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Industry forum for IT services staff created

People working for IT services companies are to get their own forum for meetings and online discussion of issues such as personal...

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People working for IT services companies are to get their own forum for meetings and online discussion of issues such as personal skills and staff retention, following preliminary talks between leading industry bodies and companies, writes John Kavanagh.

The initial meeting, held this month, brought together the BCS, the National Computing Centre and companies including ICL, its KnowledgePool training subsidiary, Sun Microsystems and research specialist IDC. The meeting was organised by KnowledgePool manager David Brain, but those attending felt a likely ultimate outcome could be the formation of a BCS specialist group to give a formal focus point.

Almost 50% of IT staff now work for services companies, ranging from consultancies to software developers, facilities management specialists and companies in the re-emerging computer bureau business.

"There has been very rapid growth in the services sector as the IT industry has matured, and the sector has special characteristics," says BCS deputy chief executive Colin Thompson, who was at the meeting. "For example, it is customer-facing and fee-earning, and much of the service takes place on client premises.

"It covers things like project management, strategic technical consulting, bespoke applications development, systems implementation and services management.

"However, many of the needs of people in this field are not catered for by existing professional networking groups, which tend to focus on more traditional and technical aspects of IT. As the sector becomes even more important, there is a need for specialist networks for the people who work in it."

Several topics emerged for discussion at future meetings of the forum or online. These include retaining staff, especially those in Web development, knowledge management and managing teams of consultants and technical specialists.

"Another topic was what it means to be a successful services manager - the skills, tricks of the trade and toolkits," says Thompson. "Are people made or can they be trained to be successful here?"

He says the group might help define new role descriptions in IT services that could be added to the BCS Industry Structure Model, which describes different IT roles and lays out the suggested tasks, education, qualifications and experience at different levels.

Those who attended the meeting suggest that the new group might meet four times a year, with an electronic forum being considered for discussions between meetings.

The group is already opening up to anyone in the IT services sector for a meeting on staff retention, to be hosted by Sun Microsystems in October. The contact is david.brain@knowledgepool.com.

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