Licence To Heal

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Certification Works

Posted on November 22nd, 2015 by Dr. Fun!

ctfwsRecently Kevin Brown, president of the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS), sparked a debate amongst IS professionals by suggesting that they upgrade their skills and pursue certification or risk unemployment. He noted that CEOs are increasingly disenchanted with the low quality systems that are being delivered in spite of massive technology investment.

Brown’s critics have responded by suggesting that he is an apologist for CIPS and for its ISP certification program and that executive disenchantment can just as easily be blamed on vendor vaporware, or other complex factors, as lack of skills.

According to Morven Wilson, executive director, university computing and information services for Dalhousie University in Halifax, “The IS profession should not be compared to other certified professions such as doctors, lawyers or technical engineers because the professions such as doctors, lawyers or technical engineers because the profession is very complex.

“IS project failure is due to circumstances usually beyond the control of the IS professional…”

It’s interesting that the stories so far have only reflected a concern for pleasing the executive suite by delivering quality systems and reducing IS project failure. What I find remarkable is the lack of attention to what is, to me, the most compelling reason for the legislative entrenchment of IS professional certification: accountability.

In today’s complex and interconnected world, IS project failure can mean much more than wasted dollars and CEO disillusionment. It can mean loss of life and property on a potentially grand scale. We would never submit our fragile bodies to the knife of an unqualified surgeon or place our hope for freedom in the hands of a disbarred lawyer. Yet increasingly we, as a society, continue to place our welfare and our financial stability in the hands of people who have never necessarily demonstrated any degree of skill, competence or concern for our safety.

These days, a large part of what keeps airplanes in the sky and away from each other is software. What keep trains running on time and free of collision? Software. What monitors the dosages of X-Ray devices that can either cure us or kill us? Software. What keeps the phone functioning, the banking system flowing, the hydro bills accurate? Software.

Every type of firm in every industry sector has turned to computing applications to become more productive and cost-effective. In doing so, they bundle up all their corporate aspirations and place them at the feet of people who may be committed and highly skilled, or who might be Dilbert.

As end-users and consumers, we are not permitted to know who is behind the systems we depend on, and thus we blindly risk everything, every day, out of simple or willful ignorance.

In this environment of complicit co-operation with uncertified software makers, the consequences of incompetence are bad enough. And then there are possible results of deliberate evil.

Poisoning the North American banking systems might cause a few days of havoc. That would be fun. Sending a killer virus via the Internet might be good for a giggle. Naturally, certification cannot protect us from crazy people. But when prestigious publications like Scientific American predict that at least half the world’s software will experience terminal failure with the next few decades because of programming errors, you have to be concerned about quality on more than financial grounds.

That’s why it’s futile to argue with each other over whose fault it is when the CEO is disappointed. When a profession is certified, it becomes the responsibility of the professional to ensure that tools in use are up to snuff.

I say it’s time to stop trying to argue that certification is good for IS professionals because it helps them keep their skills current. It’s time for policy makers and citizens to demand accountability from the people who now have our lives in their hands.

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