Bringing location to life

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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

Our May Leadership Academy advocate

LeadershipAdvocate-May-BlogTop Talent – Give it a go, pause the working day, and focus on yourself. You get as much out of it as you put in!

I got offered a place on a pilot of the Socitm Top Talent course, to help refine and develop the course. The opportunity took me by surprise when Nadira Hussain made the offer at the West Midlands Socitm regional meetings. Especially, as being 30, I feel relatively young for leadership, despite 15 years’ experience in the industry.

Today, I am Lead Architect at Coventry City Council, responsible for Technology and Innovation for the Internal IT Service and the City Public Realm. This includes everything from Office 365, modernising internal IT systems to getting Driverless Cars, 5G, IoT and Superfast Broadband into the city in the run up to City of Culture 2021 and beyond.

Anyway, on to the Top-Talent programme, I’ll be honest in that I didn’t really know what to expect and often these courses feel like sitting in a room always learning ‘theories’ and rehashing stuff you’ve heard before. As an example, having attended traditional training, they always offer a good foundation and opportunity to network but, they have often reassured me my approach to leadership is modern, rather than picking up new skills. The Top Talent programme was different.

There are two things about the Top-Talent programme that really made a difference for me. Firstly, was being part of a group with wide-ranging backgrounds. From project managers, techie’s, experienced leaders, new leaders and some who are completely new to the industry, it’s a diverse group. It was a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and connections. Over the programme the group builds a level of trust, becoming a safe space to share challenges you face at work (or personally) and work out solutions. You don’t get this much perspective, diversity of approaches and feeling of a safe space from ‘traditional training’ courses.

Secondly, one part of the programme focuses entirely on you, it’s probably the most tiring day but really starting to question what your beliefs and values are, what inspires you, what you enjoy about your life / job. It’s amazing how much self-confidence you get when you know what makes you tick and the one to one mentoring session is cathartic, being able to unload a load of thoughts to an impartial sounding board and have the space to ‘pause the working day, and focus on yourself’. Knowing what my beliefs and values makes building trust with colleagues more natural and makes it easier to have a shared vision. Work now feels like a group of people working together for a common goal rather than following or giving orders.

Socitim’s Top Talent course reassures me that the IT Industry is finally helping future leaders to develop personal skills based around collaboration, innovation and be person-centric rather than models, hierarchies and fixed ways of doing things. It was a pleasure to be involved with its development.

The programme never really felt like work, a drag, or training – it was light-hearted, fun and engaging throughout – We discovered that someone fears Owls, that they have tiny bodies underneath all the feathers and a rather odd discussion about ‘do fish have eye lids?’ Yes, sort of!

By Adam Simmonds

Lead Architect @ Coventry City Council

Our May Leadership Academy advocate

Six reasons to train public sector leaders

clem-onojeghuo-189661-unsplashWe understand our members. We know they’re constrained by multiple factors including austerity, the drive to deliver ever better services and the need to push against resistant organisational cultures where people are often reluctant to change the way they do things.

Innovative, passionate and dedicated to improving outcomes for service users, the senior IT professionals who make up our network put their all into the tireless transformation of local, regional and national public services. Many of them think they simply don’t have the time to train.

However, our Leadership Academy alumni are adamant that lifelong learning is vital. Here are six reasons they say public sector leaders not only gain from training but need it.

1 Increased productivity

The right, consistent leadership can increase the productivity of your people. Fundamentally, leadership is about understanding your people emotionally. Emotional intelligence is critical to the success of a leader and that means using empathy effectively to empower and engage employees. Leadership training that encompasses emotional intelligence can hone these emotional skills in your people managers and leaders.

2 Retain your people

75% of people voluntarily resigning from jobs don’t leave their roles, they leave their managers. Ineffective leaders are exceptionally hard to work for. By investing in leadership training, you can retain your people and cut down on the drawbacks of a lengthy recruitment process.

3 Nurture future leaders

Developing and nurturing future leaders is vital. All too often, leadership roles are given to the most forward candidates with dominant personalities rather than those with the greatest potential. Identifying those who have what it takes and providing them with targeted leadership training is a skill. One that can be honed by leadership training.

4 Increase employee engagement

Feedback and encouragement are a vital facet of leadership. Giving feedback is a skill of successful leaders. Through leadership training, you can teach effective ways to give feedback to motivate and increase the skill level of your team.

5 Communicate for culture train

There are several leadership styles, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. In the public sector, particularly, leaders need to be able to communicate effectively with people at all levels. Changing an organisation’s culture to one where digital transformation becomes an objective for everyone (from the top down) requires distinct skills. Leadership training can help you develop these.

6 Make better decisions

Leadership training can result in better decision-making. Leaders functioning at a high level of emotional intelligence have the perspective to make informed, intelligent business decisions. For that reason alone, you can consider your leadership training an investment returned.

Leadership academy

Our Senior Leader workshops last one day and offer an opportunity to discuss and explore the challenges faced by senior ICT leaders. Collaborative and hands-on, the Senior Leader workshop provides you with the practical tools required to communicate effectively at all levels, maximising influence and effecting positive and lasting organisational change.

With corporate members having one free place, the Socitm Senior Leader workshop is a worthy time-investment in elevating effective communication and wider digital engagement throughout the public sector. It also opens-up networking opportunities and allows you to collaborate and share excellence and best practice with your peers. Find out more.

Six reasons to train public sector leaders

Why won’t girls study Computer Science?

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Following our recent Share Cambridge event, incorporating our Women in IT meeting, we asked for our members’ feedback. Gathered by means of an anonymous survey, we were delighted that the responses included the following topical opinion piece. Socitm is all about conversation and we’d love to hear your views as to how we as a community can inspire more girls to build careers in technology and become digital leaders.

“In an increasingly digitalised world, we need more people to study computing than ever before. We also need an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce in order to bridge a looming digital skills gap. As we stand on the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution, it’s imperative we attract and retain interest and engagement in computing early and we need to start in schools.

Alarmingly, however, research by the University of Roehampton and the Royal Society recently found that only 20% of candidates for GCSE Computer Science, and 10% for A level Computer Science, are girls.

While it’s encouraging to hear that the Department for Education has granted £2.4 million of funding to ‘Gender Balance in Computing’, a research project established to trial new initiatives designed to boost girls’ participation in computing, we need to ask some big questions. If we are going to remedy the situation, we need to understand the entrenched and complex reasons behind girls’ reluctance to study STEM subjects.

In 2018, despite the overall number of A level entries across all subjects falling, there was a 4% increase in girls taking STEM subjects on the previous year.  While – in real terms – this equates to 5,000 more girls taking STEM A levels than in 2017, actual numbers are considerably lower than for boys.  Consequently, 2018 research by PWC revealed only 15% of employees working in STEM roles in the UK are female. Distressingly, only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women.

One of the most often aired explanations for this staggering gender imbalance is that girls simply aren’t interested in STEM subjects, particularly post 16. However, anyone who has ever spent time around young children and tablet devices, knows this is absurdly untrue. While a degree of disinterest is inevitable in either sex, research shows that where girls are given practical technological tasks to complete and enjoy as frequently as their male counterparts, their interest is piqued and retained at a corresponding level. Disengagement typically occurs when peers, parents and teaching staff, wittingly or otherwise, begin to suggest or promote segregation in the way girls and boys evaluate and solve technical problems. Where there is equality between the sexes in terms of practical digital experiences, girls show more than enough aptitude, understanding and enthusiasm.

The truth is that in Western society, girls are constantly subject to an influx of subliminal messaging pushing them towards so-called ‘soft subjects’. While boys are encouraged to get their hands dirty and be assertive, girls are told, emphatically, that their role is to mediate, negotiate and people please. Arguably, what the today’s emergence of technology does (as well as being an operational game changer) is to elevate those self-same ‘soft skills’ from a position of perceived inferiority to the vanguard of a sector revolution. In placing collaboration and communication at the fore, digital transformation is dependent on professionals who have a broad understanding of its value as a philosophy rather than viewing it merely as ‘tech’. With this in mind, after years of being dissuaded from technology roles, girls are now ideally placed to lead the industry as it transitions and blossoms?

Unfortunately, with so few women visible in the sector, the challenge of bridging the technology gender divide all too often falls almost exclusively to teachers and the lack of practical opportunities available in a classroom setting all too often fail to inspire. Furthermore, non-specialist educationalists – outside of further and higher education – are unlikely to have the digital skills to teach computer science at the required level.

Without Digital Leaders stepping in to make-up the classroom shortfall, it seems unlikely that the UK’s digital skills shortage will be fully addressed and that’s a huge blow to everyone. Perhaps what is required is a targeted and meaningful campaign whereby we – as public sector professionals – step in and offer girls (and boys) the chance to understand the potential and importance of careers in technology. If not, the future of the industry is set to suffer worldwide as the skills shortage spreads and grows.”

Share your views on Twitter @socitm or by email: hello@socitm.net

Why won’t girls study Computer Science?

Our April Leadership Academy advocate

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Empowered Women, Empower Women.

That’s the only way I can describe the journey which led me to Socitm’s Empowering Women in a Digital World (EWDW).

Nadira Hussain, Socitm’s Director of Leadership Development & Research, leader in the creation of EWDW, inspired and empowered me to take full advantage of the EWDW programme.

The programme promised to inspire motivate and empower. Helping to find confidence in stepping out of my comfort zone to develop both personally and professionally.
The EWDW programme did not fail to deliver upon its promises!

I have built confidence in accelerating my career choices, recognised the importance of creating strong networks, strengthened my leadership skills whilst empowering others, challenging myself to do something today my future self will be proud of.

AND OF COURSE, ……TAMING THE CROW!
What a revelation this was – I had to have been my worst critic.

Thinking about it now, my inner voice wasn’t very nice at all, clouding my capacity to take an accurate measurement of what I am capable of.

The EWDW programme, complimented by 1:1 tuition from my Co-Active coach, gave me the tools and skills I needed to recognise my negative inner voice (crow) and silence it.

Reflecting on the last year since the EWDW programme, I have achieved lots to be proud of.

  • Stepping out of autopilot and being very present in the moment
  • Leadership success
  • Staff Excellence Awards nomination
  • Empowering others to excel
  • Round Table Event speaker and organisation support.
  • #IamRemarkable facilitator
  • Organiser and speaker at LBE’s International Women’s day conference

Being a speaker at the IDW conference, alongside very inspirational leaders, reminded me, that we are never fully in control of self-doubt, and the inner voice/crow cannot be put back in its cage for ever – there will always be those fight or flight moments.

However, with huge thanks to the EWDW Programme, I have the toolkit to take lead of challenging situations, making change last forever.

By Toni Green
End user computing manager

Our April Leadership Academy advocate

Our February Leadership Academy advocate

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Top Talent, where do I begin….?  I was relatively new to leadership roles within my workplace and felt I could do with improving my leadership skills.

I had attended internal training courses, which were a good foundation, but I felt that I needed a course which was more in depth.  I had heard of the programme through other colleagues who were graduates of previous Top Talent courses and I’d also taken the opportunity to research the course from the Socitm website and spoke with others further about the course and what it would deliver for me as a leader.  After gathering the more information, I decided to apply for the course.  The course was terrifically set out all the way from receiving the invites for applicants to apply, to the graduation dinner!

The application process allowed me to self-reflect on my own skills and build a picture of where I needed to improve.  During the workshops and the separate coaching that is received, I was able to identify key areas where I felt I needed to improve my skills, self-belief and confidence. This was facilitated by reviewing our personal values and beliefs, through the discussions and the role-playing exercises.

Having attended the programme,  allowed me to step forward to present feedback about our experiences at the Soctim Scotland Conference; something completely outside of my comfort zone!  In doing this, it has allowed me to begin to challenge myself and improve on my leadership skills.  Skills I had, but never utilised fully.  This is no longer the case!

I believe the benefits of attending this course has allowed me to improve my own skill set but also enabled me to grow.  At the time of the course I was the Team Lead for ICT Support, And now, since the course, I have developed my leadership skills to focus on not only managing the ICT Department, but also other areas within the Council.  I firmly believe that without participating in this programme I would not have been able to gain the promotion to my current post within East Dunbartonshire Council as Digital & Shared Services Manager, responsible for ICT, Internal Shared Services and the
Revenues & Benefits Teams.

It was a great experience and one that I would recommend to anyone wishing to
enhance their leadership skills within government and to grab with both hands!

By Gavin Haire
Digital and Shared Services Manager at East Dunbartonshire Council

Our February Leadership Academy advocate

Five lessons in five days at PyCon UK 2016

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By Carl Newton (pictured above, blue T-shirt), Socitm Web and Digital Development Manager

Here at Socitm HQ, we have two developers who are masters in the art of making web thingys. I am one of those developers, and I build and maintain web thingys all over the shop in order to support our services. For instance, socitm.net is our long-standing flagship website. The Women in IT site is another example of a website we built. We have some internal web apps too, such as our purchase order management system, which we called ‘Spom’, much to the disapproval of everyone, ever. But we strongly believe in the ‘We made it; we name it’ rule, which any parent of a child named ‘Harley Quinn’ will tell you, is a just and fair rule indeed.

Continue reading “Five lessons in five days at PyCon UK 2016”

Five lessons in five days at PyCon UK 2016