CHANGES TO TELEPHONE NETWORKS – INITIAL ADVICE TO POTENTIALLY-AFFECTED SECTORS

Why is there a change from landlines to voice calls over the internet?

 

  • The UK’s telecoms networks will undergo substantial change in the coming years, as the companies that run them upgrade their technology. Some phone companies are already gradually moving their landline customers from the country’s traditional telephone network – the ‘public switched telephone network’ (PSTN) – to newer digital technology known as ‘voice over internet protocol’ (VoIP), which carries calls over a broadband connection. This means that some businesses and individuals in your sector may already be using VoIP technology, rather than a landline, for their voice calls.

 

  • The change will offer potential benefits to consumers, such as clearer phone calls, and it will help ensure the UK’s landline telephone services are fit for the future – including because the PSTN itself is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to fix, and it will cease to be reliable over time. The transition will be straightforward for most customers but some may require additional support to help them update their services.

 

  • This change, from PSTN to VoIP, is being driven by the telephone companies.

 

How might this have wider impacts on local authorities?

 

  • This change is not just about making calls on landline phones:

 

  • Over time, many other services and pieces of equipment have come to use and rely on the technical characteristics of the traditional PSTN phone network – like its ability to transport data encoded in voice band ‘tones’ (which, for example, fax machines use), and the fact that it can carry power to facilities and devices that do not have a mains power supply. Equipment or services that rely on these characteristics may need replacing, upgrading or reconfiguring.  It is possible that some facilities that your sector uses may be affected by the transition.  Based on our engagement so far – with telephone companies, wider communications providers and stakeholders – we think these could include:
    • Telehealth and telecare services, such as monitoring systems and personal care alarms;
    • Internal telecommunications systems, such as voice services and fax machines;
    • Fire and security alarms, pagers, communications systems and alarms in lifts;
    • Transport monitoring and control systems, e.g. traffic lights;
    • Remote monitoring e.g. in waste collection services;
    • Resilience and business continuity / back-up systems;
    • Payment systems;
    • Flood management systems;
    • Social housing services, e.g. boiler telemetry and monitoring;
    • Services and systems in schools;
    • ICT products which rely on telephone line power.[1]
  • In addition, the ‘PSTN switch off’ will also lead to the cessation of ‘ISDN’ (Integrated Services Digital Network – a pre-broadband approach to providing digital connectivity) services. While ISDN use is limited these days, when it is used it can be for specific purposes or in specific circumstances which may be more difficult to replicate or replace. So, while many organisations in your sector may not be affected, any that are may need tailored solutions.

 

When is this happening?

 

  • Initial migrations will start this year (2019), where customers opt to use the new services, with completion by 2025 when the PSTN is expected to be switched off. However, different telephone companies are at different stages of managing their switch from PSTN to VoIP, leading to differences in both the particular approach each company adopts, and the timescales over which their migrations take place.

 

What actions do organisations need to take?

 

  • Telephone companies will generally not be aware of all the services and equipment that their customers are using which rely on the old PSTN technology. To ensure smooth transition, the communications regulator Ofcom is encouraging organisations to contact their telephone company, and also any suppliers of services they use that rely on the telephone network, as early as possible to discuss the changes and plan for any potential impact on the particular services and equipment they use.

 

  • Ofcom recommends the following action:
  • Establish if any services/technology that you or your contractors use rely on the PSTN or ISDN, and make sure you know what and where these are, whether they use the PSTN’s voice/or data capabilities, and if they rely on power through PSTN lines. Investigate widely within your sector – be aware that not all services obviously relate to landline voice calls
  • Contact your communications provider(s) to discuss timescales and the potential impact of the move to IP services on you or your business
  • Contact your service and / or equipment suppliers to see if they have conducted any testing or already offer alternatives that will work with VoIP services. Consider whether your equipment needs to be upgraded, re-configured or replaced and plan appropriate action
  • Consider whether it may be beneficial to schedule or bring forward any necessary modifications/upgrades in advance of the move to VoIP to build in optimum time to make changes
  • Ensure that other stakeholders/arms-length bodies are aware of the change and can begin engaging with their communications provider and suppliers
  • Please let Ofcom (FutureOfVoice@ofcom.org.uk) know if you become aware of any additional services that could be affected by the change which have not been identified in this note.

 

Where can I find out more?

 

  • Ofcom’s policy positioning statement on migration to VoIP – The future of fixed telephone servicessets out the changes, describes the roles and responsibilities of different organisations, and establishes Ofcom’s expectations of telecoms providers
  • Openreach, which runs the network infrastructure for many telephone companies, has also produced a short video to explain the changes
  • Contact your communications provider(s).

 

What next?

 

  • Telephone companies are working together to develop a website that will host information about the change.

 

  • Ofcom, working with the telephone companies, will continue to work with affected stakeholders and sectors to ensure there is widespread understanding of this change. With good planning, citizens and consumers can be protected from unnecessary disruption.

[1] This list is not exhaustive – there may be other applications within your sector

CHANGES TO TELEPHONE NETWORKS – INITIAL ADVICE TO POTENTIALLY-AFFECTED SECTORS

Five reasons mentoring is vital in the public sector

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Cultivating future leadership is essential to the public sector. It’s integral to ensuring the long-term stability of digital service delivery in a climate of increasing disruption. It’s vital that digital leaders in the public sector come together to nurture and develop its own leaders. Here are five reasons why mentoring is vital to the public sector.

1 Deepening the internal talent pool

Research by Deloitte has revealed that 43% of millennial workers plan on leaving their existing role within two years. The term ‘millennial’ might have become an overused sound bite but this generation represents a significant portion of the workforce. For local authorities, particularly, employee retention is key. Experience and knowledge of local idiosyncrasies and issues can often be a crucial factor in the efficiency and effectiveness of strategy deployment and it’s not something that can be developed overnight. Mentorship dramatically improves staff retention. It helps people in more junior roles visualise a career path and value their mentor’s experience, thereby creating a deeper talent pool for future leadership.

However, mentors do not necessarily have to be more senior than the people they mentor. What matters is that mentors have experience that others can learn from. Reverse mentoring programmes, where younger employees share their experience with senior colleagues, are also powerful employee engagement tools. Particularly in the public sector where some established roles haven’t traditionally relied upon technology usage.

2 Employee expectation

The concept of mentorship is now widely known. Although it’s been approximately 3,000 years since, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus entrusted his young son Telemachus to the care of his trusted friend Mentor, mentoring has become standard business practice only recently. Studies now show that people are seeking greater mentorship from their employers. The Huffington Post has reported that 75% of millennials not only want mentors, but deem it crucial for success.  In the same survey, 70% of non-millennials say they are open to reverse mentoring. Deloitte has suggested that employers who intend to stay with an organisation for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor than not.

Public sector organisations should regard this as a definite positive. It demonstrates that those entering the sector are enthusiastic to achieve and build an enduring and believe in staying with their employer long term if they are given the opportunity to develop.

3 Mentors facilitate networking

Mentors in the public sector can connect with others able to provide expertise and support in areas that differ from their own. Mentoring programmes facilitated by a membership association like Socitm, mean these connections can be developed beyond individual organisations and across the public sector as a whole. Connections and relationships developed in this way can only improve service delivery and, therefore, outcomes for citizens. This is of particular significance in that different sectors, such as health & social care and local government, can collaborate and apply best practice across the board. Strong leadership is dependent on collaboration, relationship-building and communication. In developing such connections, the public sector ensures that the legacy of leadership is more readily and effectively passed on without disruption to services.

4 People centred not technology centric

There is stronger demand on leadership to confidently navigate businesses through disruption. Evolving technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are all disruptive factors that pose a risk to organisational continuity today. Mentoring is critical to ensuring that those who understand these growing challenges also understand how to lead effectively.

Service delivery that impacts positively on people’s outcomes is the ultimate aim of ‘digital transformation’ in practice. Mentoring is a highly effective means of broadening people’s mindsets, making sure they are aware of the human implications of implementing digital strategy rather than focussing too heavily on technology itself.

5 Mentors grow through mentoring

Effective and inspiring leaders need to know how to establish positive, trusted relationships. Working with a mentee, particularly someone from outside one’s immediate organisation, is an opportunity to practice necessary skills, including empathy and active listening.

Mentoring within the public sector, particularly through an organisation like Socitm, provides an opportunity to continue to build your own network as you support your mentees to expand theirs.

Mentoring also promotes self-reflection and opportunity for mentors to reflect not only on what they have achieved but also on how they have reached those goals. Asking questions of a mentee often supports deeper insights into one’s own learning path, helping to build self-confidence. This self-reflection also helps mentors to identify training and development pathways they may wish to follow.

Five reasons mentoring is vital in the public sector

Leadership Advocate: July

LeadershipAdvocate-July-Blog

I took part in the Leadership Academy’s Top Talent in Cardiff. You may wonder why Cardiff when I work in Norfolk but, well, we wanted to be on the first one and thought it might be fun to network with our peers in Wales.

The programme looked interesting and different to other programmes, but I genuinely did not know what to expect.

Immediately, I was welcomed. People were friendly and relaxed which made it easy to break the ice and start the programme. Colin – leading – the discussion has a very clear, open approach to what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.

The most powerful thought-provoking parts of the programme were the self-challenging/self-reflecting elements that led to the development of my understanding of my personal circle of influence and how to increase that circle.

The programme explores vulnerability. This stuck a cord with me personally. I also realised that as I worked through the programme my self-confidence grew significantly.

The key things I took away from the programme were that I need to make time for self-reflection and that networking can improve my decision making as I will be better informed. Furthermore, I came away with an innate understanding that being an adaptable leader and changing my approach depending on the situation makes an incredible difference to my personal wellbeing and development in my role.

This programme is different, very different, it helps you understand yourself, builds confidence and explores the tools that could make a difference to you both every day and long term.

Top Talent certainly has the potential to take you from a manager to a leader.

Leadership Advocate: July

Digitech19: Challenges and rewards

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Socitm is proud to be supporting Digitech19. Steve Mallinson, from Public Sector Connect, explains more about this remarkable event in a guest blog.

Picture this: 700 delegates, 80 plus exhibitors and over 60 high level, expert speakers from across public and private sectors coming together at one time, in one great Manchester location. Add the logistics of sound, lighting, carpets, refreshments and furnishings and with any luck and a fair wind, 19th November will find many readers of this blog at digitech19, the year’s largest gathering of public sector technology and technology procurement specialists.

Staged in partnership with Crown Commercial Service (CCS) and supported by Socitm, Government Digital Service, NHS Digital and a host of other bodies, digitech19 presents many challenges for an event organiser, not least of which is the complexity, diversity of offerings and the pace of change within the technology sector. From the largest players in the market to the smallest SMEs, suppliers from all of CCS technology frameworks have the opportunity to toss their hat into the ring as exhibitors and sponsors, allowing delegates the chance to engage directly with them and to expand and refresh their networks, taking back fresh information to their own organisation on new and innovative solutions to the myriad challenges they face.

From our perspective here at Public Sector Connect, digitech19 is a great opportunity to renew contact with many of the speakers, supporters, delegates, sponsors and exhibitors that we welcomed to digitech18 last year over in sunny Leeds. Having said that, this year’s venue, Manchester Central, means that we are able to open digitech19’s doors to a wider public and private sector audience so if you’re from public sector and haven’t yet booked your free place, why not do so now? Just register at https://www.digitech19.co.uk/ and we look forward to seeing you on 19th November!

Digitech19: Challenges and rewards

Empowering women: changing the world

Since its conception in 1982, the Internet of Things (IoT) has grown to become one of the world’s most talked about technical innovations. Undoubtedly, in the not too distant future, the IoT will revolutionise the way services are delivered in the public sector.

Whether it’s adult social care, AI bots for local authority information delivery or making outreach services more accessible for rough sleepers, the only limitations to the possible use of the IoT in public service are set by human imagination.

However, while it may well be the future of our sector, the IoT is not a recent concept. Nor do the roots of its development rest in shallow ground.

In fact, the vision behind its development can be traced back to the late 1920s and it’s been developing and evolving ever since. The foundations of the technology required to bring the IoT to life also took shape long before Proctor and Gamble’s Kevin Ashton coined the phrase that’s now synonymous with the future of public sector service delivery.

Among those who first mobilised their ingenuity and vision to help set the wheels of IoT in motion were some remarkable and surprising people. Not least an unlikely female trailblazer helped sculpt the powerhouse of possibilities IoT it has become.

Once dubbed ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’, 1940s screen siren, Hedy Lamarr, always regretted being more known for her face than for her intellect. Having starred in 30 films, alongside a host of Hollywood legends including Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, Lamarr could hardly be described as one to shy away from the limelight or the public adoration it afforded her. Despite this, she was acutely aware that her revered beauty was only skin deep and that it was her passion for inventing that afforded her life more substance and meaning.

“Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid,” Lamarr once said. Whether or not one agrees with this sentiment, most people would concur that it takes a very special ‘girl’ to become a prolific and globally famous film actress while, at the same time, spearheading the development of wireless communications.

In 1942, together with co-inventor, the composer, George Antheil, Lamarr was awarded a patent for a ‘Secret Communications System’ the pair had developed in an attempt to help combat the Nazis in World War II. By manipulating radio frequencies at irregular intervals between transmission and reception, the invention formed an unbreakable code to prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel.

Lamarr had no formal engineering training but had recently escaped an unhappy marriage, in her native Austria, to one of Europe’s largest armaments manufacturers. During the oppressive union, Fritz Mandl, Lamarr’s possessive and overbearing husband and arms supplier to Hitler, had openly mused about weapons control systems with Lamarr. At the time, research was indicating that radio waves were better than wire for controlling weapons such as torpedoes and Lamarr had the necessary brain power to pick-up on the salient points.

For one thing, Mandl divulged, it was hard to make a wire long enough to ensure that the communications channel between a commander and a torpedo would not break, leaving the torpedo to chart its own course. Even at a length of ten miles, a wire would not be sufficiently long. Radio waves, he told her, solved this problem by eradicating the need for a physical communication connection between commander and torpedo. However, radio waves had a serious flaw in that enemies could access the same radio wave and jam it.

The significance of the invention wasn’t recognised for several decades and it wasn’t until the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October 1962, that Antheil and Lamarr’s ‘jamming proof’ technology was added to the radios of US naval ships. Subsequently, it has rolled-out into numerous military applications but the “spread spectrum” technology that Lamarr helped to invent is most significant for forming the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations, including IoT, possible.

Her other inventions, including a bouillon cube which – when added to water – was supposed to create a sparkling soda drink but, instead, (as Lamarr herself admitted) tasted like Alka Seltzer, were less impactful and her passion for engineering seemed to wane as her film career faded. Her last film was 1958’s The Female Animal, with Jane Powell and she gradually slipped wilfully into obscurity. Six times married, Lamarr was arrested (but not convicted) twice for shoplifting, once in 1966 and once in 1991. In 1981, with her eyesight failing, she retreated fully from public life and settled in Miami Beach, Florida, where on January 19th  2000, she died aged 86.

Lamarr’s innovation and insight are inspirational but where did that impetuous come from? Was it because her roots in adversity gave her an edge that preceded her time? Whatever enabled her to think so very far outside the box, Lamarr refused to conform to the narrow and constrained view of women’s potential to shape the world at that time. Depressingly, contemporary society still comes with a set of predefined archetypes women are supposed to adhere to. Despite a dramatic transformation in the digital landscape, women remain woefully unrepresented in technology, with only a tiny percentage working in IT.

Socitm is proud to be challenging this stereotype and, as such, it’s Leadership Academy runs Empowering Women in a Digital World (EWDW). Established in2015/16 by Nadira Hussain, this ground-breaking programme is designed to enable women to exercise their leadership skills confidently, fearlessly and without boundaries irrespective of adversity and gendered criticism.

Hussain said:  ‘We are so hugely proud of the Leadership Academy and the continued achievements and success that our participants are experiencing. It has been a pleasure to see the growth and development of women colleagues within the profession and the sector and for them to personally recommend attendance of this programme. Take the opportunity; it can be life-changing!’

The next EWDW programme begins in Newcastle on 16th & 17th July. To enrol visit https://www.lead.socitm.net/ewdw or email: hello@socitm.net.

Empowering women: changing the world

Planes, trains and automobiles: The long road to User Satisfaction

 

wales

Socitm’s Matthew Fraser recently went on a road-trip to Wales with Interim Head of Membership and Partners, Aimie Francis. Here he explains how Improve literally improves service delivery. And how Aimie’s driving led to a white-knuckle ride!

It was a long journey for the twelve participants who joined us at our recent Welsh Improve Workshop in Llandrindod Wells, with many travelling from the corners of the Principality to join us for our 10am start.  None however, had travelled as far as myself.

While many had left home at 7am, my journey began at 11am the previous day as I travelled by plane, train and finally by foot from Inverness to the middle of Powys.  I say travel, but this included an hour delay to my flight, another two hours waiting for the single train that travels from Birmingham to Llandrindod and finally a one hour lay connection in Shrewsbury.  All told, it was 8pm when I finally reached the station in the centre of town, but not seeing any taxi rank (or indeed many people) I foolishly chose to walk to my hotel – incidentally Google Maps estimate of 46 minutes was incredibly accurate.  So after a total ten hours, I had finally reached my destination (and you dear reader have finally reached the moment when I start to discuss User Satisfaction).

Long as our respective journeys were, they are but a fraction compared to the effort involved in making and keeping our end-users satisfied.

As our workshop discussion began, one thing quickly became clear.  Welsh councils are very good when it comes to User Satisfaction!  Could it be that the Welsh simply give better service?  Or is it because as a nation they are more easily pleased than the Scots or English?  Unfortunately, our data cannot explain this.   But it did show that only one organisation had an average score below 4.9 (on a scale of 1 to 7).  While we could sense their shame in the room, even this score is very close to typical levels elsewhere in the UK.

But what affects these “Satisfaction Scores”?  As the group discussion continued, we realised that while we are all diverse with each participating organisation being unique similar themes and challenges recur.  These include:

  • New devices make a difference: Everyone likes shiny new things.
  • New systems and ways of working can have teething problems.
  • Users exposure to consumer devices affect their view of corporate IT.
  • Curiously, the more you request feedback, the happier users become – provided you are seen to act on it.

A key benefit of conducting User Satisfaction along with your peers is the ability to discuss these challenges with one another and learn how different approaches are working or can be refined.

During the morning session we also discussed how we can get more feedback from our users.

Once again, hats off to the Welsh organisations with five receiving responses from over 30% of their users compared to the national median of 24%.  One participant attained a colossal response rate of 38%.  The key to such high rates appears to be:

  • Publicise the survey well in advance, explaining why it is important
  • Be a nuisance: Keep on asking for responses via reminder emails and newsletters
  • Conduct regular surveys.
  • Ask your whole user base, not just those who have recently contacted you.
  • Demonstrate that you are using the data and comments provided.

Now throughout my travels, I couldn’t help but notice how often I was asked for feedback.  Hotels, cafes and trains all requested that I complete a short survey either via a note on the receipt, a sign on the wall or a follow up email.  Of course, like the hypocrite that I clearly am I haven’t completed any of these.  This illustrates how difficult it is to get feedback from the average service user.  Therefore, I would like to thank the over 8,000 users who completed our survey within Wales.

After a break for lunch participants were asked to to “Mind the Gap”.  Not the gap between train and platform, but the “Expectation Gap”.  Improve’s User Satisfaction survey requests users to rate twenty aspects of service delivery by their 1) importance and 2) satisfaction.  These can then be compared to see if participating organisations are successfully delivering the elements of the service that users really care about.

For example, my flight may be happy to serve “premium brand” coffee.  But I’d be happy to drink anything provided my flight arrived on time. (You may guess from this example that my return flight was also delayed.  Perhaps next time my “expectation gap” will be lower due to anticipating poor service in the first instance.)

It was interesting to note that while most organisations faced similar issues, the extent to which expectation was being met varied considerably.  Our group discussions therefore gave some the opportunity to show off by explaining recent changes, while others gained valuable insight.

This cohort of organisations was the first to analyse the IT competency of their users, utilizing our new “User Skills” set of questions.  The results from this section showed that in general most users are very skilled in IT.  However, some participants were able to identify key areas where additional training or awareness could be beneficial.  Oddly, we also found an interesting proportion of users who expressed a “Don’t know – don’t care” attitude to IT skills.  This could show that a different type of training may be required.

For my journey back to Birmingham I abandoned the train, accepting the offer of a lift back with my colleague – Improve Manager Aimie Francis.  This certainly removed the stress from my return leg, or at least part of it (a future blog on Aimie’s driving may follow).  This made we wonder, could we take away some of the stress you may have when conducting User Satisfaction surveys?

Socitm Improve can:

  • Provide you with a set of established peer-assured questions
  • Send out invitations and reminders
  • Present your results in a dynamic Tableau dashboard, all ready to be interrogated

Most importantly, you’ll get the chance to discuss your results at our next workshop (hopefully at a location that is nearer to me), where you can learn from your peers how they are driving up satisfaction.

The workshop can also provide a happy reminder that no organisation is perfect.  In fact, even the best performing organisation (with an overall satisfaction score of 6.06) still had a one individual who said the service was awful!  Maybe they were just grumpy after a ten-hour journey.

Planes, trains and automobiles: The long road to User Satisfaction

Leadership Advocate of the Month: June.

LeadershipAdvocate-June-Twitter

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.