Professionalizing the Profession

guestbloggerGraham Jones (Surrey, BC - IT Professional and President of VANTUG)

The Opportunity to Spread the Word

Last week Stephen Ibaraki (blogger extraordinaire – congrats on being named one of the top 10 in Canada) and I attended the "Global" MVP Summit and a "World" UG Management Summit in Redmond. Most of you may have heard of the MVP Summit but the UG Management Summit was a new event organized by Microsoft. Representatives from Microsoft (Redmond), INETA, Culminis, PASS and the UG Community from most geographic regions of the world were in attendance. The significance as it pertains to “Professionalizing the Profession” is that both events provided an excellent opportunity for Stephen to communicate the culmination of several years of work by a dedicated expert group of people around the world with respect to Professional Status in the ICT sector. 

Stephen facilitated an Open Space discussion and made formal presentations to MVP’s and those attending the UG Management Summit. Stephen is not only an extraordinary blogger but an equally impressive and effective presenter. His message went across loud and clear and generated a huge amount of interest. So much so that he was inundated with requests to pretty much speak to the “world”. So what is this all about? As someone who has spent a large part of their career as a Professional Engineer and fervently believes in the importance of Professional Status, I feel a responsibility to show my support. My purpose here is not to steal Stephen’s thunder but to explain the significance of the outcome.

The Need for Change

The ICT sector contribution to our existence is now totally pervasive and yet the public view of its workers has not materially changed (computer geeks, etc.). If we contrast this with other well recognized professions, such as medicine, accounting or engineering, the public may not know exactly what it takes to “get there” or exactly how it is done but there is an “image” of higher standing in society. It is time that the contribution of the ICT sector is recognized in the same manner. To do that, and stand alongside the already recognized professions with the influence that they have on society, the “IT professional” must become the “IT Professional” via some recognized accrediting body.

A New Range of International Qualifications

It is not my intention here to describe how this has all “magically” came together or how it is to be physically implemented but to highlight that in 2009 a new range of professional qualifications starting with the IITP (International IT Professional) as the IFIP global standard will come into being. This has all come together via the IP3 (International Professional Practice Partnership) and IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) [a UNESCO body]. More information can be found at To aid in gaining a “picture” of how this is to be structured and managed I have included a couple of graphics:



Over the next few years these events will have a profound effect upon the ICT Profession. We are at an historic moment in time. Every single person in the industry should become familiar with the goals and requirements of the new professional qualifications because it is likely that they will affect you in some way in the future. Before I finish I would like to take the opportunity to thank and congratulate Roger Hart for the part that he has played in bringing this together both on behalf of Canadian professionals and also on the international stage. Canada has always been a leader in these matters and it is appropriate that this year CIPS celebrates its 50th Anniversary of great service to the ICT Community.

Comments (20)

  1. Tim says:

    Wow–I shared this with my group and we couldn’t help but feel pride in being a computing professional. Is this message getting out to the schools?

    Graham, thankyou for taking the time to write this one up. There are a lot of smiles in my department.

  2. Dave says:

    I’m not convinced.

    The whole "professional body" model is a Victorian era construct which is hierarchical in ways that the IT industry is not.

    I am wary that going down the accredited professional path – or heaven forbid the model of the Engineer’s, would lead to a stifling of innovation throughout the industry.

    The ICT industry is very much a meritocracy. In the main, you are respected, gain employment, maintain employment and improve your position by demonstrating skill. I can see absolutely nothing that can be gained by adopting credentials which were useful during the industrial error.

    Today, in any "profession" what does registration really mean? That you’re skilled? Absolutely not. That you’re ethical? Not really. Plenty of unethical behaviour exists in all registered professions

    Look at what it takes to get someone de-registered in these "professions". A prison term might just about do it – maybe. I don’t know about Canada – but in NZ I’m pretty sure that can be checked during the employment process.

    Registration is simply another overhead and a way to stifle the rabble who haven’t gone to the right school.

    No sir – that is NOT a direction that I want my industry and my profession to progress.

  3. Roger Hart says:

    I disagree so profoundly with Dave that I’m not sure where to begin.

    My experience and that of many of my colleagues is that the IT professional is not respected nearly as much as professionals in other fields such as accountants, architects, and yes, even engineers.  

    Maybe my viewpoint is coloured by the fact that I am also a Professional Engineer and every month I read in my professional journal of action being taken to uphold the standards of the profession.  These rarely reach these press since they are well short of prison terms: usually suspension and a requirement for professional development.  I don’t believe in any way that thsse stifle innovation, but I do believe that the do uphold the standards of the profession in a meaningful way.

    As to IT being a meritocracy, I don’t believe that the evidence supports this.  In my experience IT professionals are not well understood or appreciated by employers and HR departments alike.  Far to much weight is given to specific (and rapidly outdated) technical skills with relatively little importance being placed on a person’s transferable skills or their ability to help make informed business decisions as a result of years of technical and non-technical experience.

    I think that the movement to professionalize IT may be long overdue, but one whose time has squarely come.

  4. Graham Jones says:

    Dave for all I know you may be very good at what you do but that does not necessarily represent a universal situation by any means. I don’t know what the Engineering profession is like in NZ but I have never felt any of the things that you imply and my experience is both in Canada and the UK. You make registration sound like applying for membership to the local social club. I suggest that you read very carefully what it takes to get there and stay there. Look into the PMP designation, which is now almost mandatory in PM because performance standards HAD to improve, especially in IT projects.

    There are never any absolutes in life. Therefore there will always be people who behave badly regrdless of their status and they should be held accountable. I know that in Engineering in Canada they are. Their misdemeanours are given a public airing and that is probably the harshest punishment from a career standpoint.

    As far as not wanting it to happen. It has happened, like it or not. It seems to me that your reaction may have as much to do with concerns about how it may affect you personally than whether it is ultimately a benefit to the ICT industry and society. There were times in the past when regular Engineering disasters took place because of lack of standards and accountability. If you are telling me that the IT Profession should not be held accountable in the same manner considering its importance to our existence then you are being unrealistic. Do IT professionals always get it right such that there is no impact upon the general public? I don’t think so! Things are getting better but overall there is a pretty dismal record. Why do think that people want standards to improve? Employers and clients want this to give them better assurance of success. I would be the first to agree that achieving a professional designation doesn’t mean that these people "walk on water". There will always be a wide range of individual performance/overall ability. However, it does provide a common basis against which to make a starting judgement.

    A well formulated approval system does not discriminate against the "rabble" who didn’t go to the right school. I believe that is called "inverted snobbery". In fact the opposite is true. It provides an opportunity to achieve a level of recognition and career progression that might otherwise be unavailable to some. This is no different in Engineering. There are many routes to Professional Status and a great deal of thought has gone into these issues in this case. Inclusion at a defined standard is the aim, not exclusion!

  5. Graham Jones says:

    Tim, thank you for your very positive comment. It is  the sort of things that makes the efort to communicate worthwhile and putting a smile on some faces puts a smile on mine :). Professional pride is a great feeling and can of itself make people perform better because they want to aspire to higher standards and be recognized for it.

  6. pmath1 says:

    Hi Dave,

    I can appreciate your concern – a number of others have expressed similar initial concerns until they’ve looked in detail at what it is that’s actually being proposed, and I’m sure your concerns will also ease as you look into it in more detail.

    As you may have heard, the NZ Computer Society (NZCS) is joining the international push for a globally recognised certification standard. If you want to know why we see it as so essential for the sector, pop over and read the NZCS Discussion Document entitled "Certifying IT Professionals" at this link (we’ve deliberately kept it relatively short):

    The Discussion Document will help outline the massive problems being experienced in the ICT sector both in NZ and internationally, many of which are a direct result of the lack of professional recognition for our profession.

    The NZCS believes implementing a certified status is an integral step in addressing many of the issues we face, such as:

    * A major NZ and international ICT skills shortage;

    * Significant reduction in educational intake at the tertiary level;

    * Significant drop in quantity of graduates as a percentage of intake;

    * Significant project failures or substantial cost over-runs due in part to inadequate qualified and experienced senior staff overseeing projects.

    * Lack of consideration of professionalism in the sector;

    * Lack of progress towards economic transformation (the innovative, high-wage and high-value economy);

    * Negative and naïve perception of ICT as a career amongst the country’s youth (and their parents);

    * Lack of retention of skilled individuals in New Zealand;

    Most importantly, certification isn’t at all about "elitism" or blocking those that didn’t "go to the right school". It’s about setting a bar in a profession that unfortunately has a reputation for "cowboys", and recognising those that achieve that standard. Basically, helping mature ICT into a true, recognised, and global profession.

    And lastly, as you know, New Zealanders traditionally punch well above our weight when it comes to international success through hard work and innovation, and there’s no way whatsoever we would let the structure of NZ’s professional recognition in any way stifle this. Quite the opposite in fact: We’re building a support structure to aid the global recognition of our innovative professionals, and we strongly believe certification is a key plank to NZ’s continued ICT success on the world stage.

    I hope this has started to address some of your concerns, and I do strongly encourage you to read the Discussion Document to help gain an understanding from a NZ perspective, and actively participate in the forums and workshops that will be occurring throughout New Zealand later in the year to discuss this.

    Paul Matthews

    NZCS Chief Executive

  7. Adam Cole says:

    Good governance does not eliminate risk – it will however reduce it. Similarly, risk management, project management, consistent processes, testing, documenting, following best practices (e.g. ITIL), etc. do not ensure ICT project success – but they go a long way to increasing the odds. Society is looking to ICT workers and the ICT industries to mature. High failure rates(1) and colossal failures(2) are far too common. As an ICT worker, employer, and consumer I look forward to the benefits of a Professionalized industry.

    I am genuinely excited to be a part of this transformation. It is long overdue.

    Excellent article Graham.



  8. Dave O'Leary says:

    It is never a bad thing for change to be tested within a good and respectful debate.  Thank you all for your thoughts on this significant step in the evolution of the IT world.

    As an Dean of Technology in the Canadian College system I am thrilled with the development of a prefessional accreditation/standard. Paul Matthews rightly points to many of the challenges that this may help overcome. I will most certainly continue to promote these developments in IT professionalism to other IT Deans across the country. Their initial reaction across Canada has been one of welcome, excitement and support.

    Once again than you all for your comments to date.

    All the best

    Dave O

  9. Charles Hughes says:

    The International Professional Practice Partnership, IP3, proclaims that the IT profession is at a critical point in its development. IT is now quite clearly an activity which is vital to the world economy and to the prosperity and quality of life of people across the world.  At the same time it is marked by an almost complete absence of well established national or international standards to assure the essential requirements of a truly professional practitioner. While a confusing array of examination-based qualifications provide an indication of relevant knowledge, it is generally impossible to validate subjective judgements about the experience, competence or ethical standards of individuals – even where those judgements relate to business-critical or even safety-critical positions. In a global industry in which practitioners are numbered in millions, this is unacceptable.

    This lack of established national and international standards is a serious problem in a world in which everyone is now acutely aware of the need for IT professionalism – but it also provides a valuable opportunity. The IT profession stands on a cusp – sufficiently mature to recognise the importance of professionalism but not so far down the track that every nation or society has developed its own standards that would now require difficult and time consuming retrofitting to form an international standard. It is this unique, and possibly short lived, opportunity that IP3 is determined to seize and exploit.

    The vision of the IP3 Task Force is the creation of an international IT profession, equivalent in prestige and structure to other established professions such as law, accountancy and architecture, that is:

    • focussed on improving the ability of business and other organisations to exploit the potential of information technology effectively and consistently,

    • respected by its stakeholders – including employees, employers, academia, customers,  governments and key international bodies

    • a source of real pride and aspiration for IT practitioners.

    Within that professional structure we see the creation of a worldwide set of professional certification schemes which are recognised and trusted globally as representing the hallmark of true IT professionalism. These certifications, delivered through independent, not for profit societies will be available to suitably qualified professionals and will be supported by development frameworks for both individuals and organisations.

    IP3, is a programme of IFIP (International Federation of Information Processing) and I and my colleagues on the IFIP Task Force warmly welcome the extensive international interest in and support for our activities.

    Working together we can make a real difference and inform and transform professional IT practice.

  10. Stephen Ibaraki says:

    Hi Tim,

    >>Is this message getting out to the schools?>>

    That’s a good question. In North America, there has been a decline in enrolments of up to 70% beginning in 2002. This is due to a number of reasons:

    – persistent poor public perception of IT

    – lack of a career path, progression, recognition, rewards

    – the need for a sense of common identity

    – the ability for the voice of the IT practitioner to be heard

    Just a few weeks ago, I was invited as a business and technology professional to be the opening keynote at the National Council of IT Deans summit. It was specifically to address current trends in IT and to look at ways to resolve the falling enrolments. Key messages for IT workers are around supporting skills growth, helping to make connection and thus foster a sense of common identity through community engagement, and to help manage change. The IFIP program will support these components and more. As the Deans summit, I talked about the IFIP global certification program. The IP3 program will support addressing the falling enrolments since it provides recognition of the value of the IT worker, provides a career path, and a sense of common identity that comes from a worldwide globally recognized profession, plus a platform and vehicle for the voice of the IT worker to be heard. There is tremendous support and encouragement as a result for the IT worker and this resonates with students who are looking for a rewarding long-term career.

    There’s also the work of the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills which has representation from all sectors and the focus is on highlighting the value of IT, the profession, and the IT worker. A key objective is to support schools and in making IT more attractive.

    Thank you for your question,


  11. Stephen Ibaraki says:

    Graham, I appreciate your kind words and thank you for writing such an important blog on an initiative that produces cultural, social, business, and organizational transformation in all areas of the work and for all IT practitioners, no matter what their roles. For the first time there is global, industry, business, governmental, and academia support and represents an inflection point in history for IT as a profession. It is a milestone where there is a coming together from every sector for a common cause.

    In a matter of a few weeks, with six recent keynotes/presentations on this topic, the response is uniformly positive from the audience since it is about elevating the profession but also the value of the IT practitioner.  

    Remarkable time!



  12. sue says:

    Excellent article Graham. It is all upside for us. I can’t wait.

  13. Moira de Roche says:

    Well, all these mostly positive comments really make my heart happy, and I’m also pleased to have someone say he doesn’t think it’s a good idea. It’s all to easy to feel safe and warm about what we are trying to do, but we need to be challenged from time to time – otherwise those who are for the idea are just patting each other on the back.

    Well, I’m from Africa. And I am very sad by how often people are judged by where they come from. The perception (incorrectly as it happens) is that those who have obtained their degrees in developing countries are somehow "not of the same quality" as those who have graduated in first world countries. An international accreditation will allow everyone to be judged against a common standard. The ways of obtaining the professional qualification will differ from country to country, but will be measured against the standard. Far from discriminating against anyone (which I believe is the case right now), it will allow everyone to be judged equally.

    And anyone who prefers to opt out of IITP, well that’s your prerogative. I don’t believe it does the industry any good though – IT people are often perceived by business as "not following any rules". IITP will prove that those who obtain the "gold standard" have the necessary knowledge AND susbscribe to a code of ethics. So it will change the perception of IT people for the good.

  14. P Lang says:

    What a revelation! A well written piece Graham that I sent to my colleagues in all divisions so count us all in. It is all so upside and it is about time. I speak in the schools and this makes a difference.

  15. Stephen Ibaraki says:

    Hello P. Lang,

    It’s the same kind of response that I’m hearing repeatedly from the field. Students wants something to grab hold of, to ignite their imaginations, and this program speaks to Careers.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments.



  16. Stephen Ibaraki says:

    Hello Moira,

    An international standard which allows mobility and recognition for all. Truly, the time has come for information technology. What strikes me is that, this program does what the other professions have been unable to do — again IT practitioners lead the way.



  17. Stephen Ibaraki says:

    David O’leary,

    As a former faculty member in the post-secondary system, I am very appreciative of your comments and to see this strong support from academic administration. There is so much in the news about IT, where it is going, and more. The IP3 program provides a unifying direction for students, faculty, schools, IT workers, industry, business, government, academia, society, and IT-related associations/groups.

    Best regards,


  18. Stephen Ibaraki says:

    This letter from the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, says a lot:

    Best regards,


  19. Anonymous says:

    This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals.

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