When employers of newly qualified information systems professionals are
asked what it is they would most like them to know, the answer is very rarely
technical. Much more commonly, the answer is an understanding of the
business environment. For this reason, the Engineering Council and the
British Computer Society (BCS) both insist that accredited courses contain a
significant element of ‘professional issues’ and, in its own examinations, the
BCS requires candidates to take a compulsory paper entitled ‘Professional
Issues in Information Technology’. This book has been written as a guide for
students taking that paper and it covers the whole syllabus. It is hoped, how-
ever, that the book will also prove useful to others, both students on other
courses and those who are already embarked on a career in the information
systems industry.
It is important for candidates to realize that mere knowledge of the syl-
labus is not enough, by itself, to pass the paper. Candidates are expected to be
able to apply that knowledge to simple scenarios. Failure to do this is one of
the commonest reasons for failing the paper. We have included many such
scenarios in this book, some of them taken from past examination papers.
Many of the candidates for the Society’s examinations are from overseas.
The BCS is the British Computer Society and it has to give priority to the situ-
ation of the information systems professional in the UK. For this reason, the
syllabus refers to British Acts of Parliament and to the laws of England and
Wales. However, it is expected that overseas candidates will be concerned
with the position in their own countries and, where relevant, this book tries
to illustrate how this varies from country to country. (Nowhere is this more
evident than when discussing the legal status of professional engineers.) I
would also hope that UK candidates might find it beneficial to learn about
the position in other countries.
Despite the existence of some very large and well-known multinational
companies, much of the information systems industry consists of small
enterprises with less than six employees. Very many young entrants to the
profession aim to set up such a business of their own. One of the purposes of
the Professional Issues module in the Society’s Diploma examination is
therefore to give practical guidance in a range of legal, financial and organi-
zational areas relevant to small information systems businesses. This is
reflected in many aspects of the book.
A word of warning is needed here. This book tries to explain the central
principles and issues in the areas covered, so that you will be aware of areas
you need to think about and areas where you will need professional advice.

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