Three words come to mind as I reflect on this year's Socitm Spring conference: innovation, transformation and people. What you'll notice from those three words is that they don't include technology. That's because a key theme was the technology as the enabler, not the solution.
If you've ever read any previous blogs of mine, you'll realise that this is a theme that's dear to my heart. Mainly because that's what we always say about Knowledge Hub. At the end of the day the techie part is really there to help you get a job done, achieve an outcome.
To pick up on my three key words again, here are some highlights that go along with them...
What an inspiring story we heard from Anna Piperal of Enterprise Estonia. Imagine for a moment, a world where 99% of state services are online (with the exception of marriage, divorce and property deals), you only have to provide the government your details once (as opposed to several times for different departments), a tax declaration takes 3 minutes (and a tax refund takes 5 days), you can vote online using your digital identity and setting up a business takes 18 minutes. Sound fanciful? No, this is the reality in Estonia.
Yes, it's a much smaller country, but there are hugely valuable lessons to learn from what has taken place in Estonia, not least its approach to sharing data to make all of the above (and more) possible. Through the e-identity a citizen can easily and simply access and conduct all his or her business with the state. Anna herself mentioned an example where she renewed her driving licence via mobile app in 2 minutes flat when she arrived at Gatwick airport and it will be waiting for her when she gets home in 5 days time.
What a thrill that the whole day had a transformation focus, not a technical one. There was a great interactive poll session with Socitm's Andy Rogers and Adapt2Digital's Mel Ross, which highlighted that while almost all organisations said they are running some kind of "transformation" programme, almost all organisations also said that their people don't understand the difference between incremental change and genuine wholesale transformation.
I heard mention of the dreaded "legacy systems" on several occasions throughout the day, but alongside that was a genuine will to transform things. We should stop seeing those legacy systems as a barrier we hide behind, more as something that needs (gradually) sorting out. This was a determining factor with all councils who spoke. Wherever they are on the transformation journey, they're not allowing the old systems to stop them from doing something new. Good on them.
Most exciting of all was that it seemed a unanimous point of agreement that people are really at the heart of everything. Whether we're talking about staff in terms of bringing people with you on the transformation journey; encouraging space for innovative thinking and ideas; or developing everyone's digital skills. Or if we're talking about the customer in terms of putting them and their needs at the centre of everything we do.
The final session of the day was about the women in IT project led by outgoing Socitm President Nadira Hussain. She was joined on the platform by Joanna Smith of the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust and MP Chi Onwurah. It was an interesting session that highlighted the need to continue to promote technical careers to women and girls and to encourage them into roles within local government and the public sector.
Great strides have been made over the last couple of years in terms of raising the profile of women in IT and I'm pleased to hear that Geoff Connell, the new Socitm President intends to continue the focus on diversity in IT and developing and promoting roles for young people in technology.
It was great to see that the focus of the day was firmly on the people side of things rather than too many techie discussions. This is always the case in Knowledge Hub, as you, our members, are, as I often say, our lifeblood.
Find out more about the Socitm Network on Knowledge Hub and its groups here.