I attended the IWOW (Improved Ways of Working [in Social Care]) meeting for G, who is on holiday. The main item was the introduction of further technology to the Sensory and Disability Unit (SADU) to streamline processes and change management. Much of this is based around the use of Tablet Computers.

An excellent preliminary business case has been produced, and I'm all for it – but pointed-out we really must actively manage the realisation of benefits, this time. A previous trial was launched in Services for Older People, with much razzamatazz, four years ago when our Microsoft partnership was launched but, so far as I can tell, fizzled-out without anyone noticing.

The latest report from industry watchers offer some hope…

"Overall price decline, an improved quality of build, and the arrival into notebooks of power chips with a decent clock speed have helped spur demand at the enterprise level to such a degree that laptops are becoming the default choice for many companies.

"On average, the lifecycle expectancy of a typical desktop is around 40 months, a lifespan now matched by notebooks as components become more robust and reliability matches any comparable desk-bound machine. With a notebook and widely available wireless Internet access, employees can work full-time from home (reducing the need for expensive office space), work more hours for the same pay or keep working when a disaster makes it impossible to reach the office."

In the afternoon I again visited the Building Research Establishment – this time joined by senior management from Newham Homes (the borough's social housing provider). The BRE has set-up a “Digital Access Provision Forum” to promote the engagement of developers in deploying telecommunications infrastructure for assisted living in the built environment.

We toured some of the homes that have been built on-site to showcase environmentally sustainable technology, discussed mutual aims and objectives, and agreed to create a ”Memorandum of Understanding” to document our intention to seek ways of exploiting DAP developments in Newham. The first is planning guidance concerning the provision of network ducting for new building developments.


Some Newham colleagues and I met with Cisco at their offices at Tower 42, Old Broad Street (which will forever be the Nat West Tower, so far as I'm concerned) – mainly to discuss the "co-opetition" between Microsoft and Cisco around IP Telephony but, inevitably, we also discussed wider network infrastructure development plans, and the approach to consultation and procurement. Cisco used their "Telepresence" facility to bring colleagues elsewhere in the country (Staines, I think) into the discussions.

This was very impressive. It's a room with a circular conference table – except that half of the table is occupied from a remote location (or locations) via video-conferencing. It really is like being all in the same room, and incorporates presentation facilities – a good IPT exemplar in itself. I reckon this would be a brilliant facility to include as part of the Building 1000 project (which involves the relocation of 2,500 back office staff to new premises) if there's any likelihood of meetings between people based at different locations being required – Building 1000 and Town Hall?

Cisco has worked with Amsterdam on a city broadband project with similarities to the one we are developing, and has invited (council leader) Sir Robin Wales, via myself, to meet the Mayor of Amsterdam via Telepresence to discuss experiences.

Later, I met the Head of Procurement, to discuss the approach to procurement for Building 1000. She had some really useful ideas and suggestions. For example, although we made display screens a consumable item when we created the workstation technology refresh programme, we won't want to move ugly CRT screens into the new Back Office, so we'll probably ensure that all work-stations are moved-in with flat panels, if they don't already have them.

Caboodle (Newham Council’s joint venture IT Services Company with Steria) has the contract to supply the Council, but we'll get the company to run a reverse auction to create a call-off contract for such peripherals.

Also, the Building 1000 network will be wholly based on IP. We have already invested significantly in IP through Cisco, and it's possible that continuing to work with them will represent best value, but we really need to test the market. We therefore agreed to commission an independent review to inform our procurement approach.


Worked at home.

Sadly, I had to turn-down an invitation, through CIO Connect, to visit the nuclear power plant at Sizewell, and learn about their green credentials, because of a prior commitment.

"On behalf of Ian Campbell, CIO of British Energy we are delighted to invite you to the above event. Ian has very kindly offered to host this unique opportunity to experience firsthand the operation of the UK's only large pressurised water nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk. A highlight of the day long trip will be a visit to the on-site simulator, an area of restricted access and one which is used for operator training, where significant plant events are replayed both as a learning opportunity and as a means of evaluation.

This is a great opportunity to visit the newest nuclear plant in the country, and one which represents the future of nuclear energy in the UK. Sizewell operates on a demanding 18-month operating cycle, at or near 100% output continuously for around 17 months, followed by a month's shut down for maintenance and refuelling. Along with lunch and a tour of the simulator site, we will open a group discussion about the implications for the CIO of the Green Energy debate."

Damn! I'm not all that sure about the benefit to Newham if I accepted the invitation, but this would have been one trip I'd have been happy to take holiday for.


I took a day's holiday to attend a family funeral.


A group from Newham visited Suffolk County Council to learn about its approach to flexible working. BT arranged the visit, which was hosted by a corporate director, and the Head of Facilities Management.

They were really open about the really useful stuff – i.e. what didn't work/ went wrong – as well as the more positive stuff. Among the things I was struck by were some of the additional opportunities that we have available to us. Home based working, for example, rationalised printing based on multi-function devices, and Electronic Document Records Management.

Richard Steel

Richard Steel is the senior Vice-President of the Society of IT Management (Socitm) and a member of the Socitm Information Age Government group.

He started his IT career in Merchant Banking, and became an Assistant Director of Morgan Grenfell (now Deutche Bank). He moved to Newham Council, in 1989, where he has undertaken a number of ICT management roles before becoming the CIO responsible for ICT and Information Governance strategy, infrastructure and systems.

He is a member of Newham’s Strategic Management Board, a director of “Caboodle Solutions Ltd.” – Newham Council’s joint venture IT Services Company (with Steria) - and Vice Chair of Newham Online.

Memberships of the Public Sector Infrastructure Team, the Government Connect Stakeholder Advisory Group and the Local Government Advisory Panel on Identity Management reflect Richard’s belief in common infrastructure and standards requirements.

Richard also chairs a 2012 Infrastructure Technology Working Party and a Microsoft Shared Learning Group.