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CIPS Touch Points - IT Professionalism Week 2016

By Lucien Peron I.S.P., ITCPDirector, CIPS Ontario

Since we've gotten your attention, let's make the best use of your time.

Once a year, CIPS (Canada’s Association of Information Technology Professionals) dedicates a week to promoting the cause of professionalism in Information Technology. Why is professionalism so important?

Read on ...

Without naming specific companies in this article, we have all seen the impact that the lack of applied professionalism in IT practices have caused to very reputable companies. And those are only the cases that make it to the news, many others remain untold. Unfortunately, unless organizations commit to taking bold action by requiring that all hired and contracted ICT practitioners meet the criteria to be considered professionals, such events will continue to occur.

There are many aspects that must be met for an IT practitioner to be considered a professional. Using an extreme analogy to illustrate the point, if a high risk surgery is needed, wouldn’t a professional in the field be the best choice? Someone that you know has dedicated his / her life to learning, and that follows a code of ethics that governs the practice and decision making processes? Someone that has kept up with the times and uses the best equipment and techniques? Someone that has his / her patients' best interest at heart?

Why is it then that most organizations don’t ask for professional credentials when it comes to bringing expertise to work on the information systems that govern all aspects of our very lives? It is very concerning to realize that many Information Technology practitioners in Canada have not been officially recognized as professionals in the field.

Is professionalism a panacea, the solution that will prevent practitioners from making mistakes? The answer to this question is complex. CIPS -and other associations around the world- believe that by having professional practitioners that are committed to the profession, and that have “skin in the game” so to speak, will act with integrity, performing actions aligned with professed values, on the best interest of the profession and the public at large, without allowing personal or organizational interests to cloud their decisions.

What is then, a professional? CIPS definition of a Professional in Information Technology is an individual that demonstrates:

  1. Mastery of an appropriate portion of the Body of Knowledge, is committed to abide by the Code of Ethics and follows the Risk Management Guidelines defined by CIPS,      
  2. Autonomy, responsibility and authority, while working under broad direction, as well as performing work that requires the application of a significant range of fundamental principles in a variety of contexts,           
  3. Essential skills to take a structured and effective approach to own work and leadership potential,
  4. Ability to analyze, diagnose, design, plan, execute and evaluate work to time, cost and quality targets, exhibiting thorough familiarity with available methods, procedures, tools, equipment and standards associated with own area of specialization and making correct choices from alternatives,
  5. Ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, with clients, customers, colleagues and subordinates,
  6. An understanding of the relationship of own specialization or area of responsibility to the employing organization as a whole and taking customer requirements fully into account when making proposals and/or carrying out work, and
  7. Initiative to continuously keep skills up to date and maintain awareness of developments in the IT industry.

So where does CIPS fit into the overall picture?

Since being founded in 1958, the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) has been helping strengthen the Canadian IT industry and promoting the cause of professionalism, through its focus on IT excellence, establishing standards, as well as sharing best practices for the benefit of individual IT professionals and the industry as a whole. CIPS offers the only professional Information Technology (IT) designation that is recognized by law.

CIPS is also one of the founding members of IFIP, the International Federation for Information Processing, the organization that represents IT societies from 56 countries, covering 5 continents, with over 100 working groups and 13 technical committees.  It is recognized by the United Nations as a non-profit umbrella organization for national societies working in the field of information processing for the purpose of advancing the profession.

There are many facets to CIPS. The following is a list of some of the remarkable national and international contributions that have helped shape our personal and professional lives, all of them with a CIPS connection:

 

1. First Digital Computer and Computer Services (1948)

How could we not start by mentioning that in 1948, at the tender age of 27, Calvin C. (Kelly) Gotlieb, who has been called the "Father of Computing" in Canada, participated in the first team that designed and constructed digital computers and provided computing services in Canada.

 

2. First university credit course on computing in Canada (1950) and First Graduate Department of Computer Science (1964)

Who else would have been instrumental in creating these couple of significant firsts, but none other than Calvin (Kelly) Gotlieb. Today, CIPS undertakes a program of visits to universities and colleges/technical institutes across the nation, in order to review their computing, information technology and business technology management programs. The purpose of these accreditation visits is to help develop and maintain standards in educational qualifications that provide an appropriate foundation for those who wish to follow a career in computing or information systems.

 

3. World's first long distance use of an electronic computer (1955)

Continuing with his pioneering spirit, Calvin (Kelly) Gotlieb, initiated the world's first long distance use of an electronic computer using telegraph lines between the University of Saskatchewan and the FERUT computer at the University of Toronto.

 

4. Founding of The Computing and Data Processing Society of Canada (1958)

In September 1958, a dedicated group of data processors (DP) got together to talk about common concerns of DP workers. That conference demonstrated to participants the value of sharing ideas, networking with fellow professionals, and learning about coming changes in the technology, practices, and management of information systems. This event sparked the formation of The Computing and Data Processing Society of Canada, whose name was changed in 1968 to the current Canadian Information Processing Society.

 

5. National Cooperation (1960)

In 1960, the society started its national expansion by annexing Quebec (Montreal) and Winnipeg. The expansion continued with the addition of Calgary (1963), Edmonton and Regina (1964), Hamilton and Vancouver (1965), Kingston (1966), Saskatoon and Halifax (1967), Victoria (1971), Fredericton (1977), London (1980), Whitehorse (1989), St.John's (1991), Saint John (1997) and Charlottetown (2000).

In 2008, a new Provincial based membership governance structure is adopted, turning individual cities into sections governed by their respective Provincial body. Newfounland & Labrador and PEI are formed the same year. 

 

6. International Collaboration (1960)

Also in 1960, the International Federation of Information Processing Societies (IFIPS) is formed under the auspices of UNESCO, as a result of the first World Computer Congress held in Paris in 1959. The following countries were represented: Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Soviet Union, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In 1961 the name was changed to International Federation for Information Processing.

In 1973, CIPS became one of the founding societies of the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals, ICCP, a non-profit 501(c) (6) organization, has dedicated itself to the establishment of high professional standards and the furthering of the goals of its parent societies.

More recently, the Federation of Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO) operating charter was ratified by 15 founding voting members -CIPS being one of them- at a meeting on June 9, 2011.

 

7. Computer-based Education (1965)

Wes Graham, professor at University of Waterloo and CIPS President (1965-1967), recognizing that the software available on computers was not designed for teaching purposes, worked with a team of four students and a junior faculty member to build a software system for the IBM 7040 computer that would solve both the speed and error problems faced by students when learning programming languages. This software, called WATFOR (WATerloo FORtran Compiler), was completed in about 3 months of intense effort, and attracted worldwide attention from many other universities facing the same problems. The software certainly solved the problems at Waterloo, enabling the University to become the leading Canadian educational institution in teaching undergraduate students how to use computers.

 

8. First Privacy Law (1965)

In 1965, a report that Calvin Gotlieb authored, led to the creation of the first Privacy Law issued in Canada.

 

9. First Personal Portable Computer (1974)

Mers Kutt, founder of Consolidated Computer Inc., professor at Queen's University and President of CIPS (1969-1970), also happens to be the inventor of the MCM/70 – the world’s first personal computer, first build in 1973 and released the next year.  He is also founder of the key edit, a data preparation system that succeeded the IBM punch card, as well as the “All Card” and the “All Charge Card”, which gave a computer more speed and memory.

 

10. Getting Serious (1980's)

In the early part of the 1980’s, CIPS developed and implemented the Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. As the needs of information systems practitioners evolved, CIPS saw the need to develop a comprehensive professionalism program for the IT industry. In 1987, CIPS held a referendum of its members, in order to obtain the support necessary to establish a certification program, which resulted in the introduction of the Information Systems Professional (I.S.P.) designation in May 1989.

Furthermore CIPS expanded its accreditation program to include the accreditation of computer technology diploma programs in Canadian colleges.

 

11. Recognizing Excellence in IT (1988)

As part of its 30th anniversary celebrations in 1988, CIPS introduced its award program to recognize excellence in IT.

 

12. PCI – DSS (2004)

This security standard, created to ensure the safety of cardholder data across the globe and widely used in the financial industry today, is the brain child of Bashir Fancy, I.S.P., ITCP during his tenure as the Executive Vice President - Risk Management & Security for Visa International.

 

13. Leadership in IT Professionalism (2007)

A group which included representatives of ACS, BCS, CIPS, IFIP and CSSA met in Cape Town, South Africa, in January of 2007, with the objective of working toward achieving the goal of “initiating a vigorous program of activity to promote professionalism worldwide”. That resulted in the creation of the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3).

CIPS participated with IP3 in publishing a global professional IT standard based on the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA), accrediting the CIPS professionalism scheme in 2008.

Also established in 2008, the Seoul Accord is an international accreditation agreement for professional computing and information technology academic degrees, between the bodies responsible for accreditation in its signatory countries. The signatories as of 2016 are Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong China, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. Provisional signatories include Ireland, New Zealand and Philippines.

 

These achievements exemplify, not only the pioneering spirit of those that made them a reality, but also the positive impact that their actions brought to our lives. They took risks, sometimes measured, sometimes not, and due to their vision for a better future and their innovative approach, they made a difference while helping pave the way for generations to come. 

Their actions also highlight their selfless interest in the advancement of the profession, by thinking beyond themselves and putting aside personal gain, while collaborating with their peers, either in the workplace, the local CIPS chapters, other chapters across Canada or from other countries around the globe. Truly admirable.

We owe it to them to preserve their legacy, by following their example and help spread the message by acting with professionalism. We also ought to make our own contributions to the future of Information Technology in Canada, a little bit -or a big bite-, every day.  Our efforts will continue to make a positive and lasting contribution to Canada’s economic growth and competitiveness.