The Socitm Board of Directors meeting was held, today, at Russell Square. I will report on this, in full, in my next President’s Report – due at the beginning of next week.

The SBD Meeting was followed, in the evening by the annual President’s Dinner – held at Stationers’ Hall close to London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The President’s dinner is one of only a few formal occasions when the President gets to wear his/ her chain of office. A toastmaster introduces the guests and presides over the proceedings.

The event is, of course, very enjoyable but has a serious and important purpose, which is to thank the Society’s Activists, Suppliers and Partners for their support and for contributing over the course of the preceding year. It’s also an important occasion for building and cementing relations with other key stakeholders, including Government and other professional societies serving the Public Sector.

The President has to earn his (or her) supper by greeting guests and making a speech. Mine is reproduced below, for information.

Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests

Stationers’ Hall is the home of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, the City of London’s 47th Livery Company. The 100th Livery Company is the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, but whereas the Stationers’ Company was formed in 1403, the Information Technologists’ Company was a little later on the scene, gaining its Livery status in 1992, so, unfortunately, cannot lay claim to quite such august premises. Anyway, you are very welcome to the Stationers’ Hall.

The Socitm President’s Dinner is held each year to thank friends and colleagues for their contributions to the Society and, in this year of considerable change for Socitm, we have much to be thankful for.

Thanks, first, to the Caterers and staff of Stationers’ Hall for what I hope you’ll agree was a magnificent dinner.

Among the changes, the Society now has a streamlined Board that’s focussed on running its business effectively. This was a key requirement because, although Socitm is first and foremost here to serve its members, member services rely on considerable support from commercial revenue.

In recent years the Society’s costs have far outstripped its income. My next thanks, therefore, must be to last year’s President, Rose Crozier, for her resolve in launching a much-needed root and branch reorganisation, without which I’m not sure we could have survived.

I think the worst is now over, and I am extremely thankful to all Socitm staff and suppliers for their tremendous commitment and support through a very difficult period. It looks like we will achieve a modest surplus, this year, and, in spite of the belt-tightening, we’ve been able to invest in much-needed new systems, so this Cobbler’s child will soon be shod!

I’m confident the Society can now go on to achieve so much more for its membership through its engagement with the Government IT Profession, and through a new membership model, to be voted-on at this year’s conference, which will extend our remit to include all who work in IT in the Public and Third sectors.

A colleague once told me I was a “grafter”. It’s probably the compliment that I have valued most (I think it was intended as a compliment!) because it’s something I recognise in myself; I like to think that what I may lack in intellectual capacity I make up for in sheer hard work.

Well, there’s another grafter who I’d like to single-out for thanks – our Managing Director, Adrian Hancock, without whose drive and commitment I doubt we could have achieved nearly so much in the last six months – and there’s also no doubting his intellectual capacity!

Whilst I may enjoy the challenge of leading Socitm’s renaissance, the travel and long hours mean that I don’t spend us much time with Chris, my long-suffering wife, as I should, and when I am home she often gets the worst of me, through my preoccupation or tiredness. Thanks, Chris for your love and for putting up with me!

Among our objectives for the Society and its proposed new membership model are to adopt a more strategic approach to partnering with the private sector. The response from private sector colleagues has so far been extremely positive, and you seem, especially, to like another Socitm innovation – we are actually going to articulate and recommend policies to our membership!

The excellent work that has been done by services like Socitm Insight, publishing incisive research reports on important topics, hasn’t been manifested in Society Policy.

Well, now we’re getting off the fence, and our new Socitm Futures group, developed from what used to be SIAG, has been given the remit for leading policy formulation. Member consultation is, of course, a key part of the process.

This will complement our new determination to work effectively with Government as a Critical Friend, throwing our weight behind pragmatic developments, and engaging in constructive dialogue concerning less well thought-through initiatives.

In this connection, I’m pleased to report that the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) has appointed Socitm to advise it on how Local Government can engage with emerging pan-Government strategy on Security and authentication.

We also launched the Local Public Sector CIO (Chief Information Officer) Council, in April, to provide an effective interface with the Central Government CIO Council. We are working with the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools & Families – not Cushions & Soft Furnishings, apparently) on employee authentication.

We’re launching a service based on the Aspire system developed by Leeds, to support professional development through SFIA (the Skills Framework for the Information Age). We are working with the LGA (Local Government Association) and others, like the Cabinet Office CSIA (Central Sponsor for Information Assurance) on the NIAF (National Information Assurance Forum).

I could go on, but it would take the rest of the evening to explain all the acronyms; however - you get the idea – we’re “engaged”!

I think the old Socitm could have been compared to the Hot Air Balloonist in a joke that’s being doing the rounds for some years, now, but it’s one of my favourites.

A man in a hot air balloon realised he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 50 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be in IT," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the woman. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything you’ve delayed my trip."

The woman below responded: "You must be in management."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow it's my fault!"

Socitm is now clear about where’s it’s going and how it will get there. It’s dealing with its problems, and is now well-placed to provide effectiveness leadership, support and career development for its members.

Our new National Advisory Council meets, for the first time, the week after next. The new NAC is the final and most critical component in the reorganised Society of IT Management. It will hold the Board and management of Socitm to account by ensuring that all areas of its work are regularly scrutinised, and will set the agenda for membership services.

There are a couple more groups whose invaluable support I need to acknowledge. The first is Socitm affiliates’ – supplier members of the Society – who provided a considerable amount of free consultancy help. In particular, thanks to David Houston, Bernard Gudgin and John Serle.

I also want to thank my fellow Directors for the commitment and support they’ve shown.

I think we can be big enough to admit that, if the Society lost its way a little, elected Members like myself have to shoulder some of the blame. If Socitm is to remain a Society that’s led by elected members for the benefit of its membership, then it has to be realistic about the time and commitment that’s required. One of the tasks that I’ve set myself before the end of my Presidential year is to develop formal protocols that set-out the expectations, in terms of time and commitment, of those elected to office.

Considerable thanks, therefore, to the London Borough of Newham for supporting my Presidency, and in giving me the time to fully engage in leading the turn-around of Socitm’s fortunes. The public sector, as a whole, will benefit greatly from its professional IT Society’s success, and I trust, therefore, that other Authorities will follow your lead.

Finally, my sincere thanks to Adox for sponsoring the President’s dinner. Plantech – now part of the Adox Group - has been a long-term sponsor and friend to Socitm, and we are truly grateful for your continued support.

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