More criticism of the ACS


Business people fighting at the desk in office

blog You may remember that a few weeks ago, outspoken chief executive Matt Barrie posted an extensive rant on LinkedIn calling for the Australian Computer Society to be disbanded, describing the IT professional body as a “joke”. Well, the ACS fired back to justify its existence, but Barrie’s not alone in his criticism. Last week we noticed this opinion piece by well-known IT industry figure Tony Healy, published by the Sydney Morning Herald. In Healy writes (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“… the ACS aggressively seeks to control the important software engineering profession in Australia, but is hopelessly ill-equipped to do so … I understand that less than 5 per cent of the professional IT workforce belongs to the ACS, and the organisation is universally derided by the profession and industry.”

While I don’t personally have any hard information about incompetence and misrepresentation at the ACS, and I have had a number of positive engagements with the organisation from a journalistic perspective, I would back Healy’s comments that the ACS has a broadly poor reputation amongst the wider IT industry. It is a rare occasion indeed when an IT professional of my acquaintance praises the ACS, and most that I know go out of their way to avoid it. Healy’s comments, I feel, are pretty representative.

Of course, as I wrote when Barrie made his initial comments, there is still scope for positive change at the ACS. The mark of a truly reactive organisation is one which will listen to the criticism of its customers or constituents and change itself along the way they need. Let’s hope the ACS can go down this path — Australia does need a few strong professional IT bodies and the ACS at least has some weight and momentum behind it.


  1. I have to say; lots of the criticism of the ACS appears to revolve around them not being “relevant” for an individual. But; its like a club. You either want to be part of it or you don’t. No one makes you join.

    Thankfully (or not?) there is no legislation that *requires* membership to practice in the ICT field – like other professions.

    And as far as I can tell; no one makes a hiring decision based on membership.

    The only role I see them doing that “requires” you pay them, is for the skilled workers looking to migrate to Australia. In which case; all of the professions have *someone* you need to pay for that skills validation.

    (And I don’t know, but suspect there are other institutions that offer the same validation in the ICT field? but I might be wrong there).

    • The ACS is the only organisation that is written into professional awards for computer related work. When a company I worked for folded a few years ago there were various things parts of the award that you needed to be “elligable to be a member of the ACS”. Public servants being what they are, and all of us being paid out under the GEERS scheme, they didn’t accept that working for up to 30 years in IT made you elligable to be a member, so we had to join the ACS. The only way to be a member of the ACS is to have them acredit you. All of us qualified as certified professionals, but we were pretty much forced in to joining by the DEEWR. I guess they have to minimise their payments, but refusing certain payouts for people because parts said “elligable to be a member of the ACS” when they had worked in the industry 20 or more years is a bit rich.

      • Agreed, but that is government red tape for you.

        Presumably you were on the government “Professional” rate, and the “Payout” you refer to was a scale relating to “Professionals”. So, if you were acting as an accountant or being paid the “professional” rate in the public service, and being made redundant in the same way, you would also need to be “eligible to be a member of [insert accounting standards body]”.

        Even if you didn’t need to be a certified accountant to do the job [you just had 30 years experience doing the books and ended up in the job in the public sector]. If you didn’t have the qualifications that immediately give you the right to membership [of the accounting standards body]; you too would have had to gain “certification” from the accounting standards body to receive the payout.

        This is a peculiar instance, but I don’t think it was just IT professionals that were required to be certified (by someone). It may be that all of the accountants, lawyers and other professionals were already certified [or elligible to be]. But I doubt it absolved them of the need to be so in order to get the payout that applied to their position.

  2. Why are we still talking about ACS? They haven’t been relevant in the Australian IT industry in… Ever? at least for as long as I’ve heard of them.

  3. ACS does not represent the true Australian IT Professionals and has absolutely no right to claim to do so. Having completed a Uni degree in any discipline does NOT make someone a “Professional” .. professionalism requires commitment & dedication … preparedness to go the extra mile, to give 150%; to throw away the “too hard basket” ; ppl with a “hacker mentality” are an absolute asset ! I have generally found ACS Members & many ppl with Uni degrees in IT to be potentially dangerous, generally inexperienced, and generally having a 9 to 5 mentality and attitude towards the job.. at the risk of being labelled as biased I will say that most of them were total tossers in addition to their other failings!!.

    After interviewing quite a few ACS members I quickly changed my employment criteria & made a point of looking at proven experience AND/OR what job applicants did for “hobbies/relaxation etc” …. anyone who stated that they “dabbled” with Unix or programming or hacking programs etc etc as a “hobby” has pretty much got themselves a job!!

    Interestingly I found a significant quantity of ACS members AND some ppl with IT degrees made the statement that they either (a) did not have their own computer (as they did it all day for work so why would they bring work home!!!) or (b) they only had ONE computer and just used it for email !!! The ppl who had 4 computers at home & who dabbled in Linux or programming etc generally did NOT have a uni degree and none of them were in the ACS. These ppl were employed & I have never regretted employing a single one of them .. without exception they have all proven themselves to be diligent, intelligent & prepared to go the extra mile.

    Whether or not someone has an IT degree is pretty much irrelevant – in my experience, ppl with a “hacker mentality” and attitudes are far more professional than the so-called “IT professionals” who join &/or get_accredited through ACS.

    NB: If you dont like what I have to say… delete it …. all Flames WILL be sent to /dev/null

    • “Whether or not someone has an IT degree is pretty much irrelevant – in my experience, ppl with a “hacker mentality” and attitudes are far more professional than the so-called “IT professionals” who join &/or get_accredited through ACS”

      I couldn’t agree more. Some of the worst people in IT I have worked with have been those with degrees when those without have left them for dead. This isn’t always the case. I did my degree, not much choice in IT when I did it. Computing in the science or business stream, that was it. So I did BSci (comp) with maths and electronics. The maths and electronics was great, the computing a waste of 3 years. When it comes down to it IT is such a rapidly changing area of expertise, you either love it and read white papers as bed time reading, keep up with all the latest developments, try and better yourself or fail. Some people see degrees as teaching all you need to know, when in reality they barely get you started. BTW, you can’t become a MACS CP unless you have 5 years of industry experience after your degree. At least they recognise a degree doesn’t make an IT professional.

  4. I care little about the ACS, but if Sloth is an example of “professional” then I think the ACS has a big fight on its hand, since there are clearly people who will preach to everyone, but not listen to a soul, except those who agree with them.

  5. Hello Oliver & other readers: After “hacking computers & programs” for the last 35 years (yes you read it right .. 35 Years – I was 23 years old when I started playing with computers – I am now 58 !! ) and running a very successful IT Support company for the last 15+ years I believe I have earned the right to send flames to /dev/null – I do however, happily take constructive criticism on board .. there is a world of difference between flaming & constructive criticism!!

    I do make a point of ensuring I learn something new everyday & that process includes changing my opinions in the face of constructive criticism or evidence, however, I am not currently in possession of any evidence that would cause me to change my opinion of the ACS; so, that which I wrote, and which is based on my experiences with ACS, and, ppl who are members of the ACS, will continue to be the basis for my negative opinion of the ACS and the fact that I believe they do not have the right to claim to represent Australian IT Professionals !!. I do not see how my experiences & opinions makes me some sort of “example of PROFESSIONAL” … it may however indicate that I am a semi-retired grumpy geriatric IT Guru!! LOL

    • Geriatric at 58? Wash your mouth out Slothy
      We’re not pushing up the daisies in the least till we’re 6 feet under! :{Þ

  6. The problem is that the ACS does not accurately represent the workers in the industry, but they have managed to weazle themselves into official recognition via government which does give them some influence. A colleague in the UK who wanted to migrate to Australia eventually gave up the move after being bamboozled by ever changing government entry requirements and eventually some absolutely absurd “CV review” fee that the ACS were going to charge to rubber stamp his work history. This guy is top quality, an asset for the country he chooses to live in, but red tape govt/ACS crap lost out for Australia. As I understand it the ACS are top heavy in influence from off-shore service providers – they DO NOT represent my interests nor I think the interest of keeping a viable competing industry alive.

    The reality is that IT does need a representative body. The ACS are crap and through neglect have been commandeered by other interest groups. The workers meanwhile are too well-off to get motivated to take back control.

  7. Most other successful professional bodies are protected by legislation, eg Doctors, Lawyers, and various Assocations/Unions. Without a requirement to join the ACS if you want a job, the IT industry has boomed, and the ACS has lingered and is only relevant to those who choose to join it, and maybe public servants.

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