BCS restructure will bring it up to date

The British Computer Society (BCS) wants to focus less on three elements of its name: British, computer and society.

The British Computer Society (BCS) wants to focus less on three elements of its name: British, computer and society.

These are the words of the BCS president Alan Pollard speaking on the organisation's restructuring plans. He says the BCS needs to better reflect its membership by having a larger proportion of members with practical, rather than academic skills.

The 53-year-old organisation's own research shows it is seen by many as a technical ivory tower with computer scientists as members.

Major restructure

It is planning amajor restructure in September in a drive to broaden its membership. It wants to appeal not only to traditional IT professionals, but also to people who use IT in their work and who need to understand how technology can be used in business.

The charity, which represents and qualifies IT professionals, has 70,000 members. But the figure represents only about 5% of the BCS's potential membership, says CEO David Clarke. The number of people who use IT in their profession is growing rapidly, and many of them could benefit from joining the BCS, he says.

"These are people who are working in business whose job is to implement business solutions, knowing the IT capabilities. This reflects just how important IT is to business today. You cannot do anything without technology," says Clarke.

The BCS will change its Chartered IT Professional qualifications in September to increase the practical skills component.

Keeping up with change

Professor William Scott-Jackson at Oxford Strategic Consulting says the reorganisation is needed to reflect the changes in the IT industry. "The distinction between people who do things with computers professionally and those who use computers in their profession is becoming less clear."

Philip Treleaven, professor of computing at University College London, is no longer a member of the BCS, but he says the bigger the BCS membership the better. "It is a trade-off between academics and professionals, and it is important to get a balance."

Adam Banks, senior vice-president Technology Office at Visa, says it is essential for the BCS to attract a cross-section of the technologically trained to its membership.

"The era of computing being a science that existed primarily in academia and research labs is long behind us. With society's reliance on technology as high as it is, computing has become a global business and any society that seeks to provide standards and certifications needs to be representative of the industry it covers," he says.

The BCS wants to grow. The volume of traditional IT jobs is growing more slowly than newer business-focused IT jobs. The computing sector is still in its infancy, so despite the BCS's 53 years, it is definitely not too old to change.

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