What is an ICT professional according to Australian Association of computer
The ACS Professional Standards Board (2007) deems an ICT professional as
someone eligible for its professional level of membership. That individual
should possess the following knowledge, skills and capabilities:
– • Factual and theoretical knowledge of ICT in broad contexts.
– • Advanced, coherent body of knowledge in a discipline/field involving
critical understanding of theories and principles.
– • Advanced skills, demonstrating mastery and innovation required to
solve complex and unpredictable problems in a discipline/field of ICT.
– • Exercise management and supervision [skills] in contexts of work
activities where there is unpredictable change.
– • [Competent to] Take responsibility for complex technical and
professional activities or projects.
– • [Competent to] Review and develop performance of self and others.
In this context, the descriptors the ACS uses to define levels of
membership can be stated as:
– • Knowledge: facts, information and skills acquired through experience
– • Skills: the ability to perform a task.
– • Capability: a standard necessary to perform a specific job.
Underpinning this choice of descriptors is the skills framework for the
information age (SFIA), which is described as providing ‘a common reference
model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective
information systems (IS) making use of information technologies (IT)’.
SFIA is a two-dimensional table that represents skill sets on one dimension
and levels of responsibility, or capability, on the other. A tabular view
of SFIA subset is provided in Figure 1 below.
The ACS considers that graduates from most, but not all, Australian ICT
degree programs can, after 18 months relevant industry experience, perform
at SFIA Level of Responsibility 4 (Enable). With further experience, and
studies within the ACS CPe program, its graduates are expected to have
achieved SFIA Level of Responsibility 5 (Ensure, advise) and be eligible
for professional level membership.
Figure 1: A subset of the SFIA
Source: Extracted from SFIA, 2008c
SFIA Levels of Responsibility 4 and 5 are defined Table 1a and 1b below.
Table 1a: Definition of SFIA Level of Responsibility 4
SFIA Level of Responsibility 4 (Enable)
Works under general direction within a clear framework of accountability.
Substantial personal responsibility and autonomy. Plans own work, to meet
given objectives and processes.
Influences team, and specialist peers internally. Influences customers at
account level and suppliers. Some responsibility for work of others and
allocation of resources. Participates in external activities related to
specialisation. Decisions influence success of projects and team objectives.
Broad range of complex technical or professional work activities in a
variety of contexts.
Selects appropriately from applicable standards, methods, tools and
applications and use. Demonstrates analytical and systematic approach to
problem solving. Communicates fluently orally and in writing and can
present complex technical information to both technical and non-technical
audiences. Is able to plan, schedule and monitor work activities in order
to meet time and quality targets and in accordance with health and safety
procedures. Is able to absorb rapidly new technical information and apply
it effectively. Good appreciation of wider field of information systems,
its use in relevant employment areas and how it relates to the business
activities of the employer or client. Maintains awareness of developing
technologies and their application and takes some responsibility for
Source: Extracted from SFIA, 2008c
Table 1b: Definition of SFIA Level of Responsibility 5
SFIA Level of Responsibility 5 (Ensure, advise)
Works under broad direction. Full accountability for own technical work or
project/supervisory responsibilities. Receives assignments in the form of
objectives. Establishes own milestones, team objectives and delegates
assignments. Work is often self-initiated.
Challenging range and variety of complex technical or professional work
activities. Work requires application of fundamental principles in a wide
and often unpredictable range of contexts. Understands relationship between
specialism and wider customer/ organisational requirements.
Broad range of complex technical or professional work activities, in a
variety of contexts.
Advises on the available standards, methods, tools and applications in own
area of specialisation and can make correct choices from alternatives. Can
analyse, diagnose, design, plan, execute and evaluate work to time, cost
and quality targets. Communicates effectively, formally and informally,
with colleagues, subordinates and customers. Demonstrates leadership. Clear
understanding of the relationship between own area of
responsibility/specialisation to the employing organisation and takes
customer requirements into account when making proposals. Takes initiative
to keep skills up to date. Maintains awareness of developments in the
industry. Can analyse user requirements and advise users on scope and
options for operational improvement. Demonstrates creativity and innovation
in applying solutions for the benefit of the user.
Source: Extracted from SFIA, 2008c
While comprehensive in the range of skills it encompasses, SFIA has no
skills category relevant to professionalism, or professional behaviour. To
cover this area, the ACS has expanded on SFIA with an additional skill set
that, for university and CPeP graduates, are defined in Table 2 below.
Table 2: Definitions of ACS professionalism skills
SFIA Level of Responsibility 4 (Professionalism skills of university
Develops a basic risk management plan for simple projects including the
impact on social, business and ecological environments.
Identifies legal requirements and constraints imposed on the work/project
and contributes to compliance.
Commits to a code of ethics, standards and practice and can apply these in
SFIA Level of Responsibility 5 (Professionalism skills of CPeP graduates).
Develops a risk management plan for projects including the impact on
social, business and ecological environments and ensures compliance.
Ensures compliance with all legal/regulatory requirements.
Ensures compliance with appropriate professional codes of ethics, standards
Source: Extracted from SFIA, 2008c
An ICT professional, therefore, is someone who has full accountability for
their own technical work and responsibilities; whose decisions can impact
on the success of projects; who develops business relationships with
customers; who must apply fundamental principles in a wide and often
unpredictable range of contexts; and, who can analyse, diagnose, design,
plan, execute and evaluate work to time, cost and quality targets. In
addition, they can communicate effectively, demonstrate leadership, and
keep their skills up to date. They are creative, innovative, and aware of
their impact on social, business and ecological environments. Their
knowledge and actions are able to influence direction within the
organisation, their peers and industry.
Are there grades of ICT professionalism
An ICT professional, in the view of the ACS, is someone eligible for its
professional level of membership. This level is not easily achieved and
thus, in the view of the ACS, ICT professionals are a subset, perhaps a
small subset, of the generality of ICT practitioners.
But the ease or difficulty of gaining ACS membership at the professional
level is not the consideration here. It is whether membership at this level
means something about the person who gains the professional level of
membership and, therefore, also suggests something about other
practitioners who are not members at the professional level.
The ACS professional level of membership aims to be a differentiator
between ICT practitioners, who the ACS verifies as reliable and competent
at SFIA level of responsibility 5, and others, who might be less than
reliable at that level. Those with the ACS professional level of membership
can use their membership as evidence for prospective employers and clients
of their professional abilities. Those who are not ACS professional level
members will require additional evidence, and additional corroboration, to
justify similar claims.
Note that the ACS is not aiming to be elitist or exclusive with its
professional level of membership. There are other levels of membership with
less onerous prerequisites. The associate level, for instance, is mapped to
the SFIA level of responsibility 3 (Apply). But it is the objective of the
ACS for its members at these other levels to raise their knowledge, skills
and capabilities to the level of the professional. The ACS aims to be both
an inclusive organisation, and an organisation that encourages continuing
professional development amongst its members.
Indicative of the ACS view of professionalism is that the majority of
assessments in its CPe program do not have a grade for exceptional
achievement. Instead, most items of assessment are graded 0, 1, or 2 —
where 2 is measured as at or exceeds expectations. The ACS does not view
professionalism in multiple grades. Rather, a person is either an ICT
professional, or they are not. They either meet the criteria for membership
at the professional level, or they do not. They can either take on
professional responsibilities at SFIA level 5, or they cannot.
What is professional development for ICT professionals
The ACS specifies its professional level of membership in terms of
knowledge, skills and capability. Professions Australia defines a
profession in similar terms; the possession of ‘special knowledge and
skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research,
education and training at a high level’ (Professions Australia, 1997).
Considering, again, the definitions of an ICT professional provided above,
it seems reasonable now to define professional development as the
acquisition of, and the continuing possession and use of, facts,
information, and skills necessary to perform a task.
It is important to distinguish between the ‘acquisition of … facts,
information and skills’, and the ‘continuing possession of … facts,
information and skills’. The first is initial professional development
(IPD), and the second is continuing professional development (CPD).
The UK Initial Professional Development Forum defines IPD as ‘a period of
development during which an individual acquires a level of capability
necessary in order to operate as an autonomous professional’. It goes on to
clarify the concept with the statement ‘Professional bodies may recognise
the successful completion of IPD by the award of chartered or similar
Engineers Australia states ‘Continuing Professional Development (CPD) helps
you maintain up-to-date technical skills and knowledge of processes,
technology and legislation. It also enables you to attain and maintain your
Chartered Status’ (2009).
The ACS now follows a similar strategy. To achieve its professional level
of membership, an applicant is required to have a minimum of four years
relevant experience and, in addition, have completed a course of study
encompassing the ACS core body of knowledge. This entitles an applicant to
use the postnominal MACS (Member of the ACS).
But, to use the post-nominal MACS CP, indicating an ACS-recognised
certified professional, a MACS must complete the ACS CPe program. Initial
professional development, therefore, is a course of study, typically a
university degree in some aspect of ICT, plus experience, plus postgraduate
studies in professionalism (that is, the ACS CPe program).
Then, to maintain their CP status, a member must complete, annually, at
least 30 hours of professional development; which is to say, continuing
professional development. Unlike IPD, the ACS view of CPD is that it should
be self-directed. Except for its quantity, and that it must be relevant to
a practicing computer professional at SFIA level 5 or above, the ACS does
not prescribe what the professional development must comprise.
Where, on the scale of academically oriented education versus
competency-based training, does ICT professional development lie
To achieve the ACS professional level of membership, an applicant requires
a minimum of four years relevant experience plus the completion of a course
of study encompassing the ACS core body of knowledge. The ACS, therefore,
deems professionalism to be acquired only through a combination of
education and experience.
It seems obvious that, if professionalism is defined in terms of knowledge,
skills and capability, then a professional requires education beyond that
offered in a typical diploma or degree. They require more than just
knowledge, and more than just technical skills.
The professional requires contextual awareness; that is, how ICT, and the
numerous ICT roles in industry, fit within and influence the world of
business, society, and the environment. They also need a reasoned and
objective assessment of themselves; their own knowledge, skills and
capabilities. A person seeking a job on the basis of an innocent but
incorrect assessment of their own ability is as unprofessional as a person
who deliberately falsifies their résumé. And these two requirements lead to
the skill set the ACS has added to those of SFIA, namely, the skills
concerned with risk management.
So, where does ICT professional development lie on the academically
oriented education versus competency-based training scale? It lies across
the entire scale with, perhaps, IPD centred more towards the academically
oriented end, and CPD more towards the competency-based end.
What is achieved by teaching ethics
The ACS describes itself as a professional association. This suggests that
the practice of ICT and computing-related activities is, or should be, a
profession. An ICT practitioner in Australia, however, can claim to be an
ICT professional even though, unlike practitioners in disciplines such as
law and medicine, they do not need any form of registration or belong to a
Professions Australia describes a profession as ‘a disciplined group of
individuals who adhere to ethical standards …’ (1997). While it should not
be assumed from this that ICT practitioners in Australia who do not belong
to a professional association will necessarily behave unethically, it can
be reasonably argued that the possibility of unethical behaviour is less
likely if a person is educated and trained in the interpretation and
application of ethical standards. Further, it can be argued that a person
is less likely to behave unethically if they are subject to disciplinary
processes by their peers; which is to say, their professional association.
ACS rules and regulations (nd) include a code of ethics, extracts of which
are provided in Table 3 below.
Table 3: Extract of ACS code of ethics
4.1 To uphold and advance the honour, dignity and effectiveness of the
profession of information technology and in keeping with high standards of
competence and ethical conduct, a member must:
(a) be honest, forthright and impartial, and
(b) loyally serve the community, and
(c) strive to increase the competence and prestige of the profession, and
(d) use special knowledge and skill for the advancement of human welfare.
4.3 Values and Ideals
I must act with professional responsibility and integrity in my dealings
with the community and clients, employers, employees and students. I
I must place the interests of the community above those of personal or
I must work competently and diligently for my clients and employers.
I must be honest in my representation of skills, knowledge, services and
4.3.4 Social Implications
I must strive to enhance the quality of life of those affected by my work.
4.3.5 Professional Development
I must enhance my own professional development, and that of my colleagues,
employees and students.
4.3.6 Information Technology Profession
I must enhance the integrity of the information technology profession and
the respect of its members for each other.
Source: Taken from ACS rules and regulations (ACS, nd)
While the code of ethics is readily accessible to ACS members and people
affected by their work, it comprises general and non-specific statements
and often requires guidance in interpretation and application. This point
is supported by the ACS standards of conduct, which state that ‘A member is
expected to take into account the spirit of the Code of Ethics in order to
resolve ambiguous or contentious issues concerning ethical conduct’. In
addition, the ACS has a code of professional practice and professional
conduct, which is designed ‘to provide members with authoritative guidance
on acceptable standards of professional conduct and … is not intended to
include a multitude of detailed rules’. It goes on to say that the code
should not be ‘narrowly interpreted’ (ACS, nd).
While the ACS offers formal education programs in professional ethics, a
specialist intermediary is often required to apply the ACS code of ethics
to professional practice in the real world.
Together with its code of ethics and supporting education activities, the
ACS has implemented disciplinary procedures, see Table 4 below, which can
be applied in the event that a member behaves in a manner inconsistent with
Table 4: Nature of complaints and disciplinary action
7.1. Nature of Complaints and Disciplinary Action
7.1.1. A complaint may be made against any member who acts or fails to act
in the course of his or her professional activities in such a way as to
justify the taking of disciplinary action, including;
(a) failing to observe, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the Rules
or the National Regulations,
(b) failing to comply with, whether intentionally or unintentionally, any
ethical, professional or technical standards published by the Society,
(c) acting or failing to act so that, as a consequence, whether intended or
not, the Society is or is likely to be brought into disrepute or suffer
loss or damage,
(d) any combination of (a), (b) and (c).
7.1.2. If the complaint is substantiated, the member may be disciplined by:
(a) expulsion from the Society, or
(b) suspension from the rights of membership for a period of 3 years or
less or until imposed conditions are met, or
(c) being required to comply with conditions imposed as to the carrying out
of the member’s occupation, or
(d) being required to complete specified courses of training or
(e) caution or reprimand, or
(f) any combination of 2 or more of (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e).
Source: ACS rules and regulations (ACS, nd)
The ACS encourages its members, and their employers, to view ethical
behaviour as a risk-management strategy. Philip Argy, while president of
the ACS, wrote ‘the standards set for ACS membership and the ethics of
professionalism provide a guaranteed credential for employers and board
directors wanting to minimise their risk’, and ‘membership of the ACS at
the professional level immediately conveys to the world that you are
committed to the highest standards and maintain a level of knowledge,
expertise and mental acuity that ensures you are more able to deliver
requirements on time, on budget, and with less risk’ (2006).
This notion of ethical behaviour as a risk management strategy is
formalised such that an ICT practitioner, to graduate from the ACS’s
initial professional development program, must demonstrate capabilities
listed in Table 2 (above). Additionally, the practitioner must demonstrate
that he or she;
Carries out risk assessment within a defined functional or technical area
of business. Uses consistent processes for identifying potential risk
events, quantifying and documenting the probability of occurrence and the
impact on the business. Refers to domain experts for guidance on
specialised areas of risk, such as architecture and environment.
Co-ordinates the development of countermeasures and contingency plans.
This second skills definition is taken from SFIA, specifically the business
risk-management skill at the SFIA level 5 of responsibility titled ‘Ensure,
advise’ (SFIA Foundation, 2008c).
How does the ACS achieve its learning objectives in teaching ethics
The ACS delivers initial and continuing professional development programs
using its in-house educational group called ACSEducation. The initial
professional development programs are all delivered online, while the
majority of continuing professional development programs are delivered
ACSEducation has three full-time staff, none of whom are routinely involved
in active teaching. The teaching staff of ACSEducation are engaged on a
sessional or voluntary basis and all are senior professional members of the
ACS. Typically they have no formal training as educators and most work
outside of ACSEducation as ICT practitioners. ACSEducation is supported by
an advisory panel comprising senior ICT professionals from Australian
public- and private-sector IT organisations and, from 2010, it has been
governed by an independent academic board comprising senior university
The ACSEducation Learning Management (LM) system is an open-source product
that its developers, Moodle Pty Ltd (2008), claim to have designed on sound
pedagogical principles. The product is used by many organisations, such as
The Open University, United Kingdom (2005), both for managed learning and
Professionalism and ethics are addressed in three ACS programs; at the
postgraduate level through the ACS Professional Year (PYear) and CPe
programs; and at the undergraduate and vocational levels through the ACS
Diploma of Information Technology. In the diploma, professionalism and
ethics topics are only assessed, with teaching provided through colleges
independent of the ACS.
Professional ethics at the postgraduate level
Similar processes and practices are used for teaching professional ethics
in the PYear and CPe Programs.
The PYear is a 12-month, job-readiness program comprising three formal
subjects and a 12-week internship with a host company. Participants,
typically, are recent graduates of university courses accredited by the ACS
and most are international students seeking permanent residence in
Australia. The PYear participants are student members of the ACS and thus
bound by the ACS rules, especially as pertaining to the ACS code of ethics.
The CPe program comprises four subjects that are completed on a part-time
basis, plus a period of mentoring where a participant works one-to-one with
a senior member of the ACS. Participants in the CPe program, normally, are
graduates of an ACS-accredited university degree with at least 18-months
experience who are employed in an ICT-related role. Most are professional
grade members of the ACS who, like their PYear colleagues, are bound by the
ACS rules pertaining to ethics and professional conduct. Participants in
the CPe program, typically, will start with the professional ethics subject
titled Business, Legal and Ethical Issues.
Like their colleagues in the PYear, participants studying professional
ethics in the CPe program use the ACSEducation LM system to access learning
materials, submit assessment items, and contribute to weekly discussion
forums. The following discussion provides a general overview of the ACS
postgraduate professional ethics subject.
Students in the first week of the professional ethics subject are presented
with the following statement:
In preparing this subject it has been assumed that you and your fellow
students are over-achievers; self-motivated, disciplined, and determined to
succeed. You have extensive prior knowledge and experience relevant to your
study; you are open-minded about sharing your work and educational
experiences; and you accept critical thinking as part of the learning
In this statement, the ACS is recognising that postgraduate study —
specifically, postgraduate study in professional ethics — differentiates
its participants from the majority of the population, including the
majority of ICT practitioners. It implies that professional ethics is a
specialised pursuit critical to the success of someone seeking to be, and
to be recognised as being, an ICT professional.
All subjects in the CPe program require 8 to 10 hours of study per week for
13 weeks. The content of the professional ethics subject is structured as
in Table 5 below.
Table 5: Content of Business Legal & Ethical Issues subject
Module 1 (weeks 1–3) The role of IT Professionals in Business.
What is a professional?
The client/professional relationship.
Corporate culture and personal values.
Frameworks to resolve ethical issues in the workplace.
Module 2 (weeks 4–6) Risk Management Frameworks.
Risk management principles and concepts:
IT Risk Management.
Module 3 (weeks 7–9) IT Governance.
IT Governance Regulatory Frameworks.
IT Governance’s role in ISO/IEC38500:2006 IT GOVERNANCE standard.
Module 4 (weeks 10–13) Managing Risk in the Business.
Risk management issues, challenges and compliance with respect to social,
business and ecological environments.
The ACS takes a more practical than normative approach to teaching
professional ethics. Nowhere in the required readings, for example, is
there mention of deontology or utilitarianism, though participants may
encounter such concepts in their ancillary readings. Most effort is given
to examining practical situations of ethical significance and discussing
with colleagues the applicability to those situations of the ACS code of
ethics, different risk-management frameworks, and standards of IT
A teaching week in the ACS professional ethics subject has two sessions;
Sunday to Wednesday and Thursday to Saturday. In the first session,
participants work individually, reading and, based on their personal and
professional experiences, answering tutor-supplied questions. In the second
session they work collaboratively in cohorts of up to 20 discussing and
debating the questions previously answered individually.
The role of the tutor in the professional ethics subject is to set
questions and monitor discussions. Tutors must redirect dialogue that
strays from the required theme, encourage less assertive participants to
enter into an exchange of ideas, gently restrain dominating participants,
and reprove participants who fail to contribute.
For their contribution to weekly discussions, participants are graded, as
noted previously, with no differentiation between work at, and work above,
an expected standard. It is assumed that work above an expected standard
will necessitate a participant not fulfilling their responsibilities in
another aspect of their life; maybe professional or family. In a similar
vein, participants who contribute below an expected standard are not only
awarded low marks, but they are told that their behaviour is unprofessional
in that they are not assisting with the learning of their colleagues.
Assessment of discussion forums accounts for 20 per cent of the marks in
Weekly discussions rely on each participant sharing their knowledge, skills
and experience with their colleagues with the aim to address, as expressed
here by the International Federation of Accountants, the reality that;
In the case of complex ethical situations it is unlikely that there will be
only one ‘right’ answer. While analysis may not give a single ‘right’
answer to a problem or dilemma, it may lead to one or more answers that are
more consistent with the fundamental principles … (2007)
The approach of using weekly discussions separates the CPe program from
many others courses that teach professional ethics and, in the view of
ACSEducation, this process increases its educational effectiveness.
Participants are obliged to reflect upon professional ethics every day in
their workplaces and debate points of view with colleagues whose workplaces
may be different from their own.
In Week 6 of their 13 weeks in the professional ethics subject,
participants submit an assignment addressing ethical issues as described in
three case studies. Again, quoting the International Federation of
Accountants, the aim is;
By learning to analyze case studies and examples of ethical threats,
individuals realize that problems and ethical dilemmas do have solutions.
On Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 1:45 PM, Collins Areba via kictanet <