Charity IT leaders ramp up information sharing

IT governance, voice over IP, shared benchmarking and leadership were among the topics discussed at the Charities Consortium IT...

IT governance, voice over IP, shared benchmarking and leadership were among the topics discussed at the Charities Consortium IT Directors’ Group’s annual conference this month.

The 50 IT directors and managers present heard a keynote presentation on leadership by Colin Pillinger, who led the ill-fated Beagle 2 Mars probe project.

Pillinger was "very inspiring", said Charities Consortium IT Directors’ Group chairman David Clayden, IT director at the Salvation Army.

"Pillinger overcame so many obstacles and difficulties from the establishment. That was an excellent example of leadership," said Clayden.

Leadership also featured in another session rated by Clayden as outstanding. Using a cut-down Myers Briggs personality chart, consultant Robina Chatham demonstrated that IT directors have a propensity to lose themselves in content, making it harder to communicate with the board.

Hampshire County Council’s "bold and imaginative" approach also impressed Clayden. Hampshire IT director Jos Reese explained how he rid himself of his IT budget altogether, outsourced his IT and provided a real service for his end-users.

The RSPCA gave a presentation on its successful implementation of voice over IP.

In common with other user groups, IT service management is moving up the agenda, and a session on the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) approach to IT service management has inspired Clayden to consider running a one-day session on the subject.

"It is difficult to decide whether to take ITIL seriously or to use the essence of it," said Clayden. "Some approaches, for example BS7799, can take on a life of their own."

Clayden added, "Most of the value of the conference was not in the sessions, but in between. We shared a lot more information than in the past – there was much cross-fertilisation."

Information sharing was most evident among the 21 charities that joined this year’s benchmarking group. All had monitored a standard set of measures and key performance indicators over a period of six months using internal and external reference points on a variety of metrics.

"We use the benchmarking to demarcate where we are underperforming, where we are effective, and where we have de- ficiencies and need support," said Clayden.

What is the Charities Consortium IT Directors’ Group?

Founded in 2000, the Charities Consortium IT Directors’ Group has more than 80 members, all heads of IT for charities with more than £25m annual turnover. A spin-off from the Charities Consortium Finance Directors’ Group, the group aim is to seek commercial benefit from informal meetings.

The group, which meets quarterly, shares experience and has driven good deals from suppliers. There is burgeoning benchmarking activity, where members compare themselves in terms of finance, quality, service, support and response time both with each other and externally.

Disaster recovery is also an important self-help service activity and members offer each other their facilities in case of disaster.

The group’s current chairman is David Clayden, IT director of the Salvation Army.

For more on the group, click here >>

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