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!


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