BCS Transformation – just what is going on?

Last week I received my calling notice for an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the British Computer Society (BCS). It seems that there is a bit of a fracas going on over the future vision, strategy and direction of the BCS and it’s “Transformation” programme. The motions on the agenda at the EGM include no-confidence resolutions in the Trustee Board and the Chief Executive – pretty serious stuff!

The petitioners, which include a past President, have set-up a blog to argue their case, whilst the BCS Trustees and management have a slicker site for their official response. There’s also a health debate in the blogosphere and on Twitter via #bcstransform and #bcsegm.

It’s clear to me that the petitioners feel the Trustees have not adequately consulted. An argument I have some sympathy with since I didn’t realise there was any major transformation programme going on. However they also express concerns about the direction of the society and this is where I’m less clear as to what’s going on.

The petitioners make vague complaints about ‘the membership’ being marginalised in favour of ‘the business’. I can’t really make a judgement on this. Unfortunately the official, glossy BCS response is full of nebulous waffle and impregnable ‘business speak’ which leaves me none-the-wiser as to what the vision, strategy and direction is that the society is going down (and which the petitioners are apparently opposed to).

I joined the BCS two years ago, as an engineer, because of it’s learned society activity. I joined the IEE (now the IET) over 10 years ago and still see it as my primary professional body. I didn’t join the BCS at the time because everyone advised me it was a bit of a joke. However, of late I had discovered the Special Interest Groups and found some really useful events which I now see as a valuable complement to my IET membership – even though I’d rather the two would just merge.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with the BCS, in terms of it’s future direction. Hopefully someone reading this blog could throw some light. I guess things like the Chartered IT Professional (CITP) qualification indicate that it wants to be more of a body for business-folk involved in corporate IT than computing practitioners such as engineers and scientists. I can see a need for the former, but fail to see how it would not undermine the latter. Perhaps the learned society aspects of the BCS ought to transfer to the IET allowing the rump BCS to complete it’s transformation into a “Chartered Institution for IT” – if that’s what they want to be.

The only thing I’m fairly sure about is that the Special Resolution put forward by the Trustees to raise the threshold for calling an EGM must be resisted. There may be a case for raising the threshold, and I’m very sympathetic to that, but that could be done at the next scheduled AGM. Doing it at this meeting smacks of shutting down opposition and re-inforces a sense of a dismissive attitude to members expressing their right to use the society’s properly constituted governance process to challenge it’s leadership and management.

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