Friday, 31 March 2006

The emerald city that is the BCS London Office

I arrived at the London office of the British Computer Society (BCS) in Southampton street a little early so plucked up the courage to mingle a little.

First I spoke with a guy who was not actually there for the forum, but an oral exam for one of his programme management certifications. Over the past year he's certified in Prince 2, MSP, and APM - busy busy! He said that the Prince 2 exam wasn't that hard as it was open book and that as long as you understand the concepts and overall process it's fine - food for thought (but then it sounds like he has a LOT of experience unlike me!). I was curious as to the sudden need for accreditations and he explained the he works for a large telecommunications company and it is the customers to whom they are increasingly providing ICT services that are the real driver. In today's private sector marketplace there is a real need to demonstrate the professionalism of their staff through accreditations. This interested me because it is one of the very themes that the government is beginning to accept. Perhaps we aren't that far behind the private sector after all...

I also bumped into a lady I met at the Government IT roadshow 2 weeks ago. It turns out she works for a county council, so it will be interesting to see how they progress as I suspect we will face many similar issues with implementation/culture change.

Anyhow, the forum itself focused on the differences between SFIA v2 and v3 and how these changes have been implemented in the BCS products. I was particularly pleased that they spent some time talking about the Government IT profession model based upon SFIA v3 and how SFIA+ has also pulled from this and will continue to do so. I was certainly reassured that we haven't wasted our investment. If anything it has only motivated me to try and realise further benefits from it.

There was also a case study from Deloitte regarding the BCS Group Membership scheme. Fundamentally it's a fast-track way to get their staff accredited and be able to say to customers 'we are professional' and have the BCS seal of approval to show it. They've done well, but I can't see it working for us - not yet anyway.

The afternoon finished with a Professional Development Quiz. The first part was to check if we were listening, but the second half prompted some interesting discussion in our small groups based around the following areas:

3 key principles of professional development
Development against a recognised external standard
Creating a personal development plan as the start of a cycle
Monitoring and recording against the plan
Review sign-off at the end of the cycle

3 most important factors to achieve successful implementation of a professional development programme
Senior management buy-in
Treat as a project using a suitable methodology, e.g. Prince 2.
Appoint a co-ordinator / project manager who is responsible for making it happen

3 most important factors to sustain a successful professional development programme
Continued and visible backing from senior management
Perceived standing of scheme in organisation
Ability to motivate all participants

3 aspects where Quality Assurance can make a major contribution to effectiveness
Correct and consistent use of the SFIA+ framework
Training and monitoring of supervisors
Advice and guidance to supervisors and participants
Regular reviews of scheme operation

3 way SFIA+ should be used in planning personal development
Explore potential career paths and long term development options
Identify main skill and level to develop
Add components from other skill levels if required
Identify specific work activities, knowledge, and skills to develop over the next cycle
Review other components such as training activities, professional development activities, and qualifications

I have some notes I will type up and publish regarding the content of the presentations themselves which may be interesting to someone out there - I certainly found it useful. Until then, there's no place like home! *clicks heels*

P.S. Did I mention our team won? ;)

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

We're off to see the wizard...

Okay, so maybe not - but it was a nice idea.

I'm actually off to the British Computer Society Professional National Forum in London tomorrow. We use their BCS Skill Builder tool at work to identify our skill base and also to help build job descriptions. It's a little clunky but it gets the job done. To be honest we need to make more use of it than we are currently, but that's a topic for another time.

The point is that BCS Skills Manager is based on the Skills For the Information Age competency framework (known as SFIA) which has just been updated to version 3. I'm hoping that tomorrow I will find out how the BCS intend to reconcile SFIA+ v3 with the Government IT Profession Competency Framework (which is also based on SFIA v3). I'm guessing that we aren't their only customer from the public sector and I wouldn't want to see our investment wasted now that the government have finally caught up!

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Wait... we're professionals?

Well it seems that the UK Government has realised that we IT folks aren't people who keep things ticking away in the basement with a set of skills that is so specialised that we are considered geeks who are unable to communicate with people (and yes - I do believe that is how the TV show IT Crowd makes us appear!).

I've been keeping an eye on the Chief Information Officer Council website for awhile now and when the opportunity arose to attend the first of their roadshows about the all new Government IT Profession I was (as always) keen to be be part of it (despite having to get up early in the morning!).

The main aim appears to be getting IT as individuals to recognise themselves as professionals with a career (in the same way that accountants do), and getting the rest of the business to realise that those who work in IT are highly skilled people who have something to offer other areas as well. Furthermore, there is the desire to get IT professionals communicating with their peers in other organisations both within the same sector and cross-sector. There are a number of strategies in place (or in development) which address how they intend to achieve this (see themes).

The roadshow format was well thought out. The main presentation clearly showed the themes they had identified, work completed so far, and where they are going. The workshop later on gave everyone an opportunity to answer various questions ranging from how we feel about the profession as it stands and the obstacles we face, to what we would like to see for the IT profession.

One of the most interesting learning points that came out of this was for me that local government appears to be worse off than central government and certain other sectors in terms of process and project management, and lack of support from upper management. Some members of our group were fortunate to have CIOs sitting on the highest board and key in making strategic decisions. For those of us from local authorities it was a very different story. We agreed that there are opportunities missed by the business due to the lack of IT representation at strategic board level. This gave rise to the question - just HOW are the team that are driving the Government IT Profession going to communicate with upper management of public sector organisations and garner their support? It was a question without a real answer. I am however confident that it will be addressed. After all, if it isn't then this will become just one more flash-in-the-pan initiative; the team and those of us at the roadshow want this to be long-lasting.

There were lots of suggestions on how to move things forward and the website was at the heart of a lot of them, i.e. we need forums. If they want us to communicate then a simple forum will get the ball rolling. Nothing yet - but I'm monitoring it!

On the personal development side I found the roadshow very useful. I was a little apprehensive when I walked in to find about 200+ people all dressed in well-pressed suits from the upper echelons of government, the home office, NHS, etc. However, in the group workshop I reassured myself that everything I had to say was valid and subsequently volunteered to present our group findings to every one else.
  • Mistake 1: When I walked up to the front to I kept my coat on - not the most professional impact!
  • Mistake 2: Although I had the open body language, used my hands, face, etc. I did notice that the longer I went on that my pace sped up a little too much and I found myself needing to breathe. Not something I usually experience - I did catch my breath and slow down.
All in all another useful learning experience and I'm proud that I put myself in the position and lived to tell the tale!

Monday, 27 March 2006

Finding a way out of the maze

I initially started this blog with the intention of focusing solely on ITIL. However, over the past two months I've realised (mainly through posts on the ITIL Community forum) that I can't really say much on this until I have real world experience of it. Currently this is limited to implementation of a consolidated service desk function and incident management.

So... instead this blog will steer towards self-development in various areas with references to things I am reading and finding useful/thought provoking at the moment. My aim is to make a new (hopefully interesting) entry twice a week.

In terms of future training, I am keen to work towards the ITIL Manager's Certificate at the end of this year and to sit the Prince 2 Practitionar the following year. However, courses for both are so expensive that I seriously doubt that work will fund either of them which means I may have to do some serious saving if I want to develop the skills. Suffice to say I find it somewhat frustrating to see some colleagues who view training as a waste of time when I am keen to take every opportunity that comes my way (and try to create it when it doesn't yet exist)!

Anyhow, work DID finally fund the all important red book - ITIL Service Delivery. I haven't read right through it yet, I'm dipping into areas that interest me first - like service level management and IT financial mangement. If only I had had this book before I was project manager of my first 'major' project... (more on that in another post).

Still no go on the purchase of the ISO20000 standard. It has to wait for the new financial year. As does my request to join the itSMF *sigh*. Patience is not one of my natural virtues - but it is earmarked for improvement!