Ben Booth, chairman of ELITE (the effective leadership in IT group of the BCS), gives an overview of activities - past, present and future - of the leading forum for senior UK IT management.

Whilst the focus of the BCS ELITE is on the user community, in practice we have become the de facto group for senior members of the BCS across all sectors. In common with our parent organisation the last 12 months have been an exciting time for ELITE.

Our two main initiatives have been a recruitment drive aimed at senior BCS members, and a refresh of our meetings programme, backed up with a survey of members to ensure that we are properly catering for their requirements.

In addition ELITE has contributed to a number of BCS initiatives, is frequently in print and has been involved with a range of third party events. The BCS Professionalism in IT initiative is of particular relevance to us and touches on the core mission of ELITE.

Following an invitation to senior grades and Fellows of the Society the membership of ELITE has grown fourfold and now stands around 1,400. Of these 40 per cent are IT directors, CIOs and heads of IT, with a further 20 per cent in senior IT management.

A further 40 per cent are senior business managers, with the remaining members being consultants, project managers, professors and lecturers. Slightly over half are from the private sector, a further 35 per cent from the public sector, with around 15 per cent from academic backgrounds. Overall slightly over half of the senior members of the BCS have joined ELITE.

The core of ELITE's activities is events where we have one or more high-quality presentations followed by the opportunity to network over a drink and food. Ian Watmore, the UK government CIO, gave a presentation in the autumn, which was attended by over 100 members and guests, and we have also had successful events around the themes of Microsoft and .net, career development, and aligning business and infrastructure.

Speakers have included Denise Plumpton from the Highways Agency; Mick Morgan, NICEE; Simon La Fosse, Harvey Nash; Karen Price, e-Skills; David Clarke, the BCS; and Mark Greatorex, Microsoft.

Later in 2005 we will be organising a visit to the Royal Mail innovation centre and an event around the theme of business benefit and programme management. Our members' survey showed that the themes of most relevance are the link between business strategy and IS strategy and planning, project management, information management, and technical strategy and management.

We vary the time of day that we hold events but the majority of our meetings are held in the late afternoon/evening, in response to members' preference. Most of our meetings are in London but we are also looking at the opportunity to hold regional gatherings.

ELITE is often invited to be involved in third party events and we do this where a conference or meeting is a good fit with our aims. Our members provide presentations or assist with the content of the programme.

For instance this year ELITE has had a presence at the Richmond Events IT Directors Forum, Penton's triple-i conference and Gartner mid-size. A new initiative is an emailed newsletter for members, distributed on a monthly basis, and members are frequent contributors to the IT press.

ELITE is frequently invited to comment by the IT press on news items, whether directly or via the BCS press office.

During the coming year we will continue to develop a high-quality programme of networking events, keeping a close eye on what is of particular concern to our members. We will also continue to encourage senior professionals to join ELITE.

One of the challenges of a larger membership is to develop a greater involvement of those who are not able to attend events and we will be doing this through our newsletter, and looking at what events (perhaps in partnership with others) can be organised for those who live away from the South East.

In addition we see that a key part of our remit is to develop links with other organisations of relevance to senior professionals, whether in the IT or business worlds.

Ultimately the value of ELITE comes from senior professionals sharing knowledge and experience, and those that do attend find the events extremely worthwhile. If you are a senior IT person and are concerned about professionalism I urge you to join ELITE and take part in our events!

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