BCS CEO David Clarke: Why call for EGM is misguided

When you go through change of any kind, some people won't like it, and BCS has changed significantly in recent years…

The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult economic times for everyone, and BCS has not been immune to this, writes David Clarke, CEO of  BCS, the chartered institute for IT.

As with most organisations, we have had to focus very hard on maintaining our revenues, managing our costs and using our reserves to the maximum effect to build for the future. Few organisations of any kind have managed these as well as BCS has.

A small group of our members, less than 0.1% of our membership, want to censure the management of the organisation for doing this and "changing BCS from what it was 30 years ago".

When you go through change of any kind, some people won't like it, and BCS has changed significantly in recent years. In the eight years that I have been CEO, we have increased from 36,000 to 70,000 members and the profile of our membership has changed dramatically.

The average age of our members has reduced from 45 to 37; 72 % of our members are under 49; more than 60% have joined in the past six years, and, importantly, the average age of new members is just 33. The percentage of women members is higher than ever and more than the industry average by some distance. Our reserves soared from £3m when I joined to £16m by the end of 2008.

This is not exactly the kind of data you expect to trigger a call for an extraordinary general meeting (EGM), even if it does only take 0.1 % of our members to do so.

So why has this happened?

There are some personality issues hidden away in this, with people's aspirations no longer likely to come to fulfilment, but mostly it is a complete lack of understanding of the basic facts regarding BCS.

The first major misunderstanding is that the membership organisation is self-funding. In common with most other membership organisations, it isn't, and BCS never really has been. You only have to look at the financial situation when membership subscriptions were BCS' main income stream to see that.

The commercial activities of BCS have always funded the membership organisation and this year, for example, that is to the tune of £2m. So did we reduce this subsidy this year? No, despite having to cut back on literally everything else, we have kept the amount of money we use to support our membership organisation at the same level as previous years.

Were the members' subscriptions being used to invest in transforming BCS? Again the answer is a very clear no. The substantial reserves built up in recent years, which were in addition to funding the membership organisation, allowed BCS to invest in the future without affecting any of the membership expenditure.

An EGM call against this background does not make any sense.

All of this success in our performance, investing our own reserves in building a BCS fit for the future that we know IT professionals will want to join, and yet some people object to the degree that they want to censure the trustee board and the CEO for doing all of this.

Why?

The answer is very clear, and it is in two parts. First they simply didn't want to change - at all. They wanted BCS to be the BCS it was 30 years ago.

Second, when the trustees, having listened very carefully, felt that going back 30 years was not a good strategy and rejected this idea, this very small band of long-term members felt that rather than accept that they were now in a minority in BCS and it was time to move on, decided to expose BCS to an EGM and the £100,000 cost that goes with it to try to take BCS back 30 years - and causing serious reputational damage with their misinformation in the process.

BCS is a membership organisation and always will be. We are very proud of the contributions the vast majority of our members make both to BCS and the world at large. We will continue to do our very best to make sure they have the funds and the tools they need to continue to do this.

Watch a video of David Clarke discussing the future of the BCS, chartered status and professionalism in IT >>

Opinion: Is BCS priority the business or its members? >>

Resignations highlight member frustration with BCS >>

This was last published in March 2010

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