Resignations highlight member frustration with BCS

Senior members of Elite, BCS's leading membership group for IT professionals, have resigned after voicing frustration...

Senior members of Elite, BCS's leading membership group for IT professionals, have resigned after voicing frustration that the group has not received support from BCS headquarters.

The disclosure comes as members of BCS, now known as BCS, the chartered institute of IT, are demanding an emergency general meeting to debate their concerns that the society is becoming more business-focused at the expense of its members.

Members of the group have complained that BCS staff failed to provide the group with the support it needed to run high-profile events, after leading figures from the IT industry offered to attend. Two resigning members are volunteers and say that running the group is no longer fun.

BCS told Computer Weekly that Elite is now back on track following a series of new elections, and expects to appoint new officers in the next few weeks.

David Tidey, head of IT at Wandsworth borough council and vice-chair of Elite, said, "As a member group of BCS, the chartered institute for IT, Elite has recently held elections for positions on the committee and will be electing a new chair and secretary in line with our constitution shortly.

"In addition, we have been working closely with BCS staff to review several of our day-to-day operating processes. As a result, the Elite committee is looking forward to continuing the important work we do supporting senior IT professionals who join BCS Elite."

The group, which is run by volunteers, has built a reputation for organising high-profile events for BCS, including a dinner attended by Scott McNealy, chairman and founder of Sun Microsystems, in 2007, and a teatime briefing from Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers, in April last year.

Elite re-launched in September 2009 when it elected a new chairman with strong contacts in business and government to raise the profile of the group. It planned a series of events with "very high-profile" figures from IT, government and e-commerce.

But senior members of Elite have complained to BCS executives that they had to abandon plans for five events at top London venues, and to reschedule another event five times after failing to receive adequate administrative support from BCS headquarters.

They claim BCS staff were late paying deposits for venues secured by Elite, and that rule changes meant BCS staff were unwilling to sanction events unless they could inspect the public liability insurance and carry out fire checks on the venues.

The events were intended for VIPs in the IT industry, who often gave short notice of their plans to be in the UK.

The difficulties prompted the committee to vote to underwrite the cost of two events and set up its own online booking system and website to publicise them rather than go through BCS.

Elite secretary Roger Ellis, a member of Elite for 12 years and a former chairman, sent an e-mail to Elite committee members and BCS executives in December announcing his resignation and raising concerns about lack of support.

"Running events, which used to be so straightforward, now seems immersed in a mountain of bureaucracy, obstacles and paperwork," he wrote.

"We are all volunteers, not employees, and I fear BCS seems to have somewhat lost sight of this fact. We do it because we enjoy it; we want to help our members - and have fun."

Elite's chairman raised similar issues in a resignation e-mail circulated to Elite committee members after accepting a job overseas.

"I believe I have done my utmost to always act in the best interests of both the committee and members, and most importantly 'serve the members' through instigating a groundbreaking monthly calendar of high-profile events over a nine-month period.

"I feel that Elite has ceased to be fun and it is quite apparent that the members' interests are supposedly of no consequence too.

"Whereas I could feasibly continue this role, I would rather expend what precious time and energy I have on those societies and charities where I am needed and my work is appreciated."

Minutes of an Elite committee meeting in September claimed that relations between BCS and specialist groups, such as Elite, had deteriorated in recent years.

"This means that our membership have so far this year lost three VIP speakers and at one point our first group dinner in six years.

"As this situation has persisted for quite some time now, it means that the Elite membership have not been well served by their committee or BCS headquarters this year and this position cannot be allowed to continue."

Other longstanding members of Elite's committee have also stepped down, but have not made their reasons public. They include Charles Chang, chair of BCS management forum and BCS councillor, and Bob Harvey, a member of Elite for ten years and a BCS trustee and councillor.

However, members of Elite say the group is now looking to the future after a round of elections of new committee members, and after forging a closer working relationship with BCS.

A senior Elite committee member, who asked to not be named, said that he was optimistic that any problems had been resolved.

"The positive story is that Elite has got a new committee and it is going to continue doing things for its members, which includes high-quality events. It has got some very enthusiastic people who put a lot of time and effort into it," he said.

He said that he believed the problems had been partly caused by personalities and could have been resolved much earlier if people had picked up the phone and spoken to each other.

Michael Dell speaking at Elite >>

BCS members seek emergency general meeting >>

Opinion: Is BCS priority the business or its members? >>

Watch videos on BCS Transformation Programme >>


BCS Elite timeline  

April 2008

First member networking event.

April 2009

Teatime briefing from Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers.

June 2009

VIP event is cancelled.

Elite loses booking for annual dinner at Lansdowne Club when the venue did not receive its deposit from BCS.

The event is later rescheduled following a cancellation.

July 2009

VIP event cancelled.

August 2009

A senior member of Elite e-mails BCS chief executive seeking to resolve friction between Elite and BCS events team.

September 2009

The Elite chairman and vice-chairman decide to underwrite the annual dinner event using their own finances, after the deposit does not arrive from BCS.

October 2009

VIP event cancelled.

23 November 2009

Elite committee members meet with BCS executives in an attempt to resolve problems faced by both groups.

26 November 2009

Dinner at the Landsdown Club London.

2 December 2009

Charles Chang, 70, chair BCS management forum and BCS councillor resigned from Elite.

7 December 2009

Elite secretary, Roger Ellis, 61, Elite committee member for 12 years resigns.

9 December 2009

BCS trustee and councillor, and Elite committee member for 10 years, Bob Harvey, 68, resigned from Elite.

Political event scheduled for February 2010 cancelled.

4 January 2010

Elite chairman announces resignation.

Speakers pull out of next four month events.

March 2010

BCS Elite members elect new committee.


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