A major initiative to build an IT profession recognised by employers as looking beyond technical issues to the broader skills needed for successful IT has been launched by the BCS.
The Professionalism in IT programme aims to increase organisations' ability to exploit the potential of IT. It will target both IT specialists and senior business managers.
Despite membership growth of more than 25%since the BCS restructured a year ago, only a minority of IT specialists belong to a professional body, and few employers look for job applicants with professional qualifications, said BCS deputy chief executive Colin Thompson.
"A new vision is required if we are to build a profession that commands fully the respect and commitment of its stakeholders," he said. "The existing vision, built around a fairly narrow image of an activity which is essentially technical and engineering-based, will not provide a base for securing the necessary commitment.
"If the IT profession is to be seen by government, business leaders, employers, users and customers as a key element in the more successful exploitation of IT, it needs to be a profession which:
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- Is defined in terms of its ability to play a full part in all stages of that exploitation
- Is seen as - and sees itself as - an integral part of the business
- Has appropriate non-technical skills alongside, rather than as add-ons to, relevant technical skills
- Demands greater personal responsibility from practitioners
- Is attractive to a wider group of entrants, including women and people with ambitions to reach senior positions, currently alienated by the techie image."
Thompson continued, "This is not to suggest that technical and engineering aspects are unimportant, but a high proportion of the problems in failed projects have their roots outside the technical area.
"If the IT profession is to make a real impact on overall capability, IT professionals must have a significant role in the whole process of IT-enabled change and, most importantly, the necessary skills to enable them to do so."
Against this background the programme has two strands. First, the BCS is aiming to improve the ability of organisations and their senior executives to structure, lead and implement IT-driven business change. It will work on this with other professional and management bodies.
"This reflects the recognition that IT professionalism cannot be achieved simply by increasing the professionalism of IT staff," Thompson said. "Doing the right things and doing things right require professionalism at all levels and across all organisation functions.
"If we are to embed professional standards and professional qualifications in IT practice - just as, for example, personnel management standards and qualifications are now embedded in human resources practice - we need to take a top-down approach, working with the key stakeholders to develop a profession which reflects the needs of business and other organisations.
"The real task is not to convince thousands of individual practitioners of the need for an IT profession, but to convince a relatively small number of key employers and their customers."
The second strand of the programme aims to redefine the vision of the IT profession of the future.
"The intention is that the end product will be a new definition of roles, relationships, skills and qualifications for the IT profession and the IT professional of the future," said Thompson.