Progress towards greater IT professionalism in the UK points to the creation of a global class of technologists, says David Clarke.
In 2002 I launched the BCS Professionalism in IT programme. Since then, there have been many changes and much progress in this area, supported by employers, government and academia. But the moment has now come for us to go one step further and develop a single global IT profession.
In September, the BCS announced a series of initiatives and changes that will see us take on this challenge. The most immediately visible change is our new corporate identity, which brings The Chartered Institute of IT to the fore.
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has come an incredibly long way in the past 50 years, like the industry. To be the organisation it needs to be, BCS must display a deep understanding of what it means for IT to become a public profession, while retaining complete relevance to individual IT workers and their employer.
Perhaps the area where these two requirements come together most clearly is in our Chartered IT Professional (CITP) status, which we updated in September.
Being chartered must mean being professional, capable and competent with a public responsibility. The latest standard has been developed in response to demand from employers, government and members, and we believe it is highly relevant.
Acquiring the updated status is now a more demanding process, leading to the award of a Certificate of Competence, which requires revalidation every five years. The updated Chartered Status provides the benchmark of IT excellence and allows employers and clients to understand instantly the quality of IT practitioners.
Developing IT professionalism
The Chartered Institute for IT helps organisations develop IT professionalism — through a suite of products and advice. But professionalism requires an exchange that is not merely financial.
By supporting high-performance professionals who can be relied on to deliver, employers have to allow professional standards to govern their staff from beyond organisational boundaries.
In exchange for trust, respect and higher salaries, IT professionals must be prepared to accept that their incompetence or negligence are no longer things they will be able to leave behind when moving on to a new job or contract — their professional conduct will be a matter of record.
We want a trustworthy profession. Our mission to enable the information society demands that IT practitioners are recognised as professionals alongside the more traditional professions. This goal requires a balance between responsibility and rights that needs to be set collectively by employers, employees and the public.
It does not mean employers set the agenda — the BCS is not a trade association. And it does not mean BCS represents the employees — it is not a union. It is a chartered institute, the professional body for the IT profession, and so will take into account the needs of society — commercial or otherwise — making use of the expertise of the profession.
Our members are constantly striving for recognition and want industry-specific qualifications for a profession that is fast maturing. There is also demand from organisations, both public and private, for an institute that shows leadership, both at home and internationally.
The BCS is making real progress towards becoming a world-class organisation for IT, while at the same time keeping to its solid governing principles. It is exciting and challenging, and, like the IT industry itself, constantly evolving.
To help us achieve this goal, we have a new website to reach out to new members, plus innovative web tools to enable better communication and collaboration between individuals.
We are also moving purposefully onto the international stage with new partnerships that will see BCS qualifications delivered to new audiences around the globe.
Meanwhile, the new BCS Academy of Computing will ensure that IT research and education will play a role in the profession and wider society. It will help to create an integrated and coherent approach to advancing IT and computing across education, research and business.
All these developments are directed at the BCS's ambitious and yet achievable goal of championing the global IT profession. The question is: are you ready to join us on this journey?
David Clarke is chief executive of the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, representing over 70,000 IT professionals. Clarke took up his post at the BCS in May 2002 and has nearly 30 years' involvement with IT systems, first on the supply side with HP, DEC and Compaq, then as chief executive in the Virgin group of companies and Trinity Mirror.