Financial success enables BCS to offer new services

The most successful financial year in the BCS' 45-year history is enabling it to forge ahead with new Web services, a new...

The most successful financial year in the BCS' 45-year history is enabling it to forge ahead with new Web services, a new structure - and a campaign to make IT the profession of the new century, writes John Kavanagh.

These advances emerge from the society's annual report for 2001-2002, which shows 40% growth in income to £12.6m, with its surplus increasing by 147% to almost £2.5m. Further income growth to £15m is expected this year.

Much of this growth is down to big demand for the society's independent qualifications. The BCS professional examination is being adopted and recognised worldwide. The BCS Information Systems Examinations Board is getting well over 1,000 candidates a month for its certificates and diplomas in a wide range of IT topics, typically involving short courses. And the European computer driving licence IT skills qualification has topped 500,000 candidates in its first four years, making the UK, where the scheme is run by the BCS, the country with the biggest take-up.

Meanwhile, more than 40 employers of all sizes, including 3Com, BT, Ford and Norwich Union, have adopted the new BCS Information Systems Quality at Work scheme, which recognises organisations committed to IT staff development.

The society's commercial success has increased its reserves to a record £6.7m, enabling it to further develop its new BCS Connect services, which aim to put the Web at the centre of much of its activity.

Members can now update their own records, register for the three new BCS forums - education and training, engineering and technology, and management - and join online discussion groups. Branches and specialist groups can manage their own membership lists.

Future stages will range from seminar bookings and e-commerce to the generation and presentation of content matching people's interests - all accessed through a single log-on.

"The Web initiative will transform relations with members and others interested in BCS activities," the BCS says. "The new facilities will support our vibrant network of branches and specialist groups, and new collaborations across and beyond the society are anticipated as BCS Connect reduces the barriers of distance and time."

BCS president Geoff McMullen highlights the society's growing influence. "The BCS has been engaged in discussion of IS with important branches of government." he says. "We do this to ensure that those who set the policies that affect all our lives hear the voice of the practitioner. We also want to make sure the systems that serve us are fit for purpose, robust and affordable."

This last issue is being taken up in earnest by the society's chief executive David Clarke, who is determined that the BCS will take a lead in promoting IS as a profession - and indeed as "the" profession of the 21st century.

"With nearly 40,000 members, we are the biggest IS professional body," Clarke says. "Our task now is to make sure business and government are truly aware of how important it is to have properly trained, highly qualified people to deliver quality programmes - and that they only have to look for BCS-qualified people to find them."

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