Wednesday, 24 December 2008

White Christmas

Couldn't resist adding this, which a friend sent me. (Click title.)

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Lemsip Nights before Christmas

I think I must be psychologically programmed to be ill in the run-up to Christmas. This year it started on Saturday, with a sore throat, muzzy head, feeling a little feverish and generally feeling like death warmed-up. So, I’ve been on Lemsip ever since!

On Monday I worked from home and, in a twelve hour stint, cleared the correspondence backlog. Of necessity, that involved sending a lot of e-mails. Hopefully, many of the recipients are already on holiday, or in the holiday spirit, and won’t want to trouble me with a reply before the New Year.

One of the items concerned this article challenging the third sector to lead the way in transforming public services, which, of course, we agree with and is why CITRA has joined with us, and we have linked-up with the CCitDG.

The correspondence also included our broadcast with information about the new membership structures and transitional fee arrangements, attached to which was a book offer. This was made with the very best of intentions, but it’s been pointed-out to me that there are better offers available. I don’t think we can ever guarantee that any such offers that we make cannot be beaten, but we will undertake more testing in an endeavour to ensure that future offerings do represent best value.

On Tuesday, I had meetings, in town with 2e2 and Oracle in furtherance of the consultation we are undertaking with supplier members on strategic partnerships. I hope to report on actions arising from these meetings early in the New Year.

The PSMP usage statistics are looking truly impressive, with clocking-up over 4,000 visitors in November and well over 3,000 this month up to 17th December. Usage of our street-based kiosks appears to have halved, however, and it seems we may have a reasonable efficiency saving in sight!

I’m working tomorrow, but from home, and have a number of reports that I want to produce for the next board meeting – before Chris and I spend the evening down the Pub with our mates, and my throat hopefully improved to the point where I can drink without discomfort!

I’ll be back blogging again on 5th January. In the meantime, have a very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Friday, 19 December 2008


Shane and I attended a further meeting with Steria representatives at their Holborn offices to discuss Caboodle accounts and pension liabilities.

David Houston and Bernard Gudgin joined me in a meeting with Phillip Webb, Chair of the BCS Government Relations Group. Phillip explained the various ways in which the BCS works with government, providing independent, impartial advice. We agreed to share information about the ways we (Socitm & BCS) work with Government, including strategy, workshops and reports, with a view to agreement of areas in which we can partner or co-operate. We agree also, to discuss responses to government consultations with a view to bolstering feedback by presenting a united front, where appropriate.

In discussing consultation on matters such as Governance of Information and public knowledge and views on information security matters, Phillip mentioned the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) programme of themed local events – typically held in Coffee Shops (which is where the RSA started-out) and their approach to thought leadership. I always assumed the RSA was the Royal Society of Arts, and for “arty” people so, as a result of my re-education, I’ve been looking at their excellent website, and I think I’m going to apply to join. Look, for example, at Richard Watson’s lecture.

Thursday evening saw Newham ICT’s Christmas party at the Ramada Hotel on Royal Victoria Dock. Chris joined me, after a shopping trip with our daughter, Kim, in Camden Town, and we stayed over. We had a great time, and I worked at home, on Friday, which was as well for me to nurse my hangover!

Philip Littleavon got in-touch concerning Government Connect, and he explained his new plan and reorganisation to provide support for CoCo achievement. A new Core Team is being established that will dispense more prescriptive, consistent advice to authorities more efficiently. Socitm will assist with resources to provide accelerated adoption in London, with a view to then being able to make those resources available to the rest of the country. Whatever eventually transpires through funding available via the LGA/ IdeA will run in parallel with this, but I am now relieved that the proposals we discussed in September are finally going to be implemented. Philip and I will meet early in January to ensure follow-through. Although this is now happening much later than we had planned, I know that Philip is sincere in sharing my frustrations with the delays, which are not of his making.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Anybody Out There?

Today I worked at home, mostly ploughing through correspondence. Still hundreds to go, but I’ve cleared November!

I’m concerned that the full package of CoCo support planned with Government Connect has been very slow in materialising. I’m trying to enquire into the situation, and will report back here.

I was delighted to receive a comment on the Socitm President’s Blog from Afghan Citizen, today. That set me to wondering what other overseas audience we may have but, currently, the only indication of readership sources is from clicks in the President’s Blog Cloud, and there aren’t many of them! Nevertheless, they tell me that we’ve had clicks from the US, Spain, Ireland, Nepal and Ghana, as well as the UK. Maybe I’ll set-up monitoring over Christmas but, in the meantime, let us know you’re there by clicking in the Blog Cloud! (Not yet available on the Socitm.Gov.UK site but, of course, will be in the new system.)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Getting ready for Christmas.

Adrian and I met at SOLACE’s offices in Hope House, Great Peter Street, with Kathryn Rossiter, the Society’s Director of Development & Operations, to discuss the relationship between our organisations and opportunities for joint working and/or co-operation. The understandable context for our wide-ranging discussion was the challenge of engaging executives, who have tremendous demands on their time and can only offer a short span of attention in which to gain their commitment. The credit crunch can only exacerbate the demands for efficiency and, as we’re convinced, in Socitm, that our information management infrastructures should be used much more effectively, that will be the focus for our initial pitch. Kathryn suggested drafting “10 key questions” to CEOs, which is what we’ll do, and will help us to establish a CEO panel with whom we can discuss the outcome. Apparently, SOLACE had (or has) an “IT Panel & Professional Matters” Group, whose status she’ll also enquire into, as we may be able to link into that.

There are many parallels in recent developments in SOLACE and Socitm. There included commercial development exigencies and market intelligence, international development and social responsibility, and SOLACE also has a need to modernise its systems, as we are doing, which may provide further scope for collaboration that we agreed to follow-up. All in all, we thought, a very helpful meeting.

Starting with lunch, we met in the afternoon with CIPFA officials at their offices near Charing Cross. They included Alan Edwards, the CIPFA IT panel Chair, Paul Jackson, Performance Improvement Advisor (Technology), the Director of Business Development and Assistant Director, Policy & Technical. Alan chaired our discussion, which was structured in three areas – commercial, research and policy. We agreed an initiative on review/ endorsement and co-branding of products of common interest. In the past, CIPFA and Socitm have worked very well together – particularly during the CCT (Compulsory Competitive Tendering) era – and we hope to re-establish that sort of productive relationship supporting cross-cutting matters. CIPFA colleagues agreed to consider development of guidance on sustainable funding of ICT, enabling accurate cost accounting through the various channels, recognising that these are increasingly operated through partnerships.

In the evening I attended a dinner hosted by Lord Erroll in the Attlee Room at the House of Lords to discuss the UK National Identity Scheme. Geoff Llewellyn chaired, as usual, and James Hall, CEO of the Identity and Passport Service, was the speaker. I knew many of the attendees from previous dinners, but “new faces” included Glyn Evans and David Wilde. I was impressed at the pragmatic and business-like approach that has now materialised in the Identity Card programme but a number of attendees, me included, perhaps unfairly, extended the debate to encompass pan-Government security and PR concerns.

I think I must still have been a little jet-lagged as, for a second day, I was really struggling with tiredness! I got home at midnight; Chris was still up, putting the finishing touches to Christmas decorations, which was nice to arrive home to.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Back to Business Development

My first appointment, back at work, was with Richard Carde, who has been appointed as the Programme Manager for the Newham Telecoms Convergence Program. The network extension to Building 1000 is almost complete, and remaining fibre roll-out ought to be reasonably straight-forward, but in parallel with that we need to commence procurement of the special purpose vehicle to further develop and operate the infrastructure and services. The WiMax pilot with Intel to inform overall wireless requirements for the programme should also be established without further delay. I’ll also need to help Richard to link-into the extensive network of stakeholders that has been created through the development of this programme.

The first formal Socitm Commercial Board met at Camden Town Hall. Several directors were not able to make the meeting but David Bryant, who was voted the Chair, Steve Jones, David Houston, Adrian and I had a productive meeting in which we developed the basic terms of reference and scope, and discussed priorities. Key decisions concerned how to define a “commercial” service versus a member benefit, and establishing a “Chinese Wall” between the divisions. Essentially, any service that is not part of the basic membership provision and/ or is designed to generate profits will be a commercial service, and therefore come under the remit of the commercial board. (A reminder that all profits are generated to fund existing member services and finance further developments.) The exceptions will be provision of meeting venues for routine and ad-hoc meetings, which will be treated as an administrative function.

Among the initial tasks is to develop a pro-forma for the business case to accompany any new service development proposals. We will also be gathering-in and reviewing all existing Terms of Reference for existing commercial activities, and considering our approach to the auditing of services’ efficiencies. We discussed our planned approach to investment, and shared risk and reward, and a number of potential new service developments, but agreed our first concern must be to ensure that the governance structure is fully developed and understood. An exception is the development of Business Partnerships, which some private sector members are rightly pushing us to get going.

The Member Benefits Board met while I was on holiday. I’ll aim to include a report-back from that in my New Year President’s Report.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Back to Reality

New Zealand was every bit as magical as other visitors had told us to expect. We did far too much to recount in detail, but highlights were the drive from the east to west coasts of the south island, and driving through the West Coast Mountains in a storm; better than any thrill ride! Our favourite city was Queenstown. I’ve marked our route and stopovers on the map.

We flew back from Christchurch via Auckland, breaking our journey with a couple of days in San Francisco, staying in Fisherman’s Wharf. We did a city tour, including landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, rode the Cable Car, visited Alcatraz and explored Pier 39, North Beach and Chinatown. After two weeks of mainly self-catering in a campervan, dining out was a real treat!

Our arrival back to a cold and dismal London was back to Earth with a bump!

I read “The English Assassin”, a competent thriller by Daniel Silva, and Dee Brown’s “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee”, which Simon Berlin recommended. This moving and humbling history of “how the west was won”, from the Indians’ perspective, should, if it’s not already, be a part of the US schools’ curriculum. I was reminded of the movie “Soldier Blue”, which must have been based on one of the accounts. When, in the early days of our marriage, I took Chris to see it, she didn’t speak to me for a week afterwards. I have yet to find anything else quite so effective!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

We had a meeting of the Board of Directors yesterday which I chaired in Richard's absence. There is still a lot of work going on behind the scenes as we move the Society to its new position and we are now establishing the membership and commercial boards as well as developing work with the National Advisory Council. Linked to a review of our Events programme, how we better enable peer working, encourage our younger professionals, strengthen relationships with the regions, improve our own back office and ensure that we have strong finances I think we have "turned the corner". The Board is also aware that a large proportion of what has gone on is somewhat invisible to the membership and that cannot continue. We are now putting together a position statement on where we are and what we see as our future priorities and want you to let us know your thoughts when you see it (in the next couple of weeks hopefully). In March we intend to have an annual report ready on 2008 activities and also move forward on the vision for Socitm for the next 3 to 5 years. This work will be ready for the AGM which we are intending to hold on 23rd April, probably at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. The day will be themed and structured differently to our traditional Spring Seminars. Put the date in your diary now, more details to follow as the programme and ideas develop.

Steve Palmer