Saturday, 23 January 2010

A week of politics, trends and a new website.......

Yet again it has been quite a week.....beginning with ethical and moral discussions on Facebook sparked by the cruise ship visit to Haiti. I retweeted an article from Twitter to Facebook, to which Richard Steel responded with some very good counter points, then when in Edinburgh I met my son who is studying Maths and Philosophy who greeted me with
 "Richard Steel made some very good points about the cruise ship"
and I am wondering how on earth my son knows Richard.....then it clicked that he reads my Facebook! (OK, so I'm slow).

On Tuesday I went to London to take part in a workshop organised by the JANET  ( ) stakeholder group, of which the Society are members. There was some very useful discussion about the use of JANET by local authorities for their corporate connectivity rather than just education, and some case studies of successful implementation and operation from Scotland and some English councils. In these austere times it could be something worth looking at far more closely. I always find myself doing a double take when meeting JANET folk, as they talk nonchalantly about  one or two hundred megabit pipes like I talk about 4 mb!! Some useful further discussion to be had between ourselves and JANET.

On Wednesday it was our Commercial Board meeting. This is the group tasked by the main board to oversee, coordinate and monitor our business activities and developments. This meeting was the first for Karl Grundy our newly appointed Head of Commercial who you will, I am sure, be hearing more from in the coming weeks and months. It is both an uncertain and an exciting time in commercial terms. There are undoubtedly challenges before us and our members but there are also some very significant opportunities in the areas of efficiency and innovation. It is certainly our intention to focus on these areas to benefit our members and their organisations as well as opening opportunities for our supplier members to better operate within a difficult market.

After the board meeting it was a four and a half hour train journey to Edinburgh with David Houston, our FD, during which we had to get stuck into finalising our 2010 budget in prepartion for the next days meeting. We are taking a very positive attitude towards growth and opportunities both in commercial and membership terms. We are aware of the inherent risks of such a position but equally aware of the 'do nothing' option which invariably will slide into organisational decline and despair.

I have to mention that, although it looked as though it may never happen, the new Socitm website actually went live....on ...then it went 'un-live' for a while which caused me some consternation, but not as much as our technical and development staff, nor for that matter Insight, who had just launched IT Trends (more of that in a moment). We have launched the site as 'beta' ,for now, as the whole enterprise has proved to be extremely ambitious for an organisation as small as Socitm (relatively speaking). I shall explain, although I am in no way technical, which shall soon become apparent, but firstly I do want to acknowledge the huge amount of work and support from our internal staff David and Carl and our technology partners Jadu ( )and Esteiro (Gold Vision) - .

Could we have done things better? - you can always do thyings better! However, the complexities of buidling a truly transactional website with individual user authentication and profiles that fully integrate the web front end into a real time back office CRM and a full online transaction and pricing system has provided some interesting and tense moments. It dawned on us as we began looking at some of the logic behind the decisions we were expecting the system to make that the human brain is absolutely brilliant and things we can do almost intuitively are really rather complex in terms of logic. I also learned that just because something works ten times out of ten in a test environment does not mean it will work when you flick over to a live environment with real time activities on live data bases........told you I wasn't a techie. some of the stuff can only truly be tested in real time on live systems.....not really the kind of thing I wanted to hear. so, bearing all this in mind, we launched in 'beta' and have provided a feedback channel for users to send us comments, suggestions and problem notifications. so, send away and help us move off beta.

Anyway, the end of the week arrived the site was still live and although still having some teething problems we can begin to really use its functionality in the days and weeks ahead.

I noticed on the news that a couple of things are brewing for our esteemed political masters....someone has actually had the audacity to claim that the government is 'utterly disfunctional' at almost every why would anyone ever think that........and then today (Saturday) we hear that the security level has been raised to severe, an attack is highly likely, sometime!. My inclination is too err on the side of 'vacuous' , the 'accusation' levelled by Patrick Mercer MP, not because it is not serious but because it is almost meaningless in the way it has been announced and described. We are told that it does not mean an attack is imminent, for then the status would be 'critical' but we do know that an election is imminent...and that IS critical!

And finally, the launch this week of IT Trends has caused some comment from government, in the form of John Suffolk the Government CIO (you can read his comments here )  IT Trends, has had the temerity to suggest that there may be some risks associated with the planned 'G Cloud' approach.....

Whilst supportive of the ‘cloud’ as a concept, and an exciting and potentially efficient concept at that, surely the emphasis must at this time be on the word ‘ potentially’? Bearing in mind the government’s record of actually going live on time, on budget and with the advertised functionality, when it comes to implementing innovative technology (with the exception of the few very good, but regularly rehearsed examples) I think we are wise to take a stance that is broadly supportive but honest and open about the possible areas of risk and that we have a responsibility to highlight these. Had we done so more vociferously and in a more organised way at the beginning of the GC initiative, for instance, we may have ended up with a ‘better’ system more quickly and more appropriate to the needs of ALL participants. The one factor that pushes me personally more towards the believer than the sceptic is the involvement of Martin Bellamy who I think has the understanding and the drive to make this happen.This is my personal view of course. Having said all this it does and should raise an issue within Socitm regarding a more coordinated approach to our policy. This is something we are now beginning to get to grips with but there are still some areas to be addressed and I am sure that the Society Head of Policy, Martin Ferguson, will respond in due course.

Sometimes it can all feel a bit like this (go on, follow the link, it's worth it)


  1. 愛情不是慈善事業,不能隨便施捨。.........................

  2. Having followed the links on the Cloud debate - I think there's no debate! It's the usual medai trying to make a story when there is none.

    Incidentally, I'm a subscriber to "Money Week", and this week's edition includes a couple of stories on Haiti that support and develop my points about the realities of economic support needs.


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