Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Richard's Last...

Well, this is my final post to the Socitm President’s Blog as the President. I will continue a public Blog at and the ComputerWorldUK and CIO Magazine sites will also continue to carry my ramblings.

In my Stoneleigh conference opening address I’ll be remarking on a busy year, but looking ahead. We are investing in our future – with today’s appointment of a Head of Policy, planned appointments of a Head of Information Assurance, commercial developments, our rebranding, the launch of our new website, continued work with Government on key issues, such as secure public sector infrastructure, the launch, at the Society’s Edinburgh Conference, of our professional development programme and working more effectively with our Members through the regions.

I’m glad to take this final opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous support given by Socitm’s staff in Northampton, board colleagues, the Events Team, colleagues in Consulting, Insight and Boilerhouse and, of course, the Society’s membership – our lifeblood and reason for being.

My best wishes to the new President for a successful year in building and sustaining our influence on behalf of members. I look forward to continuing to work with the Team and to support, as Past President, and in whatever other capacity I’m able to!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Socitm's Patron

I took a camera to Birmingham, intending to take photos at the Consulting event, but forgot, as I often do. Chris isn’t very happy, as she is making a scrap-book of my year as Socitm President, but I keep failing to provide her with material!

I remembered the camera as I skirted Parliament Square, today, for an information Assurance Events Advisory Board meeting at One Birdcage Walk, so took a picture of the continuing Tamil demonstration (but then thought better of publishing it!)

There is now a website for the UK’s Information Assurance Community, which includes events information, and a link to IA09, on 6th & 7th July. It’s hoped for a good attendance from Local Government, this year, and we already have two bookings – double last year’s number!

After the IAEAB meeting, I went on to The Adelphi, in John Adam Street, for an “Ocean & PSN Workshop”, chaired by Philip Littleavon, to plan a two day event to promote engagement with the Public Services Network developments by the Local Public Sector. We were joined by representatives of Buying Solutions, the DWP, Cabinet Office, and Vic Freir and Mark Brett on behalf of Socitm.

We decided the event will take place on 15th/ 16th September, probably at the School of Government, in Sunningdale, and target the Local CIO Council and its members’ Heads of Finance to ensure effective financial planning.

Whilst this won’t be a technical event, it’s important we are able to effectively articulate the Public Services Network rationale, and the Ocean Programme’s role. We’ll undertake further work in this regard, ahead of the event, and it’s important we use the opportunity for the local public sector to influence the PSN specification and requirements – especially in areas like flexible working and digital convergence. The work planned last Thursday, on pan-Government security vision, and a single Information Governance model for Government, will hopefully play into this work.

They’ll be a high-profile keynote address, and facilitated streams covering topics such as the Business Case, “Thorny Issues”, the Network and Security. The report-back from the Gartner Benchmark study of Government Connect value versus alternatives will (hopefully) support the case for investment.

You may remember that Lord Anthony St John of Bletso last year hosted a Socitm London Branch meeting at the House of Lords on behalf of 2e2 – our sponsor (and is again doing so, this year, on 7th May). This evening I met Lord Anthony with Terry Burt, 2e2’s Managing Director, and Andre Tytheridge, to discuss Socitm patronage. He entertained us to drinks in the Peers’ Guests Room and, I’m delighted to say, has agreed to become our first Patron! As Socitm’s Patron, Lord Anthony will promote our cause and introduce us to Ministers and Senior Civil Servants when the opportunities arise, when appropriate, will ask questions in the House on our behalf, and host occasional events in the House of Lords. He becomes an honorary member of the Society and will support and facilitate our developing Policy agenda and lobbying for effective Transformational Government Policy.

Lord Anthony is an enthusiastic supporter of ICT as an enabler of efficient Government, and of Community engagement through ICT and, until recently, chaired UK Citizens Online. I’m very grateful to our friends from 2e2 for the introduction.

Considering Consulting

A major pile-up on the M1 delayed my arrival, on Sunday evening, to a Socitm Consulting Conference held at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Birmingham.

This was the first consultants’ get together in quite a while. Apart from the networking opportunity, the event was arranged to consider how the business will be taken forward in the future and, in particular:

· To identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current model.
· To identify options for the future ownership, management and governance of Consulting.
· To begin to evaluate these options and arrive at a short list of those that should be considered further, with a view to reaching a decision later in 2009 as to the future direction of the business.

Adrian, David Houston and I attended from Socitm Limited, as we were keen to demonstrate our support and offer input on behalf of the Society. (Also, the Society co-funded the event!) A “core team” of 50ish consultants were invited to the event, most of whom (45) were able to attend. (Socitm Consulting has around 150 consultants in total.)

The evening started with a drinks reception, but we had to do some work to earn our Sunday dinner. Doug presented an overview of the business, and then each table was asked to consider what improvements in the Consulting operation were required and what worked well and certainly should not be changed. Communications came-in for some stick; it always does on such occasions! However, a number of opportunities for improvement were identified. We also discovered that some of our correspondence was being blocked in the spam filter of the 1&1 system used by some consultants, which is centrally managed! The things that consultants decided should not change were the Consulting brand, ethos and quality.

Monday was given over to a mixture of break-out sessions and feedbacks considering questions such as –

· Who should own the business?
· Who should direct the business?
· How could we create a structure that Socitm can engage with on a long-term basis? (The current agreement is to a three-year contract.)
· How should the consultant roles be structured?

Over the course of the day, the wish for a symbiotic relationship with Socitm was confirmed. A majority of consultants favoured participation in the ownership in the business, and a majority also favoured greater participation in the management of the business. Eighteen people volunteered to work with Doug and Vikki to develop how these objectives could be achieved. One of the issues for us both (Socitm and Socitm Consulting) to consider is whether/ how to raise capital to invest in growing the business.

A great many other issues were covered but, as I’m sure you can appreciate a lot of our discussion was “commercial in confidence”.

We finished just before 5.00 pm, and a small group of us went off in search of real ale, rather than join the throng at the hotel bar. We were taken to “The Wellington”, which for proper beer drinkers is an experience not to be missed! Then, back to the hotel for dinner and a competition between the tables for the most amusing tale of past experience. Chatham House rules, of course!

I was up at 4.30 am on Tuesday for the drive back to London, a quick catch-up and the day’s meetings.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

If you Tweet it, they will come...

David Pogue found a good use for Twitter.

I worked from home, on Friday, spending half my time on a report to the Mayor concerning the liquidation of Caboodle.

Further to yesterday’s post about the “ Naming & Approvals Council”, the following graph gives a breakdown if applications received in the last 3+ years, and is followed by a breakdown of the reasons for rejection over the last 3 months.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Aiming for Rational Government!

I was back at Russell Square House for my first appointment, today, in a Socitm Intellect LG Forum Management Committee – the first, I believe that I’ve been able to make as Socitm President, and definitely the last!

Potential Thought Leadership work was on the agenda. Carla had drawn-up a short paper, from the context of “as suppliers of technology, Intellect members are uniquely positioned to provide an expert view of how technology can be put to better use in order to contribute to the first-class provision of public services in local government” - to provoke our thoughts on issues such as “what will Local Government look like in 10 years?” There was consensus on some of the immediate issues, including public sector aggregated procurement/ asset reuse, the role of the CIO and pervasive & unified community infrastructure.

Among the planned future Forum themes are “E-Government 10 years on” (18th November). I volunteered Priya to present the conclusions from her MBA Thesis on the subject, which she has just embarked upon.

David Pullinger, the COI’s Head of Digital Policy, again attended the start of today’s Naming and Approvals Committee meeting at Hercules House to give us an update on progress and take any questions. He told us that just over 50%, nearly 700, of the websites that were planned to be closed now have been, with commitments to close another 355. The COI is now getting a good grip on, and controlling Government web presence more effectively. Committee members were thanked for their contribution to this important work. The Team was now starting to tackle other Government domains, such as NHS, MOD and Police.

David’s erudite response to my question about the raison d’être for our work, given the power of search (see my Idle Thoughts on 19th March) persuaded me that it is indeed worthwhile. Whilst accepting that search engines are becoming ever more sophisticated and accurate, our work on audience focus, editorial policy and manageability – typically material that’s transferred to DirectGov is reduced to a tenth of its original volume - facilitates reduced bureaucracy and the promotion of trust in government. Tests have shown that DirectGov is now achieving higher trust levels that names like Tesco and the BBC. I mentioned that among our biggest challenges are appeals about requested use of acronyms that cite precedents. Whilst accepting that this can create some consternation, David was clear that precedents don’t count. The Naming & Standards Guidance is now our bible to help achieve consistency and coherence. He often asks people in Government to explain their own acronyms – and they often fail!

David was also asked about policy on portals, such as “My….”. Work on these was being undertaken by the CTO Council, linked to ID Management, with a particular view to avoiding the need for multiple log-ons. There is a “Contact Council”, also, undertaking work in this area - on intermediaries.

The major discussion item for the Committee was a paper covering:

· The maintenance of domain names in perpetuity. A study in 2007 revealed that 60% of the URLs cited in Hansard are broken links leading to 404 errors or ‘Page not found’. To solve this problem, COI has recently introduced new guidance on managing URLs[1] (TG125) which requires central government departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies to maintain all Web domains in perpetuity. This is possible even after a website has closed by maintaining the domain name and implementing redirection to The National Archives. Any public facing websites are to become part of the national archive as part of the public record and, henceforth, all requests for central government cancellations will therefore be referred to the COI.

· All domains that do not comply with eligibility criteria are to be removed. We believe there are quite a few which may have resulted from an organisation’s change of status, or as a result of guidelines having changed or not having been adhered to in the past. Socitm was cited as an example, but there are others, such as It was agreed that all current domain names will be reviewed for eligibility, and that JANET (originally “Joint Academic Network) which is responsible for the administration and registration of domain names, should refer to COI renewals where the continued existence is not obvious. Ninety days be allowed to enable redirects of disqualified websites to their new domains before the DNS (Domain Name System for mapping IP addresses to websites) is withdrawn.

· The current list of central government websites – used in the Website Rationalisation project – contains a sizeable proportion (~25%) of non-government domains (e.g. .org, etc). There are also examples of government domains redirecting outside the domain. It was agreed to review the current list of domain names within 6 months, and to review the current website rationalisation list and, where sites are not already due to close, insist on them being reregistered on

There are, apparently, 3,955 domains at present; 147 were due for renewal in April.

In the afternoon, I met with Paul Davidson (Director of LeGSB) Mark Brett and Adrian Hancock to discuss consolidation of Information Governance Models for Local Government – of which there are many! Paul listed the following, but there are others:

· The CESG Information Assurance Maturity Model
· The LeGSB Information Governance Toolkit.
· The Adult Social Care Information Governance Toolkit.
· The DWP MoU for access to CIS.
· The CoCo for GCSx.
· The Data Handling Guidelines.

We couldn’t see why we should need more than one across all of the public sector. Applicability would depend upon a User’s role in Government. This, of course, is linked to the requirement for an overarching vision for pan-Government security. At the present, our silo’d Government departments each reinvent its own requirements in ignorance of others’, and Local Government is expected to struggle to cope with them all. Not acceptable! We therefore determined to organise ourselves to campaign for a more rational approach that starts with the pan-Government security vision. This will include requirements for accreditation of secure network access right across Government.

Some other issues fell-out of this discussion – including articulation of requirements for organisational Information Asset Registers, which also facilitate requirements such as Rights Management and the several other related data management requirements (such as spatial data) which currently seem to have their own management bodies acting independently of one another.

An issue for Socitm was how can we ensure our member representatives to Government Quangos are effectively supported by paid officers who will ensure that actions and decisions made in meetings are taken-forward?

We agreed to plan a day in which the morning will be dedicated to developing earlier work on engaging wider public sector stakeholders in building and lobbying for sign-up to the required pan-Government vision, and a workshop, in the afternoon, will determine Information Asset Register, linked to Information Reuse, requirements. Recruitment of volunteers for a “Psikey” pilot will also be covered.

In the evening I joined Adrian and Rose for dinner with four of the short-listed applicants for the Socitm Head of Policy position. They are being interviewed, tomorrow, by a panel comprising Steve Palmer (incoming President) Rose Crozier (HR Director) and Adrian Hancock I(Managing Director). The fifth candidate is on holiday, and will be interviewed during the course of next week’s Socitm Spring National Conference.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

On getting our own houses in order...

Most of my day was spent at Russell Square House. Adrian and I met with Stuart Roberts and Richard Paugh of the Corporate Executive Board, in the morning, to consider options for partnership with its CIO Practice Area. In the afternoon, we met Spencer Green and Richard Owen from GDS International, considering possibilities for working with its MeettheBoss networking channel. Both meetings were follow-ups to earlier meetings I had with representatives of those organisations, with a view to potentially setting-up an executive stream within Socitm to facilitate ICT leadership and executive engagement, and ensure that we do not compromise the Society’s IT management legacy as we grow our support for the wider profession.

There were attractions in working with both organisations. The CIO Executive Board was particularly strong in executive insight, networking and analysis, whilst the MeettheBoss format uses Web 2.0 technologies effectively to support networking in a disparate environment. Adrian and Steve Jones have also had discussions with Learning Pool, in a wider Society context.

The next, critical, stage is to develop the financial and business models for consideration by Socitm’s Board and NAC.

Then, Mark Brett joined Adrian and me to discuss his role in conjunction with our forthcoming appointment of a Socitm Head of Policy. Mark’s work on Information Assurance has been invaluable for Socitm and, frankly, has been largely self-directed, and its worth has not been truly appreciated. (So far as we’re aware, Mark is currently our only CLAS Consultant.) Some of the activity Mark has undertaken for us will become part of the new appointee’s role, but Adrian and I were keen to take the opportunity to use Mark’s expertise to formalise effective resourcing of Information Assurance and Security policy and requirements through a Head of Information Assurance role - through which to further build our capabilities in this area. We therefore used the session to develop a better understanding of the IA/ Security scene, with a view to further developing proposals.

I’m not an avid follower of Sitemorse, but couldn’t help noticing the reference, in its recent newsletter, to the frequency with which some of the LGA’s recently proscribed words can be found on its own website! “A number of the banned words were found when looking at some of their website pages, worse offender being worklessness, which occurred nearly 100 times, other culprits included; spatial, framework, initiative.”

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A Hectic Three Weeks...

Today’s Socitm Board Meeting, at Camden Town Hall, was my last as President and Chair.
As always, the minutes will be published in due course, but some noteworthy items were:

· A revised base budget for 2009 was agreed, which provides for some investment from reserves to fully cover financial implications of expenditure agreed in resourcing policy and commercial development requirements.
· Adrian, David and I will be attending a Socitm Consulting Conference, at the beginning of next week, to get to know the Team, discuss further development of the business and share our plans, hopes and aspirations for the Society.
· Adrian presented a paper proposing organisational changes to support commercial and business development. This involved utilising Socitm Services Limited (SSL) which Socitm still owns but has been inactive, for all trading activities. SSL, as a company limited by shares, is the appropriate body for commercial developments, whilst membership services should continue to reside in Socitm Limited, which is limited by guarantee. We agreed that the Commercial Board should further develop the proposition.
· We also discussed the status of discussions on business partnerships. We agreed that we now have a good understanding of the ways in which we should work with business partners and that there is strong interest from a number of businesses in entering partnerships. The main concern, ‘though, was in ensuring that we are able to resource effective account management and ensure that we fully deliver the outcomes we commit to - a “chicken and egg” situation. We agreed to finance some additional work to develop that capability and generate the confidence to enter partnership opportunities as soon as possible.
· We also discussed our structure and branding to facilitate the different sectoral focuses that are evolving within Socitm, and the suggestion that there should be a “parent company” with sector-specific subsidiaries covering CITRA, web management etc. It was agreed that Adrian and I would develop the proposition, consulting Vicky on branding considerations (one of which is our transition to the .net domain).
· Sadly, the CMS development has further slipped, and I definitely won’t be able to present the “look and feel” at next week’s AGM, as I had hoped to! We agreed action to ensure the development is fully completed ahead of the annual conference, when we also aim to have completed structural proposals to support membership and professional development, which the CMS will be needed to support.
· There were a number of actions to be taken forward through a number of key meetings that are scheduled in the next three weeks – meeting of the National Advisory Council, the Membership and Commercial Boards and, of course, next week’s conference and AGM.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Aide Memoire

You may remember that I’m an admirer of New York Times columnist, David Pogue. (In fact, now I thought of it, I’ve added a link to his Blog – “Pogue’s Posts”.) His most recent video is about a “memory tool” called “reQall”. I’ve got the world’s worst memory – especially when it comes to remembering things to do with my personal life that I need to do in the working day – make a Doctor/ Dentist appointment, book a car service, buy a present etc – so I’m giving ReQall a try.

Yesterday I met Richard Quarrell at the IOD Hub in New Broad Street, and discussed progress with the Psikey development. A new version of Psider (the tool to produce Pskey) is being produced by the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at Southampton University, and will be available in a couple of weeks. The plan, then, is to test through the summer with a view to producing a production version in September. I’ll be meeting Paul Davidson and Ian Cooper, next week, and hope, with them, to identify prospective pilot sites. Richard will be at the Socitm National Spring Conference on 23rd April, which is where Richard Allan will be presenting on Government policy on reuse of information, and available to talk with interested parties about the project.

After lunch I went to 59 ½ Southwark Street for a Socitm/ Capital Ambition planning meeting, with Steve Pennant, Roland Waterhouse, David Tidey and Ray Whitehouse, for this year’s London Local Authority IT Benchmarking Survey. Many of the standard Socitm benchmark questions already align with the Authority-wide benchmark survey being developed by Capital Ambition (London’s RIEP), which is also developing a set of “Leading Practice Principles”. I suggested to Steve that CA looks at Socitm’s recent “What’s in a name?” report regarding suggested IT principles.

IT benchmarking is becoming more challenging in our converged and flexible world, and we recognised, also, the need to focus increasingly on benchmarking outcomes, rather than inputs. It was apparent that we can’t move very far in that direction this year, but agreed much of the work to be done for future years, and are looking at potential quick wins, this year, including whether we can include a Data Quality Survey based on the work led by Brent Council.

Since I’m very much concerned both with digital convergence and broadband wireless developments, this story, of Westminster City Council’s use of CCTV for traffic management, caught my interest, and will be interested to follow the outcome.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

If you build it, they will come!

There were still Tamil protesters on the green as I crossed Parliament Square for the third day running, this week, to attend another meeting chaired by Tim Allen at the LGA. We were to discuss marketing and communications, business processes, roles and responsibilities related to the role-out of the proposed public sector licensing agreement. Details are still embargoed, but Andrew Gibson of “Buying Solutions” (as the former OGC Buying Solutions is now to be known), who was there along with Nathan Morgan, promised to call me as soon as Nigel Smith (OGC Chief Executive) has signed the contract, when I’m free to Blog it!

Then to Steria’s offices at Holborn for a final Caboodle Board meeting - to agree the filing of the Company’s accounts, and to recommend to shareholders the winding-up of the Company.

In this week’s “Local Government IT in Use”, Michael Cross wonders why public sector organisations find it so hard to learn from each other - especially when it comes to the implementation of new technology. To quite a large extent I agree with him, although I do think the scene is changing fast - q.v. many of the developments that I’ve been blogging about this year, which are genuinely innovative, market moving and will finally give substance to all the hype around shared services. I’d like to think that Socitm can take some credit for encouraging and supporting these developments as a “critical friend” to Government, as we set-out to do a year ago. However, of greater significance, I believe is the new focus on public sector infrastructure that facilitates the deployment of new technology, such as flexible and mobile working (which is the example discussed in the article).

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Building Accessible & Secure Local Applications

James Lee and I met at Newham Dockside for a PSMP progress review. It’s planned to launch at the other four Olympic boroughs in July, and for the portal to simultaneously be made available in all other London boroughs, although local Council content will be dependent upon individual Authorities commissioning the requisite development work, if they want it. This can be procured from any developer, but if SNT Media Networks do the work, the cost will be capped at £38K. As well as TfL’s Local Journey Planner, new content will include “Report it” and Cinema Listings.
It’s also planned to provide localised data from DirectGov and the Job Centre Plus service.
A Stakeholder event has been arranged for 29th April, ahead of which James and I agreed to set-up a further strategy session to bring all three partners (SNT Media Networks, TfL and LB Newham) and their advisers up-to-speed with developments.

An EAS Board meeting was held today at the DfES offices in Great Smith Street. It was reported that the funding model for the wider service delivery model will be available within 6 weeks. Progress remains good with 62 MOUs for use in Contact Point now signed. Other “pipeline” applications/Service Providers include the DWP’s Customer Information System, the e-Common Assessment Framework, the Youth Justice Board, the Learning & Skills Council, the Qualification & Curriculum Authority, the DCMS (Olympic Boroughs) and DCLG Data Integration Hub.

Afterwards, I met with Anders Henrikson and a colleague from Verisec, who were visiting the UK from Sweden to promote the company’s “Authentication Appliance” which is one of the local authentication applications (others are from Microsoft and Thales) that can complement EAS, and is being implemented in Salford – the first EAS pilot site. Having negotiated the Tamil demonstration in Parliament Square, I met Anders in the St. Stephens Tavern, and we discussed how Socitm can help in promoting the Verisec solution.

ID cards and enhanced passports have moved a step closer with the announcement of supplier contracts. The CESG has today written to stakeholders suggesting an Identity Management Collaborative Working Group on 23rd April – the day of Socitm’s Spring National Conference. As the notice is rather short, I’m hoping that others will also be unable to attend, and an alternate date has to be found.

Monday, 6 April 2009

BT's Italian Job

Richard Carde and I met with Sean Harney and colleagues from Orange to discuss collaboration linked to Newham’s Telecommunications programme, and 2012. We agreed to work together strategically, and will develop a Memorandum of Understanding, and Non-Disclosure Agreement, under which we’ll share information, our business case and seek to agree a common roadmap.

Tim Allen hosted a meeting at the LGA’s offices in Smith Square to discuss the Collaborative Government ICT Procurement Strategy being worked-on by the OGC at the behest of the Central CIO Council. Pippa Bass, Director of Procurement Efficiency at the OGC, and Chris Kynaston, who is managing the project, also attended. Chris circulated the paper developed for the CIOC ahead of our meeting, which was agreed as being, on the whole, a reasonable approach to tackling obvious efficiency requirements. Tim called the meeting to ensure that the wider Local Government community were appropriately consulted, and in order that organisations like the LGA and Socitm can lend appropriate support to the initiative. We agreed to set-up a time-limited team with representation from the LGA, Socitm, Local Government Delivery Council and IDeA to facilitate these requirements.

Concerning the paper, my main concern was that it doesn’t seem adequately to reflect the fact that efficient procurement isn’t just about the least cost, but must facilitate market moving developments – rather than encourage stifling of innovation by encouraging suppliers to bid old technology, sweating their sunk investment, but delaying deployment of technology to benefit the wider public sector and communities it supports.

The fibre outage in Stratford, which resulted from 2012 contractors cutting through BT’s main fibre in the area, didn’t affect Newham’s main network, but feeder services to some small / outlying sites were lost.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Consolidation in Government IT

Somehow I missed this Guardian story on 1st April, but it still amused.

I’d be grateful for your support by completing this short survey on digital inclusion from David Clayden on behalf of Socitm & the CCitDG.

At Thursday’s Local CIO Council, a representative of OGC Buying Solutions was present to support my update on the proposed Public Sector Microsoft Licensing deal. The proposals were fully endorsed (and by the Central CIO Council, on Friday) and its hoped to make a public announcement soon, subject to finalisation of a few legal details and completion of the sign-off process.

Simon Norbury attended to agree proposals for benchmarking, by Gartner, of Government Connect infrastructure at four sites nominated by the LCIO Council versus previous intra-Government communications arrangements.

We broke into four groups to discuss the four business driver themes developed by Jos, Glyn, Mick and I – Public Service Efficiency and the Role of IT, Information Assurance and Information Management, Partnerships & Public Service Join-up, and Government Infrastructure Programmes – and were asked to decide if these were the right drivers, what were the underlying work stream requirements, and desired outcomes. You’ll see the results in the published minutes from the meeting but one required outcome was a CoCoCo – Common Code of Connection – which elicited suggestions of how this might become a CoCoCoCoCo – Comprehensively Co-ordinated Common Code of Connection etc, but most of the time we were very businesslike!

Roy Marshall gave an update from the DCLG, which he said has been ranked in the top quartile for IT, versus its peer group. Much of this concerned database rationalisation – not, it was stressed, for data sharing purposes, but for organisational efficiency. A Data Interchange Hub is at the heart of planned developments. There was some discussion, also, of the Operational Efficiency Programme, and expected radical IT cost savings requirements.

Kate Silver, Cabinet Office Transformational Government Lead on the Government IT Profession, attended to discuss how we should work together. The Government IT Profession is mandated for the Civil Service. Although the mandate doesn’t apply to the Local Public Sector, Socitm has joined “Partners in Professionalism” – the partnership of organisations involved in developing the profession, and Bernard Gudgin and Adrian Hancock have led for Socitm, to date. Rose and Kate arranged to meet to discuss how we should boost our engagement.

The Group also agreed to review the recently published Government strategy on Open Source, for endorsement at our next meeting.

On Friday morning I teleconferenced with John Skinner and Chris Blenkhorn, from Cisco. Chris has produced an excellent “Connected Community Blueprint”, which Socitm would like to endorse. I had a few suggestions for a Section on building trust and describing security requirements, which Chris agreed to incorporate.

In the afternoon I attended Socitm South’s Committee Meeting, at Mole Valley DC offices in Dorking, to discuss support from the Centre, regional development, business partnerships and Socitm’s “USP”. Perhaps the key requirement to emerge was for centrally managed liaison with the regions - particularly with a view to effective events co-ordination.

We also discussed and agreed a stimulating agenda for the branch’s next meeting on 12th June but, unfortunately, I cannot attend as they’ve gone and booked it for 12th June, when I shall be in Le Mans!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

April Fool's Apology

I thought this article about the Conficker Worm quite interesting. "This is very professionally architected design and development."

There are now over 300 members of the Socitm Web Improvement & Usage Community of Practice. (Registration required.)

The FAQs I referred to yesterday have been published.

After working at home, today, I enjoyed a leisurely drive to Sunningdale Park for this evening’s CIO Council dinner, and tomorrow’s meeting.

I owe PC World an apology. They ‘phoned first thing this morning to say I had booked a delivery time-slot on Thursday morning – 2nd April. I checked my order acknowledgement and receipt before ‘phoning, last night, but they didn’t include the booked delivery time. However, on checking my PC World account after this morning’s call, it did indeed say I booked for tomorrow. Why I did this, I cannot say, but have had a lot on my mind lately! Luckily, my daughter Kim will be home to take delivery as, thanks to the G20 Summit, the University of East London building where she studies, will be closed tomorrow.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

On Civil Service & Zero Service

On Friday I was e-mailed a number of questions about Socitm’s constitution and operations, which necessitated my checking with colleagues on a few details that I wasn’t sure of myself. Jos Creese suggested we adopt a “FAQ approach” when responding to such queries, which other board colleagues readily agreed. We’ll therefore use those questions to start a new Section in the Governance & Management Section of the Society’s website (which should be there tomorrow) and build it up as new questions are received.

I recorded two interviews (on Broadband Britain and Green IT) at GBTV’s studio in Chiswick, this morning...

…and took part in a Whitehall & Westminster World Civil Service Roundtable on “how can online interest groups and social media be utilised to deliver better government services”. “Whitehall and Westminster World” is a fortnightly newspaper for civil servants and parliamentarians, linked to the “Civil Service Network”. An article on our deliberations will be published in the 19th May edition. I was pleased to have the opportunity of representing the local public sector in this important debate, held over lunch in the Atrium at 4 Millbank, and hope for many more such opportunities for our sector. Other attendees represented:

· The Power of Information Taskforce Secretariat, Cabinet Office.
· The Security Industry Authority.
· The Employment Tribunal.
· Transformational Government Communications, Central Office of Information.
· The Ministry of Justice.
· The Policy & Strategy Directorate, Department of Health.
· The Food Standards Agency.
· EzGov Europe (sponsored, I think).

This was an enjoyable discussion, with no epiphanies, but progress towards consensus on the key issues. I was concerned to establish the context, which includes Broadband Britain requirements, Unified Computing/ Network Convergence, creating trust in Government through an effective security infrastructure, and public understanding and management of the risks.

I understand that a list of links to useful resources is to be circulated but, in the meantime, here are one or two that I noted down.

· COI Guidance on Engaging through Social Media
· Tom Watson’s Twittering.

At the weekend our family PC broke-down (again) needing a new Graphics Card (I think). I ordered one online from PC World on Sunday evening. It was in-stock and, at extra cost, I could arrange a delivery time-slot on Tuesday morning, when Chris would be home. So, I rushed home early this afternoon but, guess what? No Graphics Card. On ‘phoning Customer Services, I was told that the product hadn’t even been despatched to the Courier, yet, but they’d gladly refund the extra I’d paid for special delivery! Grrrrr – and people complain about public service! I’ve written requesting that PC World kindly expedites delivery – but I won’t have an opportunity, now, to fit the new card until the weekend. Sorry, family!

Monday, 30 March 2009

Broadband Britain & the Flight to Quality

Today was my first working at Newham Dockside (formerly Building 1000) since the fit-out was completed, and I was mightily impressed!

I met with David Wright, a Newham-based Telecoms specialist, to discuss the “Integrated deal for broadband stimulus” that he has created, and garnered a lot of high level support for. The proposals aim to facilitate the achievement of Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Vision, with financing through “Broadband Bonds” supported by banks and government, with the public sector as the network aggregate anchor tenant. Socitm could play an important part in the proposed programme. We exchanged contacts and agreed to stay in-touch while continuing exploration of the opportunities.

Richard Carde, Geoff and I met to review progress in the Newham Telecoms Convergence programme. Sadly, our ambition for the development of a Data Centre for 2012 and other regional opportunities at Newham’s Bridge Road Depot no longer seems viable, and we cannot justify further work towards it, but the programme is otherwise shaping-up well, and Richard has really “got the bit between his teeth”!

Microsoft’s Helen Gilroy and Mike Haigh came to meet with me to discuss prospective business partnership with Socitm.

Harvard Management has published a list of common mistakes businesses make during a recession. They include cutting IT projects so, naturally, I thought it worth a mention here. The other side of the coin, however, is a report of IT professionals lacking ambition. I agree with both, to some extent, and believe they are consistent with the mantra Socitm has developed around focussing on effective business utilisation of IT infrastructure, rather than benchmarking in isolation, and in working closely with the executive to develop business efficiency through ICT.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Prioritising the Priorities

My latest report to Socitm members was published today.

From Llandrindod Wells, I drove to Birmingham for a meeting in Glyn Evans’ office at Birmingham City Council’s impressive edifice in Victoria Square, and felt really important being let-in to park in the Council House’s courtyard!

Glyn, Mick Phythian (“The Great E-mancipator”), myself and Local CIO Council Chair, Jos Creese, had arranged today’s discussion in advance of next week’s Local CIO Council meeting to prioritise and structure the agenda for that and future meetings.

We agreed the CIO Council should (and can afford to) only focus on areas where we can make a real difference, and we pruned the proposed work programme accordingly. Our efforts will be grouped under the following broad areas (including mandatory projects where they do not readily fall under these themes):

· Efficiency
· Partnership
· Government infrastructure
· Information Assurance

In a number of areas, such as Green IT, we agreed to maintain a “watching brief”, although some aspects will certainly be addressed directly by work in the core themes. We agreed, also, to ensure effective linkage to key activities already being progressed elsewhere, such as the Data Quality work being led by Brent.

We recognised the need to align with the 35 Government projects that we understand have been identified by the DCLG, and with the Central CIO Council.

The other main point of discussion was resourcing, and CIO Council members’ roles as sponsors of the activities it instigates or are brought under its remit.

…And then home to work on that pesky backlog, although there is still several days’ worth as I knock-off to start my weekend.

Finally, this week, heart-felt thanks, and farewell, to Joye, who has been a brilliant Personal Assistant to Geoff and I, but, having taken voluntary redundancy, her last day working for Newham was today. Joye – I don’t know how I’m going to manage without you, but all the best for the future!

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Welsh Reminder

Five years ago my TVR, of the time, broke-down during a weekend away in the Brecon Beacons, and Chris and I had to travel home with our car on the back of a trailer. This involved several hours’ wait for a truck to come from Cardiff, as the only locally available truck had already been hired for an earlier TVR break-down; so we arrived home in the wee small hours, with a considerably lightened wallet and, with an embarrassing clanking of chains to let the neighbours know we’d arrived, offloaded the car to our drive.

I was reminded of this as I drove, today, past the break-down spot on my way to the Socitm Wales meeting in Llandrindod Wells - Powys’ County Town.

The meeting was well-attended, with 19 of Wales’ 22 Local Authorities, and other public sector bodies, represented, and I was very impressed at the level of engagement and focus in a busy agenda.

I arrived during Mark Brett’s presentation on Information Assurance and Security, in which members agreed to set-up a Welsh Regional WARP (Warning, Advice & Reporting Point – see ) facilitated by Socitm.

In discussion following my Society “Sitrep” Wales was supportive of the direction of travel and agreed representation to the early summer workshop to formalise a federal structure and associated protocol and procedures.

I remained to the end of the meeting, and local agenda issues, and was particularly interested in the feedback from Socitm Wales Chair, Phil Evans, and Dave Hylands on PSBA (Public Sector Broadband Aggregation) in Wales, and subsequent discussion. Much of the discussion would have been confidential to the Group, but I’m sure they won’t mind my mentioning planned lobbying for Government maintenance of, and adherence to, the Universal Service Obligation.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

And the Winner is....

I attended the Employee Authentication Services Community of Interest Working Group at PA Consulting’s offices in Buckingham Palace Road.

Full details of the service have now been updated in the Web Authentication space at GovX, but an EAS site is being created as part of a new DCSF site for Local Government.

Cornwall, Leeds and Hants are involved in a Marketing and Communications Sub-Group. In his update, John Skipper reported encouraging engagement by Local Authorities, and the programme is generally ahead of plan. However, experience has shown that we cannot start too early on the process of accreditation. Alignment of processes from IT, HR and the business is a major factor.

In discussion, we agreed that an important part of the Communications plan is to highlight that EAS is a key part of the solution to issues raised in the Joseph Rowntree Trust report. (Not the problem!)

The DCSF will share its Project Plan for Registration Authorities, which are expected to number about 140.

The DWP is looking-at the opening-up of databases not already accessible by Local Government, such as fraud & debt management, based on use of EAS for access, and there is growing interest from other departments. Whilst William Barker, from the DCLG, rightly cautioned against over-promising and raising expectations that may not be filled in the short-term, I, as always, wanted to stress the opportunity of presenting pan-Government vision on security and Information Assurance, supported by key components like EAS.

Otherwise, there was much discussion of the economic business case. For larger authorities, say 500+ Users, they are clear, but aggregation, reuse and cost sharing will build-on the business case for smaller Authorities.

I went on to the London CIO Board meeting chaired by Phil Pavitt at TfL’s offices in Buckingham Palace Road. The main focus was on gaining buy-in to a London broadband vision (without complicating the message with too much technical detail!)

There were brief updates on all the work-streams, the most significant of which appeared to be an agreement for the Metropolitan Police and TfL to merge their networks creating a fully converged broadband infrastructure linking every borough.

In the evening, Paul Hackett (who assisted me with LGC Awards judging whilst I was on my New Zealand sojourn) attended the LGC Awards dinner, as guests of Northgate, at the Grosvenor Hotel in London’s Park Lane. Dara O’Brien compèred brilliantly. Got home late.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Power of Regulation?

Whilst Monday’s Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust’s report, “Database State”, has led to the suspension of the DfES’s Contact Point project, EURIM’s Philip Virgo has published an interesting and informative article on Governance Frameworks for Identity Management.

Whilst I can certainly appreciate the concerns about excessive intrusion into citizens’ lives, and am against both “control freakery” and the “Nanny State”, I believe that, in modern Society, the regulated collection of some personal data to enable public service improvement and combat fraud is necessary. There is already too much indiscriminate, and unregulated data collection in all sectors, so effective regulation is the key.

Socitm has consistently lobbied for pan-Government Vision shaping cohesive strategy on Security and Information Assurance that will enable appropriate role-based access to information, with identity management and authentication services at its heart. Perhaps the missing regulatory component is the licensing of public sector databases through the Information Commissioner’s office?

Direct House Swan Song

The Socitm Events Group met, on Friday, at Bucks County Council’s offices in Aylesbury. David Membury, of CFDG (Charity Finance Directors’ Group) attended representing the Third Sector. We attended to final details for the Spring National Conference (23rd April) and started planning for the Edinburgh event in earnest.

On Monday I was at France Telecom’s UK Research Laboratories, at Chiswick, to find out about their GPRS Wrist Bands and Healthcare proposition in particular, and Orange’s approach to fixed-mobile convergence in general. Mark Johnson, Chief Executive of Medical Mobile, was in our meeting, as well as a number of Orange personnel.

I was impressed by Medical Mobile’s Vega Wrist Band for supporting people with cognitive disorders. It uses both GPS and GSM for positioning, has a wireless battery recharge facility and customisable screen, which can therefore include clock functions or display photos of carers, for example, is waterproof and has very good audio communications performance. It seamlessly switches between RF communications and GPRS to provide least cost/ optimal communications and power management. It’s clear that other applications, such as monitoring lone visitors/ cautionary contacts, could benefit from the technology.

There was also a demonstration of fixed/ mobile integration via Wi-Fi, and in presentations and discussion a broad range of opportunities for further discussion and follow-up were apparent.

Steve Jones and I met Wan Lik Lee, Managing Director of Azeus, at Intellect’s offices to discuss potential partnership.

I returned to Direct House for, probably, my last meeting there – Newham ICT is moving to “Newham Dockside” (the new name for Building 1000) this week. I met Steven Rumble and Peter Smithson from PriceWaterhouseCoopers Assurance Division to discuss the local public sector’s approach to Information Assurance. PWC delivered the Poynter Report into the Data Loss at HMRC and has developed an approach to assessing and managing Information Assurance that it’s keen to extend to the local public sector, and we discussed the potential for working together.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Idle Thoughts...

When driving to the office, yesterday, listening to The DirectGov ads, and looking at the posters while in traffic jams, it occurred to me that the only time I’m conscious of ever having used DirectGov is when I’ve renewed car tax or TV licences, in which cases I’ve followed links directly, and it really hasn’t mattered where the services were located.

Invariably, if I want to find something I know isn’t in my bookmarks or browser cache, I Google it – and can never remember having landed-up on a DirectGov site (although I sometimes land on Council sites). The same applies to Council sites. I would never go to them directly. Although I may be looking for local Council information, I’d invariably search for the place-name and subject I’m interested in; I don’t care where I get the answer from.

I’m sure I can’t be alone in this?

Socitm Insight’s website take-up service says that 26.85% of hits come from Google (1.75% from DirectGov) and 45.91% from previous visits, inferring that, already, only about a quarter of the usage comes from people who go directly to a site to search for information.

As a member of the Government domain names board, it’s started me wondering whether there’s really any raison d’être for our work. It really doesn’t matter how many websites there are, or what they are called, if citizens can find and access the services they are looking for?

With the number of trade stories predicting that services will increasingly be delivered from the Cloud growing steadily, it behoves us to consider the secure, joined-up Government journey on which we’ve embarked. The development of Government Connect with identity and authentication services on a Public Sector Network across Government logically means that the Cloud services we use will also be on the PSN – the “G-Cloud”, which must have significant implications for most suppliers’ planned market approach. Hopefully, too, this will provide a key session at the planned Government Connect/ Ocean/PSN Conference.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Good to be Alive

Having abandoned my coat, for the first time this year, on Monday, the weather today, in London, made for a “great to be alive” day, so I took every opportunity to walk in the sunshine between meetings!

Last week, Graham Kennedy, of Alexoria, caught the tail-end of my presentation at the Socitm/ Intellect Supplier Forum, and subsequently asked to interview me for research he’s undertaking on the role of ICT in a downturn. As Graham agreed to present the results to Socitm Futures, I gladly agreed and we met, this morning, back at the Intellect offices.

I went on to the Church House Conference Centre, in Westminster, for a Microsoft Agreement Project Board meeting. Subject to resolution of final negotiating points, details of the proposals should be made available to members of the CIO Councils, which next meet at the beginning of April, for approval and the commencement of the sign-off process.

Then on to the CIPFA IT Panel, near Charing Cross. I joined the meeting during an OGC Presentation of the Gateway Review process. The Panel agreed to promote the approach, and the service for Local Government run by 4ps, and invited Socitm to join with it in this endeavour. I agreed, subject to board approval, and thought that it would be good to bolster resources available through the involvement of Local Government ICT colleagues as peer reviewers.

Through the rest of the meeting there were a number of areas of prospective collaboration. The IT panel agreed to endorse Socitm Insight’s report - What’s in a name? The practicalities of being a public sector CIO – and also to join with us in the initiative we’re developing with SOLACE. There was an overview of CIPFA’s online information resource, which includes guidance on ICT Management, which I expressed interest in reviewing with a view to endorsement.

There was some discussion of future areas of work, which revolved around performance management, procurement and contract management, especially in the light of the economic situation and the possibility of increased out-sourcing. It appeared we should seriously consider establishing something akin to the highly successful Socitm/ CIPFA Competition Advisory Service that existed in the days of Compulsory Competitive Tendering.

My final meeting was with Adrian at the Charing Cross Hotel. We finalised the short-list for the Head of Policy role, and agreed to organise an interview panel for a day of interviews – hopefully Friday 17th April. We plan to invite short-listed candidates for a social dinner on the evening before to get to know one another. Provided these arrangements can be confirmed, we’ll be writing to all candidates with decisions/ arrangements by Friday.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Evolution of the Internet

Here is an interesting article on an EU funded research project into the evolution of the Internet. “The first problem will be scale…” So – all the more reason to ensure universal coverage, now, by proper (fibre) broadband network, then. Whilst some Telecoms companies are achieving some impressive results in squeezing more and more capacity out of copper, once fibre’s universally available the wonders of photonics will enable us to ramp-up the capacity by many orders of magnitude for years to come.

The report provides, in my view, a compelling vision of how the Internet will develop – and, I expect, more quickly than most of us might think - and builds-on a theme in ICT development that’s becoming ever more embedded – one that anticipates technology evolution that mimics nature.

I met with David Clayden, Chair of the CCitDG, and a Socitm Director, at his office in the Elephant & Castle HQ of the Salvation Army. We discussed LOLA, its meeting in Glasgow on 28th/ 29th June, and third sector support for an international campaign on social justice facilitated by ICT. Unsurprisingly, a number of our Third Sector colleagues have their own first-hand experience of tackling social inequity and running charitable projects in third-world regions. We hope, finally to launch a programme through the LOLA meeting, and also to use it to help develop an international stream for Socitm’s conference in Edinburgh (11th to 13th October) which, this year, is designated among LOLA members as its members’ international conference for the year.

We also discussed the need to develop our understanding of the different challenges faced by the different (government and third) sectors that we represent, and agreed it would be worth investing some time in sharing our agendas with a view to agreeing common policy and an initial action plan. It seemed that this might best be achieved in a small workshop linked to a Socitm National Advisory Council meeting.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Missed the Excitement!

Apparently, I missed Posh & Becks, and accompanying paparazzi pandemonium, who showed-up at Claridges sometime after I had left the IRRV President’s lunch, on Friday.

We’ve got 10 excellent candidates for the Socitm Head of Policy role. The Board is reviewing submissions, and Adrian and I will finalise the shortlist and the approach to interviewing on Wednesday.

This morning I attended the Information Assurance Events Advisory Board. This is held “in camera” but it’s planned to agree outcomes that can be announced, and possible publication of minutes, from future meetings.

In the afternoon, I met with Jenny Newton, UK & Ireland CEO for Bull Information System, and Paul McDonald, who heads-up Public Sector engagement, to discuss Socitm and potential business partnership.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Pushing the Limits

Peter Ryder, Steve Palmer and I teleconferenced about LOLA. The next LOLA meeting is in Glasgow on the 28th & 29th June. Additionally, each year a LOLA Member Conference is designated an international event, and this year it will be Socitm’s annual conference to be held in Edinburgh on 11th to 13th October. Steve will be attending the LOLA Conference as Socitm President (subject to AGM confirmation, of course) and we hope to have a UK third-sector speaker, on social equity. I’m meeting David Clayden on Tuesday, next week, and this will be on my agenda. We are also aiming to create an international stream in the Edinburgh Conference – to be discussed at our Events Group meeting, next Friday.

Later in the morning I was involved in another Teleconference, organised by Philip Littleavon. This involved maybe 20 people – from Local Authorities, the DWP, OGC, Cabinet Office and Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Personally, I think it was stretching the capabilities of audio-conferencing a little, but it was nevertheless an excellent and positive discussion, which moves the prospect of pan-Government Information Assurance and Security Vision on considerably.

Philip is proposing a two-day conference on Ocean/ PSN (Public Sector Network) and common security infrastructure – extending the coverage of the Government Connect brand, which I wholeheartedly endorse, and was broadly supported by other participants in the discussion.

I had to duck-out of the discussion early, but I believe agreement will have been reached to develop the conference format and agenda electronically, and for a workshop then to agree upon objectives and detailed organisation. I’m glad to say that Local Government was well represented in the discussion, through Steve Palmer, Jos Creese, Dylan Roberts and Vic Freir, as well as me, and we all expressed willingness to play active parts in the planning and organisation.

I was invited to an IRRV (Institute of Revenues, Rating & Valuation) President’s Luncheon, along with about 20 other Society’s Presidents at Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. Very nice – and no agenda other than to network and enjoy ourselves! In fact, I underestimated the time required for this activity, and had booked a 3.00 appointment back at Direct House, so had to leave early. Julie Holden, the IRRV President, also keeps a Blog, and will be publishing photos from the lunch - of us wearing our red noses! Needless to say, I’ll link them here.

My appointment was with a representative of OGC Buying Solutions, to discuss the latest pricing proposals from Microsoft but, of course, I’m not allowed to talk about them. Sorry!

I’m now off to a Morgan Grenfell IT staff reunion at “The Windmill” in Tabernacle Street, where we used to hang-out quite a lot, for a drink in memory of Alan Constable.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Hold-on to your Boarding Pass!

A significant part of today’s Socitm Board Meeting, held at Hillingdon Council offices in Uxbridge, was given over to the presentation of our Auditor’s annual report. 2008 saw a considerable reduction in Socitm’s cost of sales and administrative expenses; the outturn position now looks like a surplus of around £12,000; (following a deficit of around £325,000 in 2007) after writing off bad debt. Unsurprisingly, interest earned on our bank balance was lower than the previous year – down from around £50,000 to £32,000 – and we were advised that we need to manage our treasury better. In the current environment, we should be looking to maximise returns by long-term investment (of our cash reserves) in the money market. We noted that the Society again made an operating loss if we exclude interest received.

Christine presented, and we discussed, a good deal of other advice on diverse matters, such as redundancy policy, cash reserves policy, risk analysis procedures, the register of interests and fraud policy. Much of this was related to her update on the 2009 Companies Act, from which it’s clear that we must review our articles of association.

We learned that Socitm is due monies for work it undertook on an EU funded iSCAN project. Unfortunately, some expenditure cannot be reclaimed. As we had not kept the boarding pass for a flight made in connection with the project, although we had the invoice and receipt for the airfare, the EU refused payment – even ‘though the official refusing payment had met our representative at the airport, and could therefore personally vouch for the fact that the flight was undertaken!

Some other noteworthy items were:
  • We received, and agreed, a paper proposing the formation of a web professionals’ community within Socitm, developed following a workshop with Web Managers from across Government and the third sector and commended by the Membership Board.
  • We agreed that the expressions of interest for the London-based Policy role will be reviewed online and that Adrian and I will complete the recruitment process in accordance with the Board’s guidance. It was also clarified that this will initially be a 12 month contract.
  • We reviewed progress on the Business Partnership proposals. Following the issuance of a draft opportunity / value matrix, some very strong interest has been registered, and the Commercial Board was authorised to complete some initial partnerships.
  • Following the implementation of our new CRM, Socitm officers have been raving about the new facilities and functionality that’s now available. The CMS is now being prioritised.
  • Around 70 bookings for the Spring National Conference have now been received (excluding those involved in running the conference). We are aiming for at least double that number of delegates, and about to commence marketing proper, using the CRM functionality that’s now available to send an electronic “flyer” to members.
  • We are rescheduling all board meetings to improve the timing and business process flow. With a few exceptions, this year, the Membership Board will be on the second Wednesday of each month, the Commercial Board will be on the third Wednesday and main board meetings will be on last Wednesdays.
Further information will be in this month’s President’s Report, due by the end of next week.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Public Sector IT in a Downturn

This morning I attended the Intellect-Socitm Supplier Forum, held at Intellect’s offices on Russell Square. The session examined the main issues facing local government and how the current economic climate will impact the the local public sector market market in 2009.
  • What role/potential is there for IT to have a positive impact for local authorities in 2009 and how do we identify and promote these potential areas?
  • How are the current and proposed plans for 2009 affected by the tough financial situation facing local authorities? I.e. given the current financial constraints will local authorities continue to focus on implementing personalised/citizen centric services and joined-up networks such as EAS and PSN etc

Steve Palmer and I presented our views. Between us, I think we covered a lot of ground in sessions that complemented one another. I emphasised shared infrastructure, whereas Steve majored on new service models and issues such as licensing. The Forum is run under Chatham House rules, but if there’s a version of the minutes that can be published outside the Forum’s membership, I’ll signpost it here.

Steve, Adrian, who also attended the Supplier Forum, and I hurried on to a Socitm Membership Board meeting at Camden Town Hall.

We reviewed progress in the development of core membership principles. Some are becoming well-embedded, such as “one member, one vote”. Others are “work in progress”. An interim measure was to reserve eligibility for election to the Presidential Team to serving IT Heads in Local Government. We discussed how to introduce more egalitarian eligibility criteria. A suggestion was for one based on having achieved a minimum number of years’ continuous membership of the Society – five, say. If such a criterion were agreed, it could be announced for implementation (say) five years hence. We aim to finalise core principles by October (Conference time) and will be further consulting members in the meantime.

I think I may previously have mentioned my intention to consult all regional chairs on their requirements for support of regional activities from corporate Socitm? Following a steer from today’s meeting, I’ll also be discussing the Society’s value proposition, and content of a proposed corporate membership package.

At our next meeting it’s planned to discuss work completed on these issues, and feedback, with a view to how to prioritise and deliver the agreed objectives – what’s realistic and practical, and by when.

We also agreed work to be undertaken on a Communications Plan – What, How, To Whom, When etc, and agreed feedback on a Government consultation on “fair access to professions” and a PARN (Professional Associations Research Network) consultation on Societies’ developmental and membership requirements in the next 10 years!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Two Steps Back?

On Monday I missed the Socitm Futures meeting, as I took leave for my Father-in-Law’s funeral. However, Adrian told me that the meeting was excellent, and Martin Ferguson played a crucial role in facilitating a very productive session. I’ll aim to feature this in the next President’s report.

I spent Tuesday on a return trip to Barnsley, where I met with the Council’s European and Regional Strategy Officer, and the Head of Information Strategy, to discuss the Digital South Yorkshire Partnership (covering Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster) and potential synergies with Newham’s Telecommunications Convergence programme. Last October a Sporting and Cultural Development Partnership was launched between Barnsley Metropolitan Council and the London Borough of Newham, which provided the context for our productive meeting. We agreed outline proposals for the establishment of a formal liaison mechanism for sharing information and experiences, potential joint development/ technology transfer/ asset reuse, and strategy development, which would be in both our interests.

Among the positive initiatives supporting greater joining up and co-operation between the Central and Local public sectors, last year, was the appointment of Kevin Hayes to lead Central-Local Government liaison on Information Assurance matters, so I was surprised and disappointed to hear from Kevin, yesterday, that early termination of this role had been decided. I’ve replied to Kevin, protesting the decision, which is short-sighted and comes at a time when we are just starting to see the fruits of Kevin’s work in a dawning realisation of the importance of pan-Government Security and Information Assurance policy and infrastructure. I fear that the early discontinuance of this role – at a time when there’s intense pressure on everyone to deliver efficiency savings, will be seized on as a further opportunity to pare back activities to a minimum - setting us right back where we started.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Inaction is not an option.

In continuing consideration of ICT and the recession, two further articles caught my eye. Alcatel-Lucent CEO, Ben Verwaayen, spoke of the unique opportunity we have to reshape companies and processes and build a new digitally enabled future. A shift towards all-IP networks and software as a service lies at the heart of this new world order, he said. At the same (Alcatel-Lucent 2009 Enterprise) event Gartner's senior VP of research, Peter Sondergaard, said inaction is not an option in the current economic climate - and any business putting its head in the sand waiting for the storm to blow over will simply "suffocate". Meantime, Computing’s Martin Courtney worries, as I do, about what’s holding up IPv6. I really do think now’s the time to focus on really exploiting ICT for efficiency, to ensure we don’t lose ground on transformational government (just as we’re moving beyond hype and lip-service to actual joining-up) and to facilitate and sustain community cohesion through to the recovery.

Shane and I, together with Steria’s Legal Director, consulted a Barrister at his Lincoln’s Inn Chambers on matters related to Caboodle’s winding-up.

The Socitm London Committee met in the afternoon. I attended a pre-meeting with Geoff and a few other Members to consider how the region should develop to encompass the Society’s new remit, including aspects such as organisation, agenda and recruitment.

2e2 will be sponsoring the next regional meeting, at the House of Lords, as they did a year ago. Then, they presented on “Generation Y”; this time they aim to update and develop that theme to what they are calling “Enterprise 2.0”. Technology supporting the modern Councillor will also be on the agenda, along with “Connected London”. There will also be third sector input on senior citizen engagement.

We also discussed Capital Ambition plans for benchmarking using the Socitm service, but with a workshop to further develop an outcome based specification of requirements. i.e. Benchmarking business utilisation of ICT.

Steve Pennant advised us that the London 101 project has been cancelled, but the out-of-hours service has now gone live in a number of boroughs.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

What's in a name?

A new Socitm Insight report - What’s in a name? The practicalities of being a public sector CIO – is published today. I’m pleased to commend the report, which further develops our push for a more confident, assertive ICT profession that challenges our businesses to use ICT services and infrastructure effectively.

It’s increasingly apparent that some of our regions are struggling to resource the organisation and management of their local events. The Socitm Board will be discussing this, next week, with a view to agreeing what support can be offered from the centre. In the remaining weeks of my Presidency I’m also aiming to meet with regional chairs to gain direct feedback on ways in which the Society can better support them.

Glyn Moody accepted my invitation, last Friday, to meet. He actually accepted it on Monday, but I didn’t realise because his invitation went into my junk e-mail. Unintended, I promise! Glyn says that’s OK because, as a journalist, he is used to being filed under “junk”! We’re arranging to meet and will keep you briefed.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Taking a long, hard look at ourselves!

Shey Cobley hosted a Socitm workshop, at Oxford Town Hall, to consider how the Society can more effectively support the broader objectives it set itself in the remit agreed at October’s EGM – “to be the professional association for all people working in ICT and related disciplines in the public and third sectors…” - particularly young professionals. Adrian Hancock, David Houston, Bernard Gudgin, Steve Jones, David Clayden and I, were assisted by Shey (Oxford City Council) Frances Kettleday (Cambridgeshire) Alex Birtwell (Hyndburn BC) and also Vicky Sargent and Elaine Davis.

Our failure to engage effectively, to date, was exemplified, this week when, following the publication of the latest “Better Connected” report, for the most part, the newly changed username and password for the Socitm Insight pages were not passed on by Socitm Lead Members to the very people who needed them – the web professionals.

We covered quite a lot of ground, in a very productive meeting, but two clear priorities were in establishing mentoring facilities for members – both peer mentoring and mentoring by more experienced people – and supporting professional development. The latter is being worked-on through our Membership Board but, today’s discussion served to reinforce the urgency of this work. Other issues, such as the way we welcome and support new members, were linked to these requirements.

A lot of the discussion was of facilitating the involvement of younger and less senior professionals who, generally, don’t have the same access to budget or time to attend formal meetings. Also, why is it that their managers always get to don dinner-suits to attend formal events to receive the awards their staff have earned?! This also chimed with senior management/ executive perceptions (misperceptions) and assumptions of what’s involved in roles (such as web development), which also embraced some apparently sexist attitudes.

We need to look again at some of the data Socitm has about its own events and services. Is the attendance at our events as representative of the people we want to attract as we think it is, and are the conclusions we draw from surveys well-founded, or are outcomes skewed because of undue influence of the “Old Guard”?

We also covered communications – viral marketing, topics/ workshops – time-limited panels to brainstorm and move-on rather than arrangements “set in stone”, personal responsibility/ motivation for career development and other issues including, of course, the need to make better use of the web/ technology.

Full notes of the meeting will be circulated among meeting participants, with suggested actions arising, and we are aiming to develop a detailed action plan for agreement at the next National Advisory Council, which is on 29th April. A “quick win” should be in establishing member mentoring facilities.

As always, I’ll be glad to receive any suggestions and comments.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cull or Cure

At next week’s Intellect-Socitm Local Government Supplier Form, I’m presenting a session on public sector use of ICT in the current economic climate. Patrick Smith, from IBM, is presenting the view from the private sector. So I’ve done a fair bit of reading of others’ views in preparation. It’s becoming ever clearer that the recession in the UK is going to be deep and prolonged, as Steve Bundred’s article in Friday’s Times made clear. All the same, I’m not at all convinced that Gartner’s suggested response is the right one. Reliability, now, is everything; minor disruption and outages cause disproportionate loss of productivity and, worse still, adversely impact confidence at a time when ICT should be relied upon to enable greater business efficiency. I think Socitm’s recently published Technology Trends report stands-up very well, although it was completed before the “Credit Crunch” had really taken hold. Anyhow, I’ll look forward to reporting the conclusions of next week’s meeting.

Apart from a few hours out to attend the funeral of a not long retired former Newham ICT colleague, I’ve had my head down, mostly in preparing for upcoming meetings, for the last two days. It doesn’t sound like much, I admit, but still my head’s spinning – so I’m off to get some fresh air!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Courting Controversy...

Oh dear. I’m getting myself into all sorts of bother following my Blog entry on “Open Sauce”!

Before I go further, I should make clear, perhaps belatedly, that I am stating my personal opinion, which does not in any way represent Socitm policy.

A lot of the comments I receive are semi-literate, anonymous insults, which are easily dismissed and likely to do their authors more harm than they do me - although I do try to find the time to provide reasoned responses. However, when someone who is clearly intelligent, is prepared to be identified and stands behind well-reasoned arguments, I really have to take notice.

…And if someone as intelligent as Glyn Moody doesn’t understand that I’m trying to poke fun at myself in a blog entry entitled “Open Sauce”, as in having the cheek to challenge some of the assertions around so called Open Source, then I accept that’s down to me trying to be too clever by half. I am, ‘though, disappointed that he should think I “have such distaste for the concept that (I) can’t bring (myself) even to write the words without sanitising them between quotation marks”. Actually, I think some of Glyn’s respondents have caught the sense of what I was trying to say by suggesting other terms, such as “free software”, or “software freedom”.

I do stand by my comment that what many people mean is “anything but Microsoft” and I’m sure that Glyn, in his heart of hearts, knows that there are a lot of people who see Microsoft as the devil incarnate, and “Open Source” as a catch-all to describe the battle for redemption! Yes – I know that the term “Open Source” is clearly defined, but it’s constantly misused, and that’s the point. I also think Glyn makes my point for me when talking about “you license it, just like you license proprietary software”. (I know your, packaged, licensed Open Source-derived software includes a spell-checker, Glyn, but you missed the typo - propretary!!) As he points-out, Microsoft itself uses Open Source, but my view is that once you’ve turned-it into a commercial product, the term is no longer appropriate.

However, when it comes to my assertion that “Open Source software development… lags proprietary development”, I have to put my hands-up; fair cop! I did kind of pre-qualify my remarks by implying I was cream-crackered as I made them, ‘though. Those who know me know that I push myself very hard – perhaps too hard - and I probably should have taken more time for a better considered response.

I can’t argue with Glyn’s examples of innovation based-upon Open Source, so my statement was clearly wrong (as I also admitted to ZDNet, today) but I do know that there’ve been occasions when I’ve wanted products that Open Source software products did not support. The Tablet PC is one that comes to mind, although I’m sure it’s now supported; (I haven’t checked lately.) This tele-presence thing is quite important, in my view. It makes so much difference for teams or groups of people working in disparate locations and work-styles. It’s really great for real-time collaboration.

Anyway, we could argue over this for ever more. What I propose is that Glyn and I meet-up and I’ll take Glyn through the requirements I have, as a CIO, for ICT infrastructure to support an organisation like Newham Council. I’ll be completely open about the products we use, the costs and the benefits achieved, which he’ll be able to see for himself. Glyn, then, can take me through how I could achieve as much at the same or a lesser cost using “Open Source” products, and we’ll both publish the results.

I’ll freely admit that I’m no technician, so I will need a technical expert to support me, and of course agree that Glyn can be similarly supported. If you are up for it, Glyn, give me a call on Monday, and we’ll agree a date for our first meeting.

I worked from home, today, and, when I wasn’t responding to Blog comments, spent several hours in ‘phone calls on Socitm affairs, using ICT as an efficiency-enabler in the depression and executive partnership, and of course in dealing with correspondence.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Getting more joined-up

This morning’s Socitm London branch meeting was held at the Mermaid Conference Centre, at Blackfriars. I was pleased to see great support from central Government colleagues - with updates from OGC Buying Solutions on the Microsoft UK Public Sector Licensing project, the DWP on Government Connect and DCSF on Employee Authentication Services. Geoff Connell (now Chair of the London branch – keep it in the “family”!) gave a short update on the Public Sector Mobile Portal (designed for viewing on your ‘phone) and I gave my Socitm update. The meeting finished with a great presentation from Ian Brooks of HP, today’s sponsor, “Innovation - from chip to chiller and beyond”, followed by lunch. Presentations will be on the Socitm website.

After lunch, I attended an EAS Board Meeting at the Sanctuary Buildings in Westminster. The main discussion was of the implementation strategy, different options for establishing the Registration Authority and the Operating Model. The fact that it’s accepted that EAS will now support multiple applications - initially Contact Point, then access to the DWP Customer Information System for benefits processing, then others - undoubtedly complicates the programme, not least from financial and delivery perspectives, but it’s great that we are now confronting these issues; discussion of pan-Government security is gaining traction.

Although John Skipper, in his update to the London Socitm meeting, said that remote access through the GC infrastructure will not initially be supported by EAS, we were told that remote access trials are being undertaken.

It appears that this year’s T-Government report will be delayed, which brings additional opportunities to ensure that the pan-Government security vision is developed for that report.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Open Sauce...

I’d planned to spend yesterday and today at the CMA Conference, held at The Congress Centre in Great Russell Street but, for a variety of reasons, didn’t get there until today’s morning coffee break.

There was some work to do on weightings and tolerances for the Microsoft software procurement and in reviewing bids for the GC Benefits Realisation fund, besides which my correspondence backlog had gone over a week again.

Geoff, Richard and I met with Newham’s Head of Procurement to discuss and agree our procurement approach for the NTC network commercialisation. We decided upon a negotiated competition, in preparation for which we’ll develop our market analysis, finalise technical options and advertise for proposals to meet desired outcomes based on sale of lease of network.

At one point yesterday, I found myself talking on the ‘phone to Adrian, who was in a storage room at Socitm’s Northampton offices, surrounded by mounds of reports, minutes and other documentation dating back, probably, to the formation of the Society. Clearly, another project looms; we’ll need to sort-out retention policies and Electronic Document Records management for the Society, but it also occurred to us that we need an Archivist to document Socitm’s history, before disposing of everything.

After having popped-in to a Newham colleague’s Farewell drinks do in Stratford, I went on to The Chemistry Club, at Sartoria. Francis Maude was the speaker.

Today (Wednesday) morning, the oft-postponed GC Benefits Realisation Fund Assessment Teleconference was held. The IDeA did an excellent job in reviewing and documenting the bids, of which there were 193, for our consideration. Six were agreed, unaltered, for funding, and a further four were agreed, but at less than was applied for. It was agreed that a further twelve required further information & evaluation. Forty-six of the bids were for the Libra project (for youth offending – “topped and tailed” for different YOTs). It was also agreed the IDeA should discuss some funding, probably of a pilot.

The Wednesday morning CMA Conference networking break was followed by a session entitled “Real Strategies for “Hyper Connectivity”. I felt like I’d entered a time-warp. It seemed to me that speakers wanted to hold back the tide; there was a reluctance to recognise that convergence is here; the words said “sweat your assets”, but I was pretty sure they meant “help us to continue to milk our sunk investments, rather than deploying the infrastructure you really need”; technical solutions to managing limited bandwidth to stop users gobbling it for Internet radio were advised, rather than recognising the fundamental cultural and management shift required for anytime, anywhere working enabled by Unified Communications.

Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, spoke a good deal of sense, and clearly knew his subject. I liked his analogy of the Internet as the digital equivalent of previous trade routes. He did, however, cause some consternation by saying, as part of the answer to a question, that “Nortel had withdrawn as a first tier 2012 sponsor”. After lunch and, I imagine, some feverish checking, it was clarified that this most certainly was not the case!

The session following lunch – “The future… moves changes and opportunities” – was as refreshing as the one before lunch was depressing. Mark Blowers, from Butler Group, did a commendably succinct introduction to the session, comparing our development of network infrastructure to the Winchester Building.

Bob Falconer, CEO of Gamma Telecom, talked about systemic problems in the industry – over-promising, under-delivering, costs of change, back-loaded costs etc, and suggested an alternative approach to procurement, and his company’s white label service.

Stuart Hill, Vice President and Director of BT’s London 2012 delivery programme, gave a truly inspiring presentation about BT’s approach, as the Tier One Telecoms Sponsor. “Reliability ahead of heroes”, “Treat every amber as red”.

Kevin Russell, CEO of “3” Mobile highlighted some of the absurdities in mobile data regulation and pricing, and illustrated the major daily evening peak in mobile data traffic that’s apparently down to home use.

You may have seen today’s announcement of new Government Policy on Open Source software. A number of journalists have been enquiring after my views!

Well, I’ve had a couple of long days so these aren’t fully thought-through, but my more-or-less “off the cuff” reactions are:
  • Open Standards are definitely required.

  • I don’t like the term “Open Source”. It’s misleading; what many people mean is “anything but Microsoft”; few businesses actually use open source directly – they buy software derived from open source that has been commercially packaged and sold with support, which, in practice, is little different to licensed software.

  • Nevertheless, competition is great for keeping suppliers focussed on delivering customer value, and “Open Source” has certainly played its part.

  • All the same, software is only one part of the Total Cost of Ownership equation; don’t consider it in isolation, but as part of the full TCO and lifecycle costs.

  • “Open Source” software development, in my experience, lags proprietary development by several years. I don’t think we could achieve the anytime, anywhere fixed and mobile infrastructure with tele-presence we require, now, for flexible and new ways of working using only Open Source.

  • I agree with reuse, and it’s a very significant factor in the Microsoft Public Sector software licensing project I’m involved in (and not allowed to talk about).

  • If it works for you – fine. I wouldn’t rule-out so-called “Open Source”; Newham has used it for some applications since the time it did its deal with Microsoft (probably the first UK public sector procurement of Microsoft as a supplier) and continues to do so.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Of Commerce & the Credit Crunch

Socitm’s Commercial Board met today. Its terms of reference will be published, this week, in the Members’ area of the website, but we agreed that minutes of meetings will not be published. Although we are absolutely committed to the greatest possible transparency in the conduct of the Society’s business, I’m sure you can appreciate that, by its very nature, much of the Commercial Board’s business is bound to be commercially sensitive. Nevertheless, I’ll continue to provide high level reports here.

We discussed a number of aspects of the Socitm Insight Service. Negotiation of the contractual relationship and a performance management regime are at an advanced stage. Martin tabled a short paper concerning the need to review the strategic direction of the service over the next few years, and we’ve agreed to work on this ahead of the next meeting.

A particular discussion point concerned the development of the Supplier Index, and we saw opportunities to link to Government procurement initiatives and build closer links with the RIEPs. There’ll be a workshop to develop this particular development.

Socitm Insight is arranging forums in London (8th April) and Manchester (19th April) to consider IT’s role and response to the credit crunch. The morning will be for suppliers and the afternoon for public sector members.

We also considered a proposal from Elaine, which resulted from the recent meeting with Adrian and I. As I mentioned, last week, this focuses on “quick fixes”. The meeting was supportive, and agreed the proposal subject to a couple of issues of detail, which Adrian was empowered to conclude.

Friday, 20 February 2009

The Weekend Beckons

Adrian and I met yesterday (Thursday) with Elaine at Intellect’s Russell Square offices to discuss Socitm commercial development, marketing, branding and our image/ proposition. She took us through a range of “quick fix” issues, such as management of the core brand, marketing and membership collateral, sales training, weekly bulletins, corporate service bundles and web updating, tidy-up and clarity. Our discussion was hugely enjoyable, and I felt not a little encouraged. We agreed that Elaine will write-up the agreed proposals to take to Monday’s Commercial Board.

Today (Friday) I’ve finished the latest President’s Report, drafted an article for a feature in , skimmed through a draft of Better Connected 2009 and done a bit of work on potential business partnerships in preparation for Monday’s Commercial Board. I’m also more or less up-to-date with correspondence.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Not a Laughing Matter

I can’t talk about today’s Microsoft Project Board Workshop on weightings and tolerances, so I’ll mention the announcement of agreement between Red Hat and Microsoft to build better interoperability and to provide co-ordinated technical support for customers, instead. This sounds-like good news, to me. It doesn’t mention Open Source, although, open source software that’s packaged and supported by a vendor is frequently referred to us such. It will be interesting to see the response.

The other story to catch my eye, today, was this one about “application anarchy that eats bandwidth”. My personal view has always been that such stories have much to do with general management; wasting time with ICT is no different from wasting time gazing out of the window, reading your horoscope, or chatting at the water fountain. However, now it’s also about fundamental advances in our use of ICT, which has become pervasive, is core business for everyone and reliant on an appropriate culture of shared understanding and responsibility. Although the author of this survey has a vested interest in raising awareness of potential problems that his organisation can help to address – “the technology is available from us and….” – he is quite right to point-out that the world has moved on, and that’s something we all need to recognise.

I asked a management colleague for his view, and concur with his assertion that “whilst many (requirements) relate to specific security technology, a great deal of the organisation’s information security is dependent on clear Human Resources policy and processes, and their effective implementation and enforcement. ICT is an integral part of almost everyone’s ‘day-job’ and everyone must take responsibility, and be accountable for their part in securing the organisation’s information. It’s essential that policies and processes are clear, well communicated, and understood by all”.

No CoCo. No housing benefit data. No joke.” says the headline, “especially if you are a citizen dependent on a housing benefit service”, it might have added - and, whilst Authorities prevented from accessing the DWP’s CIS system, won’t be able to process benefits, neither will the DWP be able to collect their benefit data and do its job, so they’ll both look silly. It’s better by far that we recognise our shared responsibility to make Government Connect a success. Most Local Authorities have done a magnificent job in working to achieve CoCo compliance in the last six months, despite a poorly planned initial programme that followed years of repeated false starts and fruitless activity.

Socitm is following-up the communications it has received about problems experienced, but we urge any Authorities that have not yet reported their status to do so – to (even if already advised to the Account Manager) - without delay. Codes of Connection should be submitted to, (even if already given to the Account Manager).