Membership set to soar as BCS continues to raise its profile after a year of change

The BCS is aiming to increase its membership by 50% a year for at least four years from next May, when changes to its grading...

The BCS is aiming to increase its membership by 50% a year for at least four years from next May, when changes to its grading structure are due to take effect.

BCS chief executive David Clarke told the society's annual general meeting on 23 October that member recruitment had been put on hold this year while changes were being prepared to be voted on by members.

The vote took place in September and the 97% support meant the changes could go ahead from the start of the next financial year in May, subject to Privy Council approval, which is expected this week. Clarke said the BCS was now putting processes in place to handle the expected growth in membership. The BCS currently has just under 40,000 members.

The changes to the membership structure will offer IT specialists a chance to attain BCS professional member status, and the letters MBCS after their name, much earlier in their careers, without going through the current lengthy procedures.

Today's BCS is very different from the organisation Clarke joined last year. "Awareness of the society was quite low, membership was flat and we only represented a small percentage of the industry," he said. "We were seen as an exclusive club. We were slow to react and did not speak with a single voice.

"Our decision-making processes were slow. Our business processes and organisation needed to move on, as we were quickly becoming a medium-sized business. And there was little product development."

This last point, said Clarke, meant having to depend on the success of the European computer driving licence end-user qualification and on the growing number of certificates from the BCS Information Systems Examinations Board.

"We wanted to make the BCS count with the government, industry and society," he said. "But we also wanted to change the industry, to make IT a true profession - the profession of the 21st century."

One year on, there are product development teams in place, working on new products and services that should ensure the BCS keeps up the growth in revenue it needs to enable it to work as a professional body, serving its members and the industry. Last year its income topped £13m.

A new IT director has been recruited "to drive infrastructure and strategy", Clarke said. This would include new processes for handling the simpler procedures for joining the BCS and to accommodate the expected membership growth next year.

A public relations manager and deputy have been recruited, with quick results: the BCS has moved from outside the top 250 IT organisations in terms of recognition, entering at 75 and rising to 31. It had started to take a stance on issues and would do this more aggressively in future, Clarke said.

A small board of trustees, will be formed next year, subject to Privy Council approval, to take responsibility for major decisions. It will be only a quarter of the size of the current governing council, and will meet more often, enabling the society to move more quickly.

The BCS is increasingly gaining influence overseas, both through the take-up of its qualifications and through BCS support for local IT societies and the appointment of regional officers.

Clarke insisted there was still much more the BCS could do, not least by exploiting the knowledge of the members of its specialist groups and branches. Knowledge services, with emphasis on web access, are a big area for future work.

"The new membership structure will make us welcoming and inclusive,"said Clarke. "That is the key to unlock just what the BCS can achieve."

The BCS strategy for growth

  • New membership structure
  • Fast path to professional membership grade
  • 50% annual membership growth target
  • New trustee board for fast decisions
  • New IT director and strategy
  • Strong public relations
  • Growing awareness of BCS
  • More influence in government and industry
  • New business processes
  • Product development to sustain financial growth
  • More international influence.

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