Time to turn the spotlight on our many professionals

IT has in many ways "got away with murder" through poor delivery and many employers are now thinking hard about their IT...

IT has in many ways "got away with murder" through poor delivery and many employers are now thinking hard about their IT investment, according to new BCS chief executive David Clarke, writes John Kavanagh.

Clarke says that companies should now be looking to professionally qualified and trained people to improve the success rate, and he has put a priority on getting users to see that such people are available.

"I know of no other area that performs as poorly as IT in meeting business objectives," he says. "Many studies show that far too many projects are never completed, and many of those that do get finished are not considered a complete success by the users, and are often over time or budget or both.

"This has become a fundamental issue. Businesses won't take the punt they did in the past - they're looking carefully at what they're going to get for their money, and whether they are going to get it at all. This is a significant part of why the industry is now facing a recession.

"You wouldn't employ an accountant or a lawyer who is not qualified, yet in this incredibly important area of IT often no one even asks the question - and it's time we did.

"The industry actually does have qualified, trained people and it's about time suppliers and user companies employing IT people really looked for the quality certifications, the professional qualifications," he adds.

One problem is that although independent qualifications exist and are pursued by thousands of IT specialists, too many employers are unaware of them, Clarke says. This is largely because IT is not a regulated area in the way that accounting and legal practice are - despite its vital role.

Clarke wants this issue to become a big campaign for the BCS - and he has already started work on it, talking to employers, job agencies and major IT companies. He believes the ever-growing demand for IT in all areas - especially where safety is at stake - will lead to at least some regulation of the industry within 10 years.

This does not mean everyone needs to be a professional grade member of the BCS, he says. Certainly not everyone in a project needs to be. But people do need an appropriate qualification, depending on what is expected of them.

"If you get someone properly trained, to the degree that BCS and other standards demand, you get quality," he says.

Visibility and success in the campaign to persuade employers will naturally increase the value that people attach to BCS membership. This will increase the number of members, and in turn increase still further the society's growing influence, he says.

Clarke is aiming initially to double the number of members from the current 39,000. He wants especially to bring in senior people who do not easily qualify for professional grades, perhaps because they lack a relevant degree or have come through a non-traditional route. He feels the potential membership is well over 500,000.

He sees the Web as a key to this process. The member registration work that is going on will hugely improve communication, keeping members in touch with the BCS and in their fields of IT interest.

Meanwhile, he is working to speed up policy making, planning, and response to press enquiries and government consultations.

Part of this process will be the employment of senior specialists to work with each forum and board, and with certain specialist areas, to drive them on and ensure fast response to issues.

"We have talented and knowledgeable people in virtually every area of IT, but we're not geared up to getting that across quickly," he says. "A fundamental issue for me now is to get the BCS message across."

Work experience
  • Head of three Internet services and online media companies

  • Held top marketing jobs at Hewlett-Packard and Compaq

  • Initial experience was in finance in smaller companies

  • Injury halted teenage football career with Leeds United.

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