CIPS changes bylaws to improve governance

The Canadian Information Processing Society has announced the board approval of some by-law changes that will change the way the IT industry association is run.

The CIPS by-law changes were unanimously approved by the association’s board of directors in March. They’re now up for approval next month at CIPS’ annual general meeting.

Rick Penton, CIPS’ Ontario president and a CIPS governance committee member, said that the problems in the association’s governance went back a long way. They were first fully voiced around five years ago with the debut of the roadmap, “CIPS for the 21st Century.”

The first goal, said Penton, was better alignment within CIPS itself. “One of the issues,” he said, “was that when we started, there was the Toronto section, and then there was the national office, and other sections until the nineties. Then the provincial bodies came in to do the I.S.P. designations. It was supposed to be (the main governing body), but it was structured like an add-on. The provinces were, in theory, responsible for (managing) the professionalism, but it all had to be approved by the national board, anyway.”

Instead now, he said, the duties will be split up more clearly. The national part will manage the big-picture issues like collecting membership dues and CIPS services, while the provincial level will take care of the professional mechanisms, said Penton.

“One of the problems is that there’s no clear picture of who is responsible for what, in terms of sections and provinces,” said Penton. “and who the right spokesperson is.”

National professional standards also have to better standardized across the country. Said Penton: “If I wanted to move to Alberta (from Ontario), I would want to make sure that my skills were recognized there. We also, increasingly, have to pay attention to international standards as well.”

CIPS would also like to move to a more corporate-type model, said Penton, which would speed up the decision-making process. He said, “We can make decisions more quickly, because it does currently take a long time due to so many stakeholders, and the fact that it is a volunteer organization.”

These issues are common among not only the IT industry associations of Canada, but of all modern organizations and businesses, said John Reid, president of IT industry association—and CIPS partner—CATA. “You have to find a different way to communicate. Where you run into difficulty is having a fixed structure. Now, you need more of a transformative structure, which is an energy that attracts the young professional.”

Streamlining the internal set-up of sections and provinces and the national office comes back into play here as well. To cut back on the glut of representatives, said Penton, some provinces are contemplating a move to becoming a provincial-only body, sans sections.

British Columbia is leaning toward keeping its sections, while Alberta is in favour of amalgamating them. Prince Edward Island’s single section would, said Penton, morph into the provincial body. Sections would not be forced to change into provincial bodies, as CIPS wants to maintain some flexibility, he said.

To keep it smaller, there would be fewer board members, with, most likely, only one representative per province, plus a small handful of members-at-large.

This year marks CIPS’s 50th anniversary in Canada.

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