The BCS IT Industry Awards 2007 bring together for the first time the British Computer Society, the National Computing Centre and Intellect in recognising the contribution made by the IT profession to economic prosperity, business efficiency and public services.
The awards also combine the BCS Information Management Awards and the BCS IT Professional awards into a single event and were open to projects and individuals working in information technology based in or operating mainly from companies located in the UK or Europe.
Over 200 entrants are competing for individual, organisational and project excellence awards in 23 categories, but what makes a winner? Several key attributes, according to this year's moderators of the judging in the competition's three main sections.
Above all, the judges drawn from the BCS, NCC, Intellect, award sponsors and industry peers, were looking for companies and individuals doing something special that was above the industry norm, but focussing on particular aspects for each section and category.
In the Individual Excellence section, the emphasis was on having the right technical skills and personal qualities to rise to challenges in the industry.
For the first time this year, the skill profiling of entrants to ensure they had the necessary professional and technical background was done using a BCS skills template known as SFIAplus3, which is based on the Skills Framework for the Information Age from the SFIA Foundation.
Personal qualities were judged on how entrants had developed in their careers in terms of broadening knowledge and experience by taking on new challenges and participating in professional activities outside their job.
"For example, how they have contributed to developing the industry as a whole, to developing standards, or adding new intellectual collateral to the industry," said section moderator Peter Wheatcroft, founding director of service management consultancy 4 Dimensions Partnership.
Entrants were also evaluated on the type of activity or project they were working on. Judges looked at how innovative projects were, how acceptable they were to the social and industrial environment, and how well they had been taken up or become embedded in the industry.
"Having a perspective of understanding the value of the work they were doing and making sure the whole value was realised by that initiative, was the biggest differentiator," said Wheatcroft.
Managing the implementation of technology was another thing the winners in all categories of the Individual Excellence section had in common.
"Even though a lot of IT activity has gone overseas, the management aspect has been retained in the UK," said Wheatcroft. "We were also looking for an understanding of how the business operated and an ability to translate that into an IT implementation, particularly in the IT Leader and Business Analyst categories."
In the Organisational Excellence section, judges were looking for something that had made an impact on the organisation the IT department was working for.
"We were looking for hard measurable ways the business had improved," said section moderator
David Tidey, head of information systems at the royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said: "The better IT departments are measuring with standard IT metrics, which is good, but the really good ones are measuring with business metrics. They can demonstrate with facts and figures how a particular IT project has improved the business."
Although judges considered innovation, relationships in the organisation and the overall "wow factor" in equal measure, contribution to business value was the most important criterion, making up 60% of the marks.
"You can no longer just put PCs on the desk and have e-mail and network systems that work, you have to be getting closer to the business to really do well as an organisation. The ones that are winning have got really good links with IT embedded in the business," said Tidey.
In the Project Excellence section, judges scored entries in terms of innovation, benefits and reputation. Here, innovation was the most important criterion, making up a third of the marks.
Judges not only considered how the projects used new technology or existing technology in new ways, but also how topical the projects were in relating to events like the recent flooding in large parts of the UK or in their use of green technology, which was a new category introduced this year.
"Winning projects typically affect the way IT will work in the future and can change people's perception of IT. We have always looked for innovation because that is what keeps the profession alive, what enables organisations to grow," said section moderator Keith Taylor, fellow of the BCS.
"Benefits evaluated how much the project helped the business that was using it and reputation considered how the project would be perceived and how it might attract new people into the industry, such as those projects that had to do with flood warning systems, power saving in IT, or saving fuel by optimising the way staff visit clients," said Taylor.
He emphasised the importance of showing the breadth of IT projects across various industries and of improving the reputation of IT. "The industry is struggling to attract people because many do not realise that it is used in industry and other traditional areas. Children in schools think IT is about games and other consumer goods. That needs to change. Teachers in particular need to understand there is a good career and jobs to be had in IT in the UK," he said.
Just which companies and individuals were judged to have what it takes to be a winner will be announced at the BCS IT Industry Awards ceremony 2007 to be held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on 6 December.