Last week the National Computing Centre acquired its third user group in two years, restructured a mix of acquired and indigenous services into a new brand called Principia, and articulated its broader vision.
The moves follow hard on the heels of the NCC winning the contract with the Office of Government Commerce to certify and accredit all E-Government Interoperability Framework practitioners.
Since splitting off in 2001 as a separate entity from the NCC consulting and escrow organisation, now NCC plc, the 1,200-strong corporate IT user organisation has taken on a new role as a leading voice in the IT community.
Last year it bought the Institute of IT Training and blue-chip user group CIO-Connect.
NCC group chief executive Michael Gough explained that his 38-year-old, not-for profit organisation's underlying aim is to help all levels of corporate user create true value for their business through the effective use of IT.
"Our mission is to help companies contribute effectively to the UK economy through the effective use of IT," he said. "The key person is the head of function in IT, which has a pivotal role to play in the future performance of British business. Therefore we support these people with the best advice and guidance and help develop their personal professional skills. We are in business to position the CIO to help the chief executive and chief financial officer take the business forward."
Gough's aim is to provide the NCC's members with the tools to win back flexibility, agility and competitiveness in their IT, to retain and enhance their skills and not lose them either overseas or to supplier organisations.
Where appropriate, he encourages users to insource their IT rather than outsource it, to develop applications in-house rather than using external software houses, and to use open source rather than rely on proprietary software.
Gough warned that mergers have resulted in the outsourced skills base being put into a smaller number of companies. "Depending on your outlook, outsourcing is asset stripping," he said. "Its promise of cost reduction is unproven." Gough added that outsourcing can worsen the gap between IT and the business an reduce business agility.
Gough has a adopted a "knowledge management maturity model" to clarify and guide the work of the NCC. The model (see box, top right) has eight stages, progressing from awareness through to advice, briefings, learning and experience sharing. That in turn leads to professionalism, certification and accredit- ation, personal development and leadership, and supporting and influencing the business and the board.
The NCC's acquisitions, which are by no means over, slot into and boost the upper end of this eight-stage model. Last week, Gough appointed Stefan Foster from Qinetiq to head Principia, which is the new umbrella brand responsible for the stages from advice to experience sharing.
The acquisition of the Construction Industry Computing Association marks a strengthening of the NCC's vertical sector focus, which also includes manufacturing, education, central government and finance.
Gough said the organisation has the money to carry its vision through. A large chunk of cash came with the split with the NCC consulting and escrow operations, and a smaller amount comes from royalties from Filetab, the aged but still lucrative mainframe conversion protocol.
Gough, who is proud that the NCC receives no government money, also brings in money from membership subscriptions and services. Gough sees strong growth ahead. "The NCC is well on course for £10m turnover by our 40th anniversary on 10 June 2006," he said.
As well as its own staff and the industry names who have come with its acquisitions, the NCC links up with a range of leading organisations, including Ashridge Business School, the Society of IT Management, the Impact Programme, Forrester Research and Datamonitor.
Gough said the NCC's governance structure makes it flexible. "All membership organisations suffer from death by council," he said. "The NCC works through trusted individuals and advisory boards and has the agility to respond to the needs of its members, which it is doing."
The NCC does not see itself in competition with the British Computer Society, which itself has been freshly energised following the revamp of its Royal Charter earlier this year. The BCS is seen as an organisation for individuals, whereas the NCC is corporate membership-based. Neither does the NCC see itself competing with Intellect, the UK IT suppliers' organisation.
From here the NCC aims to strengthen its position, especially in promoting IT leadership. "There has been too much griping, risk aversion and death by committee," said Gough. "We want IT to effect transformation in business and have a fundamental impact."
NCC Knowledge Management Maturity Model
- Awareness (IT Advisor product)
- Advice (Principia)
- Briefings (Principia)
- Learning (Principia)
- Experience sharing (Principia)
- Professional standing (certification/accreditation) (Institute of IT Training; eGif accreditation)
- Personal development (Certus; Naked Leader; Ashridge Business School MBS modules)
- Support and influence (CIO-Connect).
About the National Computing Centre
The National Computing Centre was founded in June 1966, just three months before Computer Weekly launched. It is a not-for-profit membership organisation. Of its 1,200 members, about 200 are suppliers and the rest are corporate IT users.
The NCC was set up by the government and for many years received government funding. With the drying up of government funds from the 1980s, the organisation developed its consultancy and escrow services. That part of the NCC and the traditional membership parted ways in 2001. Under the terms of its split the NCC cannot engage in consultancy or escrow services until 2006.