I’ve been mulling over Michael Cross’ article of 23rd September 2009 for the Guardian web site for a while now, which was written in response to The British Computer Society rebranding itself as BCS The Chartered Institute for IT and announcing that it was revising its process for Chartered IT Professional (CITP) registration.
The article sported the contentious title: “IT can have its professionals, if they don’t get stroppy” with a subtitle of “Government and employers will not recognise IT ‘professionals’ if they are demanding as doctors and lawyers.”
Mr Cross’ article highlights the tight rope that the Chartered Institute for IT walks as it tries to raise the level of professionalism in IT. The government is currently very supportive of the Institute’s moves to raise the bar in the IT profession, but Mr Cross rightly points out that “the trend could swiftly go into reverse if a new government finds IT professionals to be as stroppy and independent-minded as they find doctors and lawyers today.”
He continues: “Governments like taking expert advice – but only if it’s ‘Yes, minister’”, which certainly seems to be true with the recent resignations from various expert advisory panels because they apparently didn’t say what the current government wanted to hear.
The problem, of course, is that so called “stroppiness” is an important aspect of professionalism. A professional has a duty to their client to advise them when their actions are contrary to their professional advice and to point out the probable consequences.
It is precisely this lack of professional ethics that causes much of the damage to the public purse and, no doubt, many private purses too. As Cross chides in his article, “the IT industry isn’t shy about talking up its abilities” and he rams the point home with the anecdote that he has a corporate t-shirt that boasts a company slogan of “Mission impossible achieved”.
A major problem with the IT industry is that it is too heavily driven by sales hype that plays on the naivety of easily persuaded customers. Professionalism, on the other hand, is about telling the truth, whether the client likes the message, or not.