Trevor Carter Memorial Gig

While we are wondering what do about all the extra weight we have gained by overeating over the Christmas break, a thought occurs about getting out to the Trevor Carter Memorial Gig, which we are helping to promote. This promises to be the best musical event in Bristol next year. What better way to shed a few pound than rocking the night away to some great Bristol sounds?

For those of you who do not know, Trevor Carter was a musician, programmer and friend who died at home on 30 January 2011. He is sorely missed by his wife Conny, and his many friends and former band mates, who are getting together to celebrate his life with a memorial concert at a local Bristol venue where he played during his musical career. As a fellow programmer and colleague of TechCo Systems, we are proud to provide technical and marketing support to the venture, as well as a bit of SEO to ensure that the gig gets the prominence it deserves.

We understand that it will be held at one of the numerous places where Trevor played with one of his various bands, but it is sure to be somewhere around Bristol or Swindon. As soon as the venue and date are confirmed, you can bet that we will publicize it here!

If you would be interested in contributing to the Trevor Carter Memorial Gig as a performer or crew, or just go along to watch what is sure to be a brilliant evening of entertainment, please let them know as soon as possible via contact form on the website Contact. Please note that all proceeds of this event will be donated to the charity determined by Conny and Trevor’s family.

Government ICT Strategy Six-Month Review

With the run up to Christmas you could be forgiven for missing the release of the NAO report Implementing the Government ICT Strategy: six-month review of progress.

The report writers, which included Mike Manisty, the first person to undertake a solar-powered voyage upstream from Westminster to the navigable source of the Thames, have some significant concerns. These include Planning, Capability and Evaluation, which need to be addressed in the short term if they are not to become significant barriers to progress.

In March 2011, the Cabinet Office published the Government ICT Strategy which acknowledged that Information and communication technology (ICT) is critical for government to operate effectively and should improve how citizens and businesses communicate with government. They accepted that government ICT projects have tended to be too big, lengthy, risky and complex, and that there have been numerous high profile failures.

The strategy has three categories for action and delivery

  • Reducing waste and project failure by improving procurement processes, making systems more flexible and increasing the skills of ICT professionals.
  • Creating a common ICT infrastructure, including communication networks, business applications, data centers, desktops and mobile devices.
  • Using ICT to enable and deliver change. The Government has a digital strategy to move public services online (‘digital by default’).

Outline Conclusions
The outline conclusions of the NAO report are as follows:
At the end of the first six months, new arrangements are in place to implement the Strategy. The leadership, governance and compliance mechanisms for delivery are different from those of the past and have the potential to deliver benefits. Government has adopted a pragmatic and collaborative approach and has largely met the first round of the Strategy deadlines. Thirty actions from the Strategy have been rationalized into 19 delivery areas with a more consistent plan about how the new approaches, new standards and common ICT infrastructure will be taken forward.

Against this positive backdrop the NAO have some significant concerns:

  • Planning – the Strategic Implementation Plan is lacking a resource plan and a map for how and when departments move to the Strategy solutions.
  • Capability – establishing a baseline requirement for ICT professional resources across central government has not been carried out, and key immediate skills gaps have not been filled.
  • Evaluation – there are no clear criteria for measuring business outcomes.

These concerns can be dealt with but need to be addressed in the short term if they are not to become significant barriers to progress.

Our particular area of interest, Agile development, gets an honorable mention under reducing waste and project failure, Area 4, (Action 9) – Agile delivery methods using user feedback to deliver systems in small pieces and keeping ICT in line with emerging business requirements. Sadly agile thinking is not something government procurement specialists are renown so there is little evidence of a change there. Perhaps we can look forward to some improvements when the next report is released.

Links to Implementing the Government ICT Strategy: six-month review of progress

How To Be An SEO Guru

Do you see yourself as a budding SEO Guru and want to spot the next big thing? Have you heard lots of conflicting SEO advice but are not sure which to follow? Have you ever wondered where SEO companies go for inspiration and great advice? Web Marketing and SEO are inextricably linked so that is why this post is titled How To Be An SEO Guru

If you want to be your own SEO guru, or take your first steps on the road to expert status, there are a few simple pieces of advice we wish that we had been given when starting out:

  • Read everything you can about SEO
  • Follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines
  • Study the best SEO examples you can find

Read Everything About SEO
It has been said that if you read ten books on a subject by different authors, you will own that subject. This is also true about SEO, except that you must keep reading in order to stay current. SEO books date very quickly, and techniques that were leading edge two years ago may not work now. Each SEO expert has their own slant on the subject, and can offer something to the jigsaw, but remember, no-one knows it all!

Read every article you can about SEO, watch every video by the SEO experts, and if you can, get to talk to them. Make sure you include Webmaster Guidelines on your monthly reading list, too.

Webmaster Guidelines
It should not need saying, but follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines. If you want to get your website to the top of the rankings for your chosen keywords then it is important to follow the Google Webmaster Guidelines. It is true that there are techniques that might give your site an unauthorized boost, so called “black hat” techniques, but they will not help you if it gets you blocked from the search engine results. The only reliable way to ensure that you stick to the rules is to read the guidelines from the people who wrote that particular book, Google.

When you have read this article follow the link below to Google Webmaster Guidelines and bookmark it, or bookmark this page.

Study the SEO Best
If you want to be the best at anything then you have to study the techniques of the people who are currently rated as the best. Train where the best SEO Gurus train. Attend the conferences and seminars where the SEO experts hang out and listen to them talk. If you can, sign up for at least one SEO training from a renown expert per year, and if possible more. When you are trained by an SEO expert you will get the chance to ask the important questions directly, and of course you get to hang out with them too.

What To Do Next
In the run up to the new year, and the New Year resolutions, how about making a pledge to help you on the way to being your own SEO guru?
Decide that you are going to market your website and boost its position for your chosen keywords
Commit yourself to sign up for tuition from an SEO expert in January
Act now, and look out for SEO tips in the New Year!

PS, where do we go when we are seeking inspiration? Try

Have a happy and prosperous new year!

SEO Resources:

Another Probation IT Fiasco

Another Probation IT Fiasco has left the Probation Officers using paper, according to an article on the Times website.

In an article titled Probation IT fiasco leaves service using paper, The Times states that “Probation officers are writing court reports by hand after managers were forced to ration access to computers that are unable to cope.”

This refers to a comment by Harry Fletcher of NAPO, about the state of the Probation computers in London after a major upgrade. Just in case you think that this is the first time that Harry Fletcher has criticized the rollout of Probation IT systems, or that he is a lone voice, check back on some of our earlier postings on the subject of government IT projects!

In a state of Titanic Obliviousness, (see below for attribution and definition) the juggernaut of centralized probation information technology steams serenely and blindly towards the iceberg of destiny. The only other comment necessary on this episode is that memorable quote from Albert Einstein, who said “the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over, and expecting a different outcome”.

Earlier Articles


Think Twice Before Outsourcing

One of our SEO and Website customers has spent the day lamenting once again the outsourcing of the bulk of their network infrastructure to an external contractor. Following a botched configuration change by the network supplier, their much depleted IT department spent the whole morning jury-rigging alternative network connections so that people in their headquarters could work. As this was the third or fourth attempt to implement this particular change, there is only one inescapable conclusion; it is getting near Christmas, and the pantomime season has started!

As an arms length Non Departmental Public Body, with a national IT supplier who can not be named for legal reasons, they have found that their costs have risen disproportionally, their service levels have deteriorated, and there is no opportunity for compensation in the event of a substantial loss of service. You may very well ask why they would have such a contract, but that is a question you should direct at your MP!

When you think about it, any contractor is going to put all their effort into winning the contract, and then use the duration of the contract to recoup that cost of the bidding process. Furthermore contractors have directors and shareholders to pay for, to say nothing about the desire to make a profit. That means cutting back on every cost that they can get away with, while charging over the odds for any additional services not included in the contract. The financial impact of this on the end users will depend on

  • the service levels that the supplier is obliged to deliver
  • the metrics used to measure the performance
  • the strength of the enforcement regime of the authority

Needless to say, in the case of our beleaguered NDPB, the service levels do not apply to installations, moves and changes, there are no relevant performance metrics, except on the time taken to fix incidents, and of course the enforcement regime is woefully inadequate. Before you ask about the wisdom of entering into such a contract, it is worth pointing out that the unfortunate organization is NOT the customer, and had no input into the contract, which was awarded nationally. Queue earlier reference to directing why questions to your MP.

As it is possible to learn valuable lessons from any occurrence if you chose to, a quick analysis of the misfortune of our unfortunate subject can help with our own decisions. Any business with a plan to outsource its Information Technology should consider these inescapable conclusions:

  • You inevitably deskill your technical staff, or lose them completely through TUPE or jumping ship
  • No contracted out service ever included all the services actually provided by your in-house team
  • When something goes wrong your business bears the risk, not the supplier

Carl Sagan observed in “Bringing Science Down to Earth”:

We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That's a clear prescription for disaster.

Carl Sagan

There are countless examples of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) where the tenants are paying way more than they need to for sub-standard service. There are contracted out IT services where the organization has transferred all its skilled staff to the contractor, only to have to replace them at additional cost to make up for inadequacies in the provision. Then of course there is a growing catalog of late, over budget and failed government IT projects, all outsourced to private sector contractors. Despite all these lessons, somehow there are still people who think that outsourcing can save money and is a good idea!

The next time you start to think about outsourcing your local area network support and network infrastructure to a faceless third party organization, remember that poor unfortunate NDPB. There is no such thing as a free lunch!