Long overdue CICA changes

For a couple of years, I have been growing concerned about the apparent decline of the UK’s Construction Industry Computing Association (CICA). BIW Technologies is a member of CICA, and as head of corporate communications, I have been responsible for managing our relationship with the association. It now appears that the CICA is undergoing yet another major change.

First, some background. BIW joined the CICA a few years ago, and I attended the CICA annual convention in Cambridge in 2003. This was a well-attended affair, at which I made a few good contacts and learned a good deal, but other CICA events since then – despite the valiant efforts of the secretariat team of Ian Hamilton (now retired), Erik Winterkorn and Suzanne Restall – have been less well-attended (see my post on last year’s CICA convention), and the organisation seems to have stood still in recent years.

The red and white corporate identity of the organisation was dated; the CICA newsletter looked old-fashioned; I have no idea if IT buyers find the CICA software directory useful (it’s not even available online); and the CICA website is, frankly, depressing: poorly designed, disorganised, and rarely updated. I hoped that the incorporation of the CICA into the National Computing Centre (2004) might see a more professional approach to marketing and PR by the CICA, but there was almost no progress – although I did get a copy of the NCC’s magazine every now and again.

(On a slightly more positive note, the CICA did at least also help arrange a meeting between the NCCTP and the CICA Major Architects IT Group last November – see Moaning architects (4); and the seminar programme occasionally throws up an interesting event – I am looking forward to the 15 March seminar on Marketing and e-commerce (see PDF)).

This morning, though, I received an email from CICA chairman Roy Harper (encouragingly, this had a new-look CICA logo – same typeface, but now white on a orangy red background, with a strapline: "Dedicated to promoting the effective use of information technology in the construction industry" in a grey bar underneath). Roy explained:

"Over the last few months The National Computing Centre has conducted an in-depth review of the CICA business. After careful consideration of all the factors involved and consultation with CICA staff, NCC has decided, in the interests of the membership and the business, to centralise administration and finance services at the Manchester office. As a direct result of this decision, the CICA office in Melbourn, will close by March 2006.

After consultations, Erik and Suzanne have both decided to leave the CICA, and NCC has appointed Davendra Patel to take up a new position of Sector Manager (Construction), based in Manchester, to coordinate and carry forward CICA interests. Roy adds:

"Whilst the programme of CICA events and benefits will continue, Davendra will be looking at the wider National Computing Centre assets and subsidiaries to see how CICA members can gain access and benefit from the programmes that are relevant to the construction industry. Davendra will be charged with expanding the membership and tailoring programmes to the construction industry’s needs so the industry can exploit IT effectively."

I wish Erik and Suzanne well in their future endeavours, and I also wish Davendra well. Speaking from the perspective of an increasingly disenchanted CICA member, I think he will have to work quickly to arrest the CICA’s decline, and give it a new sense of identity, purpose and relevance. It will not be an easy task, particularly as the CICA is competing for attention with organisations such as the IT Construction Forum and Construct IT for Business which are also going through periods of change (I have to ask: do we as an industry really need several different UK construction IT organisations? Surely, it would make sense for some to amalgamate?)

Hopefully, this morning’s email is just the first positive sign of a new professional approach to the CICA’s affairs. If it isn’t carried through, I am sure BIW will not be only one allowing its membership to lapse.

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