Monday, 5 December 2011

Give the Gift of the IBM Enterprise Computing Scholarship this Christmas

City University London's Master of Information Leadership is offering a scholarship for April 2012 entry in conjunction with IBM,

Congratulations to both David Chan for securing this and IBM for having the foresight and vision to support the MIL and City's efforts to support the CIO community in this way.

Computer Weekly is again the media partner for the MIL scholarship; I enjoyed working with them immensely when I was at City.

Read the webpage for details and pass onto someone who you'd think make a great future CIO and help the IT profession get the future leadership it deserves.

In the Press: Supporting CAS, PASC = Skills Doublethink, PQA...

It's amazing how busy you can get when you are no longer working! But I'm now on top of the post-work arrangements and getting ready to travel the world in mid-January. So now would be a good time to review and catch up on press coverage I've been involved in over the last few months.

The first is an article in ComputerWorldUK that I'm an occasional contributor to. It's a call to support the excellent Computing at School group.

There's little I can add to this article, except to reaffirm that supporting education is one of the most important things that the IT profession can do to secure its long-term future. Computing at School needs and deserves our full support.

The second was a response to the Public Accounts Select Committee (PASC) report on waste and overspend in public-sector IT. I wrote a byline article for

In the context of the PASC report I was also quoted in the following article making broadly similar points.

One reoccurring theme is that the public sector needs to up-skill its IT functions at the mid-career level. In this regard the Master of Information Leadership is clearly of its time. However, until I see proper investment in this area, I doubt we can take any claims of action on this problem seriously. Complaining about but not investing in your workforce is doublethink, irrespective of whether it is in the private or public sectors.

NB. I think that assuming that the private sector is immune from these issues of waste, weak talent management or mal-investment would be a mistake.

Third I had the pleasure of being invited to blog for the Guardian Higher Education Network on Post-Qualification Admissions (i.e. applying to UCAS after A-level results are known).

One point I was like to add is that I support PQA not because it is the easy or convenient thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do for applicants. The moral dimension of the role of universities is an under-considered aspect of the admissions narrative, but essential to their long-term sustainability.

I was also mentioned in the launch of City's undergraduate scholarships that I'm sure will help attract more talented students to their computing undergraduate programme; something that I am immensely proud to have been involved with.

I've had a great time doing press while at City University London and especially working with the consummately professional Luke Nava, the School of Informatics' press officer.

Any press from now on will be in a private capacity or for a future job. Watch this space.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Last Day at City: 13 Great Years!

This is my last day at City University London. I've decided to take a career break and travel the world.

Almost two years ago my mother died and I promised her that I’d not work so hard (being an academic, especially at Head of Department level is an all-consuming activity). A year on and I realised that I wasn’t making good on that promise and decided on reflection that I should spend some time on me while I am young enough to enjoy it.

I’ve had a great 13 years at City, and working with David Chan to establish the Centre for Information Leadership has been wonderful. I’d like to thank you all for your kind support of the Centre and ask you to continue to support David who will be leading it to bigger and better things.

The Master of Information Leadership (MIL) will I am sure flourish, and I must say it was one of best things I did at City and I hope it plays its part in securing the future of the IT profession. I'll still be one of its main supporters.

I am not sure what I'll be doing once I am back from my travels. This will be something I will leave until my return (but from October 2012 I'll be open to offers...:-)

I have been made an honorary visiting fellow at City and I will be continuing to blog on matters relevant to information leaders (and on the previous MIL weekends I have been involved in). Of course, I am no longer an employee of City University London so the disclaimer I have about speaking in a personal capacity now doubly applies.

So watch this space!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Cake or Death: Or why the LSE doesn't understand economics!

I sometimes do understand why those outside academia seem to think we make bizzare decisions. After some recent pints with a colleague I was reminder of the very funny 'cake or death' sequence by Eddie Izzard - shown below.

As it says, the right choice between cake or death should be obvious. So who would choose death? It would appear that academia can sometimes choose death on principle.

Over that last few months universities have been announcing their fees under the new regime in 2012. The Daily Mash (warning: is a bit sweary) appears have some rather biting insights. It's actually not as a simple as that: high fees are a marker of quality, and finance is to maintain high levels of quality research-led teaching. To do the best for their students, it's a commonly held view that universities wish to do both.

The recent announcement of the London School of Economics's council and academic board to charge less than 9K is rather bizarre. They claim it is to send "a clear message that LSE welcomes students from all backgrounds". But I find it hard to see how it's in the interests of students to do this for the following reasons.
  1. They could use the maximum fee give bigger bursaries to the poor students, so they can focus on their studies without worrying about paying their bills.
  2. ...or god forbid, spend the money on better facilities, more quality contact time for students.
  3. It's a slap to the face for the international students (LSE is heavily internationalised) who already pay an awful lot  - this decision can't but remove the last lingering doubts many of them have that they may be there as cash cows.
  4. A high price point usually is a signal of quality. I hope for the LSE's sake that its reputation is able to stand a price point lower than the vast majority of the Russell and 1994 group.
It is therefore rather depressing that given the number of economists in the LSE, they still wanted to make what is in my opinion nothing more than a party political point at the expense of their students (now that the baby boomers are too old to occupy and set up a red base in the bursar's office, futile gestures are all that's left I suppose....:-). I assume it takes a certain level of rarefied intellect to not to make the obviously correct decision.

Anyway, I can't see how the LSE can from this decision get to the highest standards of academic excellence, unless they wish to not support poor students as best they can, strip-mine their international students (not sustainable, or even ethical IMHO) or seek donations of dubious providence (that will diminish further their reputation).

Cake or death anyone? Mine's a Death by Chocolate...:-)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

In the Press: Reflections on the NESTA Games Report

A catch up on my press writings. I occasionally write for ComputerWorld UK and I recently wrote on the NESTA report on skills in the games industry. Both the report and my article are worth a read IMHO.

As you can tell, I thought the report was a curate's egg. I found the idea that a sensible league table could be constructed particularly hilarious. I'd say the the largest barrier to the top 5-10% of C++ coding talent from universities going into games is them 'selling out' and taking the better pay and conditions in London's financial services industry. I know of one other leading London CS department that runs an annual games event to persuade their graduates not just to go to banks and consultancies.

Apart from acknowledging the ability of special interest groups to lobby government instead of addressing the problem from their own resources, it to me highlights the futility of trying to manage skills at all in central government as it appears to attract attempts to capture the agenda away from those who really matter - the students!

I suppose the games industry at least didn't ask for tax credits (again!). I find it hard to believe that you can ask for subsidy and say you are a vibrant industry contributing to growth at the same time. If they can't entice the top C++ coding talent to move from productive jobs in financial services without a subsidy, then that talent is better for society working for banks to build the economy. Markets work nicely that way - pay and conditions follow productivity.

The quote below from Frederic Bastiat in his essay 'Government' perhaps says all that needs to be said.

"Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else."

As I said in the article, attracting and developing talent is a problem that the games industry has to solve itself.

Monday, 2 May 2011

'Metrics Puppies' or why Deming should be read by HE managers...

I've been reflecting on an interesting talk I attended at the IoE two months ago by Professor Rob Cuthbert called "Failing the Challenge of Institutional Evaluation: how and why managerialism flourishes". The talk and the discussion did miss an important point, alas...

An interesting anecdote was shared of a university with overall NSS scores not statistically significantly different from the norm. So instead of targeting the headline figure directly and cascading it aggressively down to the front line, they looked at the detailed responses and reviewed their practices in a considered way. Over the next few years the scores went up. But a few years later response was changed and ran using the management by objectives playbook - scores then back went down to where they were...

But this not just an HE issue - it illustrates the point that MBO can be dangerous.

Of course academics who can't teach shouldn't expect to be paid, but the vast majority want to do a good job. Interestingly there was the usual hand-wringing about managerialism in the discussion, but no concrete discussion of what an alternative would look like (apart from allowing academics to do as they please - quelle surprise?).

One name that was not mentioned was Deming - I guess engineering management isn't really in line with the overabundance of postmodernist or Marxist analyses of university management in the literature. To illustrate, the above situation could easily be retold in terms of his Red Bead Experiment. His proposal in essence is that the system of work determines most of the performance, so measurement is best used to understand how the system can be improved rather than aimed at exhorting the workforce to work harder/smarter/faster.

This applies to all sectors and arguably it is IMHO equally important in services as it is in manufacturing. For those interested in the debate between MBO and the more humanistic engineering management approach, Art Kleiner's 'Measures that Matter' article is an excellent introduction (albeit from an accounting viewpoint).

I close with by coining a new phrase: a 'metrics puppy' to describe the unthinking advocates of MBO. Those from the UK may have visions of the puppy that advertised toilet paper by chasing rolls of it with great energy. The blind chasing of measurements by making their transmission the object of management without understanding the work system is really no different - just not as cute.

PS. Posted using BlogPress from my iPad - so apologies if things go awry while I get used to it.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A Tale of Two CIOs (Saturday 2nd October 2010)

One aim of the Information Leader in Organisations module is to understand the differences and similarities in information leader roles in different organisations.

First, Chris Puttick, CIO of Oxford Archaeology presented on 'More with Less'. The charity sector is a great place to look for innovate solutions to provide great IT to a demanding (and often non-mainstream) user base with very little money. His talk invited the MIL students to think about what was impossible and lead to a very interesting discussion of the trade-off between cost-cutting and risk.

The contrast with the last speaker of the day couldn't be more start. Leon Schumacher, Group CIO of Novartis. He presented work he was a part of with the CIO Executive Council, a global CIO network. Their Future State CIO model is a principled analysis of CIO role and competencies. It examines the transitions required between functional IT roles and the transformation/strategic roles that information leaders seek. We are quite grateful that the CIO Executive Council allowed us use of this model as a basis for analysing a number of issues that arise during this module.

Though the companies and budgets they are worlds apart (in terms of budget, Leon's phone budget is probably larger than Chris' whole IT budget), what unites them is a passion and commitment to using information to make their organisations more effective and a broad skill-set that allows them to achieve this. The two speakers embodied that message splendidly.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

MIL: These are who I get to enjoy teaching...

Computer Weekly have profiled the first group of Master of Information Leadership students in support of our scholarship competition - the article is here.

I have to say its been a joy to teach them. The teaching approach is really paying off and David and I are seeing the improvement in their academic work and their professional practice.

I'm looking forward to the April intake joining us!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Brief: Have I coined a phrase.....?

The concept of cultural maturity has come up in a number of modules on the Master of Information Leadership. There appears to be a plethora of maturity models ever since Crosby (1979), and most aren't that different). So I'd like to say we should recognise this orgy of identikit model construction with a new IT acronym (my proposal seems to have caught on with the MIL students, anyway)...

YAMM = Yet Another Maturity Model

Looked on Google, and it drew a blank so I'm claiming it. Feel free to use it  - but say it was me....:-)

Fame at last? Time will tell...


Crosby, Philip (1979). Quality is Free. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-014512-1.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

What does an MIL student look like?

We have been getting enquiries for the Master of Information Leadership and the Computer Weekly scholarship. This blogpost is an attempt to articulate what I see an MIL student looks like in more concrete terms. If this works I'd like to put something more 'official' on the Centre for Information Leadership website, where the entrance requirements are stated thus:

"You will normally be the possession of at least an upper second UK honours degree or equivalent. In addition you will have at least three years in an experienced business-facing information role (equivalent to SFIA 5/CITP), e.g. senior information manager, senior IT consultant.

If your first language is not English, you will be expected to present IELTS 7.0 or equivalent."

It is of course made more difficult by the 'title inflation' that is common in the IT industry. It is quite possible to be an 'IT manager' that does not manage any people and a small budget (e.g. in an SME). We are looking for people in an IT role with experience of line management and significant budgets (or the equivalent in consultancy and freelance roles). You can break this down in terms of hierarchy as follows:
  1. IT Directors/CIOs/CTOs (SFIA 7/FBCS) that wish to develop their skills and/or move to a board level role (or in consultant terms, senior partners).
  2. Their direct reports (SFIA 6) that could include enterprise architects, programme managers, heads of IT services, etc. (and equivalent interims and experienced senior consultants).
  3. Also in larger organisations (e.g. banks, supermarket chains, major consultancies) talented professionals at the level below (usually SFIA 5-6/CITP), say project managers, service managers, senior consultants.
    Our intake would not look out of place on a high-quality executive MBA programme, albeit very IT focused; from that they would likely be in their 30's with some more experienced professionals adding additional gravitas to the cohort.

    Though we make use of the SFIA framework when we look at applications to the MIL, it can be somewhat abstract and I think something more concrete would be useful. So here are some (made up) example profiles of the kinds of students that would be suited to the Master of Information Leadership.
    • Peter is an interim CIO with over 20 years experience in IT management working in a number of private and public sector organisations. Apart from a desire to develop his effectiveness further, he wishes to access the intellectual underpinnings of his role and be more active in the debates around his role, in a focused manner that an MBA would not. (SFIA 7)
    • Jane is an enterprise architect for a FMCG company, reporting directly into the UK CIO and is looking to progress to an information leadership position herself. Originally a physicist she has worked in systems analysis and technology advisory role in the 12 years prior to her current position. As the company requires her to meet with managers across the UK, the weekend delivery in London is convenient. (SFIA 6)
    • Sanjeev works in the UK as a key account manager for one of the large outsourcing firms. Educated at IIT he has spent the last 10 years rising via roles in service delivery and project management to be the direct interface with CIOs and IT directors in the retail sector. He wishes to move to a information leadership role himself and sees the MIL as helping gain the skills and networks to support this; the networking naturally being a benefit in his current role. (SFIA 5-6)
    • Jeroen is an independent IT consultant based in Belgium of 15 years experience with an impressive client list. He operates mostly in the Benelux region and occasionally in the UK. The London location makes the MIL convenient for him and allows him to network and tap into the latest thinking and ideas in the information leadership space and access the academic evidence base. (SFIA 6)
    • Mawusi is a VP IT Services of a financial services firm in the City looking after a large team and budget, but with heavy operational responsibilities; having worked up the ranks from a junior operations role 20 years ago. Though she has a reputation for operational excellence she wishes to move into a more strategic position and is attracted to the MIL's focus on the information leadership role and its balance of academic and professional development. (SFIA 6)
    • Eleanor is a first-time CTO for a charity based in Cambridgeshire. Previously she had 10 years experience in a major IT consultancy firm. She is looking for a course that is focused on the disciplines that underpin her new role to help her be more effective, and looks forward to sharing experiences with her peers in other sectors; the specialised nature of the MIL allowing this in a way a general management masters would not. (SFIA 7).
    • Sarah studied classics and entered the Civil Service fast stream as a generalist manager where she has acted over the last 8 years in a series of demanding management roles and is seen as a rising star. Four years ago she was transferred to the CIO's office of a government department reporting directly on information compliance and governance and has gained MBCS CITP status. The MIL interests her as it is an opportunity to gain the operational disciplines needed to progress onto the IT leadership team of the department. (strong SFIA 5)
    • Jack is a CISO for an insurance firm in Edinburgh. Originally graduating with a computer science degree he started in specialist security technology roles but 12 years later his role has become strongly business focused. The MIL offers Jack an opportunity to broaden his role in the company's IT leadership and the option to move out of security. The weekend delivery appeals to Jack as he can easily commute to London for the 10 weekends a year needed. (SFIA 6)
    • Mohson is a FBCS and IT Director of 8 years standing for a high-value manufacturing firm in the midlands that reports to the CFO. He sees IT as increasingly important to the business, but is having some difficulty in persuading the board. Mohson sees the MIL as an opportunity to get the broader background to transition IT leadership to the board and get exposure to the intellectual arguments needed to make the case for IT as a business enabler. (SFIA 7)
    • Steven is the Deputy Director of Information at a large legal practice in Manchester. His team's responsibilities extends to legal library resources, information compliance/strategy and IT based information resources with a £2m per year budget. Steven originally studied history and then library science and is a Chartered member of CILIP.  He sees the MIL as not only a route to advance his career but to engage with the wider cross-disciplinary intellectual issues the underpin the role of information in both organisations and wider society. (SFIA 6)
    • Jasmine is an experienced project and programme manager and MBCS CITP. After graduating with a degree in information systems 12 years ago she since has gained a reputation of turning around failing projects at a number of organisations. Three years ago she went freelance. The MIL interests Jasmine as she wishes to move progress her career to the next level and the weekend delivery allows her to do this and maintain her ability to get work. (SFIA 6)
    • Andrew is a programme manager for an expanding creative firm in Shoreditch. He entered the industry 11 years ago as a web programmer and quickly moved into team leader then project management positions across the digital creative sector in London. He is interested in the MIL given the centrality of information and innovation to the creative industries and would like to progress to a CTO position in the next generation of technological start-ups. (SFIA 6)
    • Jessica is a senior information manager in the NHS. After graduate positions for a few years as a health librarian she moved to more information systems oriented positions. In the last 8 years she has been instrumental in a number of significant health information projects. She sees the MIL as a way of entering the charities sector as an information leader (SFIA 5-6).
    Please note that the above profiles are fictitious and any resemblance to actual MIL students past, present or future is entirely coincidental.

    Of course, anyone is unsure or wishes to talk to me or David about whether the MIL is suitable for them - the invitation to discuss is here.

    Tuesday, 18 January 2011

    The Master of Information Leadership's (not so) Secret Weapon...

    The Master of Information Leadership differs from conventional MBAs (in the absence of anything better the main default option for aspiring information leaders) in a number of ways, apart from the focus of the course - that's a given.

    The first is that we take a coaching approach to student support. At the professional level the MIL is pitched we are beyond the transmission of knowledge and concepts. There a few right answers at this level and instead judgment and the ability to critically evaluate the evidence base is needed (there's a reason for the board-level salaries!). So we aim to develop the academic skills that underpin this to a high level.

    So between the weekends David Chan and I are available to support the students either remotely or sometimes face-to-face. As the MIL scales up in number, we'll be adding to this core team. I act as the academic coach, David as the professional coach. This is one of the aspects of the MIL that the students have found most beneficial to their learning.

    This leads us onto the MIL's secret weapon: David Chan. I've been working with David for almost two years to set up the centre and the MIL - it's been a blast.

    David was one of the UK's first board-level information leaders with expertise spanning the BBC, Provident, Razorfish to name a few. His professional expertise feeds into the course design throughout. David adds his experience to the lectures and syndicate tasks, either by a well-placed anecdote, a reference to relevant theory, or in the 'CIO Coda' where David brings all the activities of a weekend together and reflects with the students on how the issues raised over the weekend relate to the challenges that information leaders face.

    If you can find a quality executive masters in any way relevant to CIOs that has an experienced information leader sitting in on the lectures on contributing to the discussions - we'd like to know! Ditto if you can find an MBA where a CEO/CFO sits in all the lectures...

    Finally, students also get the mobile number of the course and centre directors - not something you usually get on an MBA! This is consistent with the MIL's philosophy of being a high-contact offering for a select intake of talented self-directed senior IT professionals, rather than being a high-volume commodity.

    Thursday, 13 January 2011

    Master of Information Leadership: Computer Weekly Step-Up Scholarship

    Do you know (or are you) a talented IT consultant, information manager,  ITSM practitioner, enterprise architect, project/programme manager or an information professional in a business facing role that could be an information leader of tomorrow? Well here's your chance!

    It's been a busy week! We have launched a scholarship for the April 2011 intake for the Master of Information Leadership in partnership with Computer Weekly. One talented professional can secure themselves a free place on the course, worth £30,000.

    David Chan and I have enjoyed working with Computer Weekly over the last year in promoting the role of the information leader, particularly in regard to the CW500 club and so we're delighted to be working with them on the Step-Up scholarship.

    The opening article from Computer Weekly can be found here.

    The press release from City University London is here.

    Details of the scholarship can be found here (or you could click the big banner ad on the top of this blog...:-).

    I'll be continuing my blogging on the MIL weekends thus far. I hope this will be useful to anyone interested in joining us on the MIL.

    For now, feel free to pass the word onto any talented professionals you know. Thank you!

    Thursday, 6 January 2011

    MIL: The Information Leader in Organisations and the Opening Talk (Sat 2 October 2010)

    The MIL is designed to allow modules to be delivered in any order. However since we are starting with a first cohort we commenced with The Information Leader in Organisations (ILO). This is one of two modules below consider the role of the information leader in context, both with organisations and in wider society.

    The aim of this module is to examine the role of the information leader past present and future and to provide a conceptual framework to understand how the role of the leader has evolved. We look at the CIO and their role and how the information function works in organizations in both strategic and operational terms. As the MIL is thematic, this means at supporting issues such a financial accounting, boards, as well as look at the CIO’s team and talent management (more on that in later postings).

    As I was staying with the inducted MIL students I met them for breakfast and then we arrived at the Cass Business School building together and got coffee...:-)

    The MIL weekend starts with a course director's session that sets the scene for the weekend. It is also where the syndicate group task is handed out and any logistics/announcements happen. I won't go into detail about what I said but suffice it to say it involved a Dirty Harry clip and the fact that in the early 20th century 'information officer' meant propagandist!

    The opening talk was somewhat of a surprise. I wanted the students to appreciate one important fact: there is now right to the CIO/information leader role and if information leaders don't deliver value to their organisations then their role will become redundant. Needless to say I feel the role has an important future in society, but it is one we need to earn.

    Therefore we were glad to host Jem Eskenasi, CIO of Groupama. Jem has written on whether the CIO will become an endangered species. This talk looked at the changes going on in the industry, the commoditisation of technology, and drew on the work of Nick Carr and others. I think the students were surprised at the choice of first speaker, but they quickly saw what David Chan and I were trying to achieve. The debate was lively; I wanted to make sure that the MIL students were aware and could respond to the arguments against information as a source of competitive advantage.

    One thing I want to achieve is for students to be exposed to a range of evidence, concepts and ideas and for them to critically evaluate this and make up their own minds. As such this was a good start to the MIL weekend.

    More on this MIL weekend in later posts.

    Saturday, 1 January 2011

    A helicopter view of the MIL

    First of all, happy new year and hoping for a great 2011!

    As should be obvious to readers of this blog, the Master of Information Leadership (MIL) is an executive masters degree specifically designed for experienced IT and information professionals who aspire to leadership positions such as Chief Information Officer.  The challenges that information leaders face cross traditional disciplines; the role is more than purely technological or managerial: it also brings in issues from law and social sciences.  The content of the MIL can be arranged around five themes (below). More information on the details can be found on the official MIL webpages.
    • Role and Context (2 modules, 4 weekends)
    • Strategic Change and Transformation (2 modules, 4 weekends)
    • Delivery (2 modules, 4 weekends)
    • Stewardship (2 modules, 4 weekends)
    • Leadership (one module, 4 weekends)
    The capstone is an Individual Project usual in a masters degree. We feel that generalist management offerings such as MBAs, though excellent in their own right, do not cover the specific range of skills needed for a CIO position (I'll write on this more in the future).

    The design of the MIL is focused on combining professional experience and academic theory - I'll probably discuss this further in later posting but suffice it to say that the MIL includes aspects of both executive masters delivery and coaching.

    The two cornerstones of the course are the study weekend, and the syndicate groups. The group is the base unit of learning in the MIL (we induct students as groups). These groups allow exchange of experience as well as a tight-knit peer support network. We also share across groups in the feedback sessions each weekend.

    The MIL study weekends are delivered in London – Europe’s IT capital – at the Cass Business School, making it a convenient venue for professionals who may have to work on multiple sites (except for the September Professional Training weekends that take place outside City). The MIL is part-time over 28 months, over 10 weekends each year, so allowing students to fit it in with their work commitments.

    So what happens during a typical study weekend?  Just over half the time comprises seminar presentations from experts within City and the CIO community to provide a theoretical underpinning, and how information leaders put this into practice. Each weekend will also feature a syndicate group task to give a firm grounding of the issues covered based on a practical case study; groups report back by presentation at the end of the weekend. We give feedback to all groups together and record the presentations for later reflection.

    We support the MIL between the study weekends by online (and sometime on-site) tutorials, discussion boards and a dedicated course director to assist you with a take-home assignment to complete for the next residential weekend. The typical 2000-word take-home assignments comprise a list of assignment titles (students chose one) that requires students to focus on an issue raised in he weekend in depth, research and incorporate the academic and professional literature, and reflect that upon their experience. The blending of the evidence base with professional experience to produce a focused argument aims, with the academic support, to drive learning and its immediate application in the MIL student's current role.

    Hopefully the postings later will make more sense now!