by Richard Steel

Socitm Conference 2008 round-up

Oct 15, 20086 mins
IT Strategy

Saturday Chris and I drove down to Newport in the Tuscan for Socitm 2008. Despite the lovely weather, we couldn’t take the roof off because we had too much luggage, and there wasn’t enough room in the boot to stow the roof!

At the Celtic Manor, we were booked into the “Chairman Suite”. Very nice! Robin Carsberg, from the Socitm Events Committee, showed me the exhibition and conference spaces. The great thing about the Celtic Manor is its ability to accommodate a sizeable conference, exhibition and delegates at the same venue. He showed me the final figures; it was looking like a record year, with 84 exhibitors, and over 400 delegates, speakers and exhibitors booked for the formal dinner on Monday night.

At six, Sue and Cindi from the US, and Arend and Robin from Holland, together with Peter and Linda Ryder, joined us in our suite for pre-dinner drinks. Thorbjorn and Christian, from Sweden, were arriving late. Dinner was in the Conwy Room with the Events Team. Ken Boxhall said a few words of welcome and thanks to the Team for their efforts and work to come in the next few days! We then adjourned to Melin’s Bar for drinks, and were joined by Thorbjorn and Christian, who flew-in to Cardiff.


Peter Ryder leads Socitm’s International engagement, and led our hosting activities for our International guests. He created an itinerary that, today, included an excursion that took us to Bristol to tour the SS Great Britain, and visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge and nearby Camera Obscura, and to Bath for lunch at “Sally Lunns” followed by a visit to the Roman Baths. The day-trippers included next year’s President, Steve Hopson, and his wife Sue, Peter’s wife, Lin, and Chris and I followed in our car, as I needed to ensure I could get back in good time to prepare for the conference opening, and returned after lunch. The weather couldn’t have been better, and everyone had a wonderful day!

My Welcome Address was at six ‘o’ clock. I’ve added the speech as a separate Blog entry , if you’re interested. TV Presenter, Sara Coburn, was again our conference host. Her professionalism really helps to make a polished conference – contrasting sharply with the President’s last minute attempt to use a teleprompter for the first time! Paul Sloane’s keynote address, which followed, is reported on Socitm’s website.

Prior to the 7.30 Reception for all delegates, the international guests and their hosts were invited to the President’s suite for drinks. A magnificent dinner followed the Reception, and I have to say that the Celtic Manor’s service and food were superb throughout the event.


The Events Team had arranged an optional Partners’ Programme, today, for delegate partners, and Peter’s programme for the International guests was joined by Lin, Sue and Chris.

Today’s opening address was given by Wayne David, MP, Deputy Minister for Digital Inclusion, and he was followed by the CESG’s Harvey Mattinson. Their speeches are also reported-upon at the above link, as are other plenary presenters’.

My mission, today, was to support the Government Connect workshops and the package of support that was launched. (A Press Release was also issued, today.) I attended at least the last 15 minutes of each of them to support Simon Norbury. They were all standing room, only, and I’m very pleased to say that there was overwhelming support for the initiative and the position that Socitm has adopted. We are “sticking our neck out”, given the Government Connect inglorious track-record and patchy support across Government, but I believe we will make it work. We now need to see our commitment matched by all other Government Departments, and agreement to just one secure infrastructure (rather than separate Codes of Connection) for the whole of Government.

The Socitm Board of Directors met in my room over lunch. We kept the agenda to a minimum, but it included presentation, by Christine Peacock, of the Auditor’s Report for the 2007 Financial Year, and our agreement of actions arising.

I reflected on the fact that the reorganisation, in which we’re engaged, was kicked-off in earnest in a similar meeting in Rose’s Presidential accommodation, exactly a year ago. The next key stage in that process was voted on at an EGM at 5.15pm. We needed at least 75% of attending members to vote in favour of the two special resolutions in order to carry them, so it was an enormous relief, and enormously gratifying, to gain the overwhelming support of members. By the time you read this, a Press Release should have been issued reporting the result but, in summary, our Society is now for all who work in ICT in the public and third sectors, and we have just two membership classes – “Member” and “Senior Member”, and “one member, one vote”.

There was a further Reception at 7.30, followed by the Gala Dinner and entertainment from 8.30. A number of us were up until the wee small hours, but I told myself I was allowed to “let my hair down” after the relief of today’s successes, and progress made this year. Tuesday

Today’s keynote speaker was James Woudhuysen – Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montford University. I thought his session – berating the “worship of youth”, and saying, in effect, “what goes around comes around”, was brilliant – and not a little heartening for oldies like me!

Chorley Borough Council Chief Executive Donna Hall’s session was also very good. From Dan Jellinek’s report on the website: “In response to a question from Socitm President Richard Steel expressing scepticism that another quango was needed to try and improve local government efficiency, Hall admitted there was a risk the new body would not be effective: “it does seem sometimes like central government departments always need to create another board to justify their own existence.”

Following which the President’s Team were interviewed by Helen Olsen, Editor of Local Government IT in Use magazine, and I was amused to find that she seemed to be in a far worse state than I following the night’s partying!

This year’s Graham Williamson Travel Award winner was Frances Kettleday, from Cambridgeshire County Council, who has chosen to travel to Sweden.

After lunch, Siemens sponsored “Citizen Sally – Power to the People” – an entertaining piece of theatre that invited us to consider how we may be perceived by our ultimate customers – our citizens.

The conference finished with Tea, at three ‘o’ clock.

I’m tremendously grateful to my colleagues for putting-on such a great event, for the support of the exhibitors – I got to as many as I could – and, of course, the sponsors. I got loads of feedback, which was nearly all very positive. Well done everyone!

In the evening, our International guests were invited to the President’s Suite for drinks, for one last time. Peter and Lin, Steve and Sue and Chris and I were also joined by Adrian Hancock and David Bryant. Peter had arranged for us then to dine at The Bell at Caerleon, which, I recommend you visit if you are in the Newport area.


Chris and I joined Peter and Lin for a leisurely breakfast – before we drove home in dismal weather, but now it didn’t matter!