New BCS chief pledges to embrace social networking

The industry body, now under the leadership of Jim Norton, is to use sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook to engage with current members and attract new members

BCS, the Chartered Institute of IT — a body that represents information technology professionals in the UK — will start to use social-networking sites such as LinkedIn to engage with members, the organisation's new chief has said.

BCS president Jim Norton, who was inaugurated on Thursday, told ZDNet UK on Friday that there would be increased outreach to members. "What we've got to do at BCS is to get serious about social networking," he said. "We can't have a one-to-one with all of our 70,000 members, but as the Chartered IT Institute we have to look at how to use IT."

We need to communicate with members more; that's something we are looking at carefully.

– Jim Norton, BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT

Norton said LinkedIn was one of the options the body was looking at using for current BCS members.

"We are reviewing which might be the best and most appropriate channels," Norton said. "LinkedIn, for example, is already used heavily by a variety of BCS-related groups, and that is probably a better match to our needs for existing members than Facebook. However, when it comes to reaching out to potential members, I think we will need to use a range of sites."

In the summer of 2010, a number of BCS members sought a vote of no confidence in the leadership around issues including transparency of process. Norton said he felt many of the issues had been resolved, and social networking would allow better dialogue to develop with members.

"We have an independent chair for the BCS council; we have a new structure for the membership board — we've largely dealt with those issues," Norton said. "We need to communicate with members [more]; that's something we are looking at carefully."

During his year-long presidency, Norton will concentrate on getting students engaged with IT and getting them engaged with BCS, he said.

"I want to create a compelling reason for students to want to join BCS," Norton said. "The sort of thing we want to look at is creating an electronic log book for new members when they join BCS." The log book would be a personal career history, owned by the student, which could be used to add information such as contacts, he added.

Norton plans to visit academic institutions to encourage teaching of both computing problem-solving skills and how to use software and hardware.

The new BCS president has had a wide-ranging career in IT in both the public and private sectors, and is involved in a number of bodies including the UK Parliamentary IT Committee and the Foundation for Information Policy Research. Norton is a visiting professor in electronic engineering at Sheffield University, and also a non-executive director of investment firm F&C Capital and Income Investment Trust.

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