Elite goes for inclusive approach with competitors and suppliers

BCS Elite group Collaboration and inclusion are the key words for the British Computer Society's body of senior IT user...

BCS Elite group Collaboration and inclusion are the key words for the British Computer Society's body of senior IT user professionals.

IT user groups should work together more, according to David Rippon, chairman of the British Computer Society's Elite group of IT directors.

To demonstrate the point, he has put the heads of two other user-focused groups - David Roberts, chief executive of the Corporate IT Forum (Tif), and Ian Rickwood, chief executive of the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (Imis) - on the Elite board.

"I have always believed in trying to bring groups together and stop them splintering," said Rippon. "But you can't make them - they've got to want to do it."

Elite, a well-established not-for-profit, networking group of IT directors, started life in the mid 1990s as a bridge to encourage senior IT users to get involved in BCS activities.

It has always been free of charge to join, and members do not have to be BCS members, but they do pay as they go at events - mainly lunches and dinners.

The group has recently extended invitations to its meetings to high-ranking non-IT users, senior BCS members, suppliers, consultants and academics.

Explaining the rationale, Rippon said, "IT directors of supplier organisations have always been valid candidates. However, there are also senior people, such as major account managers with systems houses or outsourcers who are managing bids worth millions of pounds.

"They have much to offer the IT user community as they give a different angle to the same problem," he added.

Lack of communication is often the root cause of many problems. "We make it as clear as possible that there is no selling. If we receive any complaints about overt selling then that person is not invited again."

Rippon has relaxed views about the other user organisations: "The Corporate IT Forum is very complementary and there is no competition there and Imis doesn't really have an equivalent group."

CIO-Connect, he said, has a different model, being a commercial money-making organisation, with members paying a fee and a different style of programme.

Rippon sees the NCC-Certus group as perhaps the closest competition for IT users' time - although this again is a subscription-based body. He is also aware of the popularity of the Real Time Club, the long-established IT industry dining club.

Finally, Computer Weekly's CW500 Club is viewed as another potential competitor for users' time, although the two organisations enjoy joint events, including a packed meeting last December on the topic of IT governance.

That spirit of collaboration paid dividends in 2001 when Rippon worked closely with Imis and the local government IT managers' user group Socitm to write a joint letter successfully urging Microsoft to reconsider its new arbitrary software licensing regime.

www.bcs.org.uk/elite

What works best for IT: youth or experience?   

Is ageism rife in IT? Are you really past it when you get grey hair? These are core issues to be addressed in a debate between young and old IT professionals in an upcoming British Computer Society IT Directors' Elite Group event on 4 June. 

Former head of the Army's Logistic IS Agency, brigadier Alan Pollard, and former head of UKERNA, Geoff McMullen, will argue that experience is of fundamental importance to the successful implementation of IT projects. Young turks James Hickson and Andrew Brown, from the BCS Young Professionals Group, will strongly oppose the motion. 

"With the contraction in the industry senior people are finding it harder to get jobs, and we're concerned that their experience does not go to waste" said Elite Group chairman, David Rippon, who recently made the switch from being IT director of Land Securities to professor of IT infrastructure  management at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College. "But at the same time the people at the bottom are stifled because the older guys are still in their jobs." 

Contact: speart@hq.bcs.org.uk   

Elite future events 

24 June  Informal interactive evening with Gordon Smillie, group director, Microsoft 

16 September   Day conference on IT security, disaster recovery, fraud and espionage 

3 December   Lunch - new developments in telecoms.

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