Friday, 30 October 2009

Plan to close polling stations early?

It's all over the papers, although i know they are only plans at present - in order to try and save a measly million or few they (really, who are they?) have applied their combined brain power, reaching almost double figures on the IQ scale and come up with a plan to close polling stations early during elections! See

Now I am not one to knock government unnecessarily, they do some good stuff and have a pretty daunting task, BUT, when we hear about the ridiculous, inefficient, apparently uncoordinated projects that fail, run over budget or behind time and cost hundreds of millions or even billions, you can't help thinking can you?

PFI projects going over budget by the bucket load: ,

The MoD at least a couple of billion askew. I know the defence of the realm is critical,(although so is democracy) but perhaps the best way to ensure both are well run projects delivering what they set out to deliver, on time and on budget - or am I being unbelievably naive? 

Meeting with health service colleagues recently (couldn't possibly say where....) I heard, first hand, about the most inefficient, ineffective and wasteful practices around IT commissioning and implementation, with millions being thrown away......

Perhaps the left hand of government really does not know what the right hand is doing. Should we act as 'match makers' -
"you know that £60 M you want to save - why not have a chat with him or her...."

To finish on a realistic note, I realise and acknowledge that there are some really good innovative, operational government IT initiatives - and am grateful for them, but what really ticks many of us off is when government try to use the fact that there are some, maybe many, successes to somehow cover over or avoid the implications of those that have failed that, for the want of better management, need not have done so.

I'd like to believe that democratic engagement would not be affected for the sake of a few million whilst still throwing away billions elsewhere.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Spell checker needed

I think I will need to stop uploading from iPhone, get a spell checker or perhaps just learn to spell as I have just noticed all the spelling errors and typos in the iPhone posted articles..... live links?

Just discovered that items uploaded from iPhone don't seem to retain live hyperlinks.....?? Now why is that?

Lords and mice and Jiglu things

For once a sensible start time, 11am train to London. My first meeting was with Cap Gemini who we are partnering with later this month on a Technovision event, . It priomises to be very productive as we will be looking at the key business drivers for public service organisations as well as looking at links to our evolving council of the future initiative
Next it was off the the House of Lords for a meeting with Lord St John of Bletso who we will be forming a closer relationship with as a patron of Socitm. See his bio at . We continued the meeting in the bar where we were joined by a family of bold and energetic mice! (yes, you heard). Finally a pleasant evening with T Systems.

Tuesday morning and it was time to renegotiate the deal on my London residence - the Bloomsbury Park hotel - another deal sorted and accomodation secured for 2010.
As you may know, Socitm operates an online collaboration platform which we call GovX but which is actually based on a system called 'Jiglu' supplied by Kinomi who are one of our key partners. They were showing me details of the next couple of releases which arr extremely impressive and which I can see bring of great value to us and others. The main news is that they are focussing on the enterprise aspects of their product with some really funky and powerful additions to the family. There will be more about this shortly, we are certainly quite excited by what we have seen.
Now, it's catching up with an obscene number of e mails!

-- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, 23 October 2009

My week (or bits of it at least)

Mon 19th Another early start, that 5.56 from Darlington is my second home....sandwiched between the Bloomsbury Park hotel, which is my first home and ‘home’ which is where my wife lives! The first meeting, and thanks to Intellect for their continued support of Socitm through the use of their facilities ( ), was to cover the final details, where,as we know, the devil lives, around the new Socitm web site whose launch is imminent. As ever, whilst the technology is largely in place there are still areas around wording, branding and general appearance that are in need of attention. However, we will see the new site this year! This was followed by meetings with Intellect at which we explored how best to develop the relationship we have in order to offer more benefit to both organisations and their respective members and then a catch with Martin Ferguson.

Tues 20th Following a recent soire at the Irish embassy I had a follow up meeting with Enterprise Ireland. It was a very constructive meeting during which we explored ways in which Socitm could perhaps play a part in bringing innovative companies and solutions to the attention of our members, particularly those solutions that come with recomendations of work well done from one or more of our memebrship. There is certainly a part the Society could play to ensure that SME’s get a fair crack of the whip when procurement time comes around. This is particularly relevent when the projects are smaller and/or require agliity, personal relationship and flexibility. We agreed that discssions with EI , who are members, should continue as the relationship is likely to offer mutual benefit.

Wed 21st It’s back on the early train for a commercial board meeting where we hopefully ensure that the Society is on track in terms of its business planning, future projections and revenue generation. The board covered a broad range of topics with a particularly useful discussion around ‘harmonizing’ the Consulting and Insight workstreams and messages and ensuring that there are strong linkages between our policy initiatives and the Socitm Futures programme. We also emphasised the message that the Council of the Future initiative sits withing the broader policy concept of ‘Tomorrows public service organisation’ and that this would develop in time to cover a range of ‘of the future’ programmes, probably in collaboration with appropriate partner organisations. It was also suggested, to the general agreement of the group, that an ‘environmental audit’ is something the Society would benefit from. This is not the green agenda raising its head in the workings of the Society (nothing wrong if it did, this just isn’t it) but the thought of auditing the general policy and technology environment in which we operate and identifying linkages, dependencies, risks and change consequences across all significant areas.

The end of the week sees me in Northampton with the office staff and corporate services team. This is the group whose job it is to ensure the smooth running of all infrastructure and administrative areas of the Society. OK, it may not be the sexy end of things, but try running an organisation without it. The staff are brilliant as they seem to squeeze more minutes into an hour and hours into a day than should be possible. We are building a great team which is good to be part of and it really is a foundation for future plans. Now, the thorny topic of the new Socitm website (i have seen it referred to as the ‘mythical new web site’ and the ‘website in the cloud(s)’ ) did consume a minute or two of our discussions. Those of you who visited our stand #socitm09 may well have seen it up and running and we are now in the final stages of tying down some of the thornier issues of integration with the back office (thanks again to the internal team, Gold Vision and Jadu )....and have we found the devil in some of that detail! But, it will be live, integrated and running before the end of the year , honest guv.

I am sitting on the train catching up with e mails and following #lgclincoln where there is some good stuff happening which I am about to retweet.

Happy weekends, sunny at the moment so may even get my motorbike aired for the last time this year, being of a fair and warm weather persuasion.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

An unreformation?

This drama, or is it farce, involving the Cangolics (or will they be Cathlicans?) is going to run for ages and provide hours of fun. It's like the catholic church has spent the 400 or so years since the reformation trying to come up with ways to reverse the worrisome trend - and you know what they say - when in Rome do what the desperate do!
And what on earth is a 'Holy See'?
Anyway, the times raises a slight inconvenience for would be Anglican defecting holy types - an Anglican currently gets £22.5k and a free house whereas a Catholic gets £8k if they're lucky. But I'm sure it won't come down to anything as tacky as money! There are, apparently, important principles at stake. Anyway back to the comedy, or tradgedy depending on your point of view. I wonder what I can offer by way of incentive to entice dissaffected members of competitor organisations to move to us? Not sure yet but I hope I can come up with an idea in less than 400 years!

-- Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

10 reasons why social media will not replace e mail?

I was pointed to this blog post from Stephen Dale (@stephendale ), by @sharonodea looking at reasons why social media would not replace e mail: .

They are all good reasons, so no probs with Stephens article, but who has said they think social media will take over in this respect? I can't imagine why they would think that as the two mediums seem, at present, to fulfil pretty different roles in our lives. It is a bit like soeone claiming that apples will replace kit kats and here are 10 reasons why they won't - OK so they are both foodstuff, but hardly comparing apples with apples is it?

Innovation talk in the ether

I have just followed a new hashtag (#innovation) that i picked up from @SmartStorming and although there is a pretty mixed bag of stuff there is certainly some material worth reading and links worth following. I picked one up called Innovation in a recession which is worth a read: and there are also some items from Gartner and Harvard that are interesting.

A modern parable?

Well, it seems to have hit the fan in ecclesiastical circles....with papal 'bull' causing consternation among the increasingly confused and confusing clergy. Some of the language used is read 'Petrine ministry' and 'discomfiture' in adjacent sentences has got to be a rarity, and then we go from 'decisive moment' to 'disastrous decision' within half a dozen words. And, wait for it, Pope Benedict wants to make Christian unity part of his legacy - what bit of unity do you think he doesn't get?  Oh, and it gets better, apparantly the planning for all this was done by the group formerly known as the 'Holy Inquisition' - now there's a crowd who had unity at the forefront of their vision!! (OK, so they don't go by that name anymore, having chosen the snappily titled 'Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith'). However, at the press conference the 'Council for Christian Unity' went AWOL. Even as I am writing this I'm thinking 'why do I care'? The answer to which is partly historical and partly related the the title.

Even as a bemused onlooker to all things Anglican (or is that Catholic now?) there is a sense in which an institution that has actually been a tremendous force for good and for radical social change should descend to the point where, as an institution, they have no sense of real purpose, with so much energy spent on balancing atop of 1000 fences. Perhaps the tale will become known as the descent into irrelevency?
There are, however, many individuals who still believe in what they are doing and by all accounts are doing it very well with a strong sense of vision, purpose and calling. I am inclined to think that the church will be leaner, meaner and stronger ( well not really meaner), once the whole bunch of misguided ,whinging, women denying clerics have jumped ship to an even bigger but, if this is possible, even more irrelevent dinosaur. This may even elicit (quiet and subtle) sighs of relief from many.

The second point, related to the title, is that there is almost a parable here, or is it a farce (I never was strong on identifying literary genres) on the perils of weak (albeit sincere) organisational leadership with no identifiable unifying vision or purpose whose sole aim it would seem is to hold everything together at all costs without any serious analysis of what was worth holding in the first place.

As I'm neither an Anglican or a Catholic and never likely to be either, these observations are really quite agnostic in that I am not actually too bothered what the Catholics do with the particular constituency of Anglican (soon to be former Anglican) defectors. Much of the talking and activity of both the organisations seems to be perceived as increasingly irrelevent or newsworthy for all the wrong reasons but there are always lessons to be learnt by those of us who can, for the moment, occupy the relatively safe role of the 'sniper'. 

Monday, 19 October 2009

Feel good story

Well done Jenson Button! What a great ending to a story that speaks of fantastic determination despite so many setbacks (although £24 million over 3  years isn't bad either) and there is another news story of mixed value (Times2, Oct 19th) we can stop going to the gym because it doesn't help us keep 'trim' (that's the good bit)- although, apparently, I've actually got to eat less for that to happen (that's the not so good bit!)....I actually pre-empted the first bit by about 5 years but am working up to the second.

Following the mad conference activity in Edinburgh last weekend and the beginning of last week it was down to more mundane, although important, matters. I spent what turned out to be a very pleasant day with our legal and financial advisors looking at a range of plans and options for future developments within Socitm. It was made the more pleasant by the fact that it required a night in Lincoln......

and a particularly nice meal at the Wig & Mitre ( ).

This week, Oct 19th, starts with a meeting to 'finalise' details on the new Socitm website before our 'go live' later in the this space, followed by some planning around Socitm Consulting's Council of the Future comcept ( ) and discussions with Intellect about further developing the relationship between us. I also have a Commercial Board meeting , meetings with Enterprise Ireland and a Socitm Corporate Services Team meeting later in the week at which we will welcome our new Head of Membership, Ellen Jessett.....I'm looking forward to the weekend already (it's only 8 am on Monday morning). I'm sure some interesting stuff will come out of the week, of which more later in the week. Don't forget to log into and get engaged with discussions about relevance in a socially networked world. 

I can also recommend Prof. Peter Cochrane's website for loads of interesting stuff   

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Some conference quotes

I have been to a couple of conferences recently which have yielded some great provoking or just interesting quotes:

Adrian Joseph: cloud computing and its potential to be the most disruptive force in technology over the next 5 years #socitm09

In times of change learners will inherit the earth whilst the learned are only equipped to cope with a world that no longer exists #socitm09

Let's widen the space between the best, the average and the worst with regard to innovation. Much easier to identify them then! #socitm09

And a few from Peter Cochrane at the recent CCiTDG conference ( )

Surveys show that younger generation will opt for lower pay to work in leading edge, open, innovative organisations #ccitdg

What is cloud computing? according to Tim Berners-Lee it is the web the way it was meant to be.... #ccitdg

technology is personal like underwear & socks, if the company don't buy your underwear & socks why do they buy your pda & laptop?#ccitdg

The only human that likes change is a wet baby, and even they scream and cry through the whole process...#ccitdg

Are your new young employees going to be caged by your corporate IT or freed by it? change or die,

When Peter Cochrane's full presentation is available i will link it here.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

ning, interesting

Yet another find...this social networking world is full of interesting things....and ning ( ) is definitely one of them...not just interesting, useful as well....

Propositions to make you think

It may be a little late in life....but i have just been introduced by David Wilcox ( ) to a group of propositions from 'social by social'...propositions for a socially networked world, part of their practical guide to using new technologies to deliver social impact : ...plenty to think about here.

Open Socitm

I'm loving the stuff flowing out of socitm09 already. Thanks to Dave Briggs ( ) for starting a new ning group 'Open Socitm' ( ) go and have a look..and have your say.

I am increasingly persuaded of the incredibly significant role the concept of being 'socially networked' not simply will have, but is having on greater numbers of us. The technology aspects of this are pretty much unimportant compared to its cultural and social significance. It is these areas that institutions so often miss completely, or at least until it is too late and they spend the rest of their time playing catch up, but always a step behind where they need to be. It doesn't matter if we are talking about organising our own social and business lives, breaking barriers that older communication media have erected or (from a government perspective) getting serious about some meaningful engagement with otherwise unreached or uninterested sections of society, social networking is going to feature strongly in both the discussion and the solutiions.

There is a lot of talk about 'business cases' and such like, which is absolutely right so long as we don't forget that there were similar calls regarding the internet and e mail not that many years ago.... What excites me is the realisation that we are living in the early stages of a revolution whose impact will, arguably, exceed that of the industrial revolution (discuss)....and we are in a position not just to 'use' it, but to shape it and to explore evermore innovative applications.

Do I want us to be relevant in this area?...well yes, but more than that, to become one of the innovators within our sectors. Why would you want to put up with less?

So it's back to normal...

Arrived back from Socitm 09 (see #socitm09 ) and immediately began booking tickets and hotels for the rest of the week....and next week. Monday evening at the Gala Dinner was a great night. We had the IT Excellence Awards ( ) and, at the end, Fred Macaulay ( ). Good as the IT awards were...if I had to choose!  Fred started his routine with what can only be described as an entirely justifiable rant against those airlines that are coloured orange and those that operate a 'pay as you pee' policy...if ever there was a group of 500 people in absolute agreement and fits of laughter, this was it. As usual the celebrations, sorry, discussion of the topics, went on a little while!. All the conference highlights can be seen at . On Tuesday we announced the winner of our travel award, the Graham Williamson Challenge, which went to Scott Mansfield from Leeds City Council who will be travelling to Australia and telling us all about it via blog and twitter...more later.

Some of the sessions covering the use of social media got interesting as it seems there are still 'technology related' issues that generate pretty passionate responses on both sides...fireworks always make a seminar so much more interesting (except for the poor presenter....) Thanks Liz ( There were also some great reviews of the session delivered by our friend Suraj from Jadu ( ) who, as it happpens are partners of Socitm in our new website project which is about to be unveiled...

A great conference, looking forward to Brighton next year. now onto meetings with legal and financial advisors...hmm!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Edinburgh days (and nights coming up)

It hardly seems as though there was time to get home and say ccitdg before it was time to set off for Edinburgh for Socitm 09. If you are reading this and could not get to Edinburgh then you can 'get a flavour' at or view #socitm09 on twitter.

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in the world (despite the ongoing chaos caused by the construction of the new tram system) and the journey here was as scenic and pleasurable as it always is. After checking in to the hotel it was time to get ready for the first meal and reception where this year we welcomed a significant number of international guests. We have representatives and colleagues from a range of European partners as well as New Zealand, Australia the US and Canada.

Conference saw the 'launch' of our 'Council of the Future’initiative, which is the start of a broader focus on 'Tomorrows public services'. This is not only going to be an exciting journey, we are, after all at the beginning of an information revolution the impact and reach of which will be comparable to or greater than the industrial revolution, but also the central initiative for Socitm for the next 24-36 months. Shortly after conference we will also be launching Socitm TV, a web TV channel, as part of our ongoing commitment to explore all channels through which we can interact with members and partners. Anyway, the conference started with very good session from Geoff Mulgan, a full report of which can be found on

Following breakfast with one of my sons (who is studying in Edinburgh the morning began with a presentation from Adrian Joseph (MD, Google) covering issues around cloud computing. He dealt with the subject under 4 main areas:

1. Downturn increases relevance of Cloud computing

2. It will be the most disruptive technology over the next 5 years (in a good way)

3. It is prompting new questions ( some of which are bogus)

4. Takeup is increasing rapidly

There were interesting issues around the nature of real innovation and (good phrase coming up) the inevitability of innovation. Watch out for the full session report on See for a laugh.

Looking forward to the afternoon sessions and of course the Gala Dinner and Fred Macaulay ( More tomorrow....keep up via .

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing:
"it has the potential to revolutionize the way that computing power is delivered - the way we run our infrastructure, our costs, the collaboration tools available and the ease with which we manipulate information (Steve Palmer, CIO, Hillingdon & Socitm President)

"cloud computing has the potential to become the dominant model for how we deliver information based services for years to come."  Martin Bellamy, Cabinet Office)

It's conference season

I started this week with paperwork...which is not usually my favourite pastime! However, I was sorting out the details for the appointment of our new Head of Membership, Ellen Jessett, and working through CVs of applicants for another new role, Head of Business Relationships and Commercial Development. I am excited about the quality of the people who want to work with Socitm. It is a really positive sign that people hold our organisation in such high regard and want to invest in our future.

I met with Liz Azyan early evening (@Liz_Azyan if you are a twitterer) to discuss how Socitm can best use social media at socitm09 (#socitm09). We will be sending live streams from our key sessions which can be followed on our stream (@socitm) as well as Liz's own and a site constructed specifically for conference output (

There may be a lot of hype around about the benefits or potential benefits of social media but I am fully persuaded that the concept is 'going places' and that we will continue to explore how best to use it to the benefit of our members.

On Tuesday morning, quite appropriately in the light of the previous comments, I attended a breakfast briefing at the Law Society at which a speaker from SIFT ( ) outlined a range of ways in which social media could be, and has been, used to help membership organisations in their development. I was introduced to the wonders of 'twello','twilert','twtvite'and 'cover it live' - google them!

This meeting overran so I had to leave slightly early, and then arrive only slightly late, at the Insight steering group. There was the usual, but important, discussion concerning financial performance which is progressing according to budget, but we were particularly animated about the new concept of 'Tomorrow's public service organisation' and the Consulting strand of this 'The Council of the Future'. There was general agreement that this is the hook on which Socitm will hang its activities for the next 24 - 36 months.

Wednesday morning started with a conference call to Australia at 7.00 am. We are in discussions with a number of contacts in Australia, particularly an organisation called 'Know and Then'  ( There is the potential to advise on the development of a 'Socitm equivalent' down under and some really exciting international activites over the next 12 - 18 months which are being spearheaded by CLGF (Commonwealth Local Government Forum : )

Then it was on a train to Stratford upon Avon for the CCiTDG Conference (Charity Consortium IT Directors Group) with whom we have a growing relationship through our third sector community. Like local government the current financial situation demands the attention of the third sector, but unlike local government they have no legislative right to funds which makes their whole financial structure and budgeting regime so much more precarious yet they still have very significant IT infrastructure to maintain. It came as quite a surprise to me to learn that this sector often has a requirement for the innovative and effective application of technology that far outstrips anything we experience in government circles.

The theme for the conference was 'Making a difference in interesting times' although it rapidly became clear that a strong emerging sub theme was 'collaborate or perish'. I have created #ccitdg on twitter where you can see some of the 'nuggets'.

Oddly enough many of the charities present, larger and smaller, identified some key internal issues that they have to deal with as IT staff and departments: too few resources, too little budget, too little status....some of you may recognize that.

There were some interesting points about IT project implementation and it was stated by Edward Granger-Happ of Save the Children that restricting yourself to only building from the bottom up (although politically correct) will make it difficult if not impossible to acheive your objectives in the timescales. It was compared to building a suspension bridge by only starting from one side of the just isn't going to happen.It should not have come as much of a surprise to know that charites face very similar issues to local government in the whole area of IT and 'service delivery'but what was a surprise was the scale of some of the IT infrastructure and the innovative nature of solutions, often on a global scale.

And's off to Edinburgh on Saturday for Socitm09..hope to see you there. Remember,if you are not going you can follow on twitter ( ) and #socitm09 or the website