Russel Winder's Website

BCS Rebranded

It seems that the BCS has undergone a rebranding. Sadly rebranding generally cost a lot of money (that could be better spent elsewhere, e.g. on member services), and usually achieves precious little.

Where the BCS brand used to be very blue, it has now gone very green - I wonder why in this day and age of (often pretentious) concern for the environment?

The real question though is why rebrand, what was wrong with the old one? The BCS has a history of its academic members feeling the organization is too focused on commercial interests, and the industrial and commercial members feeling the organization is too focused on academic interests. In reality, neither was true: the BCS was the chartered body in charge of IT in the UK, but the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) has more finance and power, and the Information Technologists' Company more panache - though I still think calling it the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists' had even more. Perhaps though a BCS rebrand can be linked to a reenergizing of the whole organization, including its membership.

A serious problem is that membership of the BCS is not an issue of relevance to employers, this means it is not an issue of relevance to employees. Employers never seem to ask about membership of the BCS when employing staff, and until they do people seeking jobs have no real incentive to join the BCS. The BCS may be the "Chartered Institute for IT" but until IT is a profession as accountancy, architecture or medicine are then the fact that there is a"Chartered Institute for IT" will not be of relevance to people practicing in the field.

Is this in fact the beginning of a long distance campaign to introduce statutory controls on the profession of software development? Many would say"and about time too" whilst many others would say"and that will kill off all innovation". Certainly introducing more engineering approach to software development would be a good thing, but software engineering is uniquely different to all the other forms of engineering because the stuff being manipualted has no substance, it is just information without physicality.

Most people who do software engineering have no real relationship with the BCS. People in embedded systems tend to associate with IET, possibly because of the electronics and safety critical systems connections. People who consider themselves software engineers but not in embedded systems rarely associate with the BCS, and instead associate with "clubs" such as ACCU. Indeed many of these people, who the BCS really ought to value as members, see no connection at all between themselves and the BCS. And few of them see the new brand as changing anything.

So just what does IT mean to the BCS? Sadly the newly branded doesn't actually say. As we know as far as the national curriculum goes, IT means "how to use office automation software" (basically ECDL type material). Here lies the real problem: IT means too many things, and different things to different people. If the BCS is really going to grow in size to have all software developers as members then it is going to have to do something more than just a surface rebranding, it is going to have to appeal to the software professionals who currently think it is irrelevant to their lives.

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