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This was C2’s first visit to the SOCITM annual conference being held this year at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, the wind and rain from Hurricane Gonzalo didn’t stop us getting there on time but it did lead to some interesting holding on to lamppost moments.
The conference was opened by chairman Bryan Glick who is the Editor in Chief of Computer Weekly. Bryan open with a quip that SOCITM must have got a good deal on the conference venue as there isn’t much mid-week football being played there!
The backdrop to this conference is one of government austerity measures coupled with a real desire to bring digital services that are citizen focussed across central and local government and the third sector. The move from a traditional waterfall approach to solution development to an agile, service oriented approach also came across loud and clear from many speakers. The days of large scale out-source IT projects are definitely numbered and smaller, authority run projects are the order of the day with a big emphasis on simplicity, reduced costs and better value for money for the tax payer.
Frameworks such as G-Cloud provide an online catalogue of cloud services which can be utilised by organisations to create their solutions. Interestingly the spend via G-Cloud is more with SMEs rather your traditional large scale vendors which can only be encouraging for C2 and many more like us.
Supplier breakout sessions focussed on a variety of topics, the ones we chose to attend were around managed hosting and mobile strategies. There is a strong trend emerging that a mobile first, cloud first approach is one which will bear most fruit, this was also very clear from Microsoft at their Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington D.C. earlier this year. One interesting thing about taking complex business processes, often ones involving paper-based systems and moving them to a mobile, self-service platform is that the cost savings aren’t always all that obvious. In one example a saving of 416 employee hours was put forward in relation to an overtime claim system but how does an organisation take these saved hours and turn it into a true cost saving?
The move to the cloud is a transformation which is achieving real momentum. The cost savings relating to a server infrastructure free environment can easily be calculated and the much lowered risk footprint is there for all to see. With a managed cloud approach to both infrastructure and software, local government are already reaping the benefits.
The National Audit Office, Crown Commercial Services and the Cabinet Office all gave very similar presentations relating to the challenges currently facing the public sector in providing digital services. Skills is a big issue given that traditionally much of the skills required to operate system was outsourced and only one or two internal people would have anything approaching an understanding of how systems worked. There is a desire for this to change and for authorities to bring together different technologies in the cloud to create their services.
The number of buying frameworks is being rationalised and ultimately decreasing which can only be a good thing. There are still something like twenty five different frameworks pertaining to local government IT procurement but there is work ongoing to see this continue to decrease.
Government Digital Services gave lots of good examples of work that has been done, in many cases around legacy systems, to provide citizen focussed functionality on the gov.uk platform. The development of APIs has been the key to this, whilst nothing new there seems to have been a new-found realisation that openness of systems and integration is much easier with APIs.
From a private sector point of view there is a lot we can do to help the public sector realise some of its aims and objectives in offering first class digital services to citizens. This needs to however be done using an agile, open and value for money approach to really be taken seriously.
More information on the event is available at: http://www.socitm.net/events/past-events/socitm-2014