Interview: BCS CEO plots the evolution of the IT industry

The British Computer Society is rebranding itself and changing direction to meet the demands of modern IT professionals. Chief executive David Clarke says the changing skills demanded of IT professionals and the increasingly pervasive nature of technology means the society has to morph into something new.

The British Computer Society is rebranding itself and changing direction to meet the demands of modern IT professionals.

Chief executive David Clarke says the changing skills demanded of IT professionals and the increasingly pervasive nature of technology means the society has to morph into something new.

This week the organisation announced a range of measures it hopes will bring it up to date with where the profession is heading. There are new assessment criteria for senior IT staff, a new academy for updating skills, and a series of public engagement programmes to increase the public's understanding of the profession.

Clarke says business people will never spend enough time learning about and understanding what technology can do and it is increasingly incumbent on technology staff to do the explaining.

"Skills sets are definitely changing, but I would say not quickly enough. Increasingly the profession has to be involved in how IT is applied rather than how it is developed. It is the bridging of the gap between the technology knowledge and the business knowledge. You are not going to get business people spending enough time to understand what the technology can do, so IT must understand what the business needs."

Clarke acknowledges the industry faces some uphill battles in the coming years surrounding policies like Digital Britain and the realities of universal access to broadband services. There is no question broadband access is not good enough around the country, and things need to be fixed if they are going to deliver that policy, he says.

"It is a major issue because more and more of what we do uses technology; the government is putting a huge amount of money into providing things online but so many can't access them."

But he adds, "It is not our remit to fix it - all we can do is advise government."

The IT profession is still young and needs clearer career ladders for people to climb, Clarke says, and the BCS hopes to bring a level of clarity to the senior echelons of the industry.

"When we talked to employers, they said what we have is too generic, and does not tell them what they need to know," Clarke says. "If a person is coming from outside the company, there is no way of assessing their competency and skills. Employers are looking for a way of independent assessment of competency at senior level, not just basic education or understanding. For me, this will become successful when jobs for a certain level all have chartered status required in them."

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