The growth of the IT services business and electronic trading markets is putting new pressures on IT staff because of potentially conflicting loyalties to their employers and their customers, writes John Kavanagh.
So says professional member Peter Taylor in a paper to the BCS Professional and Public Affairs Board. The paper calls on the society to advise people facing such conflicts - to the benefit of IT as a whole.
"Outsourcing and collaborative ventures mean IT staff are often working in circumstances where personal and commercial loyalties are mixed," Taylor writes.
"This is not entirely a new problem. The BCS code of conduct recognises it: 'Members shall avoid any situation that may give rise to a conflict of interest between themselves and their client.'
"What has changed is the number of professionals who may face such problems. Practitioners increasingly find they are employed by a supplier of services to the organisation in which they are actually working. This can lead to a conflict of long-term loyalties.
"The BCS code puts emphasis on serving the interests of the customer. This is correct, but there should be some recognition that members have a duty to safeguard their own and their employer's interests, and that they may find it difficult to identify an appropriate balance."
People could also face conflict if they work for companies in the growing number of supply chain collaborations being set up, Taylor says. "IT specialists are likely to be working for a common good while contracted to one of the competing companies."
Action by the BCS here could benefit the society and the profession, he says.
"Recognition of the issue, and steps towards its resolution, could take the society forward significantly in terms of promoting customer confidence in the IT profession.
"It may also help clarify career development options for IT professionals in an increasingly diverse and complex market."
He suggests that the BCS should re-examine its code of conduct. It should promote the development of statements of common interest for companies in e-commerce partnerships and develop suggested job contract clauses or mission statements that companies could use to guide their staff.
He recommends the BCS should be ready to advise members in this area.