BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT
Online Community for the People who Brought us Online Everything
Categories
Membership, Online Community
BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT has 60,000 members in 150 countries, and a wider community of business leaders, educators, practitioners and policy-makers all committed to our mission.

As a charity with a royal charter, the BCS agenda is to lead the IT industry through its ethical challenges, to support the people who work in the industry, and to make IT good for society.

Soon after being appointed in 2019, Holly Porter, Membership Director, recognised that to remain relevant as a professional body in a fast changing profession BCS needed to better understand its audiences and how they are served. “I recognised our brand presence and voice would benefit from further coordination. At the same time, I wanted us to better serve individual members based on their unique needs – to understand who our members are and where they come from and what they do.”
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In understanding who their members are and what their needs are, a gap was noted - member engagement and participation. “General member engagement was largely broadcast focused which created a risk of apathy between an IT professional and their membership, as a consequence we faced challenges in both retention and recruitment. A change in environment forced by the pandemic created an opportunity to better serve our members. I saw two interrelated challenges, with the first being the need to cement a more comprehensible, attractive, and personalised member benefits package. The second was energising membership around the shared sense of purpose, interests and goals that led to members joining the organisation in the first place. Our members are (often literally!) geniuses – nearly every problem a member has can be solved or supported by another member. Members are willing and even eager to share; we needed to put a framework in place to enable that.”
A number of research projects identified the need for benefits to be aligned to primary needs in the evolving professions supported by the BCS; peer to peer engagement was recognised as a vital component of a rebuilt membership product. The change in environment created by the pandemic shifted the membership online but reinforced the passive relationship with members able to listen and receive content but not engage and contribute to it.

BCS confirmed that having an online community platform crafted to their business needs and culture would ultimately help them to achieve multiple goals. In reviewing the options to bring this forward, Cantarus was identified as the partner vendor exclusively able to ensure the success of the project while meeting the unique technical requirements of the BCS.

We had a three-month implementation project with BCS, yielding their online community presence orientated to their specific needs and personality.
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  • Richly configured instance of the open-source Discourse online community solution with full BCS brand adoption in website, programmatic email and multi-tenant mobile app.
  • Online spaces for all members to meaningfully connect and support each other with questions, answers, resources, and collegial ‘banter’.
  • Private spaces for member segments, such as the long-standing “BCS Member Communities”, inclusive of tools to facilitate both routine communications and knowledge-creation projects with online collaboration and assessment tools.
  • Specific community segments to support members willing to do more as volunteers or through supporting the organisation’s work with government, industry, and the media.
  • Multi-faceted data dashboards and reporting environments to identify trending topics and emerging member needs.
  • Robust integration with the organisation’s Salesforce CRM to facilitate members-only access and differentiation as to member working group participation, goals and interests.
  • All aspects of the online community platform and project delivered by UK-resident staff with UK data residency.
Within just days of launch, member conversations were flourishing. One seeded conversation sprouted immediately; within a week, the “Let’s break the ice! What was your first ever computer?” topic had over 100 replies with members sharing pictures and stories of their earliest machines. A week later the replies nearly doubled again.

Jon Jeffery, BCS Head of Community, led the project from the client side.

“The structure of community in a professional body can often limit participation to a cohort of committee members whilst the wider membership passively consume content. I wanted a project that could break these barriers and open up participation across our membership, creating a community of contributors helping each other out, sharing expertise and advancing knowledge.

That’s a major reason why we chose to work with Cantarus. We wanted to work with an organisation which understood community and understood membership organisations.

Cantarus have a track record of creating successful communities. With their help, we oriented the online community to our specific goals, as well as culture, structure, and existing technologies. We got to realise the benefits immediately with strong adoption and participation.”
The results of the initial community launch exceeded our expectations. Clearly, it is connecting members and driving engagement. It’s creating water-cooler moments between members across the globe. However, what’s exciting to me in the longer term is how the community helps us achieve other organisational goals. As the community grows it will give us the pulse of the members, and we can now put our finger on that pulse to track trends and even infer individual member interests. The data piece is very important, and we anticipate insight and analytics being a big part of our future with online community at the BCS.
Holly Porter, Membership Director
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