Debate over future of BCS heats up as EGM approaches

BCS, the chartered institute for IT, has sent out brochures urging its 70,000 members to back its executives and trustees in an extraordinary general meeting to debate the organisation's future next month.

BCS, the chartered institute for IT, has sent out brochures urging its 70,000 members to back its executives and trustees in an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to debate the organisation's future next month.

But critics claim the BCS has scored an own goal by only presenting only one side of the argument to members in the mailshot.

The move is part of a fight-back by the organisation against an EGM on 1 July, brought by 50 BCS members who have raised concerns about direction of the organisation, its transparency and its relationship with its members.

The BCS has set up a website defending its track record and its £5m programme to rebrand itself as the chartered institute for IT, and BCS executives are touring the country to explain the programme to members ahead of the EGM.

The brochure, entitled "Building for your future", calls for BCS members to vote against a motion for the BCS to halt spending on its restructuring programme and to reject motions of no confidence in the BCS CEO and board of trustees.

"Having listened to the views of members, the trustees decided to invest to accelerate BCS's transformation into a world-leading IT institute fit for the future.

"However, a small number of members disagree with this approach and as a result there has been a call for an extraordinary general meeting," it says.

"Your trustees see this call as a real threat to the rapid progress and momentum of the institute. It has the ability to derail the good work that has been done so far and damage the relevance of the organisation to the current IT profession - let alone the future."

The BCS is urging members to vote for alternative motions. They include:

• Endorsing the trustees' strategy of "developing BCS into one of the world's leading professional institutes for IT".

• Authorising the trustees to invest "some of BCS's substantial reserves" to implement the organisation's rebranding strategy.

• Expressing confidence in the trustees and the BCS CEO.

A fourth motion is designed to reduce the likelihood of BCS members calling EGMs in the future, by raising the minimum number of signatures required from 50 to 1,000 - equivalent to 2% of BCS's 50,000 professional members.

BCS has declined to issue any further public comment on the EGM, however its CEO David Clarke has previously written an article for Computer Weekly putting the case for the BCS and its transformation programme.

The brochure has attracted criticism from BCS members who have posted comments describing it as an own goal for the BCS on a public blog set up by the EGM's supporters.

"Although I had sympathy for the EGM supporters, I was going to vote with the management. That was until I received a quite pathetically biased and utterly vacuous glossy leaflet in the post which told me nothing of the issues being raised," wrote Peter Bloodsworth. "If the current BCS management feel that they can waste the members' money in such a way, then I must conclude there is a big problem after all."

David Finn wrote: "The president is meant to represent the interests of all the members, even those who do not agree with the direction the society is taking. In my opinion the letter was biased in favour of the current board and the 'transition programme' and in many respects was a PR disaster."

Another commentator wrote: "Yesterday I got an e-mail from BCS HQ which belittled the motions and those who proposed them. I have replied that the trustees are entitled to express their views but have a duty to present the issues fairly to members, and that for me at least, their message has backfired."

Len Keighley, the former BCS trustee who is co-ordinating the EGM, said members are concerned over the proposal to change the rules for calling future EGMs.

"I am getting a lot of e-mail saying people are not happy. They don't like the increase in the number of people required to bring an EGM. It looks like they don't want to get caught out again," he said.

"Personally, I don't think it is easy to raise an EGM. It takes a lot longer than people think because there is no ability to contact BCS members quickly. You can only pick people you know and ask them to forward an e-mail. There is no way for any member to contact the rest of the membership unless the BCS sanctions it," he said.

Colin Beveridge, who has recently been elected as a BCS trustee, said the move brings the BCS into line with Charity Commission guidelines, which require charitable companies to call an EGM if 10% or less of those entitled to vote support the move.

Beveridge said in a blog posting that the BCS had not been able to represent the views of the BCS members behind the EGM, as they had appeared to have disengaged with the EGM process after putting forward their signatures.

"My personal view is that, almost without exception, the EGM signatories appear to have completely disengaged from the process after having lit the blue touchpaper. Which has left the trustees and the chief executive then to be roundly 'reprimanded' for failing to present information that is simply not there," he said.

Background of the BCS EGM

Why disgruntled BCS members are calling for an EGM >>

Watch videos about the BCS transformation programme >>

BCS update on transformation programme, September 2009 >>

Computer Weekly report on BCS restructuring >>


Blog discussions on the BCS EGM

Computer Weekly blogs >>

Len Keighley's EGM blog >>.

Webmink blog discussion >>

BCS Chartered IT Professional on Linked-In >>

BCS Membership Group on Linked-In >>

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