The Public (Sector) Gets What The Public (Sector) Wants…

…but I want nothing that SOCITM’s got, we’re going over old ground (na na na na)

Okay, apologies to both The Jam and SOCITM there, but those crazy guys and gals over at Public Sector Forums have come up with another jolly good wheeze.

In this case, because they are concerned that SOCITM’s Better Connected report doesn’t adequately address all of the concerns of web and IT managers in the UK public sector, they are proposing the creation of the Public Sector Web Managers’ Group to:

  • Exchange knowledge and good practice
  • Collectively provide useful assessment and benchmarking criteria
  • Make representations to other bodies where appropriate
  • Understand and tap into best practice from the wider market (not just the public sector)
  • Share experience of suppliers and products
  • Meet regularly

Well, dang me but that sounds like a good idea. Working together across the public sector? What, actual joined up working? Helping each other?

Well, I’m certainly willing to throw my hat in the ring for this one – at least in my own time! Although I wouldn’t actually describe myself as a ‘web manager‘. Web developer or Project manager, yes…

Although having said that, I do have somewhat of an interest in this sort of thing: e-government, wise use of technological innovation, usability, equality, standards, testing against standards, so at the very least it’s something I’d be interested in being involved in (assuming they’d have me!).

I’d like to be clear at the start though: particularly with my ‘Going Underground’ reference at the start of the post which could easily have given the wrong impression. I feel that SOCITM’s Better Connected report does serve a useful purpose and I think that the Public Sector Web Managers’ Group should set themselves out to run alongside the likes of Better Connected, and avoid trying to pitch themselves as an alternative.

Oh, and if they want to be taken seriously, they’ll need to come up with a catchier name than ‘The Public Sector Web Managers’ Group’. I would have suggested a shorter, more meaningful name, but none of mine sounded serious enough (”the Pubbies”, “PS-KEX”) and I think the name ought to have a certain gravitas.

The best I managed to come up with was “PSG ISG”: the Public Sector Grassroots Internet Standards Group. Possibly not that catchy, but on the other hand it does sum up what — as I understand — the group is meant to be about.

But that in itself raises a few questions:

  • Who determines the aims of the group? Is it intended to be led by PSF, or is it intended to be led by the members?
  • How will membership actually work? How will decisions be made? Who will get a vote? Will there be a constitution of any description? Will there be any kind of ‘executive body’?
  • Who will be expected to take part? What does ‘taking part’ mean? Do you just sign up to a newsletter, or is it some formal body that will be making recommendations?

I think that if the group is intended to provide methods for assessments, and particularly if it is going to be expected to make representations to other bodies on behalf of public sector web teams, than it needs an at least partially elected board (maybe with an unelected representative from PSF?), it needs a constitution, and it needs to know precisely what it’s doing.

In other words, if we’re going to do this, let’s make sure we do it properly.

Although it’s fair to point out that this is, of course, all only my opinion and as I have not yet been appointed Supreme High Overlord of the Public Sector Web Managers’ Group (vote JackP for Supreme High Overlord!), it’s entirely possible that it will take a different shape.

But if you’re interested to know more, you’d like to be involved somehow, or to help shape it, why not pop along to the Public Sector Forums website to read more about the proposed Public Sector Web Managers’ Group, and then either attend their London event or otherwise contact them to express an interest?

Let’s work together to make a better public sector web experience for everyone. And if that sounds too trite to you (it does to me), remember that this will also importantly make our lives easier in the process. And that’s something I can certainly raise a glass to…

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