New BCS chief wants Web activity to be self-funding

David Clarke, who recently became chief executive of the BCS, has said he believes the society's Web-based services can become...

David Clarke, who recently became chief executive of the BCS, has said he believes the society's Web-based services can become self-funding, writes John Kavanagh.

Clarke, who was previously chief executive of Trinity Digital Media and Virgin.net, told the society's governing council, "I have been very impressed by what the BCS is doing with the Web, especially single registration: this will be the basis of everything we do via the Web, but it is very difficult to deliver. I am very impressed that we have cracked it."

The BCS is now rolling out single sign-on to members. Its system will give members and non-members access to material they are entitled to see, depending on factors such as membership grade, committee membership and special interests.

Clarke made it clear that the BCS is taking a pragmatic approach. "Although you can enable things on the Web, you cannot immediately replace everything you've got. You have to maintain the old and the new methods of doing things for quite a while. So you don't immediately save costs because you have Web-enabled something."

Even so, he said one of his early tasks will be to look at ways of making the BCS' Web activity self-funding, although he added that this did not need to be rushed into, largely because demand for BCS qualifications has brought great commercial success.

Demand for BCS exams has broken all records in the last year, with candidate numbers for the BCS Information Systems Examinations Board certificates and diplomas in practical IT topics running at well over 1,000 a month; a record 3,000 candidates sitting BCS professional examinations; and the number of candidates for the European computer driving licence user skills qualification topping 400,000 in the UK.

Clarke said he was surprised to find that two thirds of the BCS' turnover now came from non-members, reflecting the high standing of BCS qualifications. "It is a real pleasure to be taking over with such a solid foundation in place," he said. "It is an incredibly strong outfit. The society owes Judith Scott a debt for sorting it out in her seven years as chief executive."

Clarke also paid tribute to the hundreds of members who gave up their time to serve the BCS on committees and other forums. "I have found that we have some really excellent people, both on the honorary side and the staff side - and people are what this business is really about," he said.

"When I was appointed by Virgin I felt really proud to be part of that organisation; when I was fortunate enough to be offered the BCS role I felt exactly the same way - really proud to be offered this position."

Clarke was recruited by Mirror Group in 1999 to develop its digital media business.He became chief executive of its online arm after Trinity acquired Mirror Group. He was previously chief executive of Virgin.net and UK managing director of services company Netcom Internet. Earlier he was in top marketing jobs at Hewlett-Packard and Digital Equipment and was marketing director at Compaq.

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