The IEEE Computer Society has established a reputation for excellence within the fields of computing. As a component of the IEEE, the Computer Society's activities parallel those of 45 other IEEE societies and councils serving the computing and engineering disciplines. Representing by far the largest IEEE society contingent, the Computer Society has 85,000 members, approximately 60 percent of whom are full IEEE members.
Recognizing the impact of the IEEE leadership over the Computer Society and in turn the power of Computer Society members' votes to influence the selection of the IEEE leadership, we posed questions to this year's IEEE president-elect candidates. Because this election determines who will serve as president-elect in 2010, president in 2011, and past president in 2012—vital positions within the IEEE's governing body—our members must cast informed votes.
Our volunteer leaders have identified the following questions as essential to the Computer Society, the IEEE, and the Computer Society's relationship with the IEEE. The first response to each question states the Computer Society's position. These positions synthesize the views of our most senior leadership: the Society's current, past, and incoming presidents. We present these questions and answers (limited to 150 words each) to help you make your decision in the IEEE annual election. Only ballots received by noon, central time, on 1 October 2009 will be counted.
We also remind and encourage you to cast your vote for Computer Society leaders by 5 October 2009 in our Society election.
—Jim Isaak, IEEE Computer Society President-Elect
Question 1: Financial Management
1 As IEEE President, how would you ensure that the IEEE follows prudent financial management practices and prevents excessive growth of the infrastructure? What investments should be made now to support future IEEE growth?
Computer Society Position
1 The Computer Society would encourage the IEEE president to lead the IEEE Board of Directors in limiting corporate spending. Increases in IEEE corporate spending lead to decreases in funding allocations for all IEEE societies, therefore decreasing the ability of each of the societies to offer services tailored to the technical needs of their members.
The IEEE president should work with volunteers and staff to ensure that spending proposals have prudent and realistic goals, are thoroughly reviewed, and are financially sound. Spending decisions should not result in a deficit budget. Each proposal should have targeted goals, periodic evaluations, and a final assessment report, all reviewed by the IEEE Board. IEEE must control its infrastructure costs by automating and outsourcing operations. IEEE should focus on investments that improve support for members and customers: a first-class online system and investments that open new markets to attract new members, serving new members and customers worldwide.
1 IEEE has had chronic difficulty in managing its business and its priorities. Recently, the new IEEE Executive Director (ED) accepted responsibility for managing the infrastructure, including the large IT unit. Once in office, I will work closely with the ED to ascertain that he has control over these costs and is managing them appropriately. I will request that the IEEE Finance Committee (FinCom) receives a monthly accounting of the infrastructure expenses. I will propose a restructuring of FinCom's work to have a strong focus on forecast management and spending control with emphasis on multiyear planning. I will support the recently started annual Strategic Program Assessment activities that should allow phasing out lower-priority programs and launching successful higher-priority ones, without constantly adding new resources. Finally, we have to invest in new revenue sources. The current ones are facing significant threats or are not growing at the needed rate.
1 Prudent financial management is always needed, but given the global economic downturn, it is now more urgent than ever. I believe that in 2010, and possibly in 2011, we will need to exercise cost containment across the IEEE and rethink many of our routine activities (such as face-to-face committee meetings and new initiative spending). I support close oversight of infrastructure costs by the Financial Committee and the IEEE Executive Director, as well as continuous benchmarking by comparing IEEE's infrastructure cost levels to those of similar organizations.
When new spending is proposed, independent analysis of all associated infrastructure costs should accompany each proposal.
At the same time, I support new spending that would increase our future membership and diversify our lines of business. We should also continue to enhance our principal products (especially the IEEE/IET Electronic Library) to ensure the IEEE's dominance in the marketplace and to deepen customer loyalty.
1 We are a large organization with almost 400,000 members, several thousand active volunteers, and more than 1,000 employees working together to serve the profession. As we grow the institute we need to ensure that we are offering all services at the lowest cost to our members.
We all need to work together to prevent excessive infrastructure growth and to reduce our current infrastructure costs. To accomplish this we must do a better job of evaluating overall infrastructure costs. Our current process requires that each organizational unit evaluate the costs within their OU. The shortfall of this process is that there is no overall evaluation. Such an evaluation can eliminate duplication of services, reduce redundant processes, identify inefficiencies, and reduce overall costs.
As for future investments, we need to determine a better way to serve the diversity of membership that does not fit the current model of Society membership.
Question 2: Serving the Membership
2 How can the IEEE help the CS to continue to fulfill its objective of being the leading society for computing professionals?
Computer Society Position
2 The Computer Society strives to serve the research and practitioner communities by connecting the two to inform and inspire each other. The Computer Society faces competition from other professional associations that can offer membership and other products at lower fees. The IEEE can assist the Society's efforts by supporting membership development efforts, minimizing cost increases, and eliminating internal layers of bureaucracy that are a barrier to serving its members and customers.
In the past, the Computer Society has taken the lead in providing key services from the digital library to certification, only to find that the IEEE develops overlapping services. We must find ways to leverage the investments, lessons learned, and priorities of both organizations, and at the same time recognize the significant differences of the computing profession.
2 The responsibility for achieving the goal of being the leading Society for computing professionals rests primarily with the Society itself. CS must: develop products which are attractive to students and young professionals; continue attracting to its active ranks the world class computing professionals; have products and services that are of the highest quality; identify niche areas that are not being explored by others; and, finally, make sure it uses cost-effective operational practices. IEEE can help by seeking to understand the real issues that are causing CS to be in a disadvantageous position; simplifying administrative practices to facilitate attracting members and volunteers; having procedures in place that will allow the Society to reach computer science/engineering students early in their program; and have a competitive membership cost structure. I supported the recent competitive initiative that is helping CS today, and I will continue to support adding flexibility to the affiliate membership.
2 The Board of Directors recently approved a three-year enhanced competitiveness initiative focused on the Computer Society. I supported this effort through my work with the IEEE New Initiatives Committee, and believe that we should follow through with this program in spite of the economic pressures that may cancel or delay other new projects. Furthermore, I believe we need to conduct market segmentation analysis to discover where the Computer Society has a competitive advantage; where emerging markets, not yet tapped by any association, may be developing; and in what areas other non-IEEE groups or organizations have an insurmountable edge. Focusing the IEEE's resources on key promising segments within the large scope of computing will be more advantageous to us than a "blanket" approach. We need to select those segments of computing that we can serve with the high quality and professional authority that must characterize all IEEE activities.
2 The IEEE can assist the Computer Society in fulfilling its objective of being the leading society for computing professionals by reviewing and adjusting the model by which we offer society memberships. Our current model requires that members join multiple societies if their current field of interest spans several societies. If we take a different approach, we can engage a larger segment of the profession and improve our overall relevance to the profession.
Our members have developed technologies that can assist us in this area, and we need to utilize these technologies if we are to remain the largest technical professional society in the world. We need to determine if it is time to offer virtual society memberships whereby an individual has electronic access to products and services of several societies while not being a member of those societies. The overall objective would be to provide more services to more members.
Question 3: Membership modelS
3 How do we overcome the perception that the IEEE is for "engineers" when a significant portion of Computer Society members come from other disciplines, as do the vast majority of potential members?
Computer Society Position
3 The IEEE president can support the development of a new membership model that would allow more flexibility in membership requirements to increase IEEE's membership and improve membership value. Currently, IEEE requires that all student members join the IEEE. This policy excludes large segments of the Computer Society's potential membership. The Society supports the establishment of a student affiliate category to attract a large student membership in computer science, software engineering, and information technology programs that may not have an association with engineering. IEEE should allow student chapters to be established in computer science and IT departments as well as engineering departments. Other IEEE programs often get an "engineering" imprint, including Women in Engineering and TryEngineering.org, losing significant connection with the nonengineering professions that reflects the greatest growth opportunities for the Society. Our challenge is to be excellent for engineers, but also visible and equally capable in nonengineering technology domains.
3 Perception issues are difficult to change in a short time frame. IEEE is recognized worldwide as a leading engineering organization, but today there are already many IEEE members and volunteers who are not engineers. In order to change this perception, IEEE must create opportunities for involvement that are more visible, for example, establishing awards in areas outside engineering that will recognize leading contributors on these fields. IEEE must be able to set up multiple chapters at a single education institution. It must develop and properly advertise products aiming at nonengineering professionals and must ensure that the input of these individuals is valued and recognized. IEEE should also utilize its Public Visibility initiative to spread the word that IEEE is more than just engineering and that it is already making an impact in other areas and disciplines. A successful effort in this direction will require funds, and I will support such appropriation.
3 This effort is both needed and difficult. It is needed because the IEEE covers many areas that are not considered traditionally "engineering." We are likely to continue and even accelerate our entry into nonengineering disciplines. It is difficult because we do not want to create a sense of distancing from the many engineers who are in the IEEE for very good reasons (since many of the IEEE's fields are within engineering).
In my estimate, our best starting point is with student members. We need to abandon the tradition that each school can only have a single IEEE student branch (often housed in an engineering department). Rather, we should invest in the creation and expansion of IEEE student activities in academic departments of computer science, information technology, materials science, physics, and even life sciences. Even though changing the "engineering only" perception may take time, it is high time for us to start.
3 We can overcome this perception by focusing on the positives of the IEEE and not feeding the perception. The IEEE brand is recognized worldwide as a symbol of excellence in technological development. The IEEE is a leader in the development of standards, in the publication of technical information, and in offering technological conferences. Our intellectual database is second to none. We need to promote the positives of the IEEE and strive to fulfill our core mission of fostering technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.
The IEEE is for all technological professionals in our broad fields of interest. We are the largest technical professional society in the world, and we need to actively invite others to join.
Question 4: Presidential priorities
4 What are your three most important priorities for your presidential year, and how do you intend to accomplish these priorities?
Computer Society Position
4 No IEEE Computer Society position.
4 In addition to corporate fiscal responsibility (see question 1) my three priorities are: volunteer engagement and satisfaction; transnational participation; and cost-effective services essential to career growth (addressed in question 5).
Volunteers are IEEE's most precious asset, and it is often taken for granted that volunteer resources will always be available. Volunteers must be nurtured and cultivated. I will ensure that Board and corporate policy decisions always balance volunteer expectations with IEEE business requirements.
One IEEE strategic goal is to become a model global organization. Therefore IEEE must understand the needs of the worldwide community from their perspective. IEEE's governance must adapt to the evolving demographics of members, volunteers, and IP contributors. As 2011 IEEE president, I will lead a revision of the governance structure, increase the channels for equal participation of members globally, and start a process to move some IEEE operational functions to staff located around the world.
(1) Implement new directions focusing on practicing professionals, including
a. creating a Professional Activities Board in the IEEE to address the needs of practitioners and help with training, networking, and continuing education;
b. developing an online anthology of practice-oriented papers and publications selected from IEEE publications, with inline commentary and reader comments;
c. developing and distributing online educational modules for continuing education, making the IEEE a major player in professional certification; and
d. Introducing corporate membership in the IEEE.
(2) Develop new means to incorporate into the IEEE's portfolio new technologies and technical areas that fit the IEEE's mission, such as disciplines from the interface between electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, and life sciences.
(3) Increase the value of membership by providing members with more choices in selecting membership options and services. Allow members more freedom in deciding which IEEE activities they wish to participate in (and pay for).
4 As I have stated in my position statement, we need to provide an improved focus on the IEEE. My priorities are to Focus on the Member, Focus on the Business, and Focus on the Operation.
• Via a proper Focus on the Member, we can improve the overall member experience, increase member engagement opportunities, evaluate member benefits, enhance Society membership, and provide improved leadership training.
• Via a proper Focus on the Business, we can improve staff development, fully evaluate our infrastructure costs, implement project management concepts, improve the management of our assets, and strive for service excellence.
• Via a proper Focus on the Operation, we can evaluate and update our strategic alignment, improve the volunteer/staff relationship, use consensus building, and align the IEEE Board and the Executive Director.
If we provide the correct focus, we can build a better TEAM IEEE. For additional details visit www.ieee.joelillie.com
Question 5: Reaching Practitioners
5 The IEEE and the Computer Society are challenged with attracting and retaining practitioners. How can the IEEE help the Computer Society offer practitioner-oriented products and services?
Computer Society Position
5 To remain viable in today's environment, the IEEE president should understand that both the Computer Society and the IEEE must expand their traditional membership base. To reach a new type of practitioner, it will be necessary to offer a different type of product and service. IT professionals require easy access to practical, "how to" information that can be applied to solve their work problems. The most effective approach would be a collaborative, coordinated effort between the societies and the IEEE. Societies have traditionally been responsible for creating IEEE products. The IEEE can help societies like the CS by providing resources for market research, marketing and administrative support, and funding for new initiative projects aimed at professional development. Quality peer-review research is an essential competency of the IEEE and the CS, but practitioners need a much wider range of information. We must find practical applications for our competencies as well.
5 Relevance to industry, its management, and practitioners is essential for the continued success of IEEE. IEEE cannot serve only academia. I will push for reduced bureaucratic procedures allowing expedited launching of products and services when there is a clear market demand. I also support creating a separate area in Xplore where articles of interest to practitioners would be posted without following the same review process adopted for scientific papers. It is essential to engage industry leaders in defining the content and distribution format of IEEE services and to create a forum in the society governance for their contribution. As VP-Technical Activities, I appointed an Industry Advisory Committee that made several proposals that are now being implemented through the New Technologies Directions Committee (NTDC) that I chair. Current NTDC initiatives are market driven and are led by high-level industry managers. I expect this model will benefit CS as well as other IEEE units.
5 The current model through which IEEE receives, edits, and distributes intellectual property will not help address the needs of practitioners. The near-real-time information that practitioners require will not be contributed by volunteer authors who are eager to get published, and it won't be timely if it goes through our current lengthy review processes. Rather, we will have to develop and hire professional technical writers and authors (writing more in the style of Dr. Dobb's and Electronic Design than our Transactions). The articles and news flashes that we need will not be on underlying scientific principles and theory, but on product development, specifications, market news, industrial standards, compatibility, and interoperability.
The shortest path for the IEEE to develop such information resources is to form alliances with existing providers who operate in this field, and to consider a strategic acquisition campaign that adds this new segment of information services to the IEEE.
5 The IEEE, Computer Society, and all IEEE societies must work together on this issue. One barrier to sustained membership is the membership cost. As indicated in other answers, we can reduce our overall costs and thus the cost of membership. We must take a hard look at electronic-only membership where member benefits and communications are all electronic and are thus provided at a lower cost.
The second issue is member engagement opportunities. We know that we can do a better job of creating opportunities for members to come together to work on issues of common interest. These can be virtual gatherings of two or more members utilizing technologies that our members developed.
Each year, we recruit several thousand new members who do not maintain their membership for many years. If we reduce the costs of membership and improve the engagement opportunities, we can better serve the practitioner member.