VSJ – June 2009

Employment Exchange

Craig Golby MCMI, MIAP is a Project Manager and Business Analyst with retained technical skills in Java and Database technologies working primarily in the Financial Services sector. He is currently looking for contract work. Contact Craig at craig.golby@dignitas.ltd.uk for further information and a detailed CV.

[Want your entry printed here? Email eo@iap.org.uk with the details.]


Sounding Board

Robin Jones wonders why open source solutions appear to have lower acceptance in the UK than elsewhere.

“Nobody ever got fired”, the saying used to go, “for buying IBM.”

Well, no. But why not? What has the supplier got to do with it? This line of thinking smacks of getting one’s excuses in first. If the system falls over, at least the designer can say, “Well, I specified the best kit available. It can’t be my fault.” It certainly can, chum. And, by the way, what did you mean by ‘best’? Most expensive?

My thoughts were nudged in this direction by a recent Novell/IDC report on the worldwide state of open source software and Linux in particular. More than two-thirds of the IT executives surveyed for the study said that they were actively evaluating, or had already decided to adopt, Linux for the desktop. Over 70% said the same for servers. More than half were increasing Linux adoption during 2009. Definitive UK-specific data are difficult to come by, but a recent vnunet reader survey suggested that around 15% of installations are running Linux at present, not, by the looks of it, a world-leading performance.

So what are the pros and cons? On the plus side, initial costs are low and that may matter even more than usual in straitened economic circumstances. On the other hand, there’s the expense of staff retraining to factor in. Interestingly though, respondents to the Novell survey cited lower ongoing support costs as a reason for swapping to Linux. That suggests they’re seeing the current crop of distros as much more mature than their forebears.

Back on the debit side, there are understandable concerns about lack of application support and interoperability with Windows. But the trend towards cloud computing is chipping away at the former problem. Why? Because it has a lingua franca in the form of a Web browser as its default communication channel. Let me give you a personal example. I’ve never been able to find a satisfactory Linux application to synchronise my Palm Treo’s address and calendar data to my desktop. Then I discovered Goosync, which synchronises directly between my Google calendar and the Treo. That’s an even better method that a straight sync-to-desktop solution because now I can sync the Treo or the desktop to the cloud database any time I like, so neither need ever be out of date. And I get an extra backup copy into the bargain.

Why then the apparent reticence of UK companies to take the Linux route? I wonder if it’s at least partly a modern version of the IBM adage, with an extra twist. It isn’t just that you can’t be blamed for following the crowd. It’s that an open source solution is effectively offered by a huge community. So there’s no one specific to point your finger at, should that become necessary. What this ignores, as I hinted at to begin with, is that a finger-pointing exercise is very rarely productive anyway.

[Something you’d like to get off your chest? Email me (Robin Jones) at eo@iap.org.uk.]


Members’ News

Paul Lynham, FIAP is standing for re-election to the IAP Council this year. He outlines his view of the IAP’s development here.

The Institution of Analysts and Programmers is an organisation that I am proud to be associated with. Our profession is continually changing and the services and products we provide have become deeply embedded in society. Many more people either use or are aware of systems our profession develops and maintains and there is a greater need than ever for a professional body to set standards and promote best practices. Since the Institution is the only specialised organisation for people who develop and maintain software, covering such skills as analysis, design, coding, testing, documentation and support, its role can only become more strategic. The services the IAP provides to its members and its flagship role in our profession is a cause I would like to continue to help with.

[Don’t forget to email eo@iap.org.uk with items of news about you or your company.]


Work in Progress

It’s exactly three years since we signed an agreement with the Institute of Continuing Professional Development that allows our members to apply for ICPD membership. Helen Nother of the CPD Foundation explained, in VSJ for July 2006, how the Institute of Continuing Professional Development aims to raise professional standards through individual recognition. We’re reprinting a revised version of her article here, as a reminder to members of the usefulness of the mechanism to them.

It is not enough in today’s world to gain a professional qualification and expect it to have lifetime currency. Professionals in all fields need to recognise the importance of lifelong learning, of which continuing professional development (CPD) is a vital part. Different professions have different ideas about what constitutes CPD, but one definition, adopted by the Institute of Continuing Professional Development is:

The systematic maintenance and improvement of knowledge, skills and competence, and enhancement of learning, undertaken by a person throughout his or her working life.

The key aspects to CPD are:

Provision: It is important for organisations to consider to what extent they are able to provide CPD themselves and to what extent they should work with other bodies on CPD provision. Many professional bodies in the engineering and technology fields, for example, are now collaborating to make available to their members access to various sources of CPD through a number of channels, not least the Internet.

Accreditation and Evaluation: The structures needed to accredit and evaluate CPD can be complex, and co-operation between professional bodies can save time and resources, helping to avoid duplication of effort. Computerised systems are being developed to ease the workload involved in these processes, ways of accrediting and evaluating CPD are being investigated, and joint mechanisms are being introduced. The Professional Associations Research Network (www.parn.org.uk) for example, is active in these areas.

Planning: General guidelines on CPD are being developed by professional bodies and companies to enable members and employees to plan their careers as effectively as possible. Individuals can profitably ask themselves five questions as part of a learning and development plan:

1. Where have I been in relation to CPD?

2. Where am I now?

3. Where do I want and need to be?

4. How will I get there?

5. How will I know when I have arrived?

Recording and Demonstrating: Various mechanisms exist to enable people to record and demonstrate their CPD in hard-copy form, on disk or on the Internet. Many engineering and technology organisations provide their members or employees with Web-based personal development records (PDRs), and diary-based planning and recording systems are available from various IT companies.

The Institute of Continuing Professional Development is committed to working with professional bodies and other organisations, including companies, colleges and universities, employers’ associations and trade unions, to promote CPD generally and make all professionals more aware of how it benefits them personally and the wider public.

It is a multi-disciplinary organisation that recognises individual achievement and commitment to the advancement of CPD. Its key objective is to raise standards for the long-term public good. It achieves this through the use of designatory letters, given to individuals who demonstrate a personal commitment to their own CPD.

All professionals, whatever their discipline, who are able to show that they carry out CPD significantly above the minimum required by their main professional body, can gain extra recognition by becoming members of the Institute. The letters FInstCPD are a distinguishing mark that demonstrates to clients, colleagues and the public in general an individual’s proven commitment to CPD and lifelong learning.

Fellowship of the Institute requires the annual submission of evidence of appropriate CPD activity. Individuals can also apply to become an Associate member. A number of professional bodies, including the Institution of Analysts and Programmers, recognising the potential benefit to both the individual and the public through higher professional, ethical and public service standards, have elected to assist the Institute with this validation process.

The Institute is part of the Continuing Professional Development Foundation, an educational charitable trust that has been a provider of CPD since 1981. Jonathan Harris, founder of both organisations, says, “Why not acknowledge those individuals who actively engage in continual learning and understand the importance of a structured approach to their study and training? Professional bodies and organisations face many practical difficulties in monitoring their members’ CPD, but if individuals who voluntarily do more than the minimum are properly rewarded, this may well encourage others to follow suit and help the professions themselves to raise standards.”

The Institute currently counts among its Fellows a cross-section of practising professionals, from barristers to surveyors, programmers to solicitors. Fellowship also facilitates networking and partnership among individual professions and the groups with which they are associated, serving as a platform for occasional events addressed by high-profile individuals of relevance to all professionals.

The amount of CPD required will depend upon the individual’s own professional minimum requirement but, as a general guideline, any professional who can show that they complete at least 50 per cent more than their own professional body’s minimum CPD requirement annually, in hours or points, can become a Fellow and be rewarded with the right to use the letters FInstCPD. In the case of the IAP, members who have completed, and can demonstrate, no less than 20 points of qualifying CPD in the previous 12-month period can apply to the Institute for Fellowship. General guidelines on what constitutes qualifying CPD are available on the application form for Fellowship, and a full explanation of the Components, Categories and Boundaries of the IAP Points System can be found in section 2 of the Institution of Analysts and Programmers Membership Evaluation Scheme.

It is clear that individuals and organisations that ignore CPD and lifelong learning, or do not treat them seriously, will get left behind as patterns of work and leisure continue to change beyond our expectations.

For further information about the ICPD please contact the Institute on 020 7828 1965 or go to www.cpdinsitute.org. To discuss your application, email Robin Jones at eo@iap.org.uk.

[Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!]

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