ICT scorecard unleashes fiery debate

To be accredited or not to be accredited that is the question.

A push by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) to increase accreditation in a bid to raise the bar when it comes to professionalism in the IT industry unleashed a fiery debate last week.

It began when ACS president Philip Argy rated Australia's $90 billion ICT industry at 66 percent out of 100. He attributed the poor scorecard to the need for objective standards for IT workers.

"I don't believe you should be able to walk off the street and claim to be an IT security consultant ... there needs to be some objective standard, but it is a bit harder in IT because experience carries a lot more weight," Argy said.

"Professionalism in major IT projects means rigorous sensitivity analysis and in my experience this is rarely done." The call for professionalism is as much a call to boards of directors that information is critical content in decision-making, he said.

However, IT managers denied they ever walked off the street into a plum job and labelled accreditation a "useless exercise".

Hydrasight analyst John Brand said accreditation is unlikely to have any great impact without an emphasis on global credentials and broad community support.

Brand added that the US market for IT workers has been inhibited by a lack of professional conduct, with or without industry accreditation.

"It may seem obvious for the ACS to target the message 'do it smarter' and replace it with 'do it more professionally', but as yet we have seen little to no evidence that the level of professionalism has any major bearing on ICT project success," Brand said.

"While the evidence clearly suggests that increasing the level of professionalism of your project team will not necessarily guarantee any improved outcome, it does clearly indicate that your costs are more likely to go up and you will begin to look more unattractive by comparison, therefore we have a classic trade-off situation that I'm sure the ACS intends to resolve by having different levels of industry accreditation.

"I believe Australia's ICT industry is facing similar challenges to the textile industry - accessibility of cheap labour and a blind belief that working smarter, not harder, is something that can't be replicated in other markets, and this is a dangerous assumption to make."

Patrick Adonis, IT manager for financial services firm Bongiorno & Partners labelled the ACS push "provocative".

"IT is an industry where you can either perform the task or run and hide - accreditation means nothing," Adonis said.

"IT managers are consistently dedicated to the task. Even though there is no formal standard of ethics our livelihood depends on us acting so.

"IT managers know they should never compromise on the task at hand and never seek to take shortcuts.

"Australia already has a high standard of professionalism - so many people donate time out of work to attend seminars and we always network with different sources - that tells you the professional IT person is always seeking to stay in touch with peers."

Frost & Sullivan senior analyst James Turner said the figure of 66 percent bandied about by Argy is in fact a positive one.

Turner said at least that figure is not a "borderline" 50 percent.

"The 66 percent scorecard is approaching a B so we have to take some sort of faith from that; pound for pound, Australian IT workers stack up against the rest of the world and we hit above our weight when it comes to competency, as recognized in the US and UK," Turner said.

When it comes to tech genius, Australian Dental Association IT manager Ron Robinson says Australia is doing well.

"But the industry developed so quickly that a code of conduct or professional accreditation would be ideal, in part to force the industry into maturity," he said.

"The IT industry is getting ahead in leaps and bounds with technical concepts but the industry has not spent time looking at the professional components of things like standards and professional guidelines.

(Rodney Gedda contributed to this report.)

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