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Archive for October 2009

Solace – Day 2

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We are now two thirds of the way through SOLACE 2009 and I thought that I would let you know of my observations  since my last post.

As far as I could tell day 2 was all about leadership and the power of communication (led by Drs Peter & Susan Glaser). This comes as a useful reminder to any Chief Executive, no matter how many years ‘under the belt’ they have got to the name. As organisations Local Authorities have to treat people well to ensure that they will give their best. The definition of corporate leadership has been defined and redefined over many year and I doubt that 1 of the Chief Executives attending have never heard this message before in someway or other.

Although local authorities have been challenged before and each have managed these challenges it’s still useful to review the approach to ensure that it is still gaining the objectives as it was intended. My question is how many people heard the message, realised that it applies to them, and decide what are they going to do about it?

The main surprise for me has been the attendance – or lack of it. ~350 delegates were registered, however when passing the registration desk at least 40% of the pre-paid badges had not been collected. It was also clear in the exhibition area when speaking to other exhibitors that not many Chief Executives were making the rounds and as 1 Chief said ‘he could not be bothered with the hard sell’.

I also feel for Oracle who invited myself, along with all the delegates, to a free evening reception prior to the conference dinner. I would estimate that 60 people showed up for an event which Oracle would have expected at least twice that amount and catered accordingly.

I wonder if these major companies will think twice about signing up to sponsor next year. BT was a major conference sponsor but did not take a stand in the exhibition hall. I wonder if we’re seeing the start of the end of ‘conferences’ in their traditional sense.

If delegates have more pressing engagements that force them to give up their conference seat then maybe the conference is not working. I would imagine that at least it will be scaled down next year.

I am going into day 3 of the conference glad to know that I am going home in a few hours. I feel that the people we did speak to benefited, however we did not get the message across as widely as we had hoped.

Make sure you follow the ‘action’ on Twitter using #solace09.

Till next time,

Paul.

Written by Paul Jennings

October 22, 2009 at 9:18 am

Solace 2009 Day 1 – what we’ve learned so far

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Well the first day of Solace 2009 is over and I suppose it is a time to reflect on what I have observed during the conference, the exhibition, the curry house and the bar.

The general messages that was being delivered out were “the hard times are here to stay” “efficiency, efficiency, efficiency, save, save, save” “must do more to save more”.

What I did not hear were the ways that our Chief Executives were supposed to get over these hard times, maybe this will come over the next couple of days.

It is a different perspective as an outsider watching the happenings of SOLACE 2009, I feel somewhat remote, but on the other hand passionate about what is happening on the other side of the wall. Digital Beacons at SOLACE 09To explain, I am here as an exhibitor and my day-to-day role does not normally trespass on the Chief’s territory so this is a rare opportunity for me to see what goes on behind ‘closed doors’.

My role this week is to help promote the use of IT to deliver services that benefit the customer to local authorities Together with my colleagues from the other digital inclusion beacons we are working to enlighten the minds of chief executives one authority at a time.

Today was the first day of the conference and the passing footfall included some of the other exhibitors, a couple of delegates and a few interested parties. In short, not as many of the Chief Executives as we had expected. I had hoped to be able to ask our CE’s what their authority was doing to meet the digital challenge and how IT was perceived within their organisation. Maybe tomorrow will bring better fortune!

From the observations that I have made today I feel that the general impression is that each authority needs to focus on generating savings to minimise spend as income is only going to get less. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, not much was being said as to how this should be delivered.

A positive presentation came from Jeff French who talked about the perception of the public towards local government who started the discussion as to how local authorities can understand their shortfalls by ensuring they as the right questions.

Philip Hammond challenged the Chief’s by saying “if we want innovation, we must learn to embrace failure” – I am not sure that many councillors will feel the same way and will lend their support to their chief.

Personally I view the issue as a 3 sided triangle (or as Andy Sawford put it at the bar tonight – a 3 legged stool) with PEOPLE, PROCESSES & TECHNOLOGY supporting the future. I can see that the drive to improve PROCESSES was being discussed today and I would imagine that it will carry on being discussed till the end of the conference.

The TECHNOLOGY was being discussed at the SOCITM Conference 2 weeks a go and I could imagine that at a similar HR event the PEOPLE element of the triangle would have been discussed.

So far SOLACE has not combined the 3 legs of the stool, and without this top down understanding the “savings, savings, savings’ and ‘efficiency, efficiency, efficiency’ cannot be delivered. We need to build the business case that will allow us to embrace the failure and through combined effort transform into stronger local authorities.

I hope that the speakers tomorrow will help strengthen the triangle and I hope that more Chief Executives will come to the Digital Inclusion stand and not be distracted by the opportunity to drive around Silverstone in a F1 car!

Till next time.

Paul

Written by Paul Jennings

October 21, 2009 at 1:16 am

SOLACE 2009

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Stormy Times for Chief Executives in Brighton

Stormy Times for Chief Executives in Brighton

This week I will be attending the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) Annual Conference in Brighton.

A lot has been happening in recent months, not least the demand that all chief executives face – do more for less.

I am interested to see how feedback from other events, such as the SOCITM Conference and Digital Britain will be demonstrated on this high power stage.

The people who attend today have the final say about what programmes for transformation stay and which ones go. ICT has a huge part to play in the future local government and I hope that the case for ICT will be put across fairly and that the delegates will have an opportunity to ask and understand how ICT will affect their authority.

If you’re around feel free to stop by and say Hi! I will be on the Digital Inclusion stand or you can follow me on twitter. Some of us will be trying to give live feedback using the twitter hashtag #solace09.

Written by Paul Jennings

October 20, 2009 at 8:32 am

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