I’ve been a member of the BCS for a long time, and attended the meetings of some of the special interest groups over the years. My company has spent some time with SFIA and SFIAplus models as a potential basis for staff development and CPD. Incidentally, the abbreviation SFIA stands for Skills Framework for the Information Age, and I think you’d get extra points if you identified when the Information Age began (I’m not sure, but it’s possible that it may already be over?). Through all that, I’ve steadfastly maintained my belief that standards in the software industry have to improve, that CPD is essential, and that there’s a value in establishing something like a chartered status for those who demonstrate attainment of appropriate experience and expertise. I also maintained the thought that the BCS was the best vehicle we had for delivering all of this. Sadly, I’ve been consistently disappointed.
And it seems I’m not the only one, though others have been much more assertive! Len Keighley and some forty-nine members (calling an EGM requires 50 sponsors) have demanded the opportunity to ask the membership to assert their confidence, or otherwise, in the Trustees, and to indicate whether they wish the current BCS Transformation to proceed or be suspended pending a review. There is a real sense of outrage among the Honorary Officers and CEO, with a web site dedicated to debunking the claims of those supporting the EGM and promoting the agenda of the leadership team.
I experienced this sense of righteous indignation first hand when I attended a Meet the President Dinner at the Paradiso and Inferno Restaurant in London on 20 April. The restaurant was an odd choice of venue, given that the room selected would only accommodate a relatively small number of people and the food was adequate at best, but I presume its proximity to the BCS headquarters gave it an advantage. In fact, I wasn’t clear if the venue was selected on the basis of the small numbers interested in paying to meet the President, or if I was hand-picked at random from thousands scrabbling to get tickets. The attendees were mature (some even older than me), and the conversation soon descended into “Punch cards? You were lucky” territory. All a bit depressing, and it got worse when Elizabeth Sparrow, the BCS President, stopped by our table after dinner to bemoan the extra work that the EGM was causing. I have to say that I’m sure that she did not enjoy the subsequent conversation any more than I did, such was the difference in our views.
In short, I share the view of many others, including Len, it seems, that the “consultation” exercise run by the BCS has been about asking for our opinions on an established strategy, and hasn’t really afforded the opportunity to question and debate the future of the BCS. The organisation is a broad church, increasingly so, and this has diluted its ability to serve any group really effectively. What does professionalism mean for hardware engineers, or testing professionals, or software engineers, or enterprise architects, or games developers, or kernel engineers, and will their merit be enhanced by sharing the common designation CITP? Where does SFIA fit in this world, and how does it practically identify and drive improvements in key skills in any of these professions? Is it more accurate to designate us as Chartered IT Practitioners versus Chartered Engineers? Does it matter?
I will vote in this EGM. I will vote with the protesters, as I feel their arguments are valid, even if I don’t agree with all of them, and I find the response of the leadership to be unacceptable. In this article, Bob Assirati, Deputy BCS President asserts that “a small element have declared war on the Trustees and the Chief Executive” and that there “is no doubt that the EGM motions will be defeated”. I hope any statements on the day are less emotive and more thoughtful. Change is certainly long over-due, but the current leadership are not the only people who care about the future of the Society, or have a vision of and views about the future.