A very warm welcome to this year's Society of IT Management Conference.

Please join with me in also welcoming our International guests - from the USA, Sweden and Holland. Do let us know if there's anything at all we can do to help ensure that your visit to the UK is enjoyable and productive.
2008 has been a pivotal year for the Society…
• In stemming our financial losses
• In reorganising our management and administration
• In renegotiating our commercial arrangements
• In reconsidering our partnering and events management
• In reviewing membership services
• In proactively engaging with Government, and other stakeholders, on behalf of our membership
• In committing to the adoption of a policy driven agenda

On behalf of Socitm's Board and National Advisory Council, I'd like, now, to urge you to support the next major step in our Society's transformation, through the adoption of a new membership model to be voted upon at tomorrow's Extraordinary General Meeting.

To some extent, the proposed resolution formalises changes that have been happening by stealth! Having started out as the "Society of (Local Government) IT Managers" – we have gradually grown our membership beyond the confines of local government, and quietly changed the "managers" to "management" some years ago.
But now's the time to commit ourselves to a fully inclusive Association for anyone who works in ICT in the Public or Third Sectors.

The new Socitm will enable us to lead transformational government developments through a membership that's drawn from all of the requisite constituents.

The new membership model will enable us to support the professional development of our members from Universities or Colleges right through to CIOs and their seats at the "Top Table" - covering the breadth of information, communications and technology services.

We are continuing to work on our professional development capabilities – through discussion with the BCS, NCC and others – and have committed ourselves to propose a comprehensive professional development model for formal adoption at the Society's next Annual General Meeting.

And at this Conference, Socitm Consulting will be launching its service offerings based upon the Aspire tool that was developed by Leeds City Council to support the Skills Framework for the Information Age – all part and parcel of the Society's development.

I want to turn, now, to our Society's aims and aspirations. For too long, I believe, we've been predominantly inward focussed. We have established a firm basis of assessing service performance through benchmarking our own services and measuring our ICT users' satisfaction - but now it is time to look beyond our own services to challenge our stakeholder communities to use the potential of ICT effectively.

Well, in the main, our services are pretty damn good, aren't they? But does that mean they are necessarily used effectively? No – it doesn't. In fact, I'd argue that too many of our customers are still closeted in silos; and some wear their ignorance of IT as badges of honour; they are happy to use ICT to do things the way that they know, love and are comfortable with, and are resistant to change.

ICT - Corporate ICT - holds the high ground. We have the bird's eye view of the organisation. We see the poor data quality that results from silo'd mentality. We see the opportunities and benefits that flow from shared datasets and services. We must see that ICT should not only be business driven; it has to be a driver of business change.

The Customer Access Improvement Service, launched this year by Socitm Insight, is an important step towards assessing how effectively ICT is used to deliver real customer outcomes.

I was also delighted with the recently published "Web 2.0: What it is and why it matters" report - which really challenges us to exploit new media to positively transform our services and customer experience.
At this conference, we are announcing the development of a set of new and revised benchmarking services with the aim of fostering both service and organisational improvement facilitated by ICT.

The new benchmarking services will enable members and business managers to both assess and improve their performance in a number of key customer-facing areas.

The services will offer what we call a Dashboard – a simple graphical means of seeing at a glance how the organisation is performing in just the same way as the dashboard on a car. The services will include: business transformation, Information assurance, security, flexible working, shared services and end-to-end customer service delivery.

Also branded as part of the same stable will be services such as:

Benchmarking, User Satisfaction, the Website Assessment Service and Customer Access Improvement Service and the National e-Service Delivery Standards; all augmented to really focus on demonstrating effective use of ICT, rather than just measuring its efficiency – all part of the organisational "Dashboard".

We have recognised that, previously, Socitm service delivery has been a little fragmented; it hasn't been clear which part of the organisation was responsible for what service, or even how some of them related to one another.
It's therefore planned that this development will constitute a cohesive set of services under a new, easily identifiable, brand, and, although delivered jointly by Socitm Consulting and Socitm Insight, accessible through a single customer interface.

On 19th November, Socitm will be holding a workshop in London, to develop the detailed requirements and service design.

We will be mailing you about this workshop and your Conference material includes reference to the workshop. We would encourage you to participate and give us your guidance on how this new service can meet your organisations' requirements.

It's vital that Socitm services reflect the Society's developing policy agenda, and our developers will work very closely with Socitm Futures to ensure the new set of services are tailored to meet Members' requirements.
Socitm policy and service development in this area will support the CIO agenda, working with the board and executive to reinforce ICT's pivotal role in business transformation. We, of course, recognise that we must work with our colleagues in other professional bodies to deliver a truly transformational programme, and are already seeking the advice, support and co-operation of other key stakeholders, like SOLACE, CIPFA, the PPMA, the LGA, Intellect and RIEPs. Socitm's new service developments are being designed to support partnership working, including Local and Multi Area Agreements.

Following the workshop on 19th November, we aim to publish a detailed prospectus before Christmas.

I'd like to say a few words , now, about Government Connect and its "CoCo" – the Code of Connection.

You are aware, I'm sure, of the challenging target that has been set by the Department for Work & Pensions, which will mean, from next April, the only supported means of sharing benefits data will be via the Government Connect infrastructure. Socitm has committed itself to work with the Government Connect Team to facilitate achievement of the Code of Connection with which Authorities must comply in order to join the Government Connect network – and I'm pleased to announce that a package of support, developed with Socitm, is being launched at this Conference.

I'm confident that we have a pragmatic way forward that will cement Local Government commitment to what will become a pan-Government strategy for appropriate, safe and secure data sharing…

And I'm convinced that by throwing our weight behind the achievement of a secure Government infrastructure after, let's face it, years of fragmentation, procrastination and wasted effort, the public sector ICT profession can considerably extend its authority, consistent with the new agenda that we're setting today.

Whilst I may be passionate about the need for Socitm to seize the mantle, to drive the transformation of Government services and to set the direction for ICT enabled change in Society, I fully recognise the need to avoid throwing babies out with the bath-water! Technical workshops, discussion forums, sharing of best practice and skills development will remain as key weapons in our armoury.

Tomorrow, we will be providing an overview of the background to, and progress in, developing and implementing Socitm's new organisational structure before the Extraordinary General Meeting, tomorrow. For now, I do want to stress, however, that, although I hope that Socitm's leadership will be able to challenge and stimulate our membership to fully realise the potential that our profession has to offer, above all our aims are to be inclusive, responsive to Members' needs and wishes, and to be transparent and open about the conduct of our business.

There are ample opportunities to become involved with the Society's work and help us to deliver the ambitious agenda that we are setting ourselves.

Socitm is your Society. Get involved. We are always in need of people to help with research, to represent us on various bodies or forums, to report back from meetings and events and to ensure that you - Socitm's members - remain the lifeblood of your Society.

By the way, I should mention that we also corrected a long-standing omission from our website. There is now a comments, complaints and plaudits facility! Please do use it.

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to the Socitm Events Team, and colleagues throughout the Society, for all the hard work that's gone into preparing for this occasion.

I hope you have a good conference – and don't forget about the Photo Competition!