Who am I?
A consultant with a scholarly mindset and a peculiar expertise in the design and development of innovative services across several industries, always focussing on a mix of organisational and individual (behavioural) factors in data and information management.
A self-starter and a team leader, author of books, papers, policies and guidelines on information retrieval and new media / digital things, in the last twenty years I have founded and managed two consultancies and a training agency.
I am currently working on a new project, finishing writing some reports that will be published in 2014, providing strategic assurance assessment and feedback to DWP and others in central government and local authorities and enjoying the evidence that ...life seems really starting at 50!
But you may wish to know more about the past.
Here are some notes, in reverse chronological order. For a more conventional curriculum vitae, and for any informal discussion of your projects and ideas of collaboration, do get in touch!
2008-2013: Italian expat in London, leading the case for cyber security
In September 2008 I moved to London, England, from Milan, Italy.
After a year spent in charitable activities, continuous professional development and networking, I started providing advice and problem solving expertise to large organisations, charities and government bodies in order to early detect and prevent IT security disruptions and corporate crime in information management practices.
The idea did not go off with a bang - though it attracted the attention of many relevant stakeholders and senior government advisers - but in the meantime I was trapped in a personal lawsuit for missed conveyance of a property with several libellous collaterals (documented in the section 7ncc: a private matter? of this website). I was finally declared bankrupt, because of non payment of (not even assessed) legal costs: an unfortunate case that opened the doors of my attention towards the disgraceful abuses of personal details and public processes in the administration of welfare benefits and in the provision of health care - determining the most massive amount of frauds the civilised world has ever dealt with.
The business case for a consultancy on cyber security threats was taken over by eight universities, government agencies and big auditing companies, all confirming I was right in pointing out the lack of adequate policies, management, governance and legislation more than just failures of technical expertise or lack of education.
Some pieces of my independent research findings on these topical matters are published in the section publications of this website. Other notes on digital skills (99 STARS) and international taxonomies about cyber crime (Turning the tide) will be available in 2014.
1995 - 2008: Jumping up and down the internet wagon with an evergreen approach to new media and human computer interaction
Before moving to London, I was self employed as an Internet consultant and contractor, owner of a small IT business in Milan, Italy, where I lived and worked for twenty years.
The decision to jump on the internet wagon came when I left the Berlusconi’s empire in 1995: that accelerated the entrepreneurship ambitions I had been pondering about for a while.
So, after 13 years in library, documentation and intelligence roles, in 1995 I started up Panta Rei, that offered knowledge management advice until 2008, supporting internet, digital, bibliographic and e-learning projects also through a training agency (Palestra Internet Panta Rei) that remained active until 2007.
In this new role, for another 13 years, I designed and project managed websites, digital contents, e-commerce experiments and utilities, intranets and business and professional services for publishers, universities and other large private and public organizations, often providing strategic advice, desk research, outsourced software development, web production and turnkey training services (my first presentation of the company mission in English said “turkey training services” so I cannot help sharing a big laugh here!).
Anyway, above all, for about ten years I managed good agreements with large partners and customers at national and international levels that assured me to keep a sustainable balance between the implicit risk of working in very innovative and unstable markets, with core technical focus changing every 18 months, and the priority of securing me (and others working with me) a decent salary.
I structured and wrote instructional materials and supervised the development of a library of e-learning products about digital skills, search technologies and the information search process, delivered to over 1500 attendees employed in the public and the private sector, including more than 45 universities, managers, entrepreneurs, civil servants, content developers, librarians, journalists and researchers.
I pioneered Agile approaches for the development of what I called “evergreen” systems and usable interfaces, for database or whatever content management purpose, always integrating and baselining new successful tools and preventing wasting time with the too volatile and fashionable components of the digital ecosystem.
After 2001 the climate for internet small businesses changed dramatically. Namely after 2005 the company interests started to clash with regional public policies and political priorities, systematically praising the offerings of bigger competitors. In a couple of cases, I paradoxically lost public budgets from loyal customers because I was told mine was the only company providing e-learning courses so that a proper fair competition would be impossible. Some market segments became a truly political accessories zone, not to be entered or practiced without explicit sponsorship by or partnerships with the dominant players. These were filled mainly with middle managers coming from the “catto-taleban” circles of Lega Nord and Comunione and Liberazione. I made my mind to prepare a contingency plan and look at job advertisements and digital markets all around Europe. So I started studying the increasing challenges in international data management.
Then in 2008 I decided to move to England.
1988 - 1995: A data analyst in the mad men world
This was not the first time I made a leap in an unknown territory following the evidence of a situation of incompatibility between my unprejudiced and curious personality and an extremely risk adverse, where not bigoted and intolerant, immediate social environment.
In fact, by 1987, I definitively had been attributed by peers the image of an ambitious person, voraciously questioning technical and scientific things, too much curious and creative to be realistically progressed in that permanent librarian role in the public sector I had studied for - so that I was referred for employment in the private sector by friends of friends and professors.
I found irresistible the prospects of doubling my salary and having a pension scheme (beyond the absolutely pioneering form of self invested private pension I had started myself through an insurance policy in 1983), and the opportunity to learn and experiment emerging technologies in information retrieval (the first public telecommunication network became available in Italy in 1986).
So I moved into the promising media and communication sector, accepting a post of information officer at J.Walter Thompson Italy in Milan, where I planned and started up a modern information centre on marketing, advertising and consumers data.
After two years in that position, and without any real prospect of advancement or career, I was offered a tempting and juicy junior copyrighter role but I preferred to follow my predominant interests and to keep on building up my own expertise, in less attractive perhaps, bit dull perhaps, but to me quite fascinating fields of data and information management.
So, I was recruited by a french consultant with an international background to do the same type of innovative exercise but on a massively larger scale at Fininvest Comunicazioni - where I designed and started up one of the first european corporate library information and documentation centre on audiovisual industries. I designed electronic products, services and tools (like a mastodontic classification scheme and a colossal taxonomy, perennial sources of inspiration for antitrust battles) to answer whatever type of question about business, social, economic, legal, technical or cultural matter pertaining all sorts of new and old media. The service was available to members of the board, executive directors and middle managers in the core business areas of the group.
In 1994 I made a decision that changed my life for the better, but not without immense struggle in the short term and long term annoying consequences: I refused to work for Berlusconi’s political party. After a very complicated and difficult transitional period I left my post, surrounded by unexplained dismay.
In fact, the think thank company had been serving not only as a strategic and communication headquarter but also as a political lobbying and diplomatic office of Mr Berlusconi, without me having really understood the big picture. Fininvest Comunicazioni was the place where the imagination of a builder, son of a banker, turned out into a media empire, where commercial television started, where new laws and political recipes were conceived together with a financial structure of holdings controlling holdings controlled by other holdings and nobody had really had the time to understand what was going on but asking a piece of reliable data from the outside view to my office - and that was what I had agreed to do to the best of my possibilities as an employee.
The company went dissolved following the flotation of Mediaset and the creation of the party through a sophisticated M&A camouflage I did not know anything about at the time: deleting or obfuscating any possible trace of its existence in the public domain was the true goal, changing its name so it would appear as a construction company in company registers and employees’ pension records and pushing not aligned employees and consultants very further away, often in government, in universities or small businesses, so that they would not have interest nor time or reason at all to complain.
Mainly unaware of all those corporate plans, I had been liaising for a couple of years with external researchers, journalists, practitioners in the private and the public sectors, I had even written and published a little handbook (Banca dati, 1993) and several articles and papers illustrating my excellent work as a knowledge manager at Fininvest Comunicazioni, sharing the distilled wisdom of how to search and create databases, taxonomies and the right datasets at the right time for the right people, always disclosing the process for due diligence, for training others and to boost professionalism.
I had been privately and publicly praised by many and considered a strategic resource by several board members. But unfortunately they forgot to consider I could find uncomfortable and unsustainable to work for somebody who had such a dominant position in the control of generalist media and public information sources that every process in any segment of the industry would become, in the end, a pantomime. Being dismissed because I could not bear Berlusconi’s conflicts of interests and I did not want to work for a political party was in some way a liberation, although some disgruntled directors managed to persuade colleagues and journalists I had “communication problems”, with the active help of dodgy counsellors and entrepreneurs and directors “friends of friends”.
1983 - 1987: Too much free to be a librarian?
And here we are. At the root of the answer I can provide to the question. In a nutshell, I may be too much free to be a librarian, in spite of the evidence that libraries and librarians have been having a great role in my career. That was why I made a first big leap from rural libraries into the mad men world at 25yo.
I started working at 20 as a freelance, following my graduation with a dissertation on automation of libraries, in 1983, that happened to be one of the first italian books published on the subject.
In its very simple and introductory language, the book showed how organisational and administrative aspects were intertwined with the technical ones in the case for an automated national library service. But it was read as irritating by the roman bureaucrats who where working with Finmeccanica and its commercial partners on the project of such a system (SBN) at the time.
Anyway, I got small assignments from public libraries where I introduced incremental changes and standardised practices and for five years - until I moved to JWT Milan in 1988 - I went on working 30 hours per week as a clerk for a multi-owned library consortium too. In my spare time I carried on studying and writing - still dreaming an academic career that I had not had the financial possibility to afford at first.
After five years of these very demanding diaries, I understood that passion for knowledge, learning and their technicalities does not necessarily need neither an academic context nor the protective shell of the legal-ethical tradition of the public sector and can be cultivated by any “reflective practitioner”, in any context, anytime. An enduring lovely lesson.
Thanks for your interest in my life!