What’s in a name? Plenty, according to Paul Matthews, chief executive of the Institute of IT Professionals, which until a year ago was known as the New Zealand Computer Society.
Since the name change, Matthews says people “all of a sudden understand who we are”.
He doesn’t diminish the 50-year-old organisation’s legacy, but says in today’s language, computer “society” was a confusing moniker.
“People didn’t understand whether we were just a group of hobbyists, a professional body or if we represented vendors.”
When the IITP arose from the NZCS in July last year, Matthews says there was an overnight change in perception of the organisation by the government, industry and wider public.
“We’d had a good relationship with the government over many years but talking to ministers and officials outside our core areas, the change in approach was instant.
“The difference is that the government generally doesn’t want to press forward without at least consulting us on the profession’s view of different issues.”
The body went from involvement in “quite a few” ICT-related government issues to having a hand in nearly all such activities, he says.
There was a little more to it than a rebranding exercise, however. Matthews says the organisation has remade itself since the late 2000s, when it was at risk of being sidelined as a range of attempts were made to unify the various ICT industry stakeholder groups.
“We were running some events, which were good, but beyond that we weren’t really doing much. We came to a point where we had to decide whether we were just going to be a sort of club … or were we going to be a professional body.
“We made the decision about five years ago that IT needed a professional body; we needed to deal with some of the issues that were inherent in the sector. That’s when we started down the path we’re on now.”
In 2009 the institute introduced an IT certified professional qualification, and the following year brought in a mandatory code of professional conduct, which includes a disciplinary process.
It also has a non-mandatory code of practice, covering issues such as conflicts of interest and competency.
IIPT members join as either associates with limited IT experience and qualifications, full members who must demonstrate a high level of achievement and professionalism, and fellows, who are senior professionals.
According to Matthews, membership has doubled in the past three years. There are 2500 to 3000 individual members, about a quarter of whom are students.
With corporate membership, which he says has risen 20 per cent in the past 12 months, the body represents more than 10,000 people.
It has six full-time staff and more than a 100 volunteers. Many of those are involved with ICT-Connect, a key initiative of the institute that is tackling the industry’s chronic skills shortage by promoting IT jobs in secondary schools.
More than 25,000 students have attended presentations so far this year, Matthews says.
Other work in progress is creation of a CloudCode, which cloud service providers can from next week become signatories to.
And in conjunction with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, a rationalisation of the more than 200 IT diploma and certificate courses available through polytechnics and private trainers is under way with a view to limiting them to 10 to 12 courses from 2015. “Our members and the IT community are starting to understand that we’re a vehicle for them,” Matthews says. “The institute is not about me or our national council or executive — it’s about IT professionals.”