IS, IT, What’s in a Name?

I’m a Member of the British Computer Society. In order to be granted a Royal Charter to take its place alongside all the old professional engineering institutions, the BCS needed to decide its members were going to be Chartered something Engineers.

There was a big debate. The obvious choice was “IT Engineer” but that proved unpopular with members. Some felt it sounded like the bloke who comes to fix your photocopier and some people didn’t really see themselves as technologists. They were more interested in things like business processes or theoretical data models. The outcome was that BCS Members who also passed the entry requirements of the Engineering Council got to call themselves Chartered Information Systems Engineers. I was one of those people.

Now, I may have stopped watching for a while because the next thing I knew, MBCS who weren’t also Engineers were going to become Chartered too. Clearly they needed a different title. Maybe I was busy that year but suddenly I wasn’t a CISE any more – I’d been B.O.G.O.F.ed. My CISE got swapped for a CITP and a C.Eng. Yo!

Hang on!… a C IT P? Yes, a “Chartered IT Practitioner”. But I thought we all decided we didn’t want to be called “IT”.
‘Well, yep,  you did, but Marketing has tested it with focus groups and it has poor public recognition. They don’t know what “IS” is. They want to call us “IT”.’

Well, that’s All Very Well BUT “The Public” are totally devoid of clue. If they don’t know, it’s because Marketing have failed to explain it to them properly and by now they probably have a PC at home and might actually be interested in listening. If we could have explained the difference between a system and the technology it runs on then maybe people wouldn’t have gone out and bought a Linux netbook and had to take it back because it didn’t have Microsoft Word on “and the kids need that for school” – because the government don’t understand either!

I was working in an “Information Systems” department so, obviously, it needed to be restructured about every 18 months.
Clearly this is dangerous so you don’t want anyone internal to do it, in case it all goes wrong. Instead, you get in a consultancy to tell you whatever they are telling everyone else at the moment, until they either run out of customers and have to have a new idea, or everyone finds out what a really bad idea it is. They are VERY good at moving on just before that happens though. It is their second core skill, right behind ‘recycling old ideas with new names’. (I know this doesn’t sound likely to be true but we found the slide pack on the Interwebs with only the logo changed.)

This time The Plan was to split “IS” into Demand (analysis), Domain (development) & Delivery (operations).
Names in parenthesis are the names from the 1990 restructure, for reference and because they make more sense.

Then you simply rename the department to “IT” to show it’s all shiny and new.

Stage 2: Outsource Delivery – with all the hardware and communications technology
Stage 3: Outsource Domain – with all the software and database technology

Leaving: an “IT” department that has no “technology” and very few people who know anything about “technology” but is the customer for all the “Information Systems”. You know IT makes sense.


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