Another year and another Local Gov IT Heads conference, this year in sunny Brighton. As always, there is good news and bad news, and as my 8-year-old daughter says, bad news first, so the good news cheers us up
The bad news is that, in my opinion, it was an opportunity missed. Given the state of the world, SOCITM this year should have been more radical and edgy – ‘think the unthinkable’. Many of the themes presented were similar to previous years, focused on change and a sector in flux. Erm, yes. Of course, when has it not been? Local Authorities have always been in a process of change, as the opportunities presented by IT make further reductions in transaction costs and the opening up of services to the whole community possible. And I am sorry to say that I left two sessions on G-Cloud and PSN none the wiser. Repeatedly, questions were asked around ‘how much will this cost’, ‘when will it be ready’ and ‘what will it mean to me’ and to my mind none of these points were really answered. The lack of clarity on this subject left some delegates confused and in several cases, a bit irritable.
The good news was that amongst the grumpiness and unanswered questions were some real gems. Tim Rainey from Tameside MBC gave a brilliant presentation of the cashable savings they have achieved by the use of e-Government to get citizens to self-serve on their website. Looking at actual numbers based on the cost-to-serve they were able to measure the effectiveness of their website/IT and calculate in real detail where IT spend has best effect. I urge people to take a look at his presentation here: http://www.slideshare.net/socitm/tim-rainey-tameside-channel-shift. This use of data to quantify cashable savings is a topic close to my heart, and one that we in the IA Vendor space need to understand. Simply put, I believe that this is now the only game in town, and one where if we can achieve savings for our customers, we should be upfront about saying so. Go Tim.
The conference was also good value in terms of the networking opportunity, and guess what? Cashable savings were a constant theme. There is still a great deal of uncertainty about, given that we’re less than a week away from the CSR announcement but the feeling I got was that Central Government is still not providing enough guidance to Local Authorities on this and other topics. One delegate voiced his concern as (and I have heavily edited the language for my more sensitive readers): “If Central Government would offer us proper guidance on what things should look like, rather than offering vague wafting in a general topics direction, we could just get on and do it”. His point is valid and tighter criteria from Whitehall will need to be supplied to enable the most effective use of cash in the years to come.
So, summary is, more focus please, more edge and radicalism, but where Conference scored highly was in its ability to share ideas and pain. And Ken Livingstone’s after-dinner speech description of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne, clearly hit a nerve if the applause and laughter was any measure. And no, I can’t repeat it here.
See you next year in Birmingham.