CIPS expands IT professional designations

The Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) is now offering two professional designations for the IT industry: the original Information Systems Professional (I.S.P.) launched in 1989 and the new Canadian IT Professional (CITP) for senior practitioners and academics.

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CITP holders will also qualify for the upcoming International Information Technology Professional (IITP) designation, which aims to increase value, recognition and opportunities for IT professionals across Canada and around the world.

According to CIPS, this is the first-ever international IT designation to be launched worldwide. IITP will go into effect in 2009, offered by CIPS through a partnership with the International Federation of Information Processing Society (IFIP), a non-governmental, non-profit organization recognized by the United Nations.

While designations such as P.Eng. and CA are well-known across professions, I.S.P. isn’t as widely recognized, even within CIPS. Greg Lane, chair of CIPS, attributed this to the industry’s youth, compared to other professions that have been around for decades. “We are an immature industry, relatively speaking…doctors and lawyers and other professionals, they’ve been around much longer,” Lane said. “Clearly, there’s a maturation curve. We’re not entirely sure where we are on that curve, but we’re further back than the other professions.”

A lack of advertising dollars might be another factor for the disappointment. “As a volunteer organization, we don’t have a lot of marketing money,” said Lane, “so we’re not as able to promote the I.S.P. and make it as widely known as it could or should be.”

But Igor Abramovitch, branch manager at Robert Half Technology recruitment firm, said I.S.P. recognition is on the rise. According to Abramovitch, the designation is already recognized in Canadian government positions and spilling into the private sector. “It’s growing,” he said. “There’s a lot more popularity out west right now. In Calgary, it’s very strong. In Toronto, it’s growing.”

“It’s becoming more publicized or better publicized now that there’s this international designation,” said Lane. “So it’s going to precipitate more conversations…of what is it and why it is and what’s the value.”

Whether widespread or not, a professional IT designation does hold value. According to Lane, employees gain mobility and credibility, while employers gain insurance that the people doing the work are qualified to do the work. “You can assert, ‘Yes, I’ve met the industry standard for qualification as a professional,’” he said. “Then it’s about job fit.”

“If you have somebody with almost no experience but a lot of certifications, versus somebody with a lot of experience but no certifications, companies typically go with somebody with more experience,” said Abramovitch. “However, if the candidates have the same type of experience and one has certifications, they would go for the person with the certifications because it shows that person has invested in their career.”

International certification will theoretically increase opportunities by allowing professionals to compete and work in multiple countries. “It makes sense in the global economy to make people able to be compared against other professionals in other countries,” said Lane.

Leading the international certification efforts are Canada, Britain, Australia and South Africa. Other countries, including the U.S., are also involved, although less actively. “All the countries that are a part of IFIP, the UNESCO body, are actively involved through the IFIP relationship. Whether they are directly involved it’s not always obvious to see,” said Lane. “By next year, I expect that most of the developed countries and some of the others will be either on board or seeking to get on board.”

While the CITP certification process will remain similar to the I.S.P., the criteria is different. To qualify as a CITP, you must have business concepts, organization leadership and senior-level experience. “We’re looking for an increased understanding of the business, the ability to work in very complex environments as opposed to just technically complex environments and autonomy,” said Lane. Other requirements include SFIA Level 5 or equivalent and adherence to the CIPS Code of Ethics.

“If you don’t see yourself as a person who’s going to get involved beyond the technical capacity,” said Lane, you should apply for an I.S.P. “There’s people in business that are really just very happy working with technology or very good at it or very qualified to do that work. They may or may not be inspired to be a leader or a CIO.”

A professional designation shows you can be trusted. This is the fundamental difference between an I.S.P. or CITP designation, versus technical certifications from other vendors, said Abramovitch. “When you think of a Microsoft certification, for example, if at any point you had an issue…with, let’s say, a SQL server or Windows, there’s no way to record it and there’s no way anybody will take away your certification. That certification is there for life,” he said. “A designation can be easily taken away.”

I.S.P. holders have until August 31, 2008 to automatically receive the new CITP designation through a “grandparenting” process. (Those applying for I.S.P. designation before August 1, 2008 will also qualify for the transfer.) The standard application process for CITP will begin on September 1, 2008.

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