The Canadian Information Processing Society has launched a week-long series of events to shore up support for its Information Systems Professional (I.S.P.) designation.

The first-ever I.S.P. week will include an advertising campaign in British Columbia newspapers, while in Winnipeg, the designation will be highlighted as part of local Small Business Week events. CIPS president Les Oliver, for example, will attend a Legal Issues Breakfast on Friday to discuss how privacy and record keeping requirements demand an accountability that the I.S.P. designation could provide. CIPS executives will also be visiting a variety of sites in Saskatchewan to talk up the certification.

The I.S.P. was created both as a way of assuring customers that IT staff have sufficient technical expertise and that they adhere to a standard code of ethical conduct. Unlike the professional engineer’s designation (P.Eng.), however, I.S.P. has struggled for acceptance. Even after 10 years, Oliver estimated that only about 40 per cent of CIPS national membership carried the I.S.P. after their names.

“It’s been a good employment market,” he said. “Folks who have any qualifications are able to get employed. That’s going to continue, and the designation is not going to stop that. But there probably been as great a demand for assurance on the part of the employers that the people who are producing their system have appropriate educational background and experience.”

Herbert Hess, who has been placing IT staff through Hess Executive Search for more than 25 years, said some designations carry more weight than others. Despite the hype, he said Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) can be fairly easy to come by.

“You can cram through the book and know absolutely nothing about what the hell you’re doing and pass it with flying colours,” he said. “It doesn’t have a lot of meaning. In fact I know a couple of guys who are instructors, and they’re appalled at people who get the MCSE designation.”

So far, CIPS has never revoked anyone’s I.S.P. designation, though the organization checks with universities to ensure the accuracy of the results once the educational requirements have been met. Oliver said CIPS also regularly reviews the ethical side of the designation to keep up with the current business environment.

“Although the basic principals don’t change, the nature in which they’re delivered and the kinds of exposures that a person could have would change,” he said. “For instance, with the major increase towards global networks, suddenly there are questions of confidentiality that wouldn’t have been raised 10 years ago.”

Hess said designations don’t gain credibility overnight, pointing the Project Management Institute’s PMP designation as a good example of a professional certification that has taken hold.

“I think they take a certain amount of time,” he said. “You have to have a certain of people who have that designation. It’s nice to put it after your name, but it doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot if it isn’t accepted by the industry.”

Oliver said I.S.P. week is aimed at people seeking the designation, employers and the general public, but he admitted that it is the employers who will ensure its validity.

“The pull from the market is going to be the major factor,” he said. “If the employers seem to feel that it doesn’t matter to them, they’re not going to look for it.”

I.S.P. holders typically have to re-certify each year and be working in the IT profession for 60 per cent of their time to retain the designation.

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