Thursday, 13 November 2008

Me - a Philistine?!

Now, it’s not just me saying that we need to address the insufficiency of IT skills in the work-force.

Siemens hosted a Socitm Futures meeting at its offices in Old Bailey.

The agenda included Nicky Stewart, from the OGC, on “Supplier Management Issues” – more effective strategic procurement – developing a standard Pre-Qualification Questionnaire and “Procurement Qualification Tool”. Better working between the Public and Private Sectors, supported by a “Joint Statement of Intent” between the (public sector) SRO (Senior Responsible Officer) and SIRE (Senior Industry Responsible Executive).

The project is using a tool, developed by Siemens, for modelling Desktop cost reduction, which sounded interesting. It is benchmarking costs, using Flex as the comparator. We agreed to explore alignment of the approach that’s been developed in Socitm, and offered our support to extend public sector penetration.

Having explained his role in supporting the local public sector support to adopt the security framework developed for central government, the CESG’s Kevin Hayes then presented on the “Information Assurance Maturity Model” and the “Security Policy Framework” that’s replacing the Manual of Protective Security (and available, now, for downloading from the CESG website). The usual discussion of pan-Government security alignment and vision followed, but the meeting was very supportive of the initiative.

At my invitation, Adrian Norman and Richard Quarrell attended to present “PSIPHON” – their project to create tools to automate the creation of registers of public sector organisations’ Information Assets, and create a market in the reuse of information, satisfying the relevant EU legislation, whilst providing commercial opportunities for information owners and a single search and retrieval source for those seeking information. It was agreed to set-up a small working group to explore how Socitm should help in this venture.

In July 2005, Socitm Consulting produced a briefing on the Directive on the Reuse of Public Sector Information, which stands the test of time.

Simon Norbury attended to provide an update on Government Connect and the CoCo.

The meeting finished with lunch, following which David Hopkins kindly allowed me to work-on at Siemens’ offices until it was time for me to pop-across to Euston for my train to Chester, where I was met by Steve Hopson, and stayed with him and Sue before Tuesday’s NW Socitm Regional Meeting at Tate Liverpool, at Albert Dock.

David Hopkins has accepted an invitation to serve on the new Member Benefits Board, which I neglected to mention, last week, will be chaired by Rose Crozier.

The theme of the North-West Regional meeting was “Managing and Accessing Information”.

Cheshire’s Par Esegobona (who, I’m glad to say, later joined the Region’s Committee) presented on “Building an Information Management Roadmap” from the perspective of the Cheshire County and Districts Councils, which are being reorganised into two unitary Authorities (Cheshire East & West) which come into existence next April. That context vividly illustrated the challenges of effective information management – ensuring information is available to the right person, in the right place and at the right time. (I couldn’t help reflecting that here was another application for PSIPHON.)

Simon Norbury had planned to travel up to Liverpool the previous evening, but as his kids were unwell (Chicken Pox) elected, instead, to travel up to Liverpool in the morning, arriving in time to present his Government Connect/ CoCo update, which resulted in a lively debate, and I weighed-in with Socitm’s rationale for supporting the programme.

I presented on the changes in Socitm, following which the sponsor – NetApp – presented “Tiered Storage or not Tiered Storage – that is the question” - its storage system and approach to de-duplication of data. I was unfamiliar with the company and its products, but quickly concluded they merited further investigation.

After lunch, Professor Barry Forde, from Lancashire University, and John Barrett, from Cheshire County Council, presented “Developing a NW Regional Communications Network”, based on the joining of Cheshire’s IP Network with CLEO – “Cumbria and Lancashire Education Online”.

Finally, Mark Wheatley, from Socitm Consulting, presented on “Developing the IT Professionalism Agenda”, which included details of Aspire.

The NW Regional AGM followed. Steve Hopson stood-down as Chair, and Cheshire’s David Crowe was elected to succeed him, with John Curruthers, from the Wirral, as Vice Chair and Denise Griffiths (Cheshire) Secretary. Steve remains on the Committee which Steve Jones (another Director) has also joined.

Those of us who stayed (mainly the organisers) had the opportunity to look around the Tate Gallery after the meeting. It started well, for me, with “The Kiss” by Auguste Rodin, who I’ve always been a fan of, on the ground floor. As we wandered up through the Galleries, ‘though, there were increasing numbers of more avant garde works that I completely failed to appreciate!

I was staying with Steve and Sue for a second night and we went out to dinner at a hostelry in their village where we bumped-into Chris Guest, who is Head of Technology & Improvement at Flintshire County Council, and a Socitm Past President.

Steve and I were up early to get the train back to London to attend a Directors’ Training Course at Old Sessions House, in Farringdon. Earlier this year, the Board agreed that all its number should ensure they were fully aware of their duties and responsibilities, and we eventually found this course that (nearly) all of us could make. Directors, Steve Palmer, Steve Hopson, Steve Jones, David Bryant, David Houston, Adrian Hancock and I were joined by Pam Larsen, Secretary, and Melanie Smith, Finance.

At first I enjoyed the frequent anecdotes, but as the day wore-on I found myself resenting the time that I could have spent on other things, and I had to agree, as other Directors had already opined, that the material could have been effectively covered in half a day. Nevertheless, I learned quite a lot, and think it’s a really good discipline for Socitm to make the commitment to the proficiency of its representatives. I also had the opportunity to get some advice about some of the issues we are dealing with in the wind-up of Caboodle Solutions in Newham.

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