How to capitalise on mobile advances

The finalists for this year's British Computer Society IT Professional Awards, held in association with Computer Weekly, have now been selected by the judges. These finalists, already recognised as medallists by the BCS, provide a key insight into the latest developments and changes in the IT industry.

The finalists for this year's British Computer Society IT Professional Awards, held in association with Computer Weekly, have now been selected by the judges. These finalists, already recognised as medallists by the BCS, provide a key insight into the latest developments and changes in the IT industry.

New, topical awards are regularly introduced and this year BCS president David Morriss has chosen Mobile Computing to complement last year's introduction of the Women in IT Award. Both awards are viewed by the society as highly relevant to a forward-looking profession.

Morriss said, "The BCS President's Awards reflect two highly important issues. First, that mobile computing technology's rapid advancement requires a professional approach to ensure its cost-effective involvement in the broader IT strategy. Second, how vital it is for organisations to provide greater employment and career advancement for women.  This is particularly relevant given the alarming gender imbalance in our profession."

Mobile strides ahead

One of the four medallists up for the Mobile Computing Award is Leeds City Council. The council has implemented a project entitled Digital Pen and Paper, which is poised to radically transform the way paper-based information can be stored, retrieved and analysed. The project employs innovative mobile technology to meet the changing demands of local government.

The council's primary objectives included implementing the project throughout the city, in which 1,600 home care assistants are employed, using this technology to send care data directly to corporate systems from clients' homes via a secure mobile link.

The sheer diversity of the mobile computing sector is optimised by another of this year's medallists, McDonald's Restaurants. Using mobile technology, the restaurant chain has mobilised its workforce via 200 Pocket PCs, each designed to collect data to assess product quality, customer service and cleanliness. The information obtained can be uploaded to a central database, cutting out the time-consuming manual process of transferring the data to paper-based files.

Neil Skehel, business sponsor for the McDonald's OnlineQSC project, told the judges, "The information gathered has already helped us enormously. By storing data centrally, we are able to access information instantaneously and analyse data on the current and past operational standards of our restaurants. This helps us to focus on quality, service and cleanliness and continually improve the customer experience."

Keith Frimley, McDonald's business relationship manager for UK IS, says, "The adoption of the Windows Mobile Pocket PC in combination with iAnywhere's products provides McDonald's with an efficient, secure and reliable mobile solution."

Drive for equality

Since its inclusion in last year's awards, the issue of women in IT has leapt to the forefront of the BCS agenda.

The Women in IT Award seeks to reward organisations that promote opportunities for women to take on IT project management and leadership roles. Women make up only 20% of the IT workforce, according to a BCS survey, although there is evidence that more are joining the profession.

Sue Black, who chairs the BCS Women's Group, said, "For many years the IT profession has been dogged by an image of being predominantly male. I am confident that with greater persuasion, together with better focus from the IT profession itself, women could now overturn this."

Sopra Newell and Budge, an IT services company with a workforce of more than 800 based in offices throughout the UK and India, has been recognised by the judging panel as an example of a company that fosters equality in the workplace. Its work in this area has led to its selection as a finalist for this year's Women in IT Award. Chief executive Anne Budge believes that equality in the workplace is key to success.

"We believe strongly in equality in the workplace, whether that is for women or for men," she said. "We openly encourage all our employees to realise their full potential regardless of gender.  The fact that we have a successful business with more than 50% of senior management being female proves the contribution women can make in IT, given the opportunity. All it takes is a bit of flexibility with working policy and an understanding of the importance of getting the right work/life balance."

Testament of youth

Once again at this year's awards, the contribution of young professionals within the industry has generated a lot of interest. The illumination of these individuals offers encouraging signs for the future of the industry.

This year's entries for the Young IT Practitioner of the Year Award come from across the spectrum, from multinationals IBM and the Royal Bank of Scotland through to West Yorkshire-based BTL, demonstrating the awards panel's commitment to seeking out the young practitioner who has excelled the most within the field, regardless of company size and reputation.

Talent rewarded

The BCS IT Professional Awards celebrate excellence, professionalism and innovation among UK IT companies. They recognise the contribution of businesses and the individuals within them to the UK's economic prosperity, business efficiency and public services. The awards are divided into the categories: Business Achievement, Technology, Individual Excellence and Women in IT.

Introduced this year, the Mobile Computing Award recognises the implementation of mobile systems that allow for greater business efficiency and other benefits.

The judging process is undertaken by panels of respected senior IT professionals. Winners will be announced at a black-tie dinner to be held at London's Hilton Park Lane at 6.30pm on Tuesday 29 September.

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