The British Computer Society appears to be mid-tranformation into The Chartered Institute for IT. This is apparent on the web-site, which would leave the casual visitor wondering what the letters “bcs” in the logo meant – as they are often not spelled out anywhere on the page. (I would not be surprised if a vote to change the name of the society came in a few years time… though the idea has not yet been officially mooted.)

This is part of a larger set of changes in recent years, and a trend towards chartered qualifications and ‘professionalism’. Some of this is good – the BCS website has finally started to catch up and modernise. Membership is up, reserves are up, the society is looking a lot more ready for the current century. But there is a downside too… professional managerialism is up, and The Executive exerts large amounts of control over the society – with more constrained member control of, and input into the direction of, the society.

I used to hear much of this a few years ago when Bill Milne was the chair of my local branch of the BCS (BCS Glasgow). He would relate tales of meetings attended in London where the HQ staff would outline details of changes about to be imposed (like this one) – and branch or specialist group representatives who disagreed would be treated with disdain and/or ignored. It seems that this trend has angered others, and there is now a call for an EGM asking for votes of no-confidence in the current chief executive and president (and also for a vote to suspend expenditure on the current ‘transformation programme’)

The call was started by a BCS Trustee (who has now stepped down from that position), and former council member.

This has attracted some coverage in ComputerWeekly, which notes that the EGM is supported by a number of people who have held (or currently hold) senior office in the BCS:

The EGM’s supporters include IT lawyers and former BCS president Rachel Burnett, BCS Council members Iain Thompson, Ian Sunley, Rajan Anketell, Robert Ward, Max Bramer and Kevin Chamberlain, and former councillors Ian Stuart, Glyn Hayes and Jennifer Stapleton.

The ComputerWeekly blog has a 20-point rebuttal from the BCS, with comments from Len Keighly in response – which makes interesting reading (BCS vs Len). Some of the detailed notes on relations between staff and members sound familiar:

… at least one Staff Director is “adamant” that the “Active” members are not “expert” enough to participate in the management and strategic direction of the membership operation, in order for it to be “world class”.
The paper, IMB/2010/007 v3a, is not available in the IMB area of the member’s website and no further minutes have been produced, even though there have been two further meetings of this group. This calls into question more transparency issues again.

The core of the call for the EGM can be summarised in the final point – and in the BCS response and Len’s subsequent response:

20) In conclusion we can only assume that Trustees are diminishing the role of the membership in the Society.

BCS Response
We believe that based on the above evidence and all of the facts, this conclusion is totally wrong. The statement is without question completely wrong.

LK’s Response
I and many others believe the above suggests to the contrary.

I have added my name to the list of those asking for the EGM. Len’s blog on the EGM is here.

5 thoughts on “BCS or CIIT?

  1. Dr. Martin W. Baker

    I have been a BCS member since 1973.

    Much has changed in that time, both in the world and in the BCS.

    The world is becoming inundated with people who want to control and regulate others. In the BCS the focus on this control and the matters outlined in this debate dilutes the original purpose.

    The BCS should not be a regulatory business providing a platform for zealots to build control empires and provide employment for their chronies or become a commercial business. It is supposed to be a professional body that promotes excellence, recognises those that have achieved it, and admonishes those that fail to behave appropriately. Period.

    Over the past 40 years I have also been MSTA and C.Maths. Those bodies have kept their focus and their membership is not riven by aspirations beyond purpose.

    I totally endorse the dissent shown by the motion of no confidence.

  2. Pat Crawford MBCS CITP

    As past chair of the Glasgow Branch, I too attended meetings where HQ staff laid down the law and harangued any branch representative bold enough to voice any contrary opinion. However, some of the reported speech in Len’s writings proves that matters are getting worse.

    One of my roles in my day job is to deliver a course on Professional Issues in Computing. A large part of this course is devoted to consideration of professional societies and I have always used the BCS as an example of the sort of professional body that Dr Baker describes i.e. one that “that promotes excellence, recognises those that have achieved it, and admonishes those that fail to behave appropriately”. In recent times, it is hard to divert the attention of the students from the commercial overtones of the website and to encourage them to find the ethical guiding principles of the society. I hope that is not because these principle only exist in my fond memories.

    Commercial managerialism is submerging professionalism within our society.

    I have every confidence in our membership. I have no confidence in the current leadership.

  3. Daniel Post author

    Hi Pat,

    I hadn’t been aware that HQ had been treating branch membership like this for quite so long – I did hear a lot during Bill Milne’s time as branch chair. Removal of branch gold accounts was particularly badly handled – however necessary it was.

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  5. Anon

    HQ is still treating groups poorly. Budget cuts, poor information, poor comms. I quite think that they tolerate groups but rather wish they could get rid of us. What’s telling is that so few member group committee members have spoken up.


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