Friday, 27 February 2009
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
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
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
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
Today (Friday) I’ve finished the latest President’s Report, drafted an article for a feature in www.parliamentarybrief.com , 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
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 email@example.com (even if already advised to the Account Manager) - without delay. Codes of Connection should be submitted to GCtech.firstname.lastname@example.org, (even if already given to the Account Manager).
Tuesday, 17 February 2009
I agreed that Socitm would help to recruit volunteers to form a Reference Group, which Newham is prepared to Chair, to help refine the design and testing requirements.
On Tuesday, I spoke in the “Transformation & the Role of Technology” stream, chaired by Steve Palmer, at Osney Media’s Public Sector Transformation Summit at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, Hyde Park. Glyn Evans followed me, and we both joined a panel with other speakers to round off the morning programme.
Unfortunately, the three of us missed the Plenary sessions because we were meeting, in the Hotel Lobby, with Adrian Hancock and John Serle, to ensure we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet concerning the ways in which the National Advisory Council (chaired by John) and Socitm Futures (chaired by Glyn) work together, and their respective remits. I’ll say a little more about this in the President’s Report that I’m currently working on. However, it has been agreed that the March 9th Socitm Futures meeting will be a Workshop to review the top two Policy Priorities – Information Management / Assurance/ Resilience, and pan-Government Security Vision – with the aim of agreeing objectives, methodology, outputs/ products and the delivery plan for each. Martin Ferguson has agreed to facilitate.
Mike Simons, the Editor of ComputerWorldUK, sent me a note containing this link, which he thought I’d be interested in. I have to confess that this story about the proposed “Coroners and Justice Bill” had passed me by, but I am now not only interested, but quite alarmed at what seems to be being proposed. The BCS seems to have done a good job in producing an emphatic response, which I believe Socitm would want to support.
There is a commentary on the bill, which proposes major amendments to the Data Protection Act, and may override any other existing legislation that impedes its intention, at http://www.amberhawk.com/uploads/datasharing%20explain_website.pdf Of course, there will be other views and perspectives that I’ll gladly reflect here, but this does seem a subject that deserves our attention.
Friday, 13 February 2009
Today’s scheduled Government Connect Benefits Realisation Awards Ratification Committee was again postponed.
Philip Littleavon wrote, today, to GC Board members acknowledging that “there has been a fair amount of discussion and concern about the recent batch of letters to local authorities”. As he and Paul Howarth (Head of the DWP Housing Strategy Division) now see it, key issues going forward are:
- “Paul & I to agree and communicate a clear documented message with respect to the DWP data access policy defining what authorities should do if they feel they will not achieve compliance by 31 March. Also to describe the position if compliance is achieved by 31 March, but the live configuration process extends beyond this date.
- “It is now unlikely further bulk communications will be necessary, but GC will look to work closely with the LGA / Socitm / IDeA to help with authorities we perceive to be at risk or not engaging sufficiently well. It is important that all discussions are closely coordinated with Anna Smith to ensure clarity and coordination.”
Have a good weekend.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
The main investment proposals are in appointing a Commercial & Business Development Director (working title) and a London-based Head of Policy. The former role is to manage business partnerships and oversight of commercial operations, generating revenue for member services and, therefore, more than self-funding. Directors approved, in principle. The final decision will be made by the Commercial Board on 23rd February. The Policy role is required to maintain and develop dialogue with key stakeholders (especially in Government) and to facilitate appropriate policy development through Socitm Futures. This will cover some of the role that I’ve been undertaking, as I return to my “day job”. Directors approved the policy role initially on a contract basis, with a review after six months, and accepted that this could be funded by reserves, with an expectation that funding would be provided by commercial income in the longer term. Although the Board recognises that much of the Society’s work will be undertaken by paid resources, it re-emphasised its need for active support from serving ICT professionals, whose experience cannot be substituted.
Other financial considerations, today, were in reviewing and formalising current public relations, marketing and sales support – remaining areas where we don’t have up-to-date contracts.
Other noteworthy items of discussion were:
- The problems with our financial management system (Iris) have been overcome. It’s now integrated with the new CRM, and is just going fully “live”.
- The focus, now, is in getting the new CMS operational. In order to secure early benefits the initial process, now, will be “migration, rather than transformation”.
- We are implementing a recommendation from our recent Director Training course – a register of hospitality/ gifts received.
- For the first time, our annual accounts will include a detailed annual report, which is nearing completion.
- The National Spring Conference is shaping-up well. The AGM report will feature developments in Member Services.
- The Member Services Board would like the NAC to form a Reference Group of volunteers to consider membership applications, appeals etc.
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
I'm bemused at this development, which I hope to meet with the Chair to discuss. I believe I have a duty as a Socitm representative to report my activities on its behalf (and that as a CIO I have similar responsibilities as a public servant). Whilst there will always be occasions when we cannot divulge information that may compromise requirements such as commercial discussions or security, I did not think that any of these applied. On the other hand, it was clear that there is a real need to engender appreciation of and active support for effective Government Information Assurance.
On Tuesday of this week I met Philip Littleavon and Simon Norbury and, although I haven't yet discussed how/who/when with Richard, I want to make sure that we don't lose focus or momentum on this. I know that locally where I work we were a bit upset by the tone of some contact from GC but we see the worth of finally getting everyone linked as a start to building the linkages across the public sector that can help enable the transformation agenda. The Society will, amongst other roles, continue to be a "critical friend" to the programme but it is in all of our longer term interests to make this happen. There is no doubt that Philip and Simon want Socitm to succeed and our discussions were both positive and constructive.
The GC work also raises an important issue for us as a Society however. In every area where we want to have influence it is important to show to others the Society's worth in being involved at the earliest stages of policy and initiatives development. For too long we have been on the back foot and commenting on other people's (particularly central government) ideas and proposals rather than being in there help shaping them in ways that we can work with and that make sense locally. Your Board will be considering how we make sure this happens. I know that GC doesn't apply to many of our members but early engagement regardless of where we are geographically located and who our local, regional or national government is has to be worth pursuing vigorously.
Work is also progressing on the detail and logistics of the 1 day national event on 23rd April. It will be a good day and we have secured Tony Travers and former MP Richard Allan as two of our headline "acts". With a mix of case studies and major strategic issues it will be both informative and participative and I urge members to support it. On the day we will also be holding the Society's AGM including any necessary elections. Be there, have your say and use your vote.
Socitm Board is tomorrow as I write this but next Tuesday gives me my opportunity to "get my own back". I'm chairing a worksstream at an event that features its first 2 speakers as our own Richard Steel and Glyn Evans.
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
Three news articles interested me because of the different perceptions of ICT they reflect. Whilst there’s a view that flexible working enabled by ICT proved its worth in last week’s winter storms and resultant transport disruption, and a majority of public sector employees believe that ICT can help drive down costs, CIOs believe that businesses are ignoring the potential benefits of high-performance networks, and (because?) they have only a middling influence on business strategy. Together, these represent a fair summary of the state of our art, in my view, and draw attention to the key areas in which we need to develop our skills.
Socitm has now received a number of responses to its broadcast about the Government Connect letters that were recently sent to many Authorities concerning CoCo compliance progress. Thanks to all respondents. Some have expressed anger and frustration - which we will be discussing with the team - and one plaudit, was received. Additionally, Philip Littleavon (Programme Director) has replied to a note of mine as follows. (Reproduced with Philip’s permission.)
“We have had a mixed response to the last (Jan 30) letter, but not all (or majority) bad. Roughly 130 responses received out of about 180 requested. Of those that responded about 15 could be categorised as "very disappointed.." and we've said sorry where appropriate, but all of these authorities are doing quite well. The majority were OK and we have had a few plaudits as well. Within the 130 there are a handful that are clearly at risk of not achieving compliance on time.
“Whilst accepting that a few feathers have been ruffled and that we clearly got some facts wrong (eg., some lost responses to the 21 November mailing) the process has moved us on enormously. The acceleration in progress we have experienced is incredible. Currently receiving c. 40 CoCo updates per day!
“We are still collating and analysing, but I have concerns in a couple of areas.
1. Those that did not respond (c.50)
2. Those that did not respond to the previous mailing (c.11). These (on paper) have made least progress.
“We will need to keep working on these Councils until a clear statement emerges. Of course we risk more annoyance.”
We will respond to all the Authorities that contacted us letting them know what action is taken.
On Tuesday, with James Lee and Ian Tomson-Smith of SNT Consulting, Richard Carde and I had back-to-back meetings with Orange and TfL.
We met Bob Pisolkar, Orange’s Public Sector Divisional Business Manager, and Sean Harney, Business Development Manager, to discuss engagement in related areas that include a technology roadmap workshop, commercialisation and market intelligence.
Vince Tooke, from TfL joined us to discuss PSMP project progress and how we address issues such as Programme Governance, Marketing and PR, development priorities and exemplification of a standard business case. We also reviewed related work on the network infrastructure and Data Centre.
Sunday, 8 February 2009
I arrived at the Park Avenue Hotel, the event venue, in time for the morning coffee break. There was a good turn-out in spite of the inclement weather.
The agenda mostly concerned utilising Web 2.0 technologies. Dave Newman, from Queen’s University, presented on its e-consultation research project. I can’t quite remember how he got to it, but the presentation included this YouTube video of a busy junction, probably in India, which excited a lot of interest!
Caron Alexander, the N. Ireland Chair, had already circulated the Socitm Position Statement, which I again plugged in a short update.
After lunch, I stayed for the Committee’s meeting, and we discussed the proposal for a federal society. There were some concerns about the ability to maintain local relevance whilst supporting Socitm UK core themes, but colleagues supported the proposal and agreed to participate in a UK workshop to develop the detail.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
I met Ben Rowland of Tribal (formerly RSe) for a catch-up at his office near Tottenham Court Road. There are some potential areas of collaboration, and we’ll be meeting again in May to consider further – by when I hope we’ll be in a better position to resource any agreed action.
Technology and telecare could transform dementia services. A trial is planned in NeAT.
There is a “Directgov Innovate” site with a “School Closures Alpha Demonstrator” at http://schoolclosures.org.uk/ to help answer quickly and simply which schools are open - in times of inclement weather, for example. (It’s closed for maintenance, as I write, ‘though.) I've added feeds from the site in the right column of this Blog.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Today was a scheduled home-working day, which has turned-out to be a very long one. External e-mail was delayed in the day, giving me the chance to get on with some other work – mainly planning for upcoming meetings – but then correspondence, some urgent, started arriving through the evening. Some concerned Government Connect, and further letters being sent by the Programme Office, which I knew were planned, as I explained in this Blog on Friday. Given the latest correspondence, ‘though, we will be writing to members in a Socitm broadcast, tomorrow, along the following lines.
Socitm accepts that the history of GC has not been ideal from a local government perspective and that had earlier advice from our members been taken we could have progressed far more efficiently. However we also acknowledge that, recently, many significant steps have been taken to ensure that GC is the best sustainable solution to meet the needs of local and central government and we are therefore supporting the GC team in implementing the solution as swiftly as possible. A number of our members have contacted us and commented on the tone of some recent correspondence from Government Connect. Our understanding is that GC has acted responsibly and that authorities, who have responded to requests for information, requested assistance and/or given legitimate reasons for missing deadlines have been offered appropriate levels of support. If this is not the case and any of our members can effectively demonstrate that it has not been we will happily, upon receipt of evidence, take this up as a matter of urgency with the GC Director.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Adrian Hancock and Elaine Davis met me at Direct House for a session on Business Partnership planning, and Steve Jones joined by audio-conference. Elaine and her husband flew-into Gatwick, yesterday, and will be in the UK for the next six weeks, during which time she will be working with the Events Team on the Spring Conference. We had a good meeting covering the partnership menu, revenue management, marketing and account management, sales, remuneration and data management.
We’ll continue to work on the proposition in the next two weeks, developing thinking on issues like the requirement for a commercial management role, and will meet again on 19th February, with a view to agreeing proposals to take to the Commercial Board on the 23rd.
The Government-sponsored “Power of Information Taskforce”, chaired by Richard Allan, former MP for Sheffield Hallam, has released a “beta version” of a report on liberalising non-personal government information. Richard will be speaking on “Unlocking the Power of Local Information” at the Socitm Spring Conference.
Coincidentally, I had a ‘phone conversation, today, with Richard Quarrell, about the PSIPHON project (to create tools to automate the creation of registers of public sector organisations’ Information Assets) that he and Adrian Norman presented to a Socitm Futures meeting, last November. To my great disappointment we (Socitm) have so far failed to progress the Working Party we committed to at that meeting. I arranged to meet with Richard on 16th to plan how to take this forward.
Monday, 2 February 2009
So, now am up-straight with correspondence again!