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The British Computer Society has widened its membership criteria in a bid to promote professional standards in IT, and boost public confidence in IT systems. The BCS said that the image of the profession was in dire need of an overhaul, following numerous high-profile IT failures.

A recent BCS report, The Challenges of IT Projects revealed that the UK alone will spend £22.6bn on IT projects in 2004. However, of these, only 16 per cent are likely to be considered successful. Failure, then, is an expensive business.

BCS chief exec David Clarke said that the IT profession could not blame its clients for poor software design. He argues that a civil engineer would never build an unsafe bridge just because that was what the client asked him for.

"If, in all innocence, as a naïve client I ask a Software Architect and Engineer to design an unsafe system, unsafe because there has not been adequate time for testing, both functional and performance, how often do we hear those professionals say no, not at any price in that timescale?"

The BCS also announced it has been granted the power to award qualifying members the title Chartered IT Professional. The society argues that this kind of recognisable, structured professional development and qualifications will play a key role in changing the public’s view of the IT profession. The ultimate goal is to change perception of the industry sufficiently that people think of IT professionals in the same “bracket of trust” as doctors, lawyers and engineers.

Membership will be opened to managers, teachers, system architects, project managers and health informaticians, the society said, in order to reflect the increasing diversity within the profession. ®

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