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
· http://www.recovery.gov/
· 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 http://www.warp.gov.uk/ ) 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!