IT Professional: Working Beyond Technology

AUTHOR
J. Barrie Thompson

ABSTRACT

As stated in the call for papers “The information revolution has become a tidal wave that threatens to engulf and change all that humans value. Governments, organisations and individual citizens therefore would make a grave mistake if they view the computer revolution as merely technological. It is fundamentally social and ethical.” it is also made clear in the call that IT technology is a facilitator of social interaction, human endeavour and environmental wellbeing. However, to simply consider the technology is insufficient. It is essential that we consider both those who are developing the underlying technology itself and those who are using the technology in developing and supporting the IT systems on which so much of the world depends. It is people who are important and they must work beyond the technology, for as was highlighted in a recent high profile report [1]:

“A striking proportion of project difficulties stem from people in both customer and supplier organisations failing to implement known best practice. This can be ascribed to the general absence of collective professionalism in the IT industry, as well as inadequacies in the education and training of customer and supplier staff at all levels.”

The failure of many software projects to meet their objectives, or indeed the termination of partially completed projects, is an all-too-often occurrence. The ongoing problem of poor quality software has been repeatedly highlighted in published studies (e.g. [2]), and in major conference presentations (e.g.. [3]). The cost of these failures is enormous: a recent article [4] reported that in the UK, between 2000 and 2007, the total cost of abandoned Central Government computer projects had reached almost two billion pounds. These ongoing problems have obviously acted as a catalyst for particular national computing bodies to address professionalism in a proactive manner. In particular, the British Computer Society has undertaken, since 2005, an ambitious three-year managed programme [5] (named ProfIT) that has two key objectives:

  1. By increasing professionalism, to improve the ability of business and other organisations to exploit the potential of information technology effectively and consistently.
  2. To build an IT profession that is respected and valued by its stakeholders – government, business leaders, IT employers, IT users and customers – for the contribution that it makes to a more professional approach to the exploitation and application of IT.

The success of the BCS ProfIT effort can be judged from the fact that since January 2007 the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) has been working with the BCS and other professional bodies to develop an augmented international programme which has been named [6] the International Professional Practice Programme – I3P. The programme is intended to establish an international grouping to speak globally about issues relating to the profession and ensure that the voice of the ICT practitioner is clearly and powerfully expressed. There is also an aim to create a globally recognised accreditation, provisionally named the International IT Professional (IITP).

This paper will build on a paper published at Ethicomp 2007 [7] which charted earlier global and national developments relating to professionalism in the ICT sector and examined the first 18th months of work that had supported the ProfIT programme. The paper will cover the completion of the ProfIT programme and chart the latest developments relating to IFIP’s International Professional Practice Programme and related accreditation for the International IT Professional. It will also provide a critical appraisal of the likely effectiveness of these initiatives and finally an evaluation will be presented to assesses whether we are approaching a situation where IFIP’s definition of a professional, viz.

  • Publicly ascribe to a code of ethics published within the standard.
  • Be aware of and have access to a well-documented current body of knowledge relevant to the domain of practice.
  • Have a mastery of the body of knowledge at the baccalaureate level.
  • Have a minimum of the equivalent of two years supervised experience before the practitioner operates unsupervised.
  • Be familiar with current best practice and relevant proven methodologies.
  • Be able to provide evidence of their maintenance of competence.
    represents reality.

REFERENCES

[1] Royal Academy of Engineering , The Challenges of Complex IT Projects, Report of a working group from The Royal Academy of Engineering and The British Computer Society, 2004, available from: http://www.bcs.org/upload/pdf/complexity.pdf [accessed October 12 2006].

[2] R. L. Glass, Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering, Pearson Education, Boston, 2003.

[3] C. Hughes C. (2006), Professionalism in IT, Keynote Address, 19th IFIP World Computer Congress (WCC 2006), Santiago, Chile, August 20-25, 2006, Presentation available from:

[4] B. Johnson And D Hencke, Not Fit For Purpose: £2bn Cost Of Government’s IT Blunders,Guardian, Saturday January 5, p11, 2008.

[5] BCS Professionalism in IT Programme, covered in a series of articles in the May 2006 issue of IT NOW, British Computer Society, Swindon, UK.

[6] Hughes C. (2007), International Professional Practice Programme – I3P, IFIP News, September 2007, P5, available from http://www.ifip.org

[7] Thompson, J. B. (2007), Globalisation and the IT Professional, 9th International ETHICOMP Conference, Meiji University, Tokyo, 27 to 29 March 2007, Proceedings pp. 564-575.

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