I’ve been on the the main committee of the BCS ELITE group for the past couple of years, but I just resigned my position.
I do like the BCS, I think they have a role in helping people map out a career in IT. I know a lot of people in the industry think the BCS is pointless and detached from reality, but I’ve loyally been a member since the 1980s even when it meant nothing to me, though in the past few years the management of the BCS has started focusing on helping people to build an IT career.
The BCS itself is more relevant than ever and after the recent drama of an emergency general meeting, where some members were questioning the agenda of the society, I think the society is now through the storm and ready to start making a real difference.
To those who don’t know anything of ELITE, it “is the UK lead forum for IT Directors and Senior Managers to exchange experiences, views and expectations on how information systems should be managed to achieve business objectives.”
In short, it’s a group for BCS members who are of IT director level or above – the senior management of the British IT industry. I was elected onto the committee with a mandate to offer a few modern ideas, get some new research published, and influence the events that ELITE runs… getting real industry leaders available for debate.
But things never really worked out like that – though I tried. ELITE is like a gentleman’s club for people who work in IT. Events are a success if they break even – rather than if they add to the body of management knowledge – and publications are torturously slow to materialise. In an era where companies need to be planning for every quarter and using modern-day communication systems to ensure rapid decision making, the ELITE culture of cigars in Pall Mall clubs grates somewhat… and how annoying is it to find a committee of IT experts who cannot use any scheduling tools (beyond mass emailing) to arrange meetings?
Take a look here at the forthcoming events organised by ELITE. Well, actually as you can see there are none. And even those that you can see arranged in the past hardly have any appeal for any CIO level management I have worked with. The last management level event that was organised was an audience with Michael Dell back in April 2009. That’s if I’m not including the dinners in Pall Mall clubs that are so important in setting the future strategy of the British IT industry.
Even then, does anyone really want to pay to listen to Dell anymore? Perhaps back in the mid-nineties yes, but what would a present-day CIO get from listening to former industry greats, apart from hearing some old war stories? When I once suggested getting Jimmy Wales to talk about Wikipedia, I had to explain to the committee who he actually is.
Or how about the management publications? You can see them here… A report from three years ago and a survey from five years ago. Cutting edge stuff…
Surely a group priding itself on independence and access to senior level IT managers should consider why it exists? Why should the group exist in the first place? If it is for producing independent research and comment, and offering high-level events and networking opportunities, then why not schedule some of those reports or events? It seems logical.
Instead, the meetings are dominated by a dogmatic adherence to committee politics that are reminiscent of ‘Wolfie’ Smith organising politics in Tooting. Some committees need structure and rules, but when the structure and process becomes the main topic of meetings then there is something seriously wrong. The events and publications timetable speak for themselves anyway.
I’m not detaching myself from the BCS in general. I’m still a member, and I’m cooking up some ideas with the head office in Swindon, for some work that should help promote the BCS and stimulate debate on IT careers in the future – I think the BCS does have a lot to offer. And I think the current management team have a clearer view than ever of what the BCS can achieve – there is a bright future ahead for the society.
It’s just a shame there is not more that the BCS offers to the thousands of senior IT executives in this country. There are already some people out there working with this community. The Computer Weekly CW500 club does a great job with monthly events always featuring a CIO speaker and regular publications, CIO Connect has a regular magazine and events… the IT management community is busy, but there must be room for the BCS to be doing something that addresses their needs to constantly be learning about their own industry.