Friday, 31 October 2008

Socitm Link to News Quiz Sensation!

I'm a long time fan of the "The News Quiz" on Radio 4, so I was delighted when driving home listening to it, this evening, to hear a question whose root was in Socitm's Newport Conference. It concerned, of course, Harvey Mattinson's address in which he was reported as saying "claims from ministers that ID cards will help to prevent terrorism are absolute bunkum".

This morning I attended a meeting at BERR's headquarters at One Victoria Street to review work being done in the DAP (Digital Access Provision) Forum in the ALIP (Assisted Living Innovation Platform) programme. The meeting was chaired by Richard Allan – Cisco's Head of Government Affairs UKI, and formerly MP for Sheffield Hallam. (The Liberal Democrat Party Leader, Nick Clegg, succeeded him.) The other attendees were BERR's Richard Foggie and Ian Pannell, Ranjit Bassi from the BRE and Newham's Martin Scarfe.

We also discussed the ALIP2 bid, in which Newham and Westminster are slated to run a Dementia Pilot, and of which it is hoped that Socitm will become a member. I undertook to arrange presentation of the ALIP programme at a Socitm Futures meeting, and discussion of suggested roles.

We talked about the development of converged broadband infrastructure as the enabler for widespread deployment of Assisted Living Technology, which Richard Foggie described as "the new Cathedrals". "In the middle ages, in times of recession, the powers that be built cathedrals, which kept people employed for a couple of hundred years, and revitalised the economy." I trust that our "cathedral" won't take quite so long to finish!

A number of potential related developments were also talked about, including a technology showcase and new London Technology Park, in connection with which we agreed to do some stakeholder mapping to better inform our next meeting.

After lunch I met James Lee to discuss progress in the PSMP project. The usage figures, after less than four weeks, are already at the level forecast for month five of operational running. Several other boroughs are now keen to come onboard; the other four 2012 boroughs are initially being prioritised, following which London-wide roll-out is planned, working with TfL. We discussed different potential funding models and approaches to revenue sharing, as well as new applications and looked ahead to wider UK deployment. I will be proposing that Socitm Futures also looks at this development.

Vicky (taking the place of Ken Boxhall, who is on holiday) Rob McCarthy, Managing Director of Goss Interactive, and I agreed, after some debate, the Socitm Photo Competition winners. They'll be announced on Monday.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Planning to get IT right

I spent the day at Boilerhouse's offices in Birmingham (Vicky's PR company, with her partner, Joe) in a workshop to consider the design brief for our new website. It should be able to do pretty well anything we want it to do, but that depends, of course, on us agreeing an effective design. Vicky, Adrian and I were joined by David, Diane and Pam, from the Socitm Office, Terry, from Socitm Consulting, and fellow directors David and Steve. We worked our way through a number of questions intended to help us identify some key requirements, and spent a while critiquing other leading websites, and those of some of our peers. Vicky and Steve recorded our agreed design requirements.

Our new CRM is the top development priority, so it's ready for the new membership year, starting 1st January. The CMS should be operational before the end of my Presidential year. The most resource intensive activities will be the migration of content and preparation of web-forms. I'm hoping, however, that we can get some quick wins by implementing in phases to deliver benefits like shared calendars.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Eating for England

Geoff & I met with David Fitton, Google's Industry Head for the Public Sector to talk about Google Enterprise and Search. Initial thoughts were that Google Apps. could provide a cost-effective means of extending ICT benefits to manual workers. We were also interested in the Google Search Appliance for corporate search.

We asked about the prolonged Gmail failure that caused such embarrassment for customers in the US. "Google has learned the lessons."

I had lunch at Spiga, in Soho, with Bryan Glick, Computing's Editor, to discuss developments in Socitm, its relationship with Computing and the way recent stories have been covered.

In the evening I dined at Shepherd's, in Marsham Street, with Graham Palmer, Intel's UK and Ireland Country Manager and some of his senior management team. Other dinner guests were the Heads of IT from Tube Lines and UK Parliament. Our discussion ranged over infrastructure development, Green IT, wireless technology, tele-health and other developments in domestic technology and entertainment.

With the number of reported data breaches continuing to grow, yesterday, the UK Information Commissioner's Office called on CEOs to ensure there are robust arrangements for maintaining data confidentiality and security.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Digital Inclusion Action Plan Launched for Consultation

For some time we’ve been waiting for the publication of the Digital Inclusion Action Plan that Paul Murphy announced back in April. Last Thursday, I heard that it was to be published the next day, although this did not seem to be picked-up in the news, so I’ve done a quick search, and here it is (for consultation). (Interestingly, is suspended.) Meantime, Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Information Society & Media, has published an article on the subject, and the Welsh Digital Inclusion initiative is up for a top European award.

Speaking of which (awards) I spent all day judging, again. Vicky has given me a hand (thanks, very much, Vicky) and I’m nearly done for these latest rounds.

Monday, 27 October 2008

I don't like Mondays...

Here is an excellent report of the StartHere event that I attended last week.

I’m exhausted, and it’s only Monday! I worked on LGC and e-Gov Awards all day, interspersed with trying to stay on-top of correspondence.

Martin proposed we establish and maintain a database of best practice and case studies – that have been through some sort of process of evaluation to substantiate benefits claimed – that we can refer to / refer Members to when requests for project information and evidence arise. That seems very sensible; another for the Action List. This would have made gathering our input to the annual Transformational Government Report, which Jos and I discussed this morning, a great deal easier. In the meantime, I have a great many awards submissions that Insight could review….

Friday, 24 October 2008

A More Productive Day

The minutes of the Socitm EGM, confirming the momentous decisions on membership, are now on the website. (Member log-in required.)

Today, I worked from home, as I shall do on Monday and Tuesday – and started assessing entries for the e-Government National Awards, and the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards.

Three Teleconferences, today, would have wiped my day out, had they all been meetings I had to attend, but took only about two hours in total.

The first was with Steve Palmer, Steve Hopson and Adrian concerning Socitm Membership Benefits, properly establishing the Membership Benefits Board and implementing the new membership model. Steve P. had prepared a paper with initial thoughts.

I am anxious to ensure we also reflect the benefits that come from our ability to lobby and influence - not just on behalf of individual members, but also on behalf of their employing organisations - epitomised (off the “top of my head”) in our work on the Local Public Sector CIO & CTO Councils, Government Connect, the Microsoft Software Procurement Project, the Ocean Unified Computing Subgroup, the Public Sector Infrastructure Team, the DCSF Employee Authentication Service and DCLG and CESG Security Strategy and Data Sharing Guidelines.

We agreed a few of us would work on developing the “brochure-ware”. Adrian and David Houston are working on the administration with Bernard Gudgin. The new membership fee structure will be proposed to the board on 6th November. The new CRM system will be ready in time for invoicing at the beginning of January.

After lunch my Teleconference was with the Unified Communications Subgroup of the Ocean Procurement project – on developing the Government’s vision on Unified Communications. Jim Boyle, from the HMRC, who chairs the subgroup, circulated an initial draft vision that we discussed and added to, and a further version will be circulated. I’ll publish it to Members, once agreed.

Later I teleconferenced with Andy Collett and John Sweeney from IBM on Government security. This resulted from a conversation I had at the Socitm Conference. It made me realise that we need to get the industry onboard with our lobbying for the agreement of a sensible pan-Government Vision, so I’ve now asked for this to be put on the agenda for a forthcoming Socitm/ Intellect Meeting (5th November).

Today I’ve been in-touch with both SOLACE (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives) and the CMA (Communications Management Association) who we will be meeting with to discuss how our respective organisations will work together. Unfortunately, because of existing commitments, and the fact that I shall be attending the ALGIM (New Zealand equivalent of Socitm) Conference and taking an extended holiday from 15th November to 12th December, this can’t be until mid-December, on my return.

What with those, and a few other distractions, I didn’t actually manage to review all that many Award entries, but I at least finished the week feeling I’d had a productive day!
Have a good weekend, and don’t forget the clocks go back.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Don't Start Here, StartHere

In my euphoria following the success of the annual conference, I forgot about this month’s President’s Report! Other than the conference itself, which has already been reported upon in various places, there isn’t too much to report, but much is now happening as a result of the decisions made at the Conference EGM, so I’m planning a fuller report following the Board’s meeting on 6th November.

The current global financial turmoil bolsters the case for government adoption of social networks. Well, they do say it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good!

My train was cancelled and I arrived really late for a meeting organised at Starbucks in Victoria Street, so I would be handy for a Microsoft Project Board Workshop ‘round the corner, which was cancelled, so, all in all, I had a wasted morning! I headed to Direct House and spent the rest of the day clearing correspondence.

In the evening I attended the 10th birthday celebration of “StartHere”, my favourite IT-mediated charity. There were presentations, in the Ground Floor auditorium, from Sarah Hamilton-Fairly – StartHere’s founder, Tom Hughes-Hallett – Marie Curie Cancer Care, Helen Milner – UK Online Centres, John Gillies – Citizens Advice, and Douglas Johnson-Poensegen from BT, our hosts, following which we went up to a Reception on the 34th floor. The presenters who followed Sarah all spoke of her tremendous energy and commitment, touched with a hint of madness(!) and StartHere’s consuming raison d’ĂȘtre, which I absolutely agree with. I hope we can now get StartHere onto the Public Sector Mobile Portal (PSMP) and will be taking this up at a meeting at the end of next week.

The motor that drives the revolving 34th floor observatory had broken-down, but the views were as spectacular as ever.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


Feedback from the Socitm Annual Conference has been excellent. Here are four exhibitor’s remarks forwarded, today, by Elaine.

'...It was the first national event I have been to that I think was genuinely worth doing, an excellent couple of days and we will certainly be at the event next year'.

'...Many congratulations for a great show, we enjoyed it and again felt that the quality of attendees makes it a very worthwhile event for us to attend'.'... It turned out to be a very good event for us, with IT security being top of everyone’s agenda this year'.

'...We had a good event with plenty of interest; it's highly likely we'll be back next year'.

The first meeting of the Government Connect CoCo Exemptions Committee took place today, by Teleconference. Details are embargoed until letters go out at the end of this week, but the Committee was very pleased with the positive way Councils have engaged with the process and encouragement at the evident progress that’s been made.

Geoff invited me into a discussion with Vince Tooke and another colleague from TfL to discuss our respective Data Centre requirements and continued collaboration. Newham ICT’s initial hopes for the redevelopment of the Council’s Bridge Road Depot were dashed when the commercial offer for the land was considered far too low. However, it’s still intended to dispose of the Depot, and future Data Centre provision is still a key consideration.

I completed a Socitm President’s “Thought Leadership” piece to be included in the publication of Green ICT research by Local Government IT in Use magazine.

Shane and I had a meeting with a Steria representative at the company’s Holborn office to discuss Caboodle pension issues, and Caboodle’s final accounts. I hope to be able to report more in the near future.

Following which we met a former colleague – Steve Paxman – for a long-postponed reunion and catch-up over dinner. I got the train home and Chris, bless her cotton socks, met me at the station.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Making New Contacts

This article by the Managing Director of the organisation that manages IP addresses in Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia was published yesterday. It provides a short overview of the IP addressing system, and urges Government to facilitate the deployment of IPv6. “Governments are influential forces for Internet growth. Leading by example, governments can play an important part assisting in the deployment of IPv6. Where governments lead in creating an atmosphere of change and encouraging a landscape for safe and effective Internet development, the private sector will join.”

Adrian and I met with Steve Reynolds, Chairman, and Martin Ballard, Director, of the MDA (Mobile Data Association) at City University, in Finsbury. This was a very productive use of two hours, with agreements on sharing relationship-mapping to determine how we can best represent and support one another, MDA participation in Socitm GovX Spaces on Mobile Computing, participation in Socitm Futures and, potentially, reciprocal discounted membership fees for one another’s’ memberships. Other discussion was of joint events, the green agenda and mobile IT and public sector Case Studies. (Steve is an admirer of the Newham PSMP development.) We agreed to draft a Memorandum of Understanding as a framework for the relationship.

The MDA is organising an event, to be held on 13th November, on security relating to mobile payments, with broad representation from mobile industry stakeholders. However, the representation of public sector requirements was an obvious gap, from the Socitm perspective. Given our current focus on achievement of the GCSx CoCo, and the need to ensure that mobile data also complies with the requirements, Adrian and I suggested that Government Connect be invited to present its requirements at the event. We will try and ensure that Socitm is also effectively represented.

Back at Direct House, I had a short meeting with Martin Stobbs from Newham’s Audit Service, concerning the procurement of consultancies for the NTC project, and then was introduced to, and had a discussion with, Louise Delahoussaye, the new HP Account Manager for Newham.

In the evening I attended The Chemistry Club at Sartoria. It was a useful evening in which I got to make several new contacts, such as John Widowson, the GCHQ’s Director of Information Assurance in Government, and get up-to-date with other associates. The straight-talking John Moulton was the evening’s speaker. If I understand correctly, he predicted the financial mess we’re in when he last spoke at the Club a year ago. Anyway we were all ears for his views on where we go from here; it’s not good news, I’m afraid. Do you understand how “super senior credit default swaps” work? No, nor do AIG, or anyone else, apparently! “We need innovative bankers about as much as we want innovative pilots at the controls of our 747s.”

Monday, 20 October 2008

Running On The Spot.

Towards the end of a lazy weekend, I was TV channel-hopping when I happened on a programme about Madonna – and she is 50. I checked the Internet, and so is the Barbie Doll! So, my Quiz Team was robbed on Byte Night, and I didn’t let them down as I was led to believe. There’s no justice in this world!

I see that the Government is halting flexitime reforms in response to the economic crisis, which is a pity. I can understand that the administration of such changes could represent a significant additional load, especially on hard-pressed small businesses but, in the longer term, I’m convinced flexible working arrangements will support greater efficiency.

I was interviewed, at the DCSF offices in Great Smith Street, as part of an OGC Gateway Review of the Employee Authentication Services project. This contributed to Gate 1 & 2 reviews. There were 3 reviewers (all from outside the DCSF). Once I got to the meeting (I was late being directed to it as the person I was told to ask for was on leave, and no-one had told the Reception staff I was expected) I enjoyed the discussion, which was my first experience of the OGC Gateway process – and it gave me the opportunity to expound my views about pan-Government security vision and a single Government Security infrastructure!

Since the conference, ‘though, I feel like I’ve entered one of those phases in life when one is running just to stay still – on top of which I’ve another 171 Competition entries to judge in the next week. Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to take the weekend off!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Organising for our Customers' Convenience

I spent Thursday catching-up with correspondence and all day Friday in Newham at an Employment Appeal Panel.

The latest copy of Local Government IT in Use magazine included Helen Olsen’s article, “Get it Right First Time”, which followed a survey of Councils who do not send “bounce” messages in response to misaddressed e-mails. This was prompted when Helen was frustrated when e-mails to my PA went unanswered because she got the address slightly wrong.

“This made us here at LGITU start wondering if this was ‘normal’ operations for a local authority email system. And if so, what effect could that have on citizen service – most pertinently, in relation to National Indicator 14, ‘reducing avoidable contact’.”

Helen therefore surveyed all Local Authorities, sending slightly misaddressed e-mails, to see how they responded. Sixty-four, like Newham’s, were not responded to. Newham has now changed its policy and sends bounce messages when misaddressed e-mails cannot be delivered, but the reason that it, and other Councils, previously did not is that nearly all such e-mails received are spam with randomly generated addresses. Responding to these e-mails validates the addresses and lets the Spammers know that they’ve found valid targets.

The exercise convinced Newham that it should change its policy – organising for the benefit of its customers, rather than for administrative convenience, but that got me thinking about other ways in which we can make life difficult for customers. Among my pet hates are the frequent failures, in our industry, to organise services for access online rather than by “traditional” means. Magazines, such as "Local Government IT in Use", typify this when they are produced as A4 landscape editions with print columns that mean you have to scroll up and down the page to read them. I, and I’m sure many others, generally print them to read – but that’s something we should clearly be avoiding in the names of efficiency and greenness. I asked Helen about this, and part of the answer was that people say it’s not something they want. (I do, please.) Part of the answer was to do with the extra cost that would be involved.

And there’s the rub; very often service providers are faced with decisions about convenience versus cost – in local government terms, higher Council Taxes or better services? Newham analysed the e-mails it received in one week. The results are below. (I don’t know what happened to Friday and Saturday. Presumably, the analysis was done on working days for the previous days.)

The first column in the table contains the total numbers of e-mail received. The second column contains those that are not immediately identified as Spam. The third is those that have invalid addresses, and the final column is the estimated number of those, following manual examination, that have invalid addresses, but are not deliberate spam.

Newham is just implementing the latest version of Microsoft Exchange Server that has additional functionality to improve the detection of spam, including “probing” spam, but prior to that the manual effort involved in dealing with incorrectly addressed e-mails was reckoned at one full time equivalent per day. So, does the extra cost merit the added customer convenience? I’m still not totally convinced – I can request a “read receipt” if I want to know that my e-mail has got through, but there’s nothing I can do about magazine articles that I find inconvenient to read online!

Incidentally, Socitm also publishes material online in traditional formats. We have the same considerations of cost and customer requirements as Helen. I’d be interested in your views!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Conference Report - 11th to 15th October

Well – life, for me, has been so hectic in the past four days, that my feet have barely touched the ground, so no time for my usual daily updates!

Chris and I drove down to Newport in the Tuscan. Despite the lovely weather, we couldn't take the roof off because we had too much luggage, and there wasn't enough room in the boot to stow the roof!

At the Celtic Manor, we were booked into the "Chairman Suite". Very nice! Robin Carsberg, from the Socitm Events Committee, showed me the exhibition and conference spaces. The great thing about the Celtic Manor is its ability to accommodate a sizeable conference, exhibition and delegates at the same venue. He showed me the final figures; it was looking like a record year, with 84 exhibitors, and over 400 delegates, speakers and exhibitors booked for the formal dinner on Monday night.

At six, Sue and Cindi from the US, and Arend & Robin from Holland, together with Peter & Linda Ryder, joined us in our suite for pre-dinner drinks. Thorbjorn and Christian, from Sweden, were arriving late. Dinner was in the Conwy Room with the Events Team. Ken Boxhall said a few words of welcome and thanks to the Team for their efforts and work to come in the next few days! We then adjourned to Merlin's Bar for drinks, and were joined by Thorbjorn and Christian, who flew-in to Cardiff.

Peter Ryder leads Socitm's International engagement, and led our hosting activities for our International guests. He created an itinerary that, today, included an excursion that took us to Bristol to tour the SS Great Britain, and visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge and nearby Camera Obscura, and to Bath for lunch at "Sally Lunns" followed by a visit to the Roman Baths. The day-trippers included next year's President, Steve Hopson, and his wife Sue, Peter's wife, Lin, and Chris and I followed in our car, as I needed to ensure I could get back in good time to prepare for the conference opening, and returned after lunch. The weather couldn't have been better, and everyone had a wonderful day!

My Welcome Address was at six 'o' clock. I've added the speech as a separate Blog entry, if you're interested. TV Presenter, Sara Coburn, was again our conference host. Her professionalism really helps to make a polished conference - contrasting sharply with the President's last minute attempt to use a teleprompter for the first time! Paul Sloane's keynote address, which followed, is reported on Socitm's website.

Prior to the 7.30 Reception for all delegates, the international guests and their hosts were invited to the President's suite for drinks. A magnificent dinner followed the Reception, and I have to say that the Celtic Manor's service and food were superb throughout the event.

The Events Team had arranged an optional Partners' Programme, today, for delegate partners, and Peter's programme for the International guests was joined by Lin, Sue and Chris.

Today's opening address was given by Wayne David, MP, Deputy Minister for Digital Inclusion, and he was followed by the CESG's Harvey Mattinson. Their speeches are also reported-upon at the above link, as are other plenary presenters'.

My mission, today, was to support the Government Connect workshops and the package of support that was launched. (A Press Release was also issued, today.) I attended at least the last 15 minutes of each of them to support Simon Norbury. They were all standing room, only, and I'm very pleased to say that there was overwhelming support for the initiative and the position that Socitm has adopted. We are "sticking our neck out", given the Government Connect inglorious track-record and patchy support across Government, but I believe we will make it work. We now need to see our commitment matched by all other Government Departments, and agreement to just one secure infrastructure (rather than separate Codes of Connection) for the whole of Government.

The Socitm Board of Directors met in my room over lunch. We kept the agenda to a minimum, but it included presentation, by Christine Peacock, of the Auditor's Report for the 2007 Financial Year, and our agreement of actions arising.

I reflected on the fact that the reorganisation, in which we're engaged, was kicked-off in earnest in a similar meeting in Rose's Presidential accommodation, exactly a year ago. The next key stage in that process was voted on at an EGM at 5.15pm. We needed at least 75% of attending members to vote in favour of the two special resolutions in order to carry them, so it was an enormous relief, and enormously gratifying, to gain the overwhelming support of members. By the time you read this, a Press Release should have been issued reporting the result but, in summary, our Society is now for all who work in ICT in the public and third sectors, and we have just two membership classes – "Member" and "Senior Member", and "one member, one vote".

There was a further Reception at 7.30, followed by the Gala Dinner and entertainment from 8.30. A number of us were up until the wee small hours, but I told myself I was allowed to "let my hair down" after the relief of today's successes, and progress made this year.

Today's keynote speaker was James Woudhuysen – Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montford University. I thought his session – berating the "worship of youth", and saying, in effect, "what goes around comes around", was brilliant – and not a little heartening for oldies like me! (Also reported on the website.)

Chorley Borough Council Chief Executive Donna Hall's session was also very good. From Dan Jellinek's report on the website…' In response to a question from Socitm President Richard Steel expressing scepticism that another quango was needed to try and improve local government efficiency, Hall admitted there was a risk the new body would not be effective: "it does seem sometimes like central government departments always need to create another board to justify their own existence."'

Following which the President's Team were interviewed by Helen Olsen, Editor of Local Government IT in Use magazine, and I was amused to find that she seemed to be in a far worse state than I following the night's partying!

This year's Graham Williamson Travel Award winner was Frances Kettleday, from Cambridgeshire County Council, who has chosen to travel to Sweden.

After lunch, Siemens sponsored "Citizen Sally – Power to the People" – an entertaining piece of theatre that invited us to consider how we may be perceived by our ultimate customers – our citizens.

The conference finished with Tea, at three 'o' clock.

I'm tremendously grateful to my colleagues for putting-on such a great event, for the support of the exhibitors – I got to as many as I could – and, of course, the sponsors. I got loads of feedback, which was nearly all very positive. Well done everyone!

In the evening, our International guests were invited to the President's Suite for drinks, for one last time. Peter and Lin, Steve and Sue and Chris and I were also joined by Adrian Hancock and David Bryant. Peter had arranged for us then to dine at The Bell at Caerleon, which, I recommend you visit if you are in the Newport area.

Chris and I joined Peter and Lin for a leisurely breakfast - before we drove home in dismal weather, but now it didn't matter!

Socitm 2008 President's Welcome Address

Socitm 2008 President’s Welcome Address

A very warm welcome to this year's Society of IT Management Conference.

Please join with me in also welcoming our International guests - from the USA, Sweden and Holland. Do let us know if there's anything at all we can do to help ensure that your visit to the UK is enjoyable and productive.

2008 has been a pivotal year for the Society…

In stemming our financial losses
In reorganising our management and administration
In renegotiating our commercial arrangements
In reconsidering our partnering and events management
In reviewing membership services
In proactively engaging with Government, and other stakeholders, on behalf of our membership
In committing to the adoption of a policy driven agenda

On behalf of Socitm's Board and National Advisory Council, I'd like, now, to urge you to support the next major step in our Society's transformation, through the adoption of a new membership model to be voted upon at tomorrow's Extraordinary General Meeting.

To some extent, the proposed resolution formalises changes that have been happening by stealth! Having started out as the "Society of (Local Government) IT Managers" – we have gradually grown our membership beyond the confines of local government, and quietly changed the "managers" to "management" some years ago.

But now's the time to commit ourselves to a fully inclusive Association for anyone who works in ICT in the Public or Third Sectors.

The new Socitm will enable us to lead transformational government developments through a membership that's drawn from all of the requisite constituents.

The new membership model will enable us to support the professional development of our members from Universities or Colleges right through to CIOs and their seats at the "Top Table" - covering the breadth of information, communications and technology services.

We are continuing to work on our professional development capabilities – through discussion with the BCS, NCC and others – and have committed ourselves to propose a comprehensive professional development model for formal adoption at the Society's next Annual General Meeting.

And at this Conference, Socitm Consulting will be launching its service offerings based upon the Aspire tool that was developed by Leeds City Council to support the Skills Framework for the Information Age – all part and parcel of the Society's development.

I want to turn, now, to our Society's aims and aspirations. For too long, I believe, we've been predominantly inward focussed. We have established a firm basis of assessing service performance through benchmarking our own services and measuring our ICT users' satisfaction - but now it is time to look beyond our own services to challenge our stakeholder communities to use the potential of ICT effectively.

Well, in the main, our services are pretty damn good, aren't they? But does that mean they are necessarily used effectively? No – it doesn't. In fact, I'd argue that too many of our customers are still closeted in silos; and some wear their ignorance of IT as badges of honour; they are happy to use ICT to do things the way that they know, love and are comfortable with, and are resistant to change.

ICT - Corporate ICT - holds the high ground. We have the bird's eye view of the organisation. We see the poor data quality that results from silo'd mentality. We see the opportunities and benefits that flow from shared datasets and services. We must see that ICT should not only be business driven; it has to be a driver of business change.

The Customer Access Improvement Service, launched this year by Socitm Insight, is an important step towards assessing how effectively ICT is used to deliver real customer outcomes.
I was also delighted with the recently published "Web 2.0: What it is and why it matters" report - which really challenges us to exploit new media to positively transform our services and customer experience.

At this conference, we are announcing the development of a set of new and revised benchmarking services with the aim of fostering both service and organisational improvement facilitated by ICT.

The new benchmarking services will enable members and business managers to both assess and improve their performance in a number of key customer-facing areas.

The services will offer what we call a Dashboard – a simple graphical means of seeing at a glance how the organisation is performing in just the same way as the dashboard on a car. The services will include: business transformation, Information assurance, security, flexible working, shared services and end-to-end customer service delivery.

Also branded as part of the same stable will be services such as:

Benchmarking, User Satisfaction, the Website Assessment Service and Customer Access Improvement Service and the National e-Service Delivery Standards; all augmented to really focus on demonstrating effective use of ICT, rather than just measuring its efficiency – all part of the organisational "Dashboard".

We have recognised that, previously, Socitm service delivery has been a little fragmented; it hasn't been clear which part of the organisation was responsible for what service, or even how some of them related to one another.

It's therefore planned that this development will constitute a cohesive set of services under a new, easily identifiable, brand, and, although delivered jointly by Socitm Consulting and Socitm Insight, accessible through a single customer interface.

On 19th November, Socitm will be holding a workshop in London, to develop the detailed requirements and service design.

We will be mailing you about this workshop and your Conference material includes reference to the workshop. We would encourage you to participate and give us your guidance on how this new service can meet your organisations' requirements.

It's vital that Socitm services reflect the Society's developing policy agenda, and our developers will work very closely with Socitm Futures to ensure the new set of services are tailored to meet Members' requirements.

Socitm policy and service development in this area will support the CIO agenda, working with the board and executive to reinforce ICT's pivotal role in business transformation. We, of course, recognise that we must work with our colleagues in other professional bodies to deliver a truly transformational programme, and are already seeking the advice, support and co-operation of other key stakeholders, like SOLACE, CIPFA, the PPMA, the LGA, Intellect and RIEPs. Socitm's new service developments are being designed to support partnership working, including Local and Multi Area Agreements.

Following the workshop on 19th November, we aim to publish a detailed prospectus before Christmas.

I'd like to say a few words , now, about Government Connect and its "CoCo" – the Code of Connection.

You are aware, I'm sure, of the challenging target that has been set by the Department for Work & Pensions, which will mean, from next April, the only supported means of sharing benefits data will be via the Government Connect infrastructure. Socitm has committed itself to work with the Government Connect Team to facilitate achievement of the Code of Connection with which Authorities must comply in order to join the Government Connect network – and I'm pleased to announce that a package of support, developed with Socitm, is being launched at this Conference.
I'm confident that we have a pragmatic way forward that will cement Local Government commitment to what will become a pan-Government strategy for appropriate, safe and secure data sharing…And I'm convinced that by throwing our weight behind the achievement of a secure Government infrastructure after, let's face it, years of fragmentation, procrastination and wasted effort, the public sector ICT profession can considerably extend its authority, consistent with the new agenda that we're setting today.

Whilst I may be passionate about the need for Socitm to seize the mantle, to drive the transformation of Government services and to set the direction for ICT enabled change in Society, I fully recognise the need to avoid throwing babies out with the bath-water! Technical workshops, discussion forums, sharing of best practice and skills development will remain as key weapons in our armoury.

Tomorrow, we will be providing an overview of the background to, and progress in, developing and implementing Socitm's new organisational structure before the Extraordinary General Meeting, tomorrow. For now, I do want to stress, however, that, although I hope that Socitm's leadership will be able to challenge and stimulate our membership to fully realise the potential that our profession has to offer, above all our aims are to be inclusive, responsive to Members' needs and wishes, and to be transparent and open about the conduct of our business. There are ample opportunities to become involved with the Society's work and help us to deliver the ambitious agenda that we are setting ourselves.

Socitm is your Society. Get involved. We are always in need of people to help with research, to represent us on various bodies or forums, to report back from meetings and events and to ensure that you - Socitm's members - remain the lifeblood of your Society.

By the way, I should mention that we also corrected a long-standing omission from our web-site. There is now a comments, complaints and plaudits facility! Please do use it.

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to the Socitm Events Team, and colleagues throughout the Society, for all the hard work that's gone into preparing for this occasion.

I hope you have a good conference – and don't forget about the Photo Competition!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Socitm 2008 Photo Competition

This year, thanks to sponsorship from GOSS Interactive, we’re running a photo competition for delegates using the photosharing website Flickr. We hope lots of you will enter!!

Here’s how it works:

The competition is open to anyone attending Socitm 2008

Entrants are invited to take photos with phones, cameras or other devices, and upload them to Images must be posted by midnight on 21 October.

Judges are Richard Steel, President, Socitm; Ken Boxhall, chair, Socitm events committee; and Rob McCarthy, Managing Director, GOSS Interactive. The judges’ decisions will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Winners will be announced on and during w/c 27 October

The four prizes are:

  • 1st prize - Samsung NV20 digital camera including 4mb flash card.
  • 2nd prize (x2) Samsung Digimax S760 digital camera including 4mb flash card.
  • President’s special prize Canon Digital IXUS 70 digital camera

Prizes can be viewed at the GOSS Interactive stand (no 19). There is no cash alternative to prizes.

Socitm and GOSS will use images and publish winners names and organisations on its websites and via its other communications channels

Get involved……!

Use the above link to our Flickr page to view all pictures. The latest images will be pulled through to

To upload pictures or comment on other people’s you’ll need to sign up with Flickr and join the Socitm 2008 space (its really easy). Then you just follow the instructions (there may be a short delay before your picture is added due to Flickr account moderation).

PCs and internet connections are available in the delegate work area.

Web 2.0 content rich functionality, that can enhance citizen engagement, is provided as standard with GOSS Interactive’s Web Content Management System – iCM.

Ready for the Annual Conference!

Telecommuters are more productive, healthy and loyal. I tend to agree. What really makes telecommuting work, 'though, (in my view) is the technology that enables shared calendars,and collaboration, instant messaging, "follow me" desktops and "presence" information that provides colleagues' availability and preferred communications medium. Hopefully, we are all becoming used to exploiting these on our corporate networks and for remote working "in-house", but the real challenge, now, when we are increasingly working in diverse partnerships, is federating office automation. Working with Socitm for the last six months, the absence of colleagues' calendar information and presence has been my biggest frustration!

I attended the Socitm London Committee meeting, hosted by David Wilde on the 18th floor of Westminster City Hall (which, of course, we all love for its fabulous views).

We discussed proposals being put to Capital Ambition - London's RIEP - into which London Connects, along with the London Regional Centre of Excellence, is being subsumed. It's proposed that the London Connects Steering Group will become the "London Socitm Efficiency Group" with reporting lines to both the Capital Ambition Board and London Socitm. This mirrors the arrangements being put in-place for other London professional bodies, such as the London Society of Treasurers and, I think, may be a model that could work in the other regions. The existing London Connects work programme and budget will be ring-fenced and managed by the new board.

I outlined the package of support for the Government Connect programme and Code of Connection that will be launched at the conference. (There will be a press release on Monday.)

We also decided upon the agenda for the next London Branch meeting, which will have a security theme with, hopefully representation from the DWP, DCSF and CESG.

Hope to see you at the Conference!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Benefitting from Colleagues' MBA Studies

The Microsoft Agreement Project Board met today. Rob Anderson presented the options that have been identified. I agreed with the preferred option, which is essentially a role-based model covering desktop, client access and server products. There was extensive discussion about issues such as perpetual versus subscription licensing, support, upgrade rights, capital versus revenue (or “Admin” as Roy Marshall calls it) and central registration of licences. Other items included benchmarking – versus other sectors and within the public sector – and communications strategy. Next steps will include a Workshop to identify the detailed requirements. There are many issues still to consider; I am concerned, for example, about inter-organisational roles, and personal usage, but didn’t raise these as there will be ample opportunity through the workshop and Project Team. As a prototype for shaping public sector engagement with suppliers, this seems to be shaping-up pretty well.

As part of our continuing consultation with the private sector, I met with Mark Raleigh and Gerry Gebel, of Burton Group, to discuss a prospective relationship with Socitm to provide added membership value in access to research expertise and material and, possibly, co-operative research.

Geoff, Shane, Priya and I met to discuss the learning from Priya’s MBA assignment based on Newham ICT’s Portfolio Management service. Geoff had drafted suggested ways in which the service should be developed, based on Priya’s recommendations, to address Executive and Management feedback, which we agreed.

As we develop, in Socitm, our engagement with the Government IT profession, I still think that MBA studies offer the most rounded approach to professional development for management and future executives, and represent very good value to sponsoring employers, especially where studies can be grounded in their own environments.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Enter the Socitm Conference Photo Competition!

Details of the Photo Competition, for photos taken during the Socitm Conference starting this Sunday evening, are at Further details, including the prizes (which will be on display in the Conference Exhibition) and Judging Criteria, will be added soon.

Today was spent working at home exclusively using, for the first time, my own PC and Terminal Services, whilst my Notebook is being rebuilt. I'm ashamed to say I'm pretty attached to my "thick client" but "thin" wasn't too bad once I got it set-up the way I wanted. I'm still not up-to-date with correspondence, but deleted 210 e-mails, and sent around 90 - many to do with events and PR.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Green Answer Time

Take your cameras to Newport, as we'll be running a Photo Competition. Details to follow.

Nick Smales, Tower Hamlets Council's "Service Head, 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games Development & Renewal", invited me to a meeting with Jim Roberts, Tower Hamlets CIO, Chris Peacock, CIO of Hackney Council and Stephen Fellowes of London Connect to discuss Interconnect Strategy.

Nick, who comes from Hull and is therefore more than ordinarily familiar with its Telecommunications Network development that became Kingston Communications, is excited about the potential benefits of public sector intervention to develop a shared state-of-the-art network in East London, linked to 2012, and enabling lasting legacy advantage.

We discussed the Newham Telecommunications Convergence project, its relationship with the LPSN development and why we need this local initiative:- to target deprived communities not just those that are likely to prove most lucrative, to avoid a "lowest common denominator" approach, to ensure ownership and control of the asset so revenues from commercial development directly benefit the public sector.

I explained that, from the start, the NTC project had been conceived as one that would benefit the region, not just Newham. We agreed that we should continue to work together, and I will seek approval to:
  • Share Newham's NTC Business case, subject to a Confidentiality Agreement.

  • Set-up a Consultation Group, which could become a Steering Group if partners signed-up to common aspirations and goals for the NTC programme.
  • Provide introductions to advisors that Newham ICT has worked with.

  • Organise a Workshop to discuss East London's Interconnect Strategy.

In the afternoon I was a Panellist at an "Answer Time for Green IT" Conference organised by EILT (the "Environmental IT Leadership Team") at BMA House in Tavistock Square. Fellow Pannellists included the knowledgeable and passionate Catalina McGregor of the MOD (Chair of the CIO/CTO Green ICT Delivery Sub-Group), Matt Deacon, Microsoft's Chief Architectural Advisor, and representatives from BT, IBM, Cisco, Logicalis and Sun, with Gartner's Rakesh Kumar in the Chair.

It was interesting and informative to be involved in the debate, in which the audience was already converted to the cause, but there were different views about which approaches were most sustainable in the long-term. I learned about a lot of resources that I now plan to link to from Socitm's website.

Coincidentally, we heard today that Socitm's Chris Head has been appointed to the CIO/CTO Green Delivery Unit to represent the Local Public Sector. I mentioned this to Catalina, who was fulsome in her praise for him, so thanks, and well done Chris!

I'm developing a Glossary of the acroyms that are used in my Blog, which now runs to over 30 terms, and hope to save time by not spelling them all out in each entry. Do shout, 'though, if there's anything you dob't understand!

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Late Arriving Guest of Better Connected!

I mentioned, last week, that I was going to experiment with Microsoft’s Photosynth. Well, my first try was in photographing the sleeping-out on Byte Night. You can see the results in a copy of my Blog at However, two files have to be downloaded before the Synth can be viewed, which is unlikely to be allowed on corporate networks, and certainly not on Newham’s. In which case, I’ve provided the link for viewing, if you wish, on your own PC.

Due to a calendar mix-up, I had the wrong location recorded in my calendar for a meeting of the Better Connected Team to discuss the test surveys they have undertaken. I drove into London, before realising I was supposed to be at the Novotel in the centre of Reading, so arrived an hour late! I specifically asked to attend this meeting, as I’m keen to understand the evaluation process. The test surveys, with comments, and other documents including an “Improvement Plan” were circulated ahead of the meeting. There were ten assessors in the meeting with Martin Greenwood, and I was quickly impressed at their knowledge and experience.

More than ever, ‘though, I was struck at what a fast-changing environment we are dealing with. As well as Local Area Agreements, we now have Multi-Area Agreements and Comprehensive Area Assessments. There’s Local Government reorganisation, proliferation of web-sites, Identity Management and Authentication are on the horizon, and content is increasingly multimedia, not to mention Web 2.0 and digital convergence.

As I previously reported, the Socitm Insight Team plans to evolve the Better Connected product, which will be signalled by the changing strap-lines. My thoughts, now, are that the first really significant change may be in switching from assessment of Local Authority sites, to assessing the delivery of public services in boroughs and districts, recognising that service delivery is increasingly multi-agency. As a citizen, I would want to easily find and use services available in my area, but not too concerned who delivered them. It seems unlikely that switch of assessment focus can be accommodated this year, but the survey is clearly being developed with the changing requirements in-mind.

My trips to Socitm’s sister Society conferences, to date, have confirmed that the Better Connected survey is by far the most comprehensive undertaken in the public sector, and widely recognised as such. It’s an ambitious programme with a very high profile and always, therefore, likely to attract critics, but through the commitment and professionalism of the Insight Team, working closely with Socitm Futures to ensure that Better Connected continues to effectively represent the strategy and policies established by the Socitm membership, I’m certain it will continue to represent the Gold Standard in surveying public sector web services.

A complaints, comments and plaudits form is now available on the Socitm “Contact Us” page on the website at

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Byte Night!

I met my fellow Team members at Ernst & Young (near City Hall) who hosted an evening's entertainment before the Sleep-Out. Although I had met Nic Evans (Key Equipment Finance) at the CNET Awards, I hadn't yet met Steve Clarke (AOL) or Graham Benson (M&M Direct). We sent texts to arrange the meeting place. Our evening started on a high note, in the knowledge we had surpassed out £5,000 target, with the help of a late donation of £1,000 from Sybase - one of Steve' suppliers.

The evening started with speeches from Ken Deeks (Byte Night founder), the Chief Executive of Action for Children, and others. Apparently, Byte Night is the most profitable fund-raising event in the Action for Children (formerly NCH) calendar, and the London venue (there are others) was expected to raise around £400k. There were about 350 London Sleepers - one from the Public Sector - me!

Quite a few companies and celebrities generously supported the event. The Ernst & Young contribution , for example, was valued at £35k. They provided everyone with meals, a "chill-out zone" for those who wanted it, and there was a quiz run by BBC TV News Presenter, Emily Maitlis. I think we may have come last! We got full marks in the first round, thanks to Steve, his Smart 'Phone and the Internet (I imagine everyone else cheated, too) but our performance in the other three rounds was dismal. I insisted that the Barbi Doll and Madonna were 50, this year, which certainly didn't help; they are 40. Sorry, Madge!

There were also auctions; a Dr Who script signed by David Tennant and Billie Piper went for well over £2,000.

The Bar closed at 11.00 sharp, and we adjourned to Potters Field for the sleep-out. The organisers provided survival bags and brollys, there were ground sheets and refreshments (and breakfast in the morning) was provided. I'm sure you're now thinking this was all very cosy, so you will hopefully be queueing-up to form Public Sector Teams with me next year. Seriously, please let me know if you can join me next year!

A cold night was forecast but, unlike Steve's mate, Matthew Lagden, of Action for Children, who looked like Nanook of the North (as did many others) I slept in T-Shirt & underwear! I felt warm enough to start with, and dozed-off after a while, but awoke frozen, after not much sleep. I did have warm clothing with me, including a sleeping bag liner that Chris made for me when I camp at events like Le Mans, but really couldn't be bothered to clamber in to them, so concentrated on trying to close the gap at the neck of my sleeping bag where a chill draft was getting-in. I couldn't get back to sleep, 'though, so got up at 5.30, had a coffee and bacon buttie, said my goodbyes and home to a nice warm house.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Getting Connected

Philip Littleavon, Simon Norbury and I met in Philip’s office at Richmond House to discuss my feedback from colleagues on Government Connect Code of Connection compliance progress - and to agree on the package of support to be launched at next week’s Socitm Conference. I was pleased with the outcome, and I’m confident that we have a pragmatic way forward that will cement Local Government commitment to what will become a pan-Government strategy for appropriate, safe and secure data sharing.

I’m convinced that by throwing our weight behind the achievement of a secure Government infrastructure after, let’s face it, years of fragmentation, procrastination and wasted effort, the public sector ICT profession can considerably extend its authority, consistent with the new agenda that Socitm will be proposing at next week’s conference.

Adrian was at a meeting that lasted most of the day in detailed planning of the Society’s new CRM implementation. Following which we had a long telephone conversation to bring one another up-to-date on our mutual activities. It was a week ago that Adrian asked “Will you have any gaps when we could have a catch-up call – as things continue to move at breakneck speed?” For one reason, or another, our conversation was delayed until today!

My day ended in catching-up with further correspondence that had been outstanding too long, checking the minutes of the last board meeting, preparing the agenda for the next (at Conference) - then seeing how the sponsorship for tomorrow night is going. Wow! Not too bad!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Get "Synthing"...

With Steve Ballmer in town, today, for the Microsoft “Technologies to Challenge Your Business” Launch at the Southbank Centre (I didn’t attend as Geoff was covering the event) Cliff Saran, from Computer Weekly, asked me whether there was a burning question that I would have liked to ask him (SB). Part of my reply was going to be about my frustration over the long delay in launching “Photosynth” since I first saw it demonstrated. I thought I better check the situation, ‘though, before I replied and discovered that it’s now available to use – and free! So, I’ve opened an account, and am going to get synthing.

Much of my day was spent in ‘phoning Socitm colleagues around the country to consult on Government Connect and the Code of Connection. I’m so glad I don’t work in Telesales! What a thankless task it is in trying to get through to us (and I do know that applies to me as much as anyone). However I did get to speak to many of my peers, and many thanks to all those who took the trouble to call me back.

I made time to review a number of my outstanding actions and tasks – mostly work-related – but decided I should also call my car insurers about an outstanding no-fault crash claim from February 2007. I like to torture myself by going over all the details, then listening to recorded music, before being told the latest excuse for inaction, and I haven’t heard from them since the 5th August. Today, a very polite sounding lady informed me, after I’d spent a while listening to music (at least they changed the Frank Sinatra – I’ve listened to seven complete songs from him in a previous call) they’ve lost my file. Hey-ho.

Reflecting on the Way Ahead... and how not to be "Clueless"

When I read this article referring to Becta's report of Web 2.0 benefits in the classroom, alarm bells rang, as it made no reference to security or privacy. I was relieved, therefore, to find, on Becta's site, there is an associated report dealing with "E-Safety".

Today started in discussion of the Newham Telecoms Convergence programme with Geoff and Shane. We have been struggling to recruit an appropriately skilled and experienced Programme Manager, and so have decided upon an interim strategy.

We were then joined by Mary (Newham's ICT Security Officer) to discuss Newham's progress towards achievement of the GCSx CoCo. There are challenges that we share with Authorities across the country, which we believe we can manage appropriately. However, we may have an advantage over some Authorities because of work already undertaken in areas like remote and flexible working, and in preparation for our move to Building 1000.

I have arranged to attend the next Socitm London Committee Meeting (10th October) to discuss concerns about the CoCo requirements that have been raised by London Authorities and, subject to my availability, I'll be happy to attend any other regional forum with Socitm members. Meantime, I will be 'phoning a number of CIOs and IT Heads across the country to gauge their views, and have also arranged a further meeting with Philip Littleavon to discuss progress.

I was invited to a "Local Authority Trading and Entrepreneurial Activity Roundtable" at the DCLG (Eland House). I arrived late, after the introductions, due to Tube delays, and didn't know most people, but Peter Gilroy, Chief Executive of Kent County Council, which is generally acknowledged as the most proactive Authority in exercising its powers to trade with, currently, commercial revenues of around £700m p.a., was there.

The backdrop to the meeting was the perception that Local Authorities, generally, have seemed reluctant to exercise the powers and freedoms to trade that they have acquired in recent years, and a desire to understand what the barriers may be, and views about what action, if any, may be required. There will be a report back (following this and other consultations) to John Healy – DCLG Minister of State.

No one raised Legal Powers as an obstacle to trading. A lot of the discussion was of culture, risk appetite, skills, fear and confidence. Leadership was, of course, a key area. Motivations for trading, such as economies of scale, or maximisation of asset benefits, were considered and different types of trading operation - from charging for services to investing in the development of commercial operations. Understanding the market, and the ability to "kill" something that's not working, were also considerations. Politics was cited as a potential barrier, which I don't agree with – not in the sense of party politics, anyway, and the roles of Audit and, particularly, RIEPs were highlighted.

Finally, today, it does us all good to reflect, once in a while; articles like this help to encourage us to do so!