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Home > News > July 2004 > 23-Jul-2004

British Computer Society widens membership

The British Computer Society (BCS) is to broaden its membership to combat what it sees as a dramatically dwindling public confidence in IT systems and the people who design and install them. The BCS is keen to reflect the growing diversity of the IT profession, which now employs over one million people, and to raise and promote higher professional standards.

According to the BCS, growing public fear of internet fraud, IT system failure and the problem of escalating design and installation costs are all contributing to a major confidence crisis which has necessitated the first major overhaul of the computing profession's image in its fifty years of existence.

The BCS's new membership programme will target a large proportion of the one million plus people who make up the IT profession today. Society membership will now be opened up to a wider number of practitioners including managers, teachers, system architects, project managers and health informaticians.

In taking this route, the BCS aims to reflect the new diversity of the IT profession and enable more practitioners to advance their skills and achieve greater industry- wide recognition. The BCS believe it will also put the IT profession in the same bracket of trust as enjoyed by the medical, legal and engineering professions.

The BCS has also been empowered, under its Royal Charter, to award the title of Chartered IT Professional for the first time. This promises greater recognition and status for thousands of experienced senior IT practitioners. The BCS has introduced these new changes to its membership to assist the IT profession in boosting its current flagging status, particularly as IT project failure is reaching a new all time high according to a recent report issued by the BCS and the Royal Academy of Engineering - "The Challenges of IT Projects".

The UK public sector alone spent an estimated GBP12.4 billion on software in the last year and the overall UK spend on IT is projected to be a monumental GBP22.6 billion," says David Clarke, Chief Executive of the BCS which produced the report. "We looked at a range of studies showing that only around 16 per cent of IT projects can be considered truly successful."

Even conservative estimates put the cost of such failures into tens of billions of pounds across the EU.

Commenting further on high profile IT system failures in the public sector, David Clarke continued: "If I innocently ask an Architect and a Civil Engineer to design an unsafe bridge, their professional integrity and competence will say they won't do it however much money I'm prepared to offer them. If, in all innocence, as a naïve client I ask a Software Architect and Engineer to design an unsafe system, unsafe because there has not been adequate time for testing, both functional and performance, how often do we hear those professionals say no, not at any price in that timescale?"

"Continuous professional development is talked about in many institutions, but nowhere is this more important or relevant than IT. Probably only the medical profession is facing the same fast moving changes. In this environment it is so easy to let skills become dated. We will be providing services to our members to allow them to compare their current skills with the market requirements, and find ways of developing their skills and maintaining their value.

"It is also really important that employers of IT professionals can make the best of the resources they have at their disposal, and in support of our Career Manager products we will also launch BCS Skills Manager, which allows IT managers to make absolutely the best use of their IT resources.

"Changing BCS membership grades is only one part of the story. We have to make being part of the BCS important to potential members. That means offering a high value service. This means being able to help them gain employment, improving their market value and evolving their skills to meet the challenges of this fast moving market.

"We have, or are now developing, products in all of these and many other areas. Networking amongst member is also a valuable service. The BCS currently has over 500,000 man years of experience, much of it world class, within our membership. By appealing and attracting a greater percentage of the IT profession, I believe we can demonstrate that IT is the profession for the 21st century."

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