Microsoft: Failing IT pros should be struck off

Microsoft: Failing IT pros should be struck off

Summary: Heading a failed IT project should carry a similar penalty to medical malpractice, according to a senior executive at the software giant

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TOPICS: IT Employment
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Microsoft UK's National Technology Officer Jerry Fishenden has called for a single professional body with powers to strike off IT professionals in the same way the General Medical Council can discipline doctors.

Both public- and private-sector organisations experience a high failure rate for IT projects. Fishenden told ZDNet UK that a professional body with powers of imposing sanctions for failure or incompetence, such as the General Medical Council (GMC) being able to strike off doctors, could improve the standing of the IT profession.

"If you look at what you regard as the traditional professions — doctors, teachers, lawyers — their professional bodies can fire people, can investigate complaints, can impose penalties, and the ultimate sanction is to remove them from the profession, so you can't practice any more," Fishenden said. "It would be good, if we want to be respected as a profession, for there to be some method of ensuring the industry as a whole maintains professional standards, otherwise it just seems to be hollow words."

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The UK body that charters IT professionals is the British Computer Society (BCS), which currently has no powers of censure equivalent to the GMC's. Fishenden said that giving bodies such as the BCS more power would be "sensible".

"There are bodies like the BCS, which charters IT professionals, and other standards. It would be sensible to build on these rather than start again, otherwise it will take even longer to get something into place," said Fishenden.

David Clarke, chief executive of the BCS, agreed with Fishenden, in principle, that there should be a body that could strike off incompetent IT practitioners, but said that, in practice, that would be difficult to achieve.

Although the BCS can revoke the Chartered IT Professional (CITP) qualification, this makes little difference to employers, who prefer more specific IT qualifications, such as database management, said Clarke.

"If we chuck someone out and revoke their CITP it makes little difference to their getting a job, because employers mostly go for people whose certification is job specific, say, in Oracle databases," said Clarke. "The battle we have is to get employers convinced that they must look for general qualifications of professional competency."

There is little appetite in government for an Act of Parliament to license IT professionals in the way doctors are licensed, as there would currently not be enough CITPs to satisfy demand, Clarke added. The usual driver for an Act of Parliament to license professionals is a disaster, such as people dying, in the case of doctors' malpractice. Although IT projects can be financial disasters, people rarely die as a direct result, said Clarke.

The relative youth of the IT industry compared with other professions would make it hard to set up a professional body with "clout" similar to the GMC, conceded Fishenden.

"It's quite a hard challenge for what's a pretty junior industry really. We're still learning as we go," he said.

Topic: IT Employment

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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6 comments
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  • Failing IT Pros?

    How typical of somebody from Microsoft. The fact is that Microsoft are one of the worst offenders, they'd have no staff left due to their failed development projects.

    They deliver products that are late, full of bugs and nothing like the orginal specification.

    Practise what you preach Microsoft!
    45272
  • Pot calling the kettle black

    M$ need to shut their cake holes! M$ has been writing buggy soft
    ware for 25 years and have never been held responsible for all the
    ID thefts caused by their "swiss cheese" OS. Lot of projects fail due
    to mis-management, not IT pros. IT pros have bosses too, and have to give in to their whims and demands.
    ator1940
  • Anther source of profit for MS?

    And presumably the longer-term plan is that permission to practise as an IT professional would require possession of a qualification in software development, which would be issued by MS (after all they have the experience with their existing MS certified engineer schemes). What a great way to gain some additional monopoly income to replace any troubled income for software.
    mmfb123
  • Is your linux qualification Microsoft Certified? Hmmm...

    MS tries to make knowledge of "their technologies" mandatory? You're not a system administrator if you're not MS Windows administrator? You're not a Software Developer if you're not MS-based software developer?
    razer-a3f6a
  • A risky business

    Jerry Fishenden draws a long bow when linking IT project failure with the incompetence of a technologist. Project sponsors and senior stakeholders with overly ambitious expectations ask a PM to build a project team from a limited pool of resources to meld bespoke software and bleeding edge technologies together in such a way that the end-user (who had little input in to the whole process) is satisfied. So who's to blame if in the testing phase the whole thing unravels with time and cost overruns??

    The issue here is that IT projects inherently carry a large degree of risk. Failings are more often related to poor management and lack of effective communication than poor technologists. In this immature industry failures should be expected, and the "lessons-learned" loop completed so we all learn from failure and do it better next time.
    SteveXX
  • flawed, but very interesting argument

    I don't think I need to re-iterate the valuable points raised by previous comments - they all apply.

    It is interesting to reflect that some people are willing to consider IT as next in line in the human value chain to health though ... otherwise why would this profession be the one to follow this criticality measure/precaution.

    It is almost as interesting that this highlights the lack of any degree of professionally acknowledged certification within IT. IT may not deserve considerations as critical as our health, but from a business perspective it is as important as the engineering profession, certainly as important as the legal profession and, as I struggle to keep a straight face, the accountancy profession.

    But who would govern such a certification? A vendor -certainly not! The BCS - it would certainly need to change its perspective and image a great deal to earn the credibility ... but absolutely an issue worthy of governmental consideration.
    brian.murray