by Richard Steel

Taking a break from strategy…to strategise

Jun 03, 20094 mins
IT Leadership

I see that the Government has committed to funding research into ultra-fast broadband.

This can’t be about squeezing still more capacity out of copper, so we are talking about upgrading the equipment connected to our fibre? It’s all about photonics – multiplexing light wavelengths – I think I remember from a Gartner, or could have been BT, event, many years ago, which seemed to imply this would be a “piece of cake”, once the fibre infrastructure was in place.

On the whole, I’m inclined to agree with “some experts” who would rather see the money spent on improving existing fibre networks.

However, since I’m on a mission to evangelise ICT as our saviour from recession (nice set of theological metaphors, don’t you think?) I was taken by this report – Nanotech, super-cities and Robotics to push UK out of recession.

When chatting to Glyn Moody and Mark Taylor during their visit to Newham Dockside last Tuesday, I was again struck by their level-headedness, knowledge and courtesy as well, of course, their passion for Open Source – or rather, as I think they see it, breaking the establishment’s fixation with proprietary software. I think it was Mark who said that Open Source zealots do their cause a disservice – or words to that effect.

For Glyn, a particular complaint about Microsoft was the way it “bought votes” at the International Standards Organisation to get its OXML ratified as a standard. Now this was all news to me (although if I had followed his blog as I now intend to do, I bet I’d have known all about it) so I asked a colleague from Microsoft for its perspective, which was quite different.

In fact, Microsoft saw another major supplier as the villain of the piece. I therefore suggested a meeting to discuss either viewpoint, which both “sides” would be free to report as they see fit, although it would be great if we were able to achieve, and report, consensus.

Both Glyn and Charles Eales, on behalf of Microsoft, have agreed to this, and we’re aiming to confirm an arrangement early in July, which is the soonest that can be managed because of current diary commitments.

I worked at home on Monday, on strategy which, as expected, has grown into a much bigger project, but which I’m now starting to feel is coming together.

In the afternoon I was involved in another teleconference to agree the agenda, speakers and stream leads for the Local Government, Ocean and PSN Conference at the National School of Government on 15th and 16th September.

This will be an Extraordinary Local CIO Council meeting limited, unfortunately, to 50 people, but we are planning for the outputs from this event to be featured in Socitm’s Annual Conference in Edinburgh (11th to 13th October).

The introductory sessions will include presentation of the Gartner Benchmark Analysis of Government Connect versus Local Authorities’ prior arrangements/ alternatives.

There will then be facilitated discussions on Strategic Investment Management, Identity Management & User Authentication (which I am leading), Transition & Transformation Management and Information Assurance & Security.

In the evening I drove into town for a Chemistry Club Dinner, where Lord West, Minister for Security and Counter-Terrorism, was the guest speaker.

Lord West joined the Home Office in 2007 to ensure an effective and coordinated response to the threat of terrorism. This follows a distinguished navel career including commanding HMS Ardent during the Falklands conflict.

He went on to hold senior roles in the British Armed Forces including Chief of Defence Intelligence, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff. As you may imagine, he made an interesting speaker.

Today, Tuesday, I attended a Buying Solutions IT Services Procurement Workshop, with a number of other representatives of different parts of Government. This was held in a sort of tower room, with great views of Westminster, reached by a spiral staircase, in a Horseguards Parade building.

The opportunity, we were told, was to contribute to Innovation in Public Sector ICT Procurement. “Over 500 separate procedures were launched through OJEU in 2008, costing over £200 million for the procurement process alone. Each procurement took 18 months (on average), almost twice as long as comparable procurements in Germany (although some would say that’s because the UK sticks to the rules).

Across those projects, over 50% of code and infrastructure was reusable, but most projects started afresh.

We spent a fair amount of time brain-storming the requirements, and discussed some initial ideas for services.

I am really keen on effective aggregation of procurement, public sector frameworks and pan-Government contracts but, as I was once more compelled to point-out, our ambitions would be considerably easier to achieve if they could be shaped through the availability of pan-Government Vision and Strategy that helped us all to aim in the same direction.