Friday, 30 January 2009

The Long Suffering Mrs S.

Today’s Government Connect Awards Ratification Committee was postponed – to 13th February – because of the volume of entries received - now over 180 - and time needed to prepare.

I met, at Direct House, with Andy Lees, of CommVault. Andy was previously one of Newham’s HP account team. The CommVault proposition seems attractive; we discussed possible partnership with Socitm to assist in promotion.

I also discussed the potential for Socitm business partnership with Mike Rollings and Manfred Hartel, of Burton Group.

On Tuesday, next week, Adrian, Stephen Jones, Elaine Davis and I are meeting to discuss business development, and how we take these potential partnerships forward. Elaine, who currently lives in Florida, and is flying-in for our meeting, has for some years worked with the Socitm Events Team, selling Conference Sponsorship and Exhibition space.

In the afternoon, the LGA hosted a meeting at its offices in Smith Square to discuss the further Government Connect support programme that it and the DWP are funding. The emphasis is on promotion of the Local Government Data Handling Guidelines and how GC will support fulfilment of their aims. A two-year programme is envisaged. I was concerned that this should enshrine the development of pan-Government security vision and strategy. The meeting, which included the LGA’s Tim Allen, Siobhan Coughlan from the IDeA, Philip Littleavon and Simon Norbury from Government Connect, and Paul Charkiw from the Welsh LGA, debated the objectives at length, but we eventually agreed an initial list that’s likely to develop as the programme proceeds. Mike Short, from the IDeA will be the Policy Lead for the programme, and Mark Brett, of Silverthorne Associates, the Technical Lead; both were also present. Those present will form an Advisory Board, which will meet soon to agree its Terms of Reference.

Afterwards, Philip, Simon and I met to discuss the recent letters to Local Authorities that hadn’t yet submitted “a sufficiently mature Code of Connection”. We had to agree to differ on some of the language and context, but I had to concede that, if Authorities don’t achieve the check-points they’ve committed to, and haven’t got in-touch with the GC Team to explain, request help or negotiate variation of their agreements, then it’s reasonable to write to Chief Executives and Section 151 Officers requesting explanation and updates. Philip agreed to keep me informed of progress, and I pledged to do anything I, and Socitm, can do to assist GC and Local Authorities achieve CoCo compliance.

I think the CMA’s response to the interim “Digital Britain” report is excellent.

Today was Chris’s birthday. Yesterday, I was chasing around trying to find an anniversary card that she’d like, eventually buying one at our local 24 hour Asda. It only dawned on me that it was, in fact, her birthday, when I was making our early morning cuppa. She took it quite well when I tried to explain, but gave me one of her “long suffering” looks!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Ageing Britain

The drive for broadband is building with the publication of Lord Carter’s interim report “Digital Britain”. I spoke, a little, about this requirement in a short presentation concerning Newham’s NeAT programme at the “Ageing Population 2009” conference at the QE II Conference Centre. I got there by mid-afternoon, having attended Alan’s funeral, in time for the afternoon keynote by Rosie Winterton, MP, Minister of State for Pensions. My session, following presentations from the RNID’s Jackie Ballard, and Councillor the Honourable Joan Taylor from the LGA, became the last before a panel Q&A session, which I joined. By now, the event had slipped behind schedule and the audience was dwindling, but it had been a sell-out, with coverage broadcast to an overflow audience in an adjacent room earlier in the day.

The event subject clearly struck a nerve; hardly surprising, given projections that men retiring at 65 will be able to look forward to another 24 years of life, on average, and women 27 years, as Rosie Winterton told us. Further conferences are planned, and I trust that digital Britain and Assistive Technology and TeleHealth will play a full part.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A Day of TechnoVision

Andrew Stott, Deputy Government CIO, and Pierre Hessler, one of the Capgemini Executive, introduced today’s TechnoVision event at Capgemini’s offices in Woking. I thought the day enormously productive, was impressed by Andrew’s leadership, and enjoyed Pierre’s frequent articulate and amusing interventions. There is a short video of him talking about TechnoVision on the webpage I signposted yesterday, but which does not do him justice, in my view. (Today was his 42nd wedding anniversary, by the way!)

You’ll need to read the overview on the above webpage to appreciate the TechnoVision approach. In Teams, we considered what were the “must have” technologies versus the main business driver groups that had been selected – Professionalism, Efficiency, Citizen Centricity, Information Management & Security and Sustainability. I was in the Team considering the “You Experience” cluster. Results will be reported to the CIO Councils and, if I’m able to, I will provide a link from this Blog.

Later, separate Teams were formed to consider recommendations linked to the business driver groups. A late decision to set-up an “Overall” Team was taken, and I was co-opted into a Team that also included Andrew Stott and Pierre Hessler.

In terms of the Technology vision, the “Overall” Team decided that pan-Government network (unlike other corporate businesses, this doesn’t yet exist in Government) should support three key strategic pillars of security, collaboration and data management, enabling trust and the delivery of business vision.

Among the messages to the business are “we do understand the challenge – customer centricity – and we have the solutions provided we can address the above through strategic finance, enabling an effective delivery model backed by culture change”. As part of the Action Plan, we have a very specific and, I believe, pragmatic recommendation to make to the CIO Council as part of the Action Plan, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be knee-capped, or worse, if I report it here before the recommendations have been presented to the CIO Councils!

In the “Invisible Infostructure” technology cluster, it was noticeable that nearly all technologies listed under “Jericho (de-perimeterised) security” were identified as “must-haves”, but I was not particularly surprised to hear that what’s actually happening is pressure to “build the walls higher, and fill the moat with more crocodiles”. That, of course, is one of the major contradictions we have to reconcile if we are to make effective progress.

Other insights, for me, were emergent talk of a “G-Cloud” and “Civil Pages”.

Days like this can really help build consensus on the content of genuine public sector-wide vision and strategy (provided we can report them openly) and I certainly hope to be involved in more of them.

Apologies – publication of the Socitm Position Statement has been a little delayed. Vicky was unimpressed with the diagram I produced to try and exemplify the relationships between its constituent parts, and thought it may confuse more than it informed! She and Adrian have been working on an improved version, today, and I now hope the statement will be ready by the weekend. Vicky has already done a great job on editing the text, so I’m looking forward to seeing what magic she’s worked on the schematic.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Don't Overreact!

Socitm's just-published IT Trends Report, which was completed before the recession hit, has geneerated headlines like "Local Authority IT Spend in 2008/9 reaches an all time high" and "Council IT spend to grow this year" that may seem optimistic given the financial environment in which we now find ourselves. However, the report highlighted that there needs to be a growing focus on using ICT to monitor and manage the business, and that's even more the case in a down-turn.

Security and privacy has rightly hit the top of the agenda, which brings additional challenges - of ensuring that solutions are pragmatic and that we don't overreact and disable the functionality that we have come to rely upon- especially as we look to flexible work-styles to to generate efficiency savings and facilitate more harmonious work-life balances.

After chatting with the BCS's Steve Coaker, this morning, I wrote to introduce him to colleagues in GMIS. The BCS is expanding its professional development business internationally, and Steve has account management responsibility for the US.

I was introduced, by Ian Dunmore, to Nico Macdonald (see ) who came to chat with Richard Carde and myself about our Telecoms Convergence programme, and 2012 aspirations. Nico is working on the production of a Progress Summit in July, which will "focus on the short- and medium-term future of the city with an emphasis on re-establishing ambitious visions for the future, innovation and productivity, designerly thinking and humanism".

We explained our plans and objectives as best we could in return for which, hopefully, Nico has a wealth of connections he can share with us to help build support and sustain momentum in our programme!

Following a Caboodle Board meeting in the afternoon, and a meeting with HR on a staff matter, I made a point of getting home early so I could attend a TVR Car Club meeting to plan this year's Le Mans trip!

On Tuesday, I'm working at home, during the day, then off to a "CTO Community TechnoVision Event" pre dinner at Weybridge. Tomorrow's event, organised by Capgemini and the Cabinet Office, looks interesting. Information about the concept behind it is at

Friday, 23 January 2009

Seize the Day

The Scottish Regional meeting was held at Stirling Council Chambers in Old Viewforth. Following Alan’s welcome comments, I was first up with my Socitm situation report and some thoughts about formalising a federal organisation. There were a number of comments about potential dilution of focus under the new remit; my view is there’s ample scope for the organisation of special interest groups within the new structure. There were also views about engagement with other professional bodies, like the BCS, and avoidance of duplication, but overall the meeting seemed supportive of the changes. Given that devolution has driven an increasingly separate agenda for country, it’s hardly surprising that no-one spoke against formalising a federal structure. At the conclusion of the meeting Alan confirmed that he would like the region to participate in a workshop (with England, Wales & Northern Ireland) to agree the detailed arrangements.

That there will continue to be a great deal of commonality across the UK was well demonstrated in the rest of the meeting agenda, which largely dealt with similar issues to those I’ve encountered in all the meetings I attend. There were speakers from Scotland’s Improvement Service (IDeA equivalent) on Customer First and shared services, covering things like the NLPG, e-Planning and flexible working, and case studies on service improvement.

During the coffee break I opened an e-mail informing me that Alan Constable, my boss when I worked in the City, has died suddenly. I’d like to think that Alan and I were close friends; we had some great times together, but did not part on the best of terms. I’ve been meaning to contact him for years – but now, of course it’s too late, and I’m full of remorse. It goes to show that life, as they say, is not a rehearsal and you have to seize your chances. My heart goes out to Eileen, and Alan's family.

I’m now on the train back to London, and again catching-up on correspondence. I see that my comments about Government Connect have been misreported in some of the media. I have expressed concerns about the delays in assembling the Support Team, but have never said there’ve been delays in providing funding.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Towards a Federal Socitm...

Gary McQuade, Managing Director of Spearmint Business Consulting, who is working for the NCC on the promotion and take-up of Accredit UK, met with me at Direct House. We discussed potential partnership and identified four areas in which we thought we may be able to work together – a Socitm UK theme around professional development for SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) linked to promotion of support for a public sector “Purchasers’ Charter”, working through our CIPFA relationship to link the BiP Solutions Accredit approach to financial management, working through the CIO Council with OGC Buying Solutions, and co-operation on Consultancy services. We’ll set-up a small workshop with key stakeholders to progress the proposals.

I then caught the noon “Highland Chieftain” from Kings Cross to Stirling for my dinner with some members of the Socitm Scotland Committee, and attendance at tomorrow’s regional meeting.

On the way I dealt with some correspondence and calls, including a catch-up on the Government Connect position. I called Philip about letters that went, last week, to Authorities who had not applied for exemption from the April deadline, but had not yet submitted “a sufficiently mature Code of Connection”. Philip told me 75% of the recipients of these letters have already replied “overwhelmingly positively”. That’s great, but I still have some concerns about the process, which we agreed to discuss early next week. Discussion at the recent CIO Council was of a far more strategic engagement than we’ve seen hitherto, linking EAS and the Ocean project, and raising hopes that we can actually adopt a joined-up approach rather than perpetuate the government silos with which the Local Public Sector is required to engage. I’d like the dialogue to reflect that more joined-up, partnership approach. Meantime, sincere thanks to public sector colleagues, including the Government Connect Team, for the commitment and resolve that’s being demonstrated in this project!

David Houston and I had dinner with Alan Kirkwood, Socitm Scotland Chair, and five of his committee colleagues at the Dunblane Hydro Hotel, where we were staying. I learned much about the who’s who, and who’s doing what where in Scottish Government, but discussion also turned to Socitm matters, and how a federal Socitm might work.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The day the London Evening Standard was sold for £1

Last night’s e-Gov Awards winners are listed here, and there are loads of photos of the night here.

I attended the Microsoft Licensing Agreement Project Board at Church House, today. ‘Nuff said!

Afterwards, I caught the tail-end of Socitm’s Commercial Board, held at Intellect’s offices. It was agreed that Steve Jones, Adrian and I would pursue pilot business partnerships and associated contract and client management issues.

Pomp & Circumstance

After working at home in the morning, I went in to Oracle’s offices, in Moorgate, to meet with Rachael Hartley and Juan Rada, Senior Vice President, Public Sector, and Munir Ismet, Vice President EMEA Public Sector, who I know from “way back when”, to discuss public sector developments in general, and Oracle’s relationship with Socitm.

Following which, I had a meeting on 2012 Data Centre requirements at LOCOG’s offices in Canary Wharf, with Nortel’s Fraser Dawkins and Roger Baugh, Senior Project Manager, Venue Technology Services.

In the evening I attended the e-Government National Awards, which were held at the City’s Guildhall. I’ve been to the Guildhall “campus” on many occasions before for meetings, but this was the first time I’ve actually been in the Guildhall, which is spectacular! How I wish I remembered to take a camera, but you can get a glimpse of the place at the Awards Site. It was built between 1411 and 1440 to reflect the importance of London’s ruling elite, and is the only stone building not belonging to the Church to have survived the Great Fire of London. The evening was accompanied by appropriate pomp, with the Company of Pikemen and Musketeers of the Honourable Artillery Company providing the guard of honour. It was nice to see such a large turnout, of around 500, in these austere times! (Apparently, the Dorchester, last year’s venue, wouldn’t have been big enough.)

Anyway, Tom Watson MP, the Cabinet Minister for Transformational Government was in attendance, and the Prime Minister again recorded a video message with congratulations to the winners, who will be listed on the Awards Site.

Tom’s colleague, the Communications Minister, Lord Carter, has pledged rapid broadband expansion. I am disappointed to see that Newham is not listed as among the Local Government pioneers (whose efforts, the EU has warned, could be uncompetitive) and interested to see 50Mb described as “ultrafast”. Pretty good for copper, ‘though.

The new PSMP interface, to be launched by the month-end, will look like this…

Monday, 19 January 2009

Rebranding on the Agenda

There are a lot of organisations called “CMA”, I’ve found – such as the Complementary Medicine Association, The Christian Motorcyclists’ Association and the Community Media Association. Anyway, I met, this morning, with Glenn Powell, Chief Executive of The Communications Management Association, which was formed in 1958 but became part of the BCS Group 18 months ago. Having brought one another up-to-date on our organisations’ developments, we discussed the potential for collaboration, and concluded that it will be worth a further meeting to formalise a relationship. The CMA currently has no “vertical sectors” within its organisation, but I believe a shared expert panel focussing on public sector network and security would benefit us both.

Following the FOI request lodged, last week, by PSF the Socitm Board of Directors brought-forward branding considerations that have been on the “back-burner”. We agreed not to seek renewal of the .gov domain name, due in August this year, but to adopt a new domain to reflect recent developments in the Society. The following broadcast was sent to the Socitm membership:-

“Members may be aware that one or two commentators have raised questions about the appropriateness of Socitm’s designation.

“The was granted to Socitm after a formal application to the relevant authority in the mid-1990s. Socitm applied for this designation on the basis that it was a membership organisation representing individuals in the public sector who themselves had addresses.

“Since that time Socitm has opened up its membership, and in October 2008 took this a significant stage further when it voted to allow members in the private sector to have equal status to that of public sector members. Late last year Socitm completed a merger with the charity IT organisation CITRA, which brought into Socitm membership a significant additional group of members also not working directly in the public sector.

“Given these developments, as well as the decision to open Socitm membership to ICT and related professionals at all career stages, Socitm has started to consider a range of issues around its name and branding – including the designation.

“Stimulated by a FoI request lodged with the CoI in the early January, Socitm brought forward the discussion about the designation and considered it at its board meeting on January 15.

“The board agreed that it will not seek renewal of the designation when this comes up in the Summer, because a .org or .net designation will better describe the current and future scope and purpose of the organisation. Changeover to the new designation is likely to coincide with the launch of a new website for Socitm scheduled for the summer.”

I had hoped that our new CMS, and website, would be ready to launch by April, which was the original plan… and yes, I suppose that was for partly egotistical reasons! However, it became evident that with the amount of work required, and the limited resources available to us that would be extremely ambitious and we agreed on a more realistic schedule. All the same, I’m hoping that my final act, as President, will be to preview the new website at our AGM in April.

The CRM implementation has also slipped a little, as a result of the takeover of the supplier of our financial management system, requiring work that impacts upon the required integration, but the new CRM should still be live by the month-end.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Odds & Sods

Today was an “Odds & Sods” day!

I met Bob Heaton at his office in East Ham to discuss my return full-time to my “day job” from April, and for a general catch-up.

I wrote to Kathryn Rossiter, at SOLACE, with the suggested CEOs’ 10 questions, for discussion.

Circulated the final draft Socitm Position Statement to National Advisory Council and Board members. Any last comments are required by next Friday 23rd, after which it will be published.

Wrote a short briefing on the current Caboodle situation to Newham’s Deputy Mayor (a Caboodle Director) in preparation for a forthcoming board meeting.

I arranged with Elaine Davis, who undertakes marketing of sponsorship and exhibition space for Socitm Conferences, to meet, later this month, to discuss this and related activity, such as our planned business partnerships.

Lee Grafton, from the DWP GC Team, wrote to say that they are now assembling the new Support Team!! I spent some time in ‘phone calls and contacting colleagues to assist in this connection. (Philip Littleavon copied me, among others, into a reply to the Society of London Treasurers regarding their disquiet about Government Connect. A missed opportunity, I thought, to refer to EAS, and ease concerns about flexible working and non Council-owned equipment.)

Geoff, Richard Carde and I met for an update on the Newham Telecoms Convergence programme and Data Centres.

I totally failed, ‘though, to get to grips with this week’s correspondence!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

First Board Meeting in a New Financial Year

David Clayden was welcomed to his first Socitm Board meeting today. David has accepted portfolio responsibility for “the Third Sector & Social Responsibility”. The updated portfolio list follows although, in practice, there is a lot of overlap. Much of the actual work is undertaken in the Commercial and Membership Boards. Board meetings are also attended by Melanie Smith, the Finance Manager, and Pam Larsen, the Company Secretary.

This was a productive meeting, the minutes of which will be published to members in due course. In the meantime, items that you may consider noteworthy are:

  • We are working on sharing board members’, main activists’ and staff calendars to facilitate planning. We also intend to publish the calendar of our activities on behalf of the Society via the website. This will say what meetings we are attending, and when, but not provide details of location or people involved for obvious reasons. My own calendar is already included at the end of the Blogspot copy of my Blog, although it needs some tidying-up, and I’m currently only updating it at weekends.

  • We expect to publish the Position Statement by the 26th January. This will also be sent to Regional Chairs for the information of all Members.

  • The Socitm Membership Board is making good progress in developing the membership category proposals for next year. It is also working on Corporate Membership scheme proposals to be piloted this year, and a detailed professional development framework. There is a lot of work to get through, but it’s expected that a roadmap will be outlined at the April AGM, and details presented for consultation at the next NAC (in May).

  • The Board approved the budget for this year. This, we believe, provides a prudent level of contingency, whilst maintaining progress in the development of the Society and maintaining reserves at around the current level. We are reassessing what the minimum level of reserves should be, and expect that it can be set at a lower level following the work undertaken to reduce financial risks. Clearly, ‘though, these are “interesting” times and we’ll closely monitor against the baseline with variance and predicted outturn being considered at each Board meeting.

  • We have been struggling to arrange a meeting that everyone can attend, to be hosted by Shey Cobley at Oxford, to consider the proposition for different professional disciplines and, particularly, young people. This now looks like happening on 4th March.

After the Board meeting, Mark Barber, from KPMG, joined Adrian, David Bryant, David Houston and myself at Camden Town Hall to discuss potential collaboration or partnership in performance management. We agreed further discussion, of which more anon.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Some Progress, and Some Concerns

I’m feeling really buoyed-up after today’s Socitm National Advisory Council! There was ample challenge, but the discussion and debate was extremely constructive throughout. John Serle, the NAC Chair, and I met one-to-one for an hour, or so, ahead of the meeting, which was invaluable. John helped me to clarify my own thoughts on some of the questions of how to build membership value now that we have turned our attention from reorganisation and sustainability to effectively engaging our membership.

The first substantive agenda item was the President’s report, which I used the draft Position Statement to frame, introducing proposals on the way forward that John’s advice helped to formulate. The essential points were to channel communications through the regions and, particularly, the regional Chairs, and that the Executive should develop propositions to the NAC on the ways in which issues, such as membership segmentation and special interest groups, should be organised, rather than the other way around. Sometimes, you can’t see the woods for the trees!

Some other key areas of guidance from the NAC were in agreeing regional themes, involving members in effective influence and lobbying through Expert Panels and in less communications “noise” and more discriminating use and moderation of discussion forums.

I’m not going to play-out the whole meeting, here; the minutes, as always, will be published to the membership as soon as they are ready. I do expect, however, the board, tomorrow, will endorse a number of initiatives based on NAC members’ advice. The timing of this month’s board to immediately follow the NAC looks-like being the right approach, and we’re planning futures meetings to follow the same arrangement. John, Glyn Evans – the Chair of Socitm Futures – and I previously agreed to meet to ensure the working relationship is clear and effective, and we’re now arranging this as soon as possible. Steve Palmer will join as to ensure continuity as we approach his Presidency.

After the NAC I went to meet with Natalie Smith, of PAConsulting, at their offices in Buckingham Palace Road. PA was recruited, by the DCSF, to provide programme management and support for the EAS (Employee Authentication Services) roll-out. The DCSF aims to recruit 50 Councils to “onboard”, as they call-it, EAS by April. Socitm is generally supportive of the development and we were pleased to be consulted about the proposals early on, as I have previously reported. However, I’m now concerned that the project that’s developed is hugely ambitious; it appears to be making the same mistake as Government Connect in requiring Local Authorities to commit to activity that they’ve had no opportunity to budget for. Councils are meeting, “as we speak” to agree 2009/10 budgets and set Council Tax rates, and it’s now too late for them to provide for the cost implications of implementing EAS.

EAS makes tremendous sense – provided it is integrated with Government Connect. Some of the biggest problems in the CoCo requirements are in supporting flexible working using mobile devices and personally owned equipment using technology such as terminal services. EAS should be able to provide an appropriate authentication solution to these problems.

I committed Socitm to help in the Communications programme by asking regions to provide presentation slots in their events programme early in the year, in including publicity material in our broadcasts, and in helping to recruit volunteers to be early adopters. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are not attuned to the real concerns that are bound to materialise. The rollout of Contact Point, already long delayed, will be reliant on EAS. Again, this is clearly the right solution, but engagement plans must be practical.

There is an EAS Board meeting, next week, which I’m unable to attend, but hope to arrange Socitm representation at. There are also a number of Community of Interest Working Groups coming-up, which we’ll be represented in. Do, please, let me have your views on how we should proceed.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009


Today was one of those that didn’t go as planned.

A planned meeting at Newham Town Hall fell-through because of sickness, so I worked there on correspondence, before driving to Stratford for a network infrastructure update meeting, over lunch, with Richard Carde and Greenwich’s Henri Reinbolt.

After lunch I met with James Lee for an update on PSMP and associated network issues. We are up to 10,000 unique users on the Newham PSMP, which will include the TfL Journey Planner from next Monday.

A planned Teleconference with a BCS colleague did not materialise, and dinner with a Microsoft colleague was cancelled because of sickness. However, I stayed in town, and met-up with Adrian Hancock, David Houston and John Serle. We had dinner at Busaba Eathai, and discussed Socitm and continuing challenges before us.

Ian Dunmore, from Public Sector Forums, called me yesterday to let me know he had lodged a Freedom of Information query with the Central Office of Information, asking questions such as the grounds for granting Socitm its .gov domain name and, sure enough, we heard, today, from the COI that the request was received. That’s an irritation that we could well do without at this time, but hey-ho.

The OGC has now launched tools that are aimed at improving the chances of ICT procurement success. Its “pre-qualification” tool is for internal use – the sort of thing you would expect to see in a business case before getting the go-ahead to start procurement.

Also, the Information Commissioner’s Office launched a model publication scheme. This is the link for the scheme applying to “principal” Local Authorities.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Government CTOs visit MS Research Labs.

Today I had a longstanding commitment to visit, with the CTO Council and a few CIO Council members, the Microsoft Research Laboratories at Cambridge. Although two other important SOCITM meetings – Socitm Futures and the Membership Board - had subsequently been arranged, I decided to keep the Microsoft appointment as such opportunities to engage “en masse” with other senior government colleagues are few and far between.

Nicola Hodson, Microsoft’s Public Sector General Manager (who replaced Terry Smith) and Andrew Stott, the Cabinet Office Head of Service Transformation, and Deputy Government CIO, introduced the meeting.

Then Bob Hayes explained that he is currently the only UK member of the seven-member Microsoft Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments, which was established in the States after 9/11, and extended to the UK in November 2007.

Early on the question of the ponderous development of Windows Mobile, and inadequate security, came-up. This, we are promised, is being addressed in Windows 7; “significant work is ongoing and security will be addressed whilst maintaining rich functionality”.

Otherwise, some of the points I thought more noteworthy from quite a packed day were:
  • In his research overview, Andrew Herbert, the Managing Director of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, told us that the Labs recruit 80 Ph.D interns per year. (From a population of a billion, India had only 64 graduates last year, which I thought interesting given the preponderance of “Shift Happens” presentations, last year, reflecting graduates’ inability to pay to continue studies; so Microsoft Research in India has become a degree-awarding body.)
  • Among projects that have developed from one research partnership programme is one to preserve electronic archives by virtualising all previous operating systems to enable the archives to be viewed using old and new technologies supporting questions like “what was life like” as well as maximising the utility of material through exploitation of contemporary technology.
  • A lot of the presentations involved developments in photography/ video – using parallax to determine positioning and depth enabling addition and/or subtraction of content, for example. Incidentally, “Geosynth” an offline version of Photosynth, is now available for Government. A suggested application was enabling effective scene-of-crime presentations to Juries, which is something I remember being discussed as a problem when I was involved, some time ago, in a project with the Met. Police.
  • Other presentations included “Deep Zoom”, “HD View” and SenseCam.
  • Computer mediated applications are becoming more humanistic, adaptive immersive etc…
  • You can now install Virtual Earth behind your Firewall, but if you want data for the whole world, it’s 17 petabytes!
  • Windows Azure (now being tested by some partners in pre-beta form, otherwise known as “Community Technology Preview”) was positioned as the Windows operating system for the Cloud.
  • Azure and Microsoft Online Services presentations clearly signalled the company’s intentions to move into direct services offerings. There would, we were told, be no bespoke contracts – i.e. technology refresh and new software versions, will be automatic – and the current position is that hosting will be offered only from Microsoft’s own Data Centres!
  • This fed neatly into a truly impressive presentation of Microsoft Data Centre developments, driving down costs and energy efficiency.

I thought the day worthwhile, and there was a lot I’d like to follow-up, not least from a Socitm Futures perspective. I hope to participate in other cross-government supplier engagements to help inform the prospective government technology roadmap.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Tough Get Going...

The Socitm Events Team met at Bucks County’s HQ in Aylesbury.

It’s confirmed that we will be running a spring event at Stoneleigh Park on 23rd April, which will incorporate the Society’s Annual General Meeting. Put it in your diaries!

The event title is, as I write, work in progress, but may be prefaced “UK”, since a federal organisation is among the considerations that I’m now leading consultation upon, and this could be among the matters for decision at the AGM.

Prices for both this, and the annual conference in Edinburgh (11th to 13 the October) will be held at previous levels. However, we’re also considering “bundles” to incorporate membership (for those not already members) and discounting for multiple attendees from the same organisation. This matter has been referred to the Membership Board (which meets next week) for guidance.

The conference will incorporate a small exhibition of, probably, around 20 stands, and a new initiative, this year, will be a programme of 15 minute supplier presentations/ demonstrations as optional alternatives to the main plenary theme.

The outline programme will be included in a press release within the next 2-3 weeks, but will include third sector and contemporary content, including how to gain advantage using ICT in a financial crisis!

The Credit Crunch will be uppermost in our minds, next week, when a number of key meetings for Socitm take place. These include the National Advisory Council, and the membership, commercial and main boards. There can be few who benefit from the financial crisis and its timing for Socitm – just as it was switching from “survival mode” to building the business – certainly is not great. Decisions we make in the next few weeks will be critical not only to our ability to deliver upon the new responsibilities that we’ve taken-on, but also to our long-term existence.

I remain confident that we will survive and prosper as an organisation through whose membership ICT will cement its preeminent role in business effectiveness, but it would be foolhardy and irresponsible to downplay the challenges and risks that we face!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Public Sector Infrastructure Optimism

The minutes of today’s Local CIO Council at the School of Government will be published on the Socitm website. In the meantime, the following were the main items in a packed agenda.

The DWP’s Philip Littleavon attended and we had a full and frank discussion of the CoCo issues, and a pragmatic way forward. Socitm remains committed to support the programme, but we obviously voiced our dismay about the delay in assembling the promised support package. There was appreciation of the difficulties on either side, and agreement to continue working together to overcome them. I’m glad to say that Philip developed his presentation to make links with other infrastructure projects, such as the Public Services Network (also presented) that will see Government Connect develop to be the security framework for all intra-Government transactions.

John Stubley’s PSN presentation majored on the Ocean project, which was impressive. There is clearly a well-developed vision behind this “network of networks”, but my main comment was that this should be published and developed to link in all the current government infrastructure projects that have their roots in silo’d initiatives. There’s full information about the Public Sector Network and Ocean procurement on the CIO Council website. Open Government!

Rob Anderson from OGC Buying Solutions attended to present the proposed framework for the Microsoft Licensing Agreement. The initial feedback was unanimously positive, although we need to spend some time testing the model against all requirements. The proposal will be presented to a Microsoft Project Board meeting on 21st of this month for endorsement. I’ll say no more, for the present, as I’m not supposed to be saying anything at all! However, I remain optimistic about this project as a model for joined-up Government procurement, with the proviso that all of Government really must join-in.

Roy Marshall, CIO for the DCLG, and a member of the Central CIO Council, attended to support these items. The Group later agreed to invite Roy to join the Local CIO Council as a permanent member in the interests of strengthening cross-representation.

Other guests, today, included Kevin Hayes, from the CESG, and William Barker from DCLG.

I got home at 5.00 and was invited by my daughter, Kim, to go running with her. Well, I’ve been meaning to start doing something about getting myself fit again so… I survived... just!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Get More Social!

Thanks for comments on my Blog, advising me that the bracelet for people with dementia was developed by Medical Intelligence in Canada, with whom Orange, particularly in France, have a distribution agreement - and also advising of other TeleCare resources.

CIOs have been told to get more social, including “prolific use” of social networking. I think that includes use of Blogs; I’ve added a “followers” gadget on the Blogspot version of the Socitm President’s Blog, and would love readers to use it to let me know if they are there!

What’s in a word or acronym? SOA, we are told, is out!

I’ll be chatting, tonight, to Philip Littleavon about progress in the new support arrangements for Government Connect and CoCo. I hope this won’t be the last chance to apply for funding.

The draft Socitm Position Statement has been sent to Socitm National Advisory Council; the Board hopes to gain its endorsement at next Wednesday’s NAC meeting.

I worked from home until time to set-off for Sunningdale for tomorrow’s Local CIO Council meeting.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

In the Big Freeze, reminded of the "Big Stink"

I met, at Direct House, with Paul Waller and Louise Bazalgette of the Digital Inclusion Team. (I didn’t notice your last name in our meeting, Louise. Is Sir Joseph among your ancestors?) We agreed there is much that Socitm can do in helping to promote the effective use of ICT to support Social Equality, particularly through making links to the relevant National Indicators. These included asking all regions to invite the Team to present as part of this year’s local events programme, carrying articles in our newsletter, signposting other relevant media, and facilitating discussion and debate. I will also endeavour to represent the Team’s work in meetings I have with other peer groups and stakeholders.

We also discussed linking into Newham’s work, particularly in TeleCare and TeleHealth and will brief Martin Scarfe who wasn’t able to make our meeting. As ever, much of our discussion hinged upon the requirement for universal broadband coverage. Louise told me about work the Team is supporting in the Aldgate area of the City of London, where they are proposing to use data over power circuits, and we agreed to stay in-touch concerning developments. Paul told me about a bracelet, developed by Orange, to help locate vulnerable people – e.g. Alzheimer’s sufferers – who may be lost, of which I was unaware. I would think we should use this in Newham’s planned TeleCare dementia trial. He also told me of Hull’s digital TV developments providing support to vulnerable groups, known as “Stream”.

More about the Digital Inclusion Team’s work, available tools, research, consultation and reports is at

John Price and his colleague, Rupert Green, from Logicalis, met with Geoff and I to follow-up on a contact we made at the Socitm Conference. We talked mostly about Logicalis’s approach to (data centre) virtualisation. Its Grace product seems of particular interest.

In the afternoon Adrian, Martin Fuggles and I met with Charlotte Gooch and four of her colleagues from Guardian Professional at their smart new offices near Kings Cross. (Actually, they are still based at their Farringdon offices, which are altogether different!) We had a very productive meeting in furtherance of the Socitm Events Working Group’s exploration of the Society’s future approach to events management. It became clear that there are a range of partnership possibilities, and we agreed upon further exchange of information and follow-up actions on either side.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Gordon's Square Deal

It’s heartening to know, as we embark upon a new year that seems especially uncertain for many of us, that our Prime Minister has a plan.

“Brown suggested that infrastructure such as high-speed broadband could be the modern equivalent of Roosevelt's programme: ‘When we talk about the roads and the bridges and the railways that were built in previous times - and those were anti-recession measures taken to help people through difficult times - you could [by comparison] talk about the digital infrastructure and that form of communications revolution at a period when we want to stimulate the economy. It's a very important thing.’”

I can’t argue with that, and although the article was based on a (Guardian) press interview, and is not a formal policy announcement, am slightly encouraged!

I was in touch with Professor David Hircock over the holiday. (He and his family spent Christmas in the UK.) No – we haven’t forgotten about the International Social Justice Campaign, and hope to have further news soon. In the meantime, I’ve written to LOLA colleagues asking them to set-up a discussion forum, which I will signpost when it’s ready.

We heard, over the holiday, that BCS members voted strongly in favour (91.2%) of the proposal to enable BCS to establish a registration body that can license other bodies to award the Society's CITP status. So we are, hopefully, a step closer to enabling Socitm to award Chartered IT Professional status.

Today, it was back to work from home – mostly on a draft of the “Position Statement” that the December Board agreed to produce. I hope we’ll be in a position to agree and publish this before the end of the month.

All the best for 2009!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Hey Ho...

Today was one of those that didn’t go as planned.

A planned meeting at Newham Town Hall fell-through because of sickness, so I worked there on correspondence, before driving to Stratford for a network infrastructure update meeting, over lunch, with Richard Carde and Greenwich’s Henri Reinbolt.

After lunch I met with James Lee for an update on PSMP and associated network issues. We are up to 10,000 unique users on the Newham PSMP, which will include the TfL Journey Planner from next Monday.

A planned Teleconference with a BCS colleague did not materialise, and dinner with a Microsoft colleague was cancelled because of sickness. However, I stayed in town, and met-up with Adrian Hancock, David Houston and John Serle. We had dinner at Busaba Eathai, and discussed Socitm and continuing challenges before us.

Ian Dunmore, from Public Sector Forums, called me yesterday to let me know he had lodged a Freedom of Information query with the Central Office of Information, asking questions such as the grounds for granting Socitm its .gov domain name and, sure enough, we heard, today, from the COI that the request was received. That’s an irritation that we could well do without at this time, but hey-ho.

The OGC has now launched tools that are aimed at improving the chances of ICT procurement success. Its “pre-qualification” tool is for internal use – the sort of thing you would expect to see in a business case before getting the go-ahead to start procurement.

Also, the Information Commissioner’s Office launched a model publication scheme. This is the link for the scheme applying to “principal” Local Authorities.