Thursday, 27 May 2010

Parties and stuff

This week began well because it wasn't in London, which means there was time to actually get stuck into stuff without meetings interupting..... Then it was CST (Corporate Services Team) meeting - which may not float your boat but it does keep the show on the road. As in any organisation, those up front get the glory and those in the back office make it happen.
This was followed by a meeting to discuss and plan the next stages in our web development..... now that's a meeting where you'd want to be a fly on the wall!
We had John Fox facilitating ( and his dog Molly) who between them dug out a number of real issues that we can address pretty quickly, so..... result!

That was followed by a mad rush to London to join Martin Bellamy at his leaving/joining drinks do in Covent Garden. It was really great to catch up with a number of old acquaintances and to be convinced that 'Mr G Cloud' will certainly be taking a whiff of vapour with him to his new role in justice. We remain committed to the vision.
Anyway, I'm now looking forward to the weekend, a family celebration - my wife's birthday (today) my son's birthday and his (finally) finishing university- plus his new job at the Audit Commission.....And there's a(nother) bank holiday with the promise of motorbiking up to Hartside...quickly. (google it) :-)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Cometh the axe man.....

Well, with the cuts announced it’s all over bar the shouting...if only that were true! It’s always risky to say too much too early or to do too much too soon in the face of quickly implemented large scale change, although that’s a lesson neither the press nor politicians seem particularly prone to learn.

It is interesting to read some of the press, including the ‘technical’ press, some of whom have been at the forefront of criticising many of the large IT systems that are now about to be ‘scrapped’. In fact I seem to remember some of them have called for this type of action in the past – although not specifically on economic grounds. With Labour still maintaining that spending is the way out of our debt problem and the coalition having reached a negotiated conclusion that immediate and radical savings (cuts) are the only way to start it seems that only time will tell...quite risky, but what can you do?

For most of us (well the non economists) there is something counter intuitive about spending your way out of debt – certainly my credit card provider would not agree with the theory, although the way they still try to push credit on me you’d be forgiven for thinking they have had a change of heart! For those of us who are trying to run commercial organisations at this or any other time we know that the ‘spend’ message is a little more subtle than it first appears. If the spending is the type of spending that creates opportunities and jobs and increased revenue then it has genuine merit. However, if the spending is focussed in areas where nothing new is actually produced then it is never going to dent the debt. From a commercial company perspective the answer would seem to require two seemingly opposite but actually complementary areas of activity. The first is the identification of savings and this may need to be radical and tough but this surely must operate with a parallel policy of investment in areas that are designed to create opportunity and generate income. Even the most basic logic dictates that cuts alone will ultimately fail as a strategy.

Another area in the programme of cuts is that of renegotiating contracts with private sector contractors. Again, hardly a strategy that gives a high confidence factor in terms of its likely success. That is, unless the government(s) acknowledges that significant contributory factors have been very poor government procurement processes (all flavours of government) often combined with programmes that are too large, overly complex and poorly specified.

Anyway, as they are saying, ‘the David will be in the detail’ so I’m sure we all await with interest the parallel investment strategy, the growth plans and the ‘hope factor’. Whilst cuts are hard to live with they are relatively easy for the politicians to target whereas the investment and growth strategy will be far more comfortable to live with but it’s much harder work for the politico’s to develop. Let’s hope they learn very quickly!

Lots of press coverage has used the word ‘draconian’ with regard to the announcements and a real worry with hastily implemented ‘draconian’ measures is the high probability of unintended, but equally ‘draconian’ consequences. The coalition needs to learn from the last crowd who got the implementation of ‘fag packet policy’ down to a fine art, the consequences of which will continue to play out for some while to come.

A final word about where IT fits into all of this. There seems to be a great danger that both baby and bathwater are about to be jettisoned on the basis that because the hoped for efficiencies appear not to have been delivered under the previous administration it is somehow the fault of the technology itself! I believe nothing could be further from the truth. The effective implementation and running of the correct technologies is still the business critical bedrock of any real efficiency, transformation, service delivery improvement and the delivery of key business objectives. Just because the IT industry is saying this (well they would wouldn’t they) doesn’t mean it isn’t true. It is certainly something Socitm wholeheartedly endorses.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Another week looking inwards

Looking inward isn't negative, it's important,just not the sort of stuff that is particularly interesting if you're not at the meetings. In fact I'm fairly sure there are quite a few people at the meetings for whom it isn't particularly interesting either! That's one of the burdens the professional meeting goer must bear! However, one of the reasons I am able to spend more time on company stuff is the fact that my 3 relatively new and relatively recently appointed colleagues, Martin Ferguson, Ellen Jessett and Karl Grundy are so good at doing their stuff. If you hadn't noticed Socitm is very active in the policy arena and you can follow Martin's activities all over the place but especially on his Socitm blog. There are great foundations being put in place in terms of Socitm membership development by Ellen and we are certainly having very constructive engagement with an increasingly active supplier community through Karl. All good stuff. As sn aside, our annual conference, Socitm2010, is in Brighton this October and is promising to be very popular and well attended with Socitm in a great position to be the meeting place for the public, third and supplier sectors. There will be information appearing very shortly on about main themes and speakers. If you are a supplier and would like more info please e mail Karl ( We are also pleased to have our new President, Jos Creese, up and running, as it were. He will be blogging on the Socitm blog and you can follow him on Twitter @SocitmPresident.

Whilst I am not really sure what to make of our new government(s), it is clear that many of our hacks (especially the one's whose intellectual capacity is.... challenged) are really struggling. If they cannot find a fight they seem determined to invent or provoke one, and some of them don't seem to mind which. However, they'll soon have one in full swing in the good old new but slightly tarnished labour camp. For me I'm not really seeing anyone join the 'race' who is a natural.... should be interesting. On the topic of the now departed it is interesting to hear the stories from senior civil servants about unjustifiable and profligate spending by the old government in the period before the election. Still I suppose that explains Liam Byrne's note to his successor '....there is no money left, good luck'. Liam never did beat about the bush.
Ooops, this is the moment I really wish I'd checked the train timetable more closely - that was Darlington flying by, we didn't stop - now what?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Location:God's country

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

BaaFest 2010, then work.....

Well, those of you who follow any of the @ach59 stuff on twitter will know that I spent the bank holiday weekend up in lovely Northumberland, at the Riverdale Hall Hotel in Bellingham (thoroughly recommend the hotel) attending the very first Bellingham All Acoustic music festival. The weather was, well, very Northumberland.......but the weekend was great. Not all the music to my taste, but a good 80% + was.....It was great to get introduced to new bands and singer songwirters - Mother's Ruin, for instance were superb, but haven't even recorded a CD yet...sure they will soon. Then there was Lucy Ward form Derby - what a great voice. some of the other highlights were Gareth Davies-Jones as professional and thought provoking as ever and the brilliant Yvonne Lyon...I could go on, but one last act, someone I have never heard before, was a geordie guy called Pete Scott - you gotta hear some of his stuff, it's hilarious... see him performing 'fantastic pastie' in the states....

Also, to add to the pleasure, the wine list in the hotel was superb and north east (as opposed to London) prices...does it get any better.

But this morning down to earth with a bang with alarm set for 05.45 and an early flight to Exeter to meet for discussions about the Socitm National Advisory Council and its development...the rest of the week is a bit of a mish mash really, with the next stop being Birmingham for meeting with Socitm Consulting.  More on those later in the week.

I'll leave you with a picture from Hadrian's Wall, just down from Bellingham - Sycamore Gap at sunset: