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

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?


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?