I met in "my office" (now the ICT Conference Room!) to discuss the high level three-year ICT Strategy that has been drafted with Bevan Jones (Newham Corporate Policy) based upon the ten strategic ICT principles agreed earlier this year by Newham's Executive Board. With a few minor amendments, this was approved, although there will be a lot more technical detail behind it for those involved in its delivery.

Newham ICT's Priya Javeri is working on an MBA through the University of Plymouth. We met to discuss her latest assignment, on Marketing Management, which she has based on ICT's Portfolio Management service. Having undertaken a detailed survey, involving all the Newham Executive and Service Heads, on which to base her analysis, this project represents a very valuable piece of work for ICT. Her work is very timely, given the organisational review that's ongoing, and it's clear that she has identified a number of opportunities for service improvement.

I met with Keith Rixon and John Stockwell, who manage Newham's Telecommunications network, to discuss getting the new network build underway, and bring them up-to-date with related developments, such as the London Public Services Network and PSMP initiatives.