IT Charterships: Proper professionalism or a regulatory rip-off?

Just how much do IT professionals need to be regulated and certified?

When tales of project failure seem commonplace, the case for toughening up rules for entry to the IT industry or at least creating an elite of top-class professionals seems unanswerable.

The Institute of IT Professionals in New Zealand, formerly the NZ Computer Society, has launched a bid to create "Chartered IT Professionals" and is now taking its proposals to IT professionals across the country.

The move would put the industry in the same league as engineers and accountants, and would follow similar procedures in the United Kingdom.

The institute's CEO Paul Matthews said the IT industry needs to regulate itself, or else the government will do it instead.

However, in the debate that ensued, there was some sound opposition to the institute's proposals.

Among them is a plethora of industry qualifications, and a fresh one would just add to the confusion. There were also fears about the costs of such qualifications, with them becoming "a nice little earner" for the Institute if IT professionals had to constantly keep sitting exams and paying registration fees as part of their right to continue working in the industry. Another was that this new qualification could act as a barrier to new entrants into the industry, and it might act as a kind of "closed shop".

However, looking at practice overseas, moving to Chartered IT Professionals seems to be the way forward. This is what has been happening outside of New Zealand, and the country does tend to copy what goes on abroad, with a few minor tweaks for local consumption.

The United Kingdom moved toward charterships for IT professionals around 2004, and Ireland followed suit in 2011.

Britain's Institute for Engineering and Technology also offers charterships to its members, and says they help raise and guarantee the standards of its members.

The Institute of Physics in Britain says charterships show that people are committed to continued improvement and training, and that this will boost the employability of such chartered professionals in an increasingly competitive age.

Paul Matthews and his institute have certainly created a proposal of worthy consideration, one which certainly has issues that need addressing, especially those raised by opponents.

Matthews will certainly need to allay those concerns, and he must contact his overseas equivalents to see how they have fared since they introduced charterships.

At least by acting after other countries, New Zealand can learn from experience and avoid making any mistakes that the British and Irish might have made.

The Institute of IT Professionals has come up with a worthy idea to hopefully raise standards in the IT industry and help avoid project failure, but further investigation is obviously needed to see what proposals might work in New Zealand, and also what proposals would gain the necessary consent on IT professionals across New Zealand.

I wish it well in its task, as certainly much still needs to be done to help reduce the costs and numbers of IT project failure in New Zealand. Such an inquiry might also raise other matters that might need addressing, too.