Founded in 1995, the Institute of IT Training (IITT) promotes excellence in IT training in the UK and beyond. Its Professional Membership Programme has proved so effective and popular that by 2003 membership had grown to 3,500, increasingly steadily.
At this stage, the IITT ran the risk of becoming a victim of its own success. “If things had continued unchanged, we would have been forced to recruit extra staff to service the demands of existing and potential members,” explains professional services director Tony Moss.
“Instead we set ourselves an ambitious target: how could we both increase our membership, and expand membership services while recruiting no extra staff?”
“We aimed to achieve several things,” explains Tony. “First, we wanted to make it easy for candidates to gauge which level of membership their current skills levels suited them for and make the validation process straightforward, directly linked to their current skills and competencies.
"Then, once they had joined, we wanted members to be able to record, review and update their skills/competency record easily. And we wanted our Membership Secretary to be able to view any member’s record, and the status of all candidate applications, at the click of a button.”
Behind the Institute’s requirements lay the need to collect a wide range of information and summarise it clearly. The IITT asks candidates to self-assess against any one, or combination, of 12 specialisms (from classroom trainer to e-learning consultant), each involving up to 20 discrete skills.
As a result of this self-assessment an algorithm is used to calculate which of four membership grades they are eligible for. In addition, the Institute requires details of pertinent professional qualifications, and checks which skills these qualifications support.
After considering bespoke development, the Institute decided on a web-based configuration of InfoBasis Enterprise Skills Infrastructure (ESI).
“After testing, InfoBasis moved it to our own hosting facility remotely, and we launched it as IITT Skills Tracker.” Because InfoBasis ESI is browser-neutral, Skills Tracker is visible to all members everywhere.
In addition to meeting the IITT’s specification, the final system also contained some extra functionality, added during development.
This included a dynamic checklist to guide new members through the application process, a printable application form that exactly matched the IITT’S existing form, and ‘Guest Tickets’ which let members e-mail a code allowing a read-only view of their skills – useful for line managers and potential employers alike.
“We are now not only able to handle more members with the same staff, we can also provide them with more extensive services,” says Tony Moss. “And we’re doing this for less than the salary of the extra person we would otherwise have hired to handle our growing membership!”
In addition, Tony notes, Skills Tracker will grow with the IITT. Because much of the system can be controlled through the Institute’s own administrative interface, staff can add validated qualifications, revise competencies and change processes without help from external consultants.
The number of members using Skills Tracker – currently upward of 1,000 – is growing daily. In fact, notes Tony, since Skills Tracker made it easier to join the IITT, even more people are signing up: “It seems that Skills Tracker is actually encouraging people to join.”
And members and candidates clearly like the wealth of detail and user-friendly navigation that the system provides. “Rather than engaging us in several phone conversations, candidates can learn much of what they need about membership from Skills Tracker and go through the application process step-by-step at their own pace.”
Existing members are getting extra value from Skills Tracker, too. IITT member Carol Hulm is delighted at the benefits it provides: “I recommend Skills Tracker as a developmental tool for all trainers,” she says. “It provides a common language for measuring skills, thereby allowing people to ensure appropriate continual professional development, backed up by IITT professional membership.”