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Socitm pushes softer skills for e-gov

Strategy before technology

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Local authorities should focus on softer management skills rather than technical competence if they are to deliver e-government successfully.

In its report, Delivering Local e-Government, the Society of IT Management (Socitm) identifies two key e-government roles within local authorities: the e-champion and the head of ICT. In theory, the e-champion promotes the idea of e-government within the authority and plans the kinds of services that could be delivered, while the head of ICT is works out how the technical infrastructure can support those plans.

In practice these roles are often filled by one person, and that is often the head of ICT. This can lead to a too narrow focus on the technical implementation with less thought being given to the kinds of services people actually need or would use.

Socitm argues that this is not a failure of the IT manager, rather that the IT manager is not always empowered to deal with the wider implications of e-government. This is a commonly-held view among those working in the sector.

Last month, Angus Dunlop, public sector spokesman for CRM supplier Northgate, said it is often hard for IT staff to get managers to buy in to a project. But he argues that it is also a matter of perspective: a project run by IT will start with what the technology can do, and work from there. Someone outside IT, or given the authority to work beyond those boundaries, will see technology as a facilitator, rather than an end in itself.

Tony Riding, the report's author, says that local authorities need a blend of business and IT skills to deal with the "highly complex" e-government environment. He says that the report should provide guidance on how local authorities can build a management framework and identify the skills needed for a successful e-government implementation.

The report concludes that e-champions and heads of ICT need to be good at relationship building and communicating. Leadership skills, an understanding of customer service and organisational awareness are handy too.

Copies of the report are available free of charge to Socitm Insight subscribers and at discounted rates to non-subscribing Socitm members. Anyone else can get a copy in exchange for £175. ®

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