Winning a BCS IT award can boost company morale and bring industry respect. Three of last year's winners explain how the awards also offer a business benefit
Is the main advantage of winning an industry award restricted to a good party and the satisfaction of looking good in front of the industry and customers? Or do winners actually benefit from real, ongoing business advantages?
On the evening of Tuesday 19 October, luminaries of the IT industry will congregate at the Hilton Park Lane, London, to find out who has won this year's British Computer Society IT Professional Awards.
For some, winning an industry accolade can have a positive, long-term effect on their business, including financial growth, customer loyalty and higher staff retention and morale.
Speed-trap is a UK-based developer of online business intelligence applications and a double winner of the BCS IT Professional Awards. At last year's awards it picked up the Technology Award for Applications for its web traffic tool, Prophet. Speed-trap also won the Flagship Technology Award, an award given to the project considered "most meritorious" by the judges.
Afterwards, employee morale at the applications developer rocketed. "We saw it as an endorsement of our business, which was fantastic given that we compete with the big boys of technology worldwide," said Simon Burton, sales vice-president at Speed-trap.
However, the most significant benefit came from the boost it gave to the firm's industry standing. "It immediately strengthened our credibility with corporate clients and increased our business prospects, both in the UK and internationally," said Burton.
"Moreover, given the ground-breaking nature of the solution, the awards provide an independent endorsement of the technology, which gives the marketplace the confidence to take a new approach to solving a long-standing problem."
The BCS judges look for originality, in terms of a technology innovation and systems management. Consideration is given to the level of exploitability in terms of reliability, profitability and social benefit. Lastly, the judges look at real-world use by examining market penetration.
Burton believes that the recognition awarded to Speed-trap validates UK innovation and technology against a backdrop of dominant, mostly US-based, technology companies.
Neil Muller, financial services client director at Computacenter, a sponsor of the awards, said, "Technology has become such a major part of our daily business operations that the value and benefits it delivers are often taken for granted.
"It is only when an application or system fails that we acknowledge the importance of IT in aiding business efficiency and productivity. Award schemes help to remind us of the innovation that is happening behind the scenes in IT departments across the country, and to recognise those who are leading the way in delivering IT excellence."
Another double winner last year was Royal Bank of Scotland. As well as taking the Business Achievement Award for Financial and Related Services for its IT integration efforts following the takeover of NatWest, the bank won the Flagship Business Achievement Award. The task of merging the two banks was a significant challenge.
"Put simply, winning the BCS awards raised our game," said John White, director of group technology at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and individual winner of the 2003 IT Director of the Year Award.
"It was, and continues to be, a yardstick and an achievement to which we aspire. On the night we all felt an overwhelming sense of pride, not just for those involved in the integration, but for the entire Royal Bank of Scotland Group."
The award also affirmed the IT expertise of the bank to its customers and employees. The bank views the latter group as internal customers, and these were the people who were important constituents of the integration's success. Encouraging admiration and support across the organisation for the newly merged bank was critical.
The bank's technology team knew that showcasing the double win would amplify the feeling of esteem. It created a brochure for distribution across the organisation called Admired. The brochure highlighted the BCS IT Professional Awards win and other achievements from the integration.
"We were able to show our employees we had won the admiration of the IT industry," White said. "It demonstrated that a department within a bank could raise standards for the whole UK IT industry."
And what of the companies and individuals who go away empty-handed at the end of the night? According to Wendy Hall, president of the BCS, there are no losers.
"Just reaching the awards finals is an aspiration for many because it confers prestige on the individuals and organisations," said Hall.
"The awards spotlight excellence, professionalism, innovation and outstanding achieve-ment. Those who have reached the medallist stage have already evidenced this."
The BCS IT Professional Awards 2004 ceremony will take place on the night of Tuesday 19 October at the Hilton Park Lane, London.
The BCS IT Professional Awards
The BCS IT Professional Awards celebrate excellence, professionalism and innovation among UK IT companies. The awards recognise the contribution of businesses and the individuals within them to Britain's economic prosperity, business efficiency and public services.
The awards are comprised of four categories: Business Achievement, Technology, Individual Awards and Women in IT. New this year, the Women in IT Award recognises UK companies that are promoting opportunities for women to take leadership roles within the IT industry.
The judging process is undertaken by panels of qualified, 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 19 October.