Aspiring to a culture of professionalism

Collaboration between National Computing Centre, BCS and Intellect is combating the IT industry's negative image among business leaders

Collaboration between National Computing Centre, BCS and Intellect is combating the IT industry's negative image among business leaders

Three leading IT bodies are working together to create a new culture of professionalism to help combat the negative image surrounding IT in business and government.

The National Computing Centre, the British Computer Society and IT suppliers trade association Intellect shared a common platform at last week's annual National Computing Centre conference in London to report how they are collaborating to bridge the gaps between business and IT, and between IT users and their suppliers.

NCC group chief executive Michael Gough outlined his vision for the future. "We need a single, non-governmental, self-regulating profession spanning the public and private sector," he said.

The three organisations aim to tackle the paradox that although IT has never been more critical to all business sectors, the perception of the industry in terms of delivery track record, business relationships and alignment, supplier relationships and CEO-level viewpoints is still too low.

"Most senior decision makers, whether in politics or business, are almost totally unaware of the capabilities and the limitations of IT, and expectations are often totally unrealistic," said BCS chief executive David Clarke at the conference.

"Does the IT profession want to continue to be regarded as an unprofessional, unreliable, expensive waste of money?" he asked. Clarke stressed that the gap between business needs and IT-based solutions could only be bridged by IT professionals.

Since agreeing upon a memorandum of understanding on IT professionalism in March this year, the BCS and the NCC have collaborated, together with Intellect, to establish common ground.

"Professionalism is an aspirational standard, rather than a set of minimum requirements," said Clarke. "The essential elements are competence, integrity and service."

Gough's key point was that successful IT went far beyond traditional IT. "The focus of the professional agenda needs to be the five points of engagement the business has with information: the use, supply, management, direction and governance of information used in the enterprise.

"It is all about strategic management of strategic assets, in the context of business value, and no longer about IT alone," he said. "Information asset management, not IT, is the key issue for business success for this decade."

Criticism prompts new code

John Higgins, director general of suppliers organisation Intellect, said he was working with the NCC to adapt Intellect's code of best practice, which contains 10 supplier commitments, for commercial use.

The code, launched in December 2002, was in response to criticism at that time of the IT supply industry in the public sector.

Higgins said the period was rock bottom for the supply industry, a time when a Cabinet member referred to suppliers as "snake-oil salesmen", and both the e-envoy and the head of the Office of Government Commerce were publicly outspoken in their criticism.

"We are keen to use the code to drive change in the public and private sectors, and are working with the NCC to drive transferability in practice," he said.

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