VSJ – May 2001

Notice Board


If you want to look at the latest technology in applications serving, visit Citrix iForum, which takes place on 13 and 14 June at the Wembley Conference Centre. See www.citrix.com/forum2001ne for more information.


Are you looking for funding for a project? EUPraxis is a Web site that provides project promoters and other organisations interested in European Union funding opportunities with up-to-date information on calls for proposals for EU funding launched by the European Commission. Also, it offers a partner search facility to help you find the right partner for your project ideas. Have a look at www.eupraxis.com for more details. Another site that may be of interest is www.euroteamlink.com where you can request free exploratory consultancy on your project ideas.


[Got an activity or event coming up? Email eo@iap.org.uk with the details.]


Sounding Board


Wot, no opinions? Perhaps everyone has aimed their bile directly at the Chancellor of the Exchequer (or whoever) this month or maybe the appearance of Spring has imbued you all with the essence of sweetness and light. Whatever the reason, my inbox is empty! So I’ll take this opportunity to announce the IAP Council’s intention to award an annual prize for the best contribution to VSJ from an IAP member, not just in Sounding Board, but under any heading. The ‘year’ will start from September 2000, since that was our first issue, which means that your last opportunity for stardom this year will be in the July/August issue. And my deadline for material for that is mid-May. So start pounding that keyboard!


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


Members’ News:


Phillip Hamlyn and Raymond Butler are both standing for election to the Council this year. They describe their backgrounds below and explain the directions they think the Institution should be following.


I have worked in IT for 13 years both as an employee and as a contractor specialising in PC database systems development, originally in DOS, then with Windows. I have worked in a mixture of environments: ‘big six’ consultancies, software houses, healthcare and more recently in defence related contracts. Recent assignments have been based on VB/SQL Server with a large amount of skill transfer to third parties. My approach to IT is pragmatic without formal qualifications. I would like to see the IAP extend its support for its membership in both the technical (for example, an IAP members’ Usenet newsgroup) and administrative (promotion of membership as a differentiator in the IT marketplace) arenas.
Phillip Hamlyn, MIAP


I originally trained in mechanical engineering, gaining my HNC in 1977. I moved into IT in the 1980s, and studied part-time for the Graduate Diploma in Computer Science at South Bank Polytechnic, graduating in 1992. I joined the IAP in 1993. I spent a number of years providing user support for a range of DOS and Windows applications and carrying out database development in dBase and, later, Microsoft Access. I became involved in Web site development in the mid-90s, and also gained some experience of network administration. During the past year I have become a “back-room boffin”, working on Unix, Windows NT and Open VMS systems, mainly concerned with file system and user account maintenance and Internet technologies. I do most of my programming in C and Perl. If elected, I would like to help enhance the range of services provided by the Institution and encourage interaction amongst the membership.
Raymond Butler, MIAP


Data Protection Act 1999: A statement by the Director General

There has been a recent tightening of the law which affects the way organisations like the IAP may use information they hold on their members. The law does not, of course, apply only to large organisations. It has become so cheap and easy to gather and process large amounts of information that many IAP members may find their own companies’ records becoming caught in the expanding net of this legislation. This is a subject we hope to tackle, perhaps setting out some guidelines for members, in a forthcoming article. My purpose here is to explain what use the Institution may make of the personal data it holds on you, and how we propose to ensure that we comply with the requirements of the latest Data Protection Act.


When people join the IAP they often send us detailed personal information, but very little of this is transferred to the computerised database. All we hold on disc are names, addresses and payment records. We keep no record of a member’s age, sex, or race. We keep no records of skills or employment details, other than for the 15% of IAP members who have chosen to be included in the annual Register of Consultants. We cannot maintain such records unless members supply the information to keep them right up to date.


One of the primary objects of the Institution, set out in its constitution, is to disseminate information that may assist members to advance in their profession. Each individual member of the IAP is obliged to support these objects. From time to time you must expect to receive information mailed both directly by the Institution and by other parties on our behalf, which we believe could be useful to you in a professional context.


Nobody likes receiving junk mail, so we never release our list to third parties, except to mail material that has been specifically approved by the IAP. But if we are to fulfil our constitutional obligations, as well as the expectations of the majority of IAP members, each individual must be willing to receive the information the Institution mails out. This is an unavoidable obligation of IAP membership.

Mike Ryan


Top Up Your Points!

When a member joins the IAP, he or she provides us with a very detailed CV, which we evaluate to determine the appropriate initial grade of membership. You all know that, because you no doubt spent a good deal of time trying to remember when you did that course on OOP, how many staff you were responsible for in 1992 or whatever.


What you may not know is the mechanism for that initial determination. What happens is that a number of points is associated with each component of your CV. These are accredited to one of four headings: Programming, Systems Analysis/Design, Business and X. The mysterious X points are those that are considered to be valuable to the rounded professional but which are not attributable to any of the previous headings. There are minimum point values that must be achieved (both in total and under the four sub-headings) for an applicant to be admitted to a given grade of membership.


Let’s suppose that you were elected to the Associate Member grade with a total of 450 points three or four years ago. In that time, you’ve been amassing experience points and, probably, some education or training points as well. The chances are that these will exceed the couple of hundred extra points you need to be upgraded to MIAP. But we don’t know that unless you tell us! I know that means you’ll have to update your CV but there is some good news. You remember the registration fee you paid for your initial evaluation? Well, that covers all subsequent evaluations for upgrades. To all intents and purposes then, upgrading procedures are free.


So, if you think you may be entitled to an upgrade, let us know. Email the office at admin@iap.org.uk or ring Nicole on 020 8 567 2118 for the forms. If you’d like more detailed information about the points system, email me at eo@iap.org.uk and I’ll send you a detailed description of how it works. I’ll also be happy to respond to any specific queries you may have.

Robin Jones


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

Work in Progress

Bill Cleary, MIAP is Professional Skills Business Manager with Global Knowledge, an IAP Partner Organisation. Here he writes about the problems of translating technical staff into managers – the Peter Principle writ large!

I’ll remember the look on his face for a long time.


“But it’s not what I want to do. I build systems and that’s what I do best.”


Daniel left the rest unsaid.


“So you’re telling me that you want to be relieved of your project leader role?” I said, displaying mock surprise in the hope that he would say no.


“Yes”, he said, his face visibly showing relief that it was now out in the open.


I had known that he had not been happy for some time but I didn’t really understand what Daniel’s problem was. I knew him as the best technical staff member I had. In fact, the best I have ever had. He designed classy web pages, coped with the intricacies of Java and Unix and worked consistently to achieve quality deliverables. The rest of the staff admired his knowledge and ability, seeking his advice whenever problems arose. He appeared to get on very well with everyone. OK, so he could be a bit preoccupied when coding or testing code but that’s what made him so good at what he did. So why was he so inept when it came to operating in a more senior role?


The answer to that question came some time later when it was my turn to justify why I had been a good product manager but not so good as the Commercial Director.


Because they are different jobs that require totally different skills.


Daniel’s “problem” arose from a misconception that still runs through the IT world – the best techie will automatically make the best project leader/manager. Well, he – or she – won’t. How do people who spend their time coding and testing “automatically” deal with a conflict situation? How does someone whose main workplace interaction is with an inanimate object called a computer build a balanced, well-motivated team? How does someone who has been working on tasks as and when they arise identify the critical path within the project?


The answer to those questions is quite simply that individuals require screening and training. They need to possess the qualities, or be capable of gaining the qualities, that are required of a project leader/manager. Attending the required training to “plug the gaps” and refine their existing skills is mandatory.


It is not an admission of failure on the part of technical staff that they find it a difficult transition from the technical environment to management. Even with training and mentoring it will be a hard road. Without these two helpmates it’s a long and very arduous road.


IT companies have learned the benefits of “projectising” the way that workplace activities are carried out. More and more, programming and network staff find themselves working in a project environment. Already project management is being seen as a sophisticated skill-set, just like Java Programming, XML Programming and so on. And as a result, more and more companies have come to realise the added value gained from training their project staff so that they can operate at peak productivity.


Asking the most able technical staff to take on the role of project leaders/managers without the proper training is the same as asking the Sales and Marketing director to write a system critical program using “gut-feel” and savvy to learn as s/he went along.


That’s quite a frightening thought!

If you’d like to discuss this article further, Bill can be contacted on bill.cleary@globalknowledge.net or you can meet him at the Global Knowledge stand at PMI Europe 2001 running 6th and 7th June at the Café Royal, Lower Regent Street, London.


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

Leave a Reply