ACS has outlined its vision for the future as it conducts a series of major operational reviews and learns from its mistakes of the past.

In a virtual meeting for members on Monday, ACS CEO Rupert Grayston and ACS President Dr Ian Oppermann explained how the member organisation was moving into a new development phase.

“We've got four major development programs in train right now,” Grayston said.

“First of all, our current strategic plan – our five-year plan – runs out in the middle of next year, and we're right in the midst of developing the next one.

“We've also been conducting a brand review: this isn't about redoing the logo, this is about understanding and studying our markets and our member needs, and how we're going to interact with the world into the future.

“Thirdly, the governance review: not only are we still intending to go to a company limited by guarantee, but we're also reviewing how we make decisions now and how we orientate ourselves for an efficient business managing risks in the best way.

“And finally, the technology review: how we are going to enable product and service delivery for now and for the future through a major renewal of our tech stack.”

The four-pronged approach to ACS’s future follows a turbulent 18 months for the organisation.

Its attempts at major governance reform was initially passed by the slimmest of margins before a successful Federal Court challenge ultimately saw the move overturned.

Since then, ACS has undergone a period of cultural and procedural re-development with Congress passing a vote of no-confidence in the governing management committee, and Grayston taking the helm as CEO.

Strategic plan

Speaking at Monday’s event, Dr Oppermann said the work on ACS’s next five-year strategy was another chance for the organisation to move forward as his time as President nears its end.

“It's an opportunity for us to rethink the ACS’s role in the future Australian economy, in a future digital economy, and hopefully a post-COVID economy,” Dr Oppermann said.

“Historically when we take the approach of developing a five-year strategy, those are the things that we need to think about, especially considering how rapidly the world is changing.

“But we have started the process. We have had a number of workshops with Management Committee, with Congress, and we're in the process now of that consultation with members, staff, and outside stakeholders.”

Branding review

Attached to the strategic planning is a branding review which has already seen ACS engage a survey of over 2,300 members and nearly 100 ACS staff to gain a greater understanding of what ICT professionals and ACS members need most.

“This is about increasing our relevance to members,” Grayston said.

“We are realigning the value proposition of our products and services, and seeing that these meet the priorities of the different groups of ACS Members.

“We're looking to define the role that ACS needs to play in this sector. To do that, we need to understand the sector, where our strengths lie, and what others expect of us.”

Dr Oppermann tied the branding review back to finding what ACS’s specialised role is for Australia’s technology workforce and posed a series of self-reflective questions being asked of and by the organisation.

“Why should people be members of the ACS?” Dr Oppermann asked.

“What can we offer to the people of the ACS? And what can we offer to the future Australia?

“How do we ensure that we have what it takes to be at those significant national conversations?”

Governance changes

Dr Oppermann said ACS would proceed with plans for major governance changes that triggered upheaval at the organisation in late 2019, but with a wildly different approach this time around.

“Our last attempt at constitutional reform and governance reform was certainly not handled well,” he said. “And there's plenty we can learn from that.”

“But also the world has moved on, ACS has moved on, and as we move through the 2020s we will see that the economy and society around us also changes quite significantly.”

Dr Oppermann outlined ACS’s plan for this next attempt at governance reform, beginning with membership consultation to identify the “key issues and goals” before checking with members that “the right concerns” are being addressed.

A draft constitution will then be presented to Congress for approval before being circulated to members for further feedback and review.

Dr Oppermann said ACS will try to reach “as many members as possible” to look at the draft constitution before conducting a membership ballot.

“We have the desire to do this well,” he said. “We have the desire to do it in a very consultative fashion.

“We want to hear member voices and we want to make sure that we are building the ACS to reflect not only the interests of members but also the role we can play in future Australian economy.”

Technology review

The last big project ACS is undergoing alongside its day-to-day operations is an overhaul of technology used internally and to deliver products and services.

“We've recently brought on board an interim CIO, Richard Wiltshire, who is now really looking deeply at how to renew our existing environment,” Grayston said.

“He is looking at the common elements of the information and technology platforms, our systems, organisational capabilities, and things that we're going to need in order to meet our organisational objectives.

“He will then be looking to design and ideate a desired state of IT infrastructure and an operating model that focuses on creating structure and collaboration and innovation across the organisation.

“Finally, we will capture all that in a three-year road map to deliver on this new operating model.”

At the conclusion the of the member Q&A, some questions were left unanswered. These have been addressed below:

Is ACS planning to expand on the offerings in the ACS Learning Accelerator portal to include more current vendor certifications?

The Learning Accelerator is a live service, so we’ll constantly be updating it to reflect current work conditions and requirements. It will depend on the particular certification, but there will be new content added to the service as time goes on.

How would you encourage more student membership?

When it comes to the strategic plan and branding review, all options are on the table, including things that might encourage more student members through price incentives, events and product offerings. One of our key goals is to ensure that different groups of members are being catered for. We know that different types of members have different needs – there’s no one size fits all solution – and students, like other member groups, are being looked at and we’re planning how to best meet the needs of those members. We believe if we can do that, then more students will come to ACS for assistance in their career journey.

Will ACS change from .org to a .com entity?

ACS will remain a member-owned not-for-profit and registered charity regardless of the outcome of the governance review. The governance review is about simplifying ACS’ currently very complex governance structure and enabling agile operational decision-making while still retaining healthy member oversight. ACS will not be “privatised” or become a commercial entity.

Would there be consideration made for members who have not been able to spend enough face-to-face time on their Continuous Professional Development in the last 12 months?

In the past year, ACS has significantly ramped up both our virtual events and online learning offerings (which qualify as CPD for Professional Year and certification CPD). This should allow people to complete CPD requirements without having to leave their home – and they have been. ACS’ Learning Accelerator, for example, saw an increase in usage of 1385% during the fiscal year. Individuals who may need advice on options to maintain or claim CPD hours are, however, encouraged to call ACS Member Services.

How do you make sure that international students are also considered for all job roles? Graduate programs are always seeking PR [permanent residence] and Australian citizens, which make it difficult for international students – are there plans to address this?

We are looking into the needs and issues that international students face in entering the Australian technology job market. We would like to be more effective in helping individuals build careers, find a professional home in ACS and become long-term ACS members. In achieving this we will also help employers of ICT professionals find capable people and will strengthen Australia’s growing digital economy.

Is there a plan to extend membership due to lockdowns?

Not at this time. Although employment across the Australian economy shrank by 1.7% in 2020, Australia’s technology workforce grew by 33,400 (or 4.3%), and growth of over 5% per annum has been forecast. To attract and retain members in this environment we should focus on creating value by researching and delivering what busy members and employers need rather than offer discounts.