Leadership Advocate of the Month: June.


If local authorities are to fully exploit digital opportunities to improve outcomes for local people, places and businesses, then we must invest in developing digital skills across our workforce.

Developing digital skills at all levels and in digital leadership capability particularly is vitally important in local authorities, now more than ever.  This is not just in the IT department. To achieve digitally enabled transformation across the organisation we need to deliver in partnership with our various business units, so we need to develop their digital leadership capabilities too.

That’s why I have invested in sending a number of my IT team and key business leaders to develop a distributed digital capability across the organisation.  Feedback from first groups of Norfolk managers who have attended is excellent. Here are some quotes:

“The Socitm course is important time out from our very busy schedules to self-reflect with support on how we lead.”

“It helps people explore, understand and challenge some of our learnt behaviours and plants the seed to tackle change them so we can improve as leaders.”

“Personally, I feel it has helped me get my mojo back!”

“It’s an excellent experience that is well worth doing which has also given us some new networking opportunities and contacts.”

When people comeback from a Leadership Academy course, there’s an almost tangible change in the way they carry themselves and approach problem solving. Invariably more confident, both personally and in their enthusiasm for thinking critically and outside the box, they feel empowered and recharged.

My proudest work-related achievement is securing external funding to improve the network connectivity across Norfolk County. This includes £8m for full fibre to 372 sites and, also, two county LoRaWAN deployments including over 250 gateways.

To make this possible, I had to have a team of innovative leaders supporting me. For truly effective leaders, the number one skill needed is the ability to collaborate, forming high-performing partnerships with business leaders, tech leaders from other linked organisations (in my case other local authorities and NHS organisations) and key suppliers.

The Socitm Leadership Academy has played a vital role in building, strengthening and testing these skills in my team and I heartily recommend making the time investment of enrolling on a course to anyone. The ROI is quick, effective and has proved invaluable to Norfolk County Council.

Geoff Connell

Head of Information Management and Technology at Norfolk County Council and former Socitm President.

Leadership Advocate of the Month: June.

Positive engagement: Smart Leeds


Our next Leadership Academy Top Talent programme begins on 3-4 July in Leeds.

Those taking part will be involved in an exciting and ground-breaking research programme for Leeds City Council.

The council is keen to explore a rewards scheme that promotes behaviour change and positive citizen engagement amongst those who live, work and visit Leeds.

In recognition of the outstanding achievements of our Top Talent graduates, the council has asked us to undertake a three-month research phase in order to gain greater understanding as to whether the scheme could result in a strong business case that leads to the development of a multi-platform innovative solution.

Similar schemes are being trialled in a handful cities around the world including Belfast and Tel Aviv. These initiatives offer rewards such as free leisure passes for using public transport and free coffee-shop drinks for undertaking charity work.

Health and wellbeing, travel and transport, housing standards and growth and climate emergency are all key priorities in Leeds’ smart cities programme, Smart Leeds, and this is the first project of its kind in the UK, outside of Northern Ireland.

This is a fantastic opportunity for our Top Talent Cohort to be part of something that could change how local authorities motivate and engage residents and visitors. The project could set a benchmark both nationally and globally and the Top Talent group will be presenting their findings at Share Leeds on 15 October.

To book your place visit: https://www.share-leeds.socitm.net/

Positive engagement: Smart Leeds

Leading in canal cities


Preceding our President’s Conference in England’s very own Venice, i.e Birmingham (56kkms of canals), this year’s annual conference of Socitm’s Major Cities of Europe (MCE) partner took place in Venice (42kms of canals). Hosted and organised together with the Municipality of Venice, the Cà Foscari University and VENIS S.p.A. at the Cà Foscari Economic Campus, the overarching theme of the conference was “Channelling Change – Digital cities in a changing world – Explore more, Discover more, Create more”.

Close to 350 delegates came from 20 countries to share their experiences, including our own Socitm representatives.

Sandra Taylor and Nadira Hussain shared the many achievements from Socitm’s unfolding Leadership, Diversity and Skills Programme and some of the extraordinary testimonies from our Leadership Academy. Nadira also had the opportunity to chair a panel discussion titled ‘Digital Transformation: The Leadership Paradox’; sharing experiences as to how we can improve the adoption more widely of good digital government practice. The point of reference being we can all think of cities who are said to be “leading” in these areas, but few who can be said to be following that lead – in which case, is there true leadership?

Martin Ferguson gave an enthusiastic and thought-provoking contribution, drawing upon UK experience, to a session entitled: The Moral Maze – the role of cities in avoiding a digital dystopia.

The conference was a unique opportunity to:

  • interact and exchange directly with other European municipalities in a non-commercial environment
  • discuss about the real challenges that municipalities currently deal about digitization
  • test ideas with ‘digital leaders’ from cities across Europe
  • understand how to involve citizens in designing and achieving better outcomes
  • see how to use data and information more effectively
  • hear the truth, not the spin
  • be informed, challenged, and involved.

The topics for the different sessions of the conference included:

  • Cities as service hubs: Citizen at the centre – Local governments become integrated service providers and partner to provide citizens services with other local public and private players.
  • New and Emerging Technologies: How to ensure that innovative technologies add value to the lives of the citizens? How to leverage Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and other emerging technologies?
  • The Moral Maze: How local governments ensure that the use of technology is ethical and that citizens’ participative initiatives through social media are managed in an ethical and protected way?
  • Troubled Projects – Good Procurement: How procurement decisions are taken and how solutions or technologies are selected to be the right foundations? How to manage troubled projects? How to take the right decisions and to persuade the organisation?
  • Changing roles, change management and digital transformation: to face the dangerous chasm between the existing managerial and professional skills and the new required skills and abilities.
  • World Café: On the second day the programme included the World Café. Several topics arising from the conference programme were debated at many different discussion tables. The discussions will be collated into a final report.

These conference sessions and future workshops provide valuable material for our own Socitm Inform research programme – evidence of this is in resources generated from the most recent workshop on leveraging data:


For anyone who may be interested, membership of MCE is open to all municipalities and provides a unique opportunity to gain fresh perspectives on the contemporary issues facing digital leaders in their many diverse places.


Next year’s conference, which is free to attend for all MCE members, will be in Larissa, Greece 27-29 May 2020

By Sandra Taylor, Nadira Hussain and Martin Ferguson.

Leading in canal cities

New digital maturity assessment tool


With just five days to go until President’s Conference, we wanted to share an exciting development to Improve, our public sector specific benchmarking service.

At the conference, Socitm will be launching a brand-new Digital Maturity Assessment (DMA) toolbox as part of its Improve programme. Featuring a brand-new, fully revised question set, the online framework is based on nine key functions and pre-determined criteria that will enable organisations to assess their digital maturity and associated gaps.

Improve is comprised of five modules: User Satisfaction, Digital, Estate, Cost and Performance. Each of these has been designed to help our members advance their IT and digital services through the use of highly relevant data.

Improve’s Digital model, including the new DMA, provides unrivalled insight into the extent to which an organisation’s ICT is digitally mature. It examines where best practice measures have been adopted and what degree of commitment has been invested in digital services. The new DMA enriches this process by adding five layers of maturity to the way data is collected.

Digital is about more than changing working practices and the redesign of services. The DMA also includes measurement of Digital Leadership and consideration of Cultural Change. The new DMA was developed by considering the existing Socitm Improve Digital Module, comparing and reviewing it against GDS/Local Digital Best Practice Models and other best practice models.

This results in several metrics comparing the level of commitment and the maturity of digital services. Additionally, the new DMA examples the provision and take up of agile working. To take part in the service, each participating organisation must be prepared to answer approximately ninety Yes/No questions related to the policy decisions that have been made. This gives the most comprehensive overview of digital maturity to date and the information gathered is tailored specifically to meet the requirements of the public sector.

The DMA will be launched as part of a workshop hosted by incoming Socitm President, Sandra Taylor at 13:30 on day one of the President’s Conference (18 June). The workshop focuses on how we can create a digitally responsive culture in local government and the benefits and innovation this achieves.

This is just one of the highlights of what promises to be an exceptionally enlightening and invigorating conference.

We have great pleasure in attaching your brochure for the event. Including a detailed breakdown of all of the sessions taking place over both days, this will help you not to miss a thing.

We can’t wait to see you there!

New digital maturity assessment tool

Bringing location to life


The GeoPlace annual conference was held on 9 May 2019. With more than 550 delegates and a vast array of exhibitors, including Socitm, it is one of the biggest conferences of its type in the UK.

The conference focussed on the address and street data managed by local authority LLPG and LSG Custodians which now contains 44 million addresses and 1.39 million streets.

Socitm associate, digital advisor, business consultant, researcher, event coordinator, experienced CIO and CDO, Jos Creese attended and has written an exclusive blog explaining why he was struck by the huge progress in using GIS in local public services over the last few years.

Tools, Toys and Technologies

GeoPlace had an enormous screen display at the entrance, showing videos of the latest IT on offer, from aerial place recognition and drones to artificial intelligence agents supporting street-based planning. Today’s mapping tools are certainly visually attractive and interactive, with sophisticated capabilities to exploit rich, granular and growing geospatial data resources.

Street level 3D modelling tools can absorb data from multiple sources, presenting an augmented reality image which aids local planners and public protection agencies. They can, also, simply just promote tourism. There are even 4D time-lapse solutions available replete with AI engines able to predict patterns of use in a location and how this could change over time.

The Lego brick shift

Many of the suppliers I spoke to also offer low-code or no-code development platforms. The Lego brick approach this enables represents a fundamental shift from the time when GIS use was owned in proprietary and professional silos. It allows faster and interactive development, and greater flexibility in using GIS technologies with geospatial data to solve complex public policy priorities.

Yet, despite the amazing progress in tools and methods, it occurs to me that there is much more that could be done with geospatial data in local public services.

There’s been big growth in using geospatial data in the private sector beyond traditional transport and logistics planning. Complex and sophisticated machine learning and robotic process automation are already being used. they connect disparate data sets about people, places and services to give insight and intelligence to multiple sectors, for example: buying habits.

The Government recently published its Industrial Strategy. It says that the UK digital economy depends on ‘world-class data, from the highest quality geospatial and climatic analysis to company information’.

I’ve written a thorough report investigating the implications of GIS for the public sector and what the Industrial Strategy means in real terms. Socitm will publish this soon. In the meantime, please share your thoughts on the issue via Twitter: @joscreese @socitm.

Bringing location to life