BCS civil war heats up ahead of crunch general meeting
Cavaliers vs Roundheads
A row over the future of the British Computer Society (BCS) is heating up ahead of a crunch emergency general meeting that will debate a no-confidence motion against the chief exec and current board of trustees.
Disaffected members are angry about the governance and spending plans of the venerable society's current leadership, as well as its recent change of name to "BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT". The emergency general meeting (EGM), scheduled for 1 July, will address concerns that the society has moved away from being a professional services organisation, as well as criticism over spending on management consultants and rebranding. The management culture of running the BCS as a business instead of a "modern membership-based charity" is also a bone of contention.
These concerns focus on the controversial £5m transformation programme, described by opponents as an "expensive rebranding and makeover" exercise. Meanwhile grassroots activities (such as specialist groups and branches) have suffered a lack of attention, it's alleged.
BCS trustees have hit back against critics, arguing the EGM is an expensive and time consuming distraction.
"Although we have spent a lot of time talking to people about the changes and about their concerns, a small element have declared war on the trustees and the chief executive," argues Bob Assirati, BCS deputy president, in an article on an EGM micro-site set up by the current leadership.
Critics have set up their own web site explaining their concerns at bcsreform.wikispaces.com.
"The signatories of the EGM call include a past president, two former trustees, and eight members of the current advisory council," the critics explain. "We have tried over the last year or so to resolve our concerns via normal BCS procedures, without success."
Other former directors have stayed loyal to the current leadership, expressing confidence in their abilities while noting that the need for the transformation program ought to have been more openly debated.
"The Society has aspired to be a professional body since the mid 1960s and has been offering services, courses, qualifications and occasional conferences to members and non-members throughout that period. There was no Golden Age to which the Society might hope to return if members choose to reject the current ways in which BCS is being led and managed," the loyalists argue.
"It is likely that the trustees and executives could have dealt more courteously with Council in seeking their advice on the current transformation programme. We understand the Deputy CEO has apologised for these shortcomings." ®
Since joining BCS, I've started to question it's vale for money, in terms of it's recognition within the industry. This in-fighting has put the nail in the coffin that I won't be renewing next year.
The revolt is no surprise
The BCS seems to me to have given up being a society which is to do with computing (science and technology) as opposed to one to do with expertise in office politics. Over the last couple of decades it has consistently refused (I mean "refused", not just "failed") to take a position on issues of data safety and have provided no useful input to our political masters or to civil servants on issues like NHS IT, the national identity register, the SCR, and so on probably because many of those at the top of the society haven't a clue about such abtruse technical questions. I decided not to upgrade my M to F back then, because each of the IEE and the IMA was more worthy of my subscription, and still see nothing that suggests to me that FBCS is a useful qualification or has any prospect of ever being one. Unfortunately the IEE has become the IET, and now seems to be heading for where the BCS has been heading for a long time: towards being a member services business run for profit instead of a charitable learned society. It's sad. I'm not sure I can be bothered to try to do anything about though, for either society. Thank heavens the IMA isn't going that way yet, at least one of my professional bodies is still a learned society (although the change of the F membership grade from something that had a significantly higher entry bar than other grades to something that all professional members can apparently choose to have if they want it may be a first step on the wrong path).
I've looked at the career and qualifications of the president of the BCS, and she hasn't done much in the way of techy work, and her qualifications don't really lend themselves to a really good through understanding of computers in a way someone with a degree in computer science or a degree in electronics can.
But then, is being a techy or ex-techy good qualifications for the leader? I personally, would feel more comfortable if the leadership had a more technical basis and I could feel they understood what is *I* actually do. I'd have liked them to have done some software development, some testing, to write a bit of embedded code, to run a software development project. But I just don't get the feeling she has done any of that.
What power ?
I've been a member since I was a student some 14 (?) years ago, and to be honest each year I wonder why I let my auto-renew continue. I think it has only been down to the possibility I may actually make a branch meeting as some of those do sound interesting.
As to power in the industry and respect, I've never known it to have any and those few friends of mine in IT who still want to be a member of a professional body are all in IEEE instead.
This spat has highlighted to me two groups at the top with which I find myself at odds, so I will not be voting as I support neither and perhaps I may remember in time to stop my auto-renewal and resign my membership.
Insignificant and irrelevant organisation. Zero industry recognition. Unfortunately for the BCS IT is a fast moving world-wide subject with world-wide forums and standards - if they want to make the society 'relevant' then make it international and bring it up-to-date. I fear it is still run like a cross between a hobby group and a university.